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Ultraman!: Still Airwolf After All These Years

By Dindrane - posted 11.15.07 @ 8:42 pm
Ultraman Series One Volume Two box art

There comes a time in the life of every daikaiju and/or tokusatsu fan when we must draw the line. Will we love the American Godzilla release merely because it stars our favorite giant lizard (and Ferris Bueller)? Will we love Mothra, but not Gamera, because a giant flying tortoise is just silly? Luckily for daikaiju fans everywhere, no matter where you draw it, that line always includes Ultraman, and the second (and final) volume of the original 1960s series is awaiting you on DVD.

Sure, the monsters are obviously just people wearing rubber suits, and sure, a giant alien superhero with a package is kinda scary, and sure, the actor was hired more for how he looks in skin-tight silver and red spandex than for his acting skills, but who cares? It has futuristic space guns! Something they actually called "The Science Patrol"! And the odd spaceship here and there! And giant robots! And giant other stuff! Giant! Other! Stuff! If you don't know the story already from Saturday mornings when you were ten, it is as follows: Hayata is a typical henshin character--that is, he can transform into something. In his case, he can channel the power of a giant space superhero (I mean, seriously--how can you not love it already? Just ask Ernest Cline about how awesome this show is.) from a far-off planet in Nebula M78. In this form, he commences to the kicking of evil arse, all the while looking quite fly and posing dramatically at appropriate points. Every episode, he encounters and then defeats one of a host of nasty villains, and now you can see it all in digitally restored, stereo (try that on your old 1974 TV!), with the original fascinating Japanese audio fully intact.

Ultraman, however, is even more engaging than you might think. Sure, it follows the monster-of-the-week format, for the most part, but there's also an over-arching story, and the characters are more fully fleshed-out than many another weekly show of any genre. There's actually some "there" there, and it will serve to entertain, though perhaps not enlighten, both children and adults. Tired of Thomas the Tank Engine, Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, or (God help you) Dawson's Creek? Try Ultraman, and you'll end up liking it just as much as, or more than, your kids, though this one is not just a kids' show.

The set is just an incredible value. Not only do you get to relive those halcyon days before carbs became scary and you had to wear neckties and/or pantyhose, but you get nineteen full episodes like you've never seen them, dubbed or subtitled. There's also a fantastic, marvelous, and even cool "Kaiju Encyclopedia" that profiles each of the monsters Ultraman defeats in his patrol of Earth. There's also a pair of collectible cards featuring a couple of the monsters that put the "dai" in "daikaiju." I'm also a sucker for a nice presentation, and this slipcase, housing the three slim-line disc cases, has a lovely collage on the front with several kaiju and Our Hero, and the back is shiny (ooh, shiny!) with the familiar Science Patrol glyph centered. Finally, there's also a booklet that discusses the history of the show and its legacy to both American and Japanese TV entertainment--basically a chance for the original staff to reminisce, such things are awfully nice to see in any release, especially one with the nostalgia factor of Ultraman. The booklet also has a handy episode guide, with a sentence or two summarizing each of the episodes in this set.

Seriously, I'm beside myself with geeky joy. You all must buy this immediately and feel the happy with me.

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Dindrane is a writer, scholar, translator, professor and freelance classicist for hire. When she is not assisting the animal kingdom in the overthrow of humanity, she reads. She has, in fact, read more books than you. Do not test her on this. When she is not reading, she is serving as Minister of Anime and Manga Studies at Need Coffee Dot Com. She lives and works in North Alabama and is under the misguided assumption she is boring. She can be found on Twitter at @DindraneErin. She has written 340 posts. See them all here.

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