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UltramanSeries

The Ultraman Series (ウルトラマンシリーズ, Urutoraman Shirīzu), also more widely known as the Ultra Series (ウルトラシリーズ, Urutora Shirīzu), is a long-running franchise created and produced by Tsuburaya Productions.

Generations[]

Starting from the series' 55th anniversary, three distinct eras have emerged to describe the franchise's storied history. These three eras of storytelling each have a distinct feel and style resonant with their respective time periods, but are nonetheless interconnected via the Ultraman Series' unique spirit of fantasy storytelling.[1]

First Generation[]

The First Generation, otherwise referred to as the Classic Ultraman era, started with 1966's Ultra Q, encompassing keystone fantasy sci-fi works that defined the franchise's direction for years to come. With an emphasis on elements of mystery and the bizarre, these story arcs focused on explaining and solving these strange phenomena with the power of science. This era saw the emergence of classic heroes, like Ultraman and Ultraseven, who worked together with humanity to uncover the unknown and protect them from Kaiju. The universe maintained a strong continuity, with heroes from earlier series returning to lend a hand to their successors, and of course, the formation of the fan favorite group known as the Ultra Brothers.

This era not only spans series that aired during the Showa era (1966-1980, from Ultra Q to Ultraman 80), but also includes international productions such as Ultraman: The Adventure Begins, Ultraman: Towards the Future, and Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero.

Second Generation[]

The Second Generation, otherwise referred to as the High Concept era (originally coined for the Nexus, Max, and Mebius trio)[2][3], began with 1996's Ultraman Tiga, divulging into more fantastical and adventurous spins on the Ultraman concept. Touching on the circumstances of non-human species that come into contact with the Giants of Light, this era promoted a diversity of beliefs and thoughts. Each series starred Ultra Heroes who were significantly different from those that came before, featuring standalone universes that angled differently from the single canonical universe of the generation before it.

This era not only spans series that aired during the early years of the Heisei era (1996 onwards, from Ultraman Tiga to Ultraman Mebius), but also adjacent spinoffs, including Ultraman Nice, Ultraman Zearth, Ultraman Neos, and plausibly Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle.

Third Generation[]

The Third Generation, otherwise referred to as the New Generation Heroes era, commenced from 2013's Ultraman Ginga and forged a new identity for the Ultraman Series while following in the footsteps of its predecessors' best qualities. Distinguishing themselves with long-running serialized plots and a greater, interconnected continuity, this era's focus is on the comradery between the Ultra Heroes, the friendships forged with humanity, and the bonds of light that are passed from each work to the next. These relationships and the power of bonds prove time and time again to be the key to solving problems, averting crises, and overcoming the forces of darkness.

This era began from the later years of the Heisei era, starting from Ultraman Ginga, and spans into the Reiwa era following 2019's Ultraman Taiga. This era also includes the Ultraman Zero films and various other spinoffs, like Ultraman Regulos.

History[]

Ultra Q was a tokusatsu series in Japan, one of the first to bring daikaiju to the small screen. Special effects master Eiji Tsuburaya was a major part of the series. It was planned to introduce a giant hero to fight the monsters, similar to the Showa Godzilla films. The hero went through many stages, originally intended to be a bird-man named Bemular, with a design which later became the monster Hydra. Eventually, he evolved into the red-and-silver hero of renown. They introduced the titular hero Ultraman in the second series, which enjoyed immense success and kickstarted the henshin hero genre.

Many sequels would follow, including Ultraseven, a intended standalone series with no connection to Ultra Q and Ultraman except that Ultraseven came from the same nebula; however, after Eiji Tsuburaya's death in 1970 this was reconnected in Return of Ultraman. The series was the first official Ultraman Series entry after three years. The series was managed by Hajime Tsuburaya, Eiji's son and songwriter for most of the Ultraman theme songs going by the stage name "Tokyo 1". The series was a rather big shift in tone as the defense team's members were undeveloped in exchange for the first supporting family of the Ultraman Series, the Sakata family. Return of Ultraman also brought Ultraman and Ultraseven into the same universe.

Partly as a result of the success of the first three instalments of the Ultraman Series, the tokusatsu genre underwent a boom in Japan, with a wide array of new television series emerging to take advantage of the growing market. Due to the success of the Kamen Rider franchise, which commenced in 1971 as part of the first wave of the tokusatsu boom, the new Ultraman Series entry, Ultraman Ace, had the first primary antagonist similar to the Great Leader of Shocker, Yapool. The show was much more gory, which was met with a mixed reception, so the next series, Ultraman Taro, changed tactics and featured a tone that was more family-friendly, while also largely completing the series' transition into a pure action and science fiction franchise.

The series was one of three series created for Tsuburaya Productions' 10th anniversary, Fireman and Jumborg Ace. Ultraman Taro defined the Ultra race, gave more lore than Ultraman Ace did and frequently had the Ultra Brothers appear. Some fans of the Ultraman Series were upset with the light tone of Ultraman Taro, so Ultraman Leo decided to be extremely dark with several onscreen human deaths and gruesome alien deaths. Ultraman Leo's first 39 episodes had Ultraman Leo as Gen Otori training with veteran Ultra Dan Moroboshi, as his Ultra Eyes were broken. The last 12 episodes, however, decided for the second time to introduce a antagonist, Black Directive, most likely attempting to compete with the equally dark ongoing series Kamen Rider Amazon. However, the kaiju genre began to die out as human-sized heroes and anime became more popular, causing the Ultraman Series to go on a three-year hiatus; Kamen Rider Stronger even replaced Ultraman Leo on TBS.

In 1979, the Ultraman Series had its first anime series The☆Ultraman which was unconnected to the Showa continuity. In 1980, however, kaiju and sci-fi began to surge once more due to the new decade so Ultraman 80 premiered. Ultraman 80 first wanted to appeal to children in middle school, so the first 12 episodes showed Takeshi Yamato being a science teacher, a member of UGM, and Ultraman 80. The school plot was dropped in episode 13 to make Ultraman stick to the franchise's roots. Ultraman 80 was the first Ultraman Series entry to have a live ending theme. Ultraman then went on a hiatus in the early 1990s; the foreign series Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero and Ultraman: Towards the Future were produced and dubbed/subtitled in Japanese with mild success in Japan. In 1993 after Ultraman: Towards the Future debuted in Japan on NHK and after Kamen Rider ZO debuted, Toei and Tsuburaya co-produced Ultraman vs. Kamen Rider to combine the popular franchises.

The series returned with the first Japanese-produced Ultraman Series entry with Ultraman Tiga, which was well-received. Ultraman Dyna and Ultraman Gaia followed, and both were also successful. After the direct-to-video Ultraman Neos in 2000, the series saw Ultraman Cosmos, the longest-running Ultraman Series entry to date at 65 episodes, with 10 initially being complied due to a scandal with Ultraman Cosmos but were later shown after the scandal ended. Then, as Tsuburaya had Kamen Rider replace Ultraman on most TV stations and released the darker, adult-oriented and adult-arced Ultraman Nexus, the series lost ratings immensely due to its being scheduled at a time when only children could view the series. By the time it was finally released to its intended audience, it was too late to save the ratings.

A return to the franchise's roots with the child-friendly Ultraman Max saved it, but it remained with lower ratings. After the subsequent 40th anniversary series, Ultraman Mebius, only two new entries have been made to the Ultraman Series during the Heisei era: Ultraseven X, and two seasons each for Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle, which were followed up by the Ultraman Zero trilogy and Ultra Zero Fight. Later on in 2013, to celebrate Tsuburaya Productions' 50th anniversary, the self-titled "New Generation Era" was formed as part of the late Heisei era, introducing several series such as Ultraman Retsuden, Ultraman Ginga, and their successors. These "New Generation" series were more toy sale-oriented and shorter, introducing new collectibles and gimmicks, and none of them had over 30 episodes. These drastic changes put off some older fans as these newly introduced collectibles seemed out of place and ratings fell, though they rose again along with sales as the Ultraman Series installments were produced one after the other, especially with the 50th anniversary series, Ultraman Orb.

The franchise has also been in theaters, starting with the two parody films Ultraman Zearth and Ultraman Zearth 2, followed by Ultraman Tiga: The Final Odyssey, released in 2000, as well as ULTRAMAN, a film that opened in December 2004. The direct-to-video market also saw the release of Ultraman Neos in 2000, as well as special features for Ultraman Tiga, Dyna, and Gaia, who have teamed up in theatrical features (Tiga and Dyna once, as well as the three of them all together). The film Ultraman Mebius & the Ultra Brothers opened on September 2006.

Foreign productions include the 1987 Hanna-Barbera co-production Ultraman: The Adventure Begins (in Japan, Ultraman USA), an animated film, and two series, Ultraman: Towards the Future (in Japan, Ultraman Great), produced in Australia in 1991 and Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero (in Japan, Ultraman Powered), produced in the United States in 1993. The Ultraman Series has also been dubbed into various languages, including English, Spanish (only Ultra Q, the original Ultraman, Ultraseven, Return of Ultraman, Ultraman: Towards the Future, and Ultraman Tiga were known to have been translated into Spanish), Portuguese (Ultraman, Ultraseven, Return of Ultraman, and Ultraman Tiga in Brazil), Korean, Malay, Mandarin, Cantonese and Indonesian. Also of note is the American English dub of Ultraman Tiga by 4Kids Entertainment that aired in 2002. The dub considerably distorted the characterization and general mood of the series and - possibly as a result - it achieved only limited success.

In 1993, Tsuburaya Productions and Toei Company co-produced Ultraman vs. Kamen Rider, a crossover with the original Ultraman and Toei's Kamen Rider 1. This direct-to-video feature is co-copyrighted by both Toei (along with its subordinates, Toei Video and Ishinomori Productions) and Tsuburaya Productions. At present, Tsuburaya Productions accepts 43 Ultramen as official (counting Ultraman Legend, the combined form of Ultramen Cosmos and Justice, as a separate entity). This figure does not account for or include Thai-produced Ultramen (the figure is 45 if Next, Noa and Nexus are counted as separate entities - it has been revealed in Nexus that all three are a single being with various forms used by different hosts). In 2001, the Ultraman Series was cited in the Guinness Book of World Records as the record-holder for the most number of spin-off series.

While after Mebius production of full-length series ceased due to budget constraints and licensing battles, the franchise continued to put forth films and miniseries. In 2014-2015, Max, Mebius, Leo and 80 were released on Crunchyroll for streaming. This was believed to be the start of a plan by Tsuburaya to expand overseas in 2015-2016. Further evidence of this plan arrived when the mini-short series Ultra Fight Victory was released and officially subtitled in English. Just months afterward, 2015's miniseries Ultraman X was simulcast on Crunchyroll - the first time a tokusatsu series was licensed to do so. In 2017, Max, 80 and Neos began airing in the United States on the TOKU channel, followed by several others later on.

After securing a court victory in 2018, Tsuburaya Productions had begun to expand the Ultraman Series worldwide through efforts and works such as the release of the arcade game Ultraman Fusion Fight! in Southeast Asia, streaming the ULTRAMAN 2019 anime worldwide via Netflix, working with William Winckler for dubs of two films and a miniseries as well as producing modern content such as Ultra Galaxy Fight: New Generation Heroes and Shin Ultraman for a global audience. Other than that, Tsuburaya had landed a licensing with Mill Creek Entertainment to the entire library of the Ultraman franchise for distribution on home video in the United States, starting with a HD release of the first two series, Ultra Q and Ultraman, in 2019. Tsuburaya Productions and their partners in the United States, namely Starlight Runner Entertainment and The Licensing Group, launched the website Ultraman Galaxy in 2020 to better reach out to the North American market. Later in 2021 they replaced Ultraman Galaxy with a new website, Ultraman Connection.

External Links[]

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