"The solar energy that powers Ultraman is rapidly depleted on Earth. When his energy runs low, his Color Timer begins to blink. If the Color Timer should go out, Ultraman will lose the power to ever stand up again. You can do it, Ultraman! There's little time left!"
- ―Narration from Ultraman.
"Ultraman's energy only lasts three minutes. The Color Timer turning from blue to red is a warning signal. You can do it, Ultraman."
- ―Narration from Return of Ultraman.
Found on almost every Ultra, the Color Timer (カラータイマー Karā Taimā) or Warning Light is an important organ for the Ultras, which is used to measure their remaining energy. Most Ultra Warriors are fitted with a Color Timer or some variation of which which serves an equivalent purpose. It is imposed on them, in most cases.
An Ultra Warrior's greatest weakness is their need for solar energy. The Earth's atmosphere weakens the Ultramen the longer they stay because it naturally filters out the majority of light that reaches its surface. This most likely occurs on other planets but the Earth is part of a single star system, while most planets in real life, are found to have two or three stars that they orbit. The lack of adequate amounts of sunlight and the filtering effect of the atmosphere means an Ultra can only stay on Earth for approximately three minutes, a set time limit first introduced in Return of Ultraman. Prior to that, the Original Ultraman's activity time was simply left ambiguous and it was simply stated that his solar energy was depleting, but future entries and sources retcon him to have that time limit as well. The Ultras do not have this problem in space as long as there is an adequate light source. Although most Ultras with Color Timers have time limits, the Timer will also begin blinking if the Ultra is significantly weakened or injured by their opponent's attacks.
The restriction is not a problem for all Ultras in different continuities. These Ultras have the equivalents of Color Timers, either to alert them to when they have used up too much energy fighting or to signify when they are injured. Out of universe, the Color Timer exists to let the viewer know when the hero is injured, tired or a combination of both.
The time limit of three minutes was chosen because the number 3 is familiar to Japanese people, and was an important number in everyday life. The baseball star of the time Shigeo Nagasima's shirt had the number 3, a round of boxing also lasts 3 minutes, instant noodles released at that time can be cooked in 3 minutes, etc. The staff also considered Ultraman fighting for about one tenth of the approximately 30-minute program, which was three minutes, thus allowing each battle in the specific episode to fit neatly into its timing. Though this latter aspect has become less relevant over time, with improved special effects and advances in scriptwriting allowing multiple battles to take place in a single episode, or for more of an episode's runtime to be devoted to a single battle, the association of the Color Timer with this 'rule of three' has been kept, and 3 minutes remains the standard time limit for most Ultras in the series up to the present day. Ultraman Leo is an exception to this rule, as his time limit is 2 minutes and 40 seconds, 20 seconds shorter than the standard limit.
The Color Timer generally starts out blue showing that the Ultra is at full strength, when the energy gets low, it starts to flash, turning red. It gets faster and faster until it goes out entirely. If it goes out, it may result in the Ultra's death (In the English dub of Ultraman, the narrator says, "If it is to go out, it will mean Ultraman will never rise again.") or forces them to revert back to a human, in some circumstances. The result of the Color Timer going out would mean the Ultra is out of energy and can no longer function, let alone fight. Their only options when this is about to happen would be to receive a large amount of energy from someone or somewhere, usually another Ultra or their human allies, revert to human form if they have one, immediately leave the planet's atmosphere or risk exhaustion and/or death. Despite this, absorbing too much energy through the timer can also have negative effects on an Ultra; When Ultraman Jack flew straight to the sun to recharge his energy during his fight with Bemstar, he became overcome by the star's power and nearly fell into the star before Ultraseven rescued him. Other than serving as a gauge of sorts, the Color Timer also serves as an energy focus for some Ultras, being used for executing/enhancing certain beam-based attacks. It also acts as an energy receptor, used almost exclusively for reviving a weakened, even seemingly dead Ultra the device is attached to, by projecting solar-based energies into it.
Ultraseven does not possess a Color Timer because he was not originally to be connected to the original Ultraman series. It has been stated that most Ultra Warriors have their Color Timer surgically implanted, but Seven was not a warrior when he went to Earth, he was as a scout/mapmaker, thus not needing an ability to judge his energy reserves. It may possibly be that the implanting of a Color Timer can be up to the individual Ultra's choice, as Ultraseven 21, who was an Ultra Warrior, lacked one too, instead having a Beam Lamp like Seven.
The Beam Lamp does not function as a gauge of his time limit as Ultraseven does not have the weakness suffered by his predecessors and the subsequent Ultras. His Beam Lamp merely functions as an indicator of how critical the danger is as shown when he was fighting the alien monster Nurse. While dizzy, he was being squeezed to death and the Beam Lamp blinked, but when he regained his wits and conjured his Ultra Power it had returned to normal. This advantage was passed on to his son, Ultraman Zero, implying that the Beam Lamp is passed down by bloodline.
Ultras in the Land of Light
Due to the proximity of the Plasma Spark, Ultras never experience any loss of energy, given that the Plasma Spark directly powers them like any star. The strength of the Plasma Spark's energy is so strong that an ordinary human without any protective equipment would be killed by the sheer power given off by the artificial star, via incineration. In environments such as this, the Color Timer acts less as a clock and more as an indicator of health, as shown when Zoffy was smashed into the pavement from the side of the Ultra Tower, via Belial's flying kick. The attack left him knocked out but also turned his Color Timer red.
In Ultraman, it was stated that the weak point of any Ultra is their Color Timer. Zetton demonstrated this in his fight against Ultraman, in which he was able to instantly defeat the hero by absorbing energy from Ultraman's Spacium Beam, then redirecting it towards his Color Timer in the form of the Zetton Final Beam. The organ is shown to be intricately tied into the bodies of Ultras, as when Ultraman Jack had his ripped out by Dorobon, his body seemingly deflated, leaving only his Ultra Armor until it was returned, though other Ultras have lost their Timers without this taking place. Other Ultras have suffered damage to their timer which resulted in them immediately being crippled or even killed. Father of Ultra deliberately ripped his out to transfer his power to Ultraman Ace resulting in him dying, but he was taken to the Land of Light by the Ultra Brothers and revived. Whenever an Ultra was victim to his energy being drained, the crime was often committed through his Color Timer, save a few exceptions such as Ultraman Tiga who had his energy drained through the Tiga Crystal. Also when the Ultra's power was being recharged it was often through their Color Timer, implying a direct link to their energy core/heart/battery/energy reserves. Other times it was through a crystal on their forehead.
Ultraman Zearth introduced an additional, rarely seen means of the time limit being expended early, in that a moment of extreme psychological stress can result in a sudden, unexpected loss of energy. This was demonstrated when Alien Benzene forced Zearth to cross a lake of tar to rescue his human friends. Owing to Zearth's intense germophobia, Zearth rapidly began losing his energy, and his Color Timer began blinking long before his time limit had ran out. This concept was revisited and somewhat expanded upon in Ultraman Z, where this weakness extends to the Ultra's host as well. Prior to Haruki Natsukawa regaining his resolve, his guilt over destroying monsters manifested in a loss of energy to Ultraman Z, causing his Color Timer to begin blinking, while at the same time reverting him to his Original form.
In some universes, the Color Timer does not act as a clock but a gauge on how badly weakened the Ultra is, such as the World of N and Ultraman Gaia's World. This is usually because the warning light does not measure the Ultra's store of sunlight but the strength and stamina of the host who physically transformed into the Ultra. The only known exception to this rule was Ultraman Tiga whose human form Daigo transformed into Tiga and was plagued by the three minute rule, though it was implied to be for different reasons.
In Ultraman Ginga, the main character could only Ultlive an Ultraman Spark Doll for about three minutes at a time. This was explained by Taro as that a human could only maintain an Ultra's body for three minutes. However later instances showed Hikaru and Shou (Ultraman Victory) as being in Ultra form for longer than three minutes.
There was also a case where the two would revert back to human form, before their time was up and take turns fighting.
In Great Decisive Battle! The Super 8 Ultra Brothers, set in an alternate universe to all others, the only Ultra shown to suffer the three minute rule was Mebius who had traveled there from the World of the Land of Light. Even though there were alternate versions of Showa Ultras and Tiga and Dyna, Ultras who suffered the three minute rule, their alternate selves did not seem to have that problem. It should also be noted that their Color Timers were green not the more common blue.
In very rare cases, Ultras have been seen with Color Timers that are not blue in their normal state. Ultraman Belial's Color Timer became purple upon his fusion with Alien Reiblood, while Ultraman, as Ultraman Dark in Ultraman Ginga had a Color Timer which was red regardless of his health, and in another case, where it's static in red without any twisted appearance changes when under dark influence, such as Ultraman Taiga. Dark Faust, Mephisto and Mephisto (Zwei) also had unique Color Timers, which are solid black in color.
The original form of the warning light, first introduced by the original Ultraman in the World of the Land of Light. This object/organ has appeared on every single main and important Ultra (save a few like Ultraseven) in the original continuity. However, despite its familiarity, the Color Timer is not a naturally appearing organ for the Residents of the Land of Light. Originally, it was seen as a naturally appearing organ in expanded media until the movie Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legends The Movie, where many background Ultras were clearly shown without a Color Timer. To explain this, the Color Timer's history was retconned. It is now in fact one of their earliest inventions since gaining the power of Ultra. It is now known to be an optional artificial organ that can be surgically implanted to any Ultra, most particularly those undertaking a deep space mission away from Nebula M78. This was mainly reserved for scientists on expeditions to other planets and combatant Space Rangers. Ultraseven did not possess one since he was originally a non-combatant operative of the Inter Galactic Defense Force, a scout, his job was to map the Milky Way Galaxy. It is interesting to note that Ultraman Leo and Astra, princes from L77 had Color Timers despite not being combatants. Yullian however, being a princess did not possess a Color Timer. It can therefore be concluded that while many Ultras undertaking such missions would see implanting the device to be a requirement, it is ultimately an individual choice.
The Color Timer is shown to be heavily integrated to an Ultra's biological functions, when Jack had his stolen and Father of Ultra tore out his to give his energy to Ace, but suffered from a loss of mobility and exhaustion (Jack's body seemingly deflated leaving only the Ultra Armor until it was returned).
The Color Timer also appears in the alternate Worlds of the Land of Light such as the Neos universe (where Neos and Seven 21 were the first and only Ultras to set foot on Earth). It also appears in the Cosmo Space World, but it is unknown if it is a natural organ in that universe.
In the Story 0 manga, the original interpretation of the Color Timer was shown for the World of the Land of Light. Here, the organ was literally the result of the evolved heart of the Ultras. The organ was transformed into its present state by the change from human(oid) to Ultra.
In the World of N, the Color Timer is replaced by a natural organ known as the Energy Core. Unlike in the World of the Land of Light and similar space-time zone continuities, the Energy Core does not act as a timer, instead it reacts to the physical strength of the Dunamist (The host of Nexus) who is physically transformed into Ultraman. As its name suggests, the physical organ is a sort of window into the Ultra's body and behaves more like a heart racing from exhaustion or energy gauge than a timer. Other Ultras besides Nexus have more Color Timer-like Energy Cores but they behave the same way, also in both Junis forms, a crystal appears over the Energy Core, bearing a greater resemblance to a Color Timer and take over those functions for the main Energy Core.
In Ultraman Gaia's World, the equivalent to the Color Timer was known as the Life Gauge. Ultraman Gaia and Ultraman Agul do not require sunlight because they draw strength from the mana of the Earth and Sea respectively. Mana was the life energy of the world which they converted into light energy using the features on their heads, the gold bands on the back of Gaia's head and the gem on Agul's forehead. The Life Gauge was for how much energy they had left, reacting when they expended more energy than what they could absorb. Due to the fact that they were constantly absorbing mana, their attacks steadily became more powerful as their stamina always increased.
Mechanical Color Timer
In the 2011 manga ULTRAMAN, which is based on the original series, the Ultraman-like battle suit worn by the main character Shinjiro (the son of Shin Hayata) has a mechanical Color Timer. The suit was evidently inspired by the legendary giant of light himself, however that is not the only reason for its presence on the suit. The suit was powered by Spacium Energy from the wearer, something that Shinjiro and his father produced in their bodies due to their Ultra DNA, which came from Ultraman. When the wearer's production of the energy dropped or the machine's consumption dropped the light turned red. With Shinjiro's new suit when this happened he could release the suit's limiter causing it to absorb far more energy than it needed, giving the boy a speed and strength boost and enhancing his Spacium Beam for a short time before he was left totally drained and immobile from exhaustion.
Ultras may be the only race with Color Timers but other Tsuburaya heroes possess similar organs/devices that fulfilled the same function. One example would be Mirrorman, who had a bomb implanted in his abdomen in episode 26, if he remained transformed for too long, he would explode. Mirrorman's father give him a Color Timer so he knows when to change back into his human form.
Another example is Fireman, who possesses a light between his eyes, he also possesses a three minute rule in that he cannot survive under the rays of the sun for more than three minutes due to his subterranean origins. Jumborg Ace and Jumborg 9 also possess lights that flash as their energy supplies begin to dwindle.
- Initially, before settling on the 3-minute time limit rule, Ultraman's Color Timer would have changed from Blue to Yellow to Red, with the time limit being as much as three and a half minutes after turning yellow, and was later changed to 2 minutes after the buzzer sound started.
- According to Tohl Narita, Ultraman's suit wasn't originally meant to have a Color Timer, as the original design he made lacked one (example in his original rise). A physical Color Timer was actually made to reduce the cost of using special effects for his warning light.
- At the end of the original series, it was intended that Ultraman would have died at Zetton's hands when he crushed his Color Timer, causing him great pain. This was scrapped by Eiji Tsuburaya because it was too violent for the children to watch.
- In the Ultra Galaxy Legends movie, all the nameless Ultras did not have Color Timers. This was mainly due to the film's budget and should not be taken at face value. It has been stated that the Color Timer only appears on Ultras that have left the vicinity of the Land of Light for deep space.
- Father of Ultra is the first Ultra to commit suicide by forcibly tearing out his Color Timer, sacrificing himself so he could revive Ace.
- This organ is a dangerous weak point for every Ultra. While it is, for the most part, a durable device, if the Color Timer was somehow damaged, it can cause great pain for the Ultra and leave them paralyzed until their time runs out. The Color Timer is also a direct window into an Ultra's energy reserves, meaning the Ultras energy reserves may be targeted directly depending on the continuity.
- This would also mean that the Ultras have the same weakness as Alien Babarue.
- Guardie is the only monster to have a Color Timer, but this is because he is the canine equivalent of an Ultra, and is technically an Animal Ultra.
- Dorobon originally didn't have a Color Timer, but stole Jack's timer, thinking it would make him stronger. Although this was the case at first, he eventually began to lose energy due to the three minute rule.
|Ultra Powers, Traits, and Objects of Interest|
|Powers and Traits||Ultraman Title | Ultra Beam | Ultra's Inner Light | Color Timer | Beam Lamp | Sluggers | Protectors | Ultra Horns | Bracers and Bracelets | Solar Energy Absorption | Forehead Crystal | Light Crystal | Body Crystals | Ultra Armor | Mental Abilities | Ultra Language | Human Hosts/Forms | Dimensional Field | Star Marks | Baradhi|
|Ultra-Related Items||Transformation Item | Spacium | Ultra Bell | Ultra Key | Ultra Mind | Plasma Spark | Ultlive | Childhood Radiation|
|Series Collectibles and Holders||Spark Dolls | Cyber Cards | Ultra Fusion Cards | Ultra Fusion Card Holder | Kaiju Cards | Ultra Capsules | Ultra Capsule Holder | Kaiju Capsules | R/B Crystals | R/B Crystal Holder | R/B Crystal Collection Case | Ultra Taiga Accessories | Ultra Access Cards | Ultra Medals | Z Holder | Kaiju Medals | GUTS Hyper Keys | Kaiju Keys|
|Other Media||Plasma Ore | Ultraman Suit | Ultraman Factor|