The Return of Ultraman: Episodes 1-4

Some quick thoughts from watching through this Ultraman TV series from 1971.

In these Quick Thought posts, if I have anything episode-specific I’ll note that, but I’ll often be discussing my view through the series in general.

01. All Monsters Attack
02. Takkagong’s Great Counterattack
03. The Monster Realm of Terror
04. Super Attack! Meteor Kick

“Return” is definitely the key word for this series. Return of orange jumpsuits, return of the Color Timer, the Specium Beam, and monsters, monsters, monsters. There is not even, at first, any indication that this Ultraman is not the exact same entity as before. My understanding is that the earliest plan for the show was to make it a direct continuation of the first series, but circumstances led to variations on the old motifs and signifying details — as well as identifying this Ultra Being as Ultraman Jack.

There are some changes in this new setting. The SSSP has become the Monster Attack Squad, a more on-the-nose title for the organization. In the first four episodes there is no information yet if it is part of an international organization the way the groups in the previous two shows were.

The biggest change so far is the relationship between human and Ultra. In the original series, Ultraman was a strange, somewhat unnerving when you thought about it, fusion between Hayata and Ultraman. “Are you human or alien?” “I am both.” The relationship was left ambiguous. In Ultraseven things were much simpler. Seven was the alien, putting on a human disguise. Return takes things in another direction. Go is human, retaining all his human mind and personality, though his body has been enhanced and strengthened. Rather than relying on the Beta Capsule, Go instead summons the full power of Ultraman down to him (if it is for a worthy cause) as if from Heaven.

This greater connection with humanity carries through into these first four episodes. Go has human friends and family. Stories have been as much about his struggles to balance his human feeling and responsibilities with his duty as a member of MAT and as Ultraman. It reminds me a lot of the early days of Marvel comics when Stan Lee and others were emphasizing the mortality and the feet-of-clay aspects of their superheroes…

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