Original Run: September 5th, 1998 – August 28th, 1999 (Japan)
Created by: Tsuburaya Productions
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Toshihiko Sahashi
Cast: Takeshi Yoshioka, Hassei Takano
Tsuburaya Productions, 51 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)
Ultraman Gaia was the first Heisei era Ultraman show that I watched. It was also the first Ultra series to feature two Ultramen heroes as main characters. Sure, there were team-ups and cameos in the past but Gaia gave us two Ultras who had very different and conflicting ideas on how to defend Earth.
Another thing that sets Gaia apart from other Ultraman series, is that it has a huge ensemble cast. It follows the trend of having a science-based defense force to protect Earth. However, where the defense force was usually comprised of a handful of people, Ultraman Gaia gives us a defense force with a lot more depth. It has several branches and small squads that specialize in different things. There’s an air force, a ground force, scientists and other small groups within the larger one. It is actually cool to see a defense force so vast, which makes it seem more capable of stopping the threats of evil aliens and giant monsters. The show also handles balancing these groups and characters out.
Gaia also gives us a ton of really cool kaiju. It recycles some classics but it also created some classic creatures for the new era. Also, the suits for the monsters have gotten more complex and impressive than they were in the original Shōwa era.
The dichotomy created between the two Ultramen was also a great addition to the show. It gave us something new and fresh without treading the same water as so many Ultra shows before it. It also gets philosophical and makes you question which Ultraman has the best method of dealing with the threats that appear throughout the series. While Ultraman Gaia is cool, Ultraman Agul, with his dark blue hues and pointy looking ears walks the line in a way that makes him the coolest anti-hero in the Ultraman mythos.
Ultraman Gaia isn’t my favorite Ultra series of the Heisei era but it is pretty solid and it took risks and changed the game for the Ultra franchise going forward.