Original Run: July 17th, 1966 – April 9th, 1967 (Japan)
Created by: Tsuburaya Productions
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Kunio Miyauchi
Cast: Susumu Kurobe, Akiji Kobayashi, Hiroko Sakurai, Sandayū Dokumamushi, Masanari Nihei, Bin “Satoshi” Furuya
Tsuburaya Productions, 39 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)
Ultraman is one of my favorite franchises of all-time. It is certainly my favorite tokusatsu television series. While the world of Ultraman started with the series Ultra Q, it really found its formula in this, the original Ultraman series.
The show started almost immediately after Ultra Q ended. And while that show was in black and white, Ultraman came out in full color. It did follow Ultra Q‘s “monster of the week” formula but now we had a space warrior named Ultraman to defend the Earth from giant kaiju monsters. Ultraman, more or less, took the successful kaiju formula that was working in films of the time, and brought them to the small screen, where Japanese kids could delight in seeing giant monsters battle it out in their living room, every week. The success of Ultraman is believed to have been what killed off kaijumania in Japanese movie houses.
Created by Eiji Tsuburaya, the special effects director of the first several Godzilla movies, the show borrowed heavily from Godzilla‘s style and format. Ultraman also introduced a special task force whose mission was to investigate and deal with the weekly kaiju threat.
By the time I discovered the show, it had already existed for at least twenty years. I still fell in love with it, as it was just an extension of what I loved about Godzilla movies. It also gave me new monsters to sink my teeth into, every episode. And a lot of the early Ultraman monsters became classics and iconic figures in Japanese pop culture.
Ultraman was a fantastic and incredibly imaginative show. Tsuburaya didn’t have the money that his previous Godzilla productions had, so he had to use his ingenuity to make a great experience. Visually, for 1966, the show is stunning. The effects are top notch, the miniatures are well utilized and the action was fluid.
As the show went on, the fighting evolved. While it was very one-dimensional and sort of minimalist in the first several episodes, by the end of the series, Ultraman, the character, was a martial arts bad ass.
If it wasn’t for Eiji Tsuburaya starting his own production company and creating Ultraman, we probably wouldn’t have gotten Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, Red Baron and a slew of other tokusatsu classics.
Ultraman isn’t the best series in the franchise, but it is the most recognized. It was an experiment but one that worked really well. And now, over fifty years later, we still see a new Ultraman series released almost annually.