While this won’t be joining our regular review rotation, I wanted to note that something I wouldn’t have predicted a year ago has happened, and you can get all 28 episodes of Ultra Q on Blu-ray and they look amazing. Even wilder, you can get them from Mill Creek, which has a quite deserved reputation of not minding the quality and feeling the width, if you take my meaning, but they are doing this project right. They have released the first five in an ongoing series of Ultraman reissues, along with seven of the more recent movies and shows, cleaned up and presented in gorgeous packaging. (Well, the packaging of the classic shows is gorgeous; the modern ones look cluttered and awful.) The restoration is extremely good, and the picture quality is jawdropping; home releases of 54 year-old black and white TV shows don’t often look as good as this.
When we watched and reviewed Ultraman (the second of the fortysomething series in the franchise) three years ago, I noted that the climactic wrestling match was invariably the least interesting part of the program to me. Ultra Q was made before they figured out they could wrestle. The stars are three humans, a news reporter and two pilots, who get in the thick of each new monster attack. In the first episode, they get caught between the latest resurrection in a centuries-long cycle between two thirty-foot beasts: an acid-spitting bird called Litra and a redressed Godzilla costume called Gomess.
Also new since we watched Ultraman: our son’s willing to read subtitles. That opens up all kinds of possibilities. My only complaint about this presentation, and it’s a stubborn and personal one, is that I wish they had gone with yellow text rather than white. Otherwise I am very, very happy with this purchase and look forward to enjoying the rest of the show over the next year or so.
Our kid wasn’t quite as taken as I was, but he’s looking at things from a very different perspective. Basically, my interest in the Ultraman franchise diminishes rapidly with each installment, and is gone completely by the disco era. It’s not about the hero or the powers for me, it’s the design and the place, the look at Japan in the sixties and early seventies, and the practical effects. The seventh series, Ultraman Leo, from 1974-75, is the last of the programs that I have even a sliver of interest in seeing, and of course the giant superhero himself is the least appealing aspect of the show.
But on a whim, I had my son look at a four minute clip that Mill Creek released from series five, Ultraman Ace, the other day. It’s the four minutes with the wrestling, it turns out, and while I was looking at it with a combination of boredom and bemusement, he was riveted. I also checked and the 2019 Ultraman cartoon is available on Netflix. He said “Ooooooo.” So to him, an Ultra-show without a giant silver guy doing flying kicks is like a book without pages. He thought “Defeat Gomess!” was an interesting distraction, but he really just wanted to indulge his old man’s nostalgia. There’s a cartoon that he could be watching and I believe that he intends to spend as much of Sunday as he can doing that.
Image credit: The Hannibal 8