In this time, we wake up and look out at a strange world: quiet, uncertain, like nothing we’ve ever seen. We are reminded of the science fiction stories we’ve seen in TV, movies, and games, the ones where something happens that is so huge that it affects everyone on planet Earth. Who could have dreamed that we would face such a time?
While some may think it’s trivial to see this crisis through the lens of Ultraman, I might submit this one tiny argument: stories comfort us, they help us cope, and they sometimes show us how we can rise to become our own very best. To me, Ultraman—the complete saga from Ultra Q through Ultraman Taiga—is a great epic story.
Eiji Tsuburaya created the Ultraman television series to show his audience that science and human ingenuity are rays of light against the darkness of the Kaiju and the deceit of conquering aliens. Ultraman himself was and always has been a paragon of humanity: courageous, hopeful, kind, a being who will never surrender even in the face of overwhelming challenge.
But there is one aspect of the Ultraman story that I think is most important of all when thinking about what we’re going through now. It is the concept of bonds.
In Japan, many view the capability to bond emotionally with others as a vital power that is within each person. It is the thing that keeps us going, the energy that puts the spark in our eyes. Our bonds with others is the life force that flows into our days, moving people to live and love, to heal and accomplish. The fire that is the strength of our bonds embodies our will to survive, and in doing so, it is the energy that connects us, allowing for us to reconcile our differences and make the world a better place.
In the deep mythology of Ultraman, the Plasma Spark, which transformed the people of M78 into Ultras, was created only after their entire homeworld was threatened by the failure of their sun. Together they bonded and created an artificial star, and that star in turn bonded the Ultras forever in light.
One of the more unique aspects of the various Ultraman series is that every so often, when an Ultra hero faces an overwhelming challenge, when they are knocked down for the count, perhaps even seemingly killed in action, something strange happens. Ultra Heroes can be strengthened, revived, even brought back to life by the energy of others.
Sometimes, a fellow Ultra arrives and transfers his energy into our hero to enable him to rise again. Even more fascinating, sometimes it is the belief, love, and support of the people that does this. It can be the Ultra host’s friends and teammates. It can even be ordinary people from the towns and cities around the fallen Giant of Light, beaming their hopes, passions, and willpower into him until he stands once again. Think of Ultraman as if he were a rock star, being spurred to hit the perfect note by a wildly cheering crowd. Infusion accomplished!
In short, in the universe of Ultraman, it could be said that emotional bonds can be transformed into physical energy or power.
Ultraman, his Ultra Brothers, and all of the Ultras of three generations have taught us a wonderful lesson. We can grow beyond our limitations, surmount overwhelming challenges. We can become Ultra ourselves, worthy of standing at the side of the most noble and heroic beings in the universe. But we cannot do this without sharing our bonds.
Right now, we must do our best to generate and project energy, love, generosity and assistance to one another, to family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and strangers. We must set aside differences. Remove negativity. Courage is not the absence of fear, it is acting with care in spite of fear. It is time to live the message of one of our favorite stories. Rising together, all of us—we are the world’s heroes now.
Jeff Gomez, Ultraman Galaxy
Jeff Gomez, New York City, March 2020