Who Is Ultraman?

ultraman5.jpgWho is Ultraman, you ask? Only the baddest mf’ing 130-foot-tall, 35,000-ton, red-and-silver metallic nonspeaking superhero with giant headlights for eyes ever to emerge from Japan, that’s all. Originally dreamed up by Eiji Tsuburaya for a 40-episode Japanese television series in 1966-67, Ultraman was a supersized savior from outer space who merged his life essence with a Japanese scientist named Shin Hayata to combat the parade of monstrous nasties that regularly arose to threaten Tokyo and Japan. Whenever danger appeared, which was pretty much weekly, Shin would step forward, raise the mysterious Beta Capsule, and be instantaneously transformed into a titanic amalgam of The Karate Kid, Iron Man, and the entire World Wrestling Federation.

ultraman7.jpgWhen I was a kid in Charleston, with an insatiable appetite for low-budget escapism and a mind as impressionable as warm chocolate pudding, Ultraman was the absolute shit. It was my first introduction to Japanese culture, and it was a potent one. I vividly remember sprawling out on the floor after school, chin in hands, a pilfered pink can of my mother’s stash of Tab fizzing softly beside me, soaking up the ludicrous martial-arts-meets-sci-fi storylineline and fight scenes in late 1960s reruns. In them, Ultraman whooped the asses of every low-tech, skyscraper-tall creature the series’ producers’ twisted minds could throw at him. Terresdon, Kerronia, Mephilas, Z-Ton, Dada, Neronga, Keelar, Gomora, Chandrah, Bemular, Death-Kamura, and endless others – Ultraman mopped the ruined, trampled scale-model streets of Japan’s cities with them all. He used his classic crossed-hands Specium Ray, his Ultra Slash, ultraman6.jpghis clairvoyance beam, the Ultra Chop and Ultra Swing, paralysis beams, and, of course, the ability to fly, without which no decent 130-foot-tall superhero is worth a damn. The series’ plots were laughable, the special-effects execrable, the English overdubbing deplorable. I loved every kitschy minute of it.

Forty years later, echoes of Ultraman are everywhere in Japan: films, videogames, reinventions of the original series, lunchboxes, masks and costumes, miniature action figures and giant origami models. For me, he’s the penultimate – make that penultramate – symbol of modern-day Japanese culture, the perfect ambassador for a blog about an American living, however temporarily and inexplicably, in Japan.


36 thoughts on “Who Is Ultraman?”

  1. this was the best shw ever in the 70s

  2. budwib said:

    fuck you all americans!!!!!

  3. Anonymous said:

    Thats nice. I used to watch Ultraman all the time when I was a kid.

  4. I did the same growing up in Charleston. After school had to sit thru that awful Happy Raine show just to see my Ultra.

  5. I just had a bowl, and some cereal and I’m watching Ultraman run all up in the Baltan’s ass with both his feet right now.

  6. I first watched ultraman way back in 1969 in Malaysia. In fact that was among the first children program they had then. Now after almost forty years, im still watching it (Tida and Dyna reruns on cable TV) with my 6 years old nephew. Thou we have super tech Hulk, Transformers, Fantastic Four,I still sit thru the show with some satisfaction attached. I just can’t explain

  7. Great description! Totally accurate too! I still have my beta capsol from my childhood. I think about the good ol days when I see it.

  8. Hey this is so funny……I had not thought about Ultraman in years. My brother sent me an email with odd Japanese things and a pic of Ultraman was on it. Talk about bringing back memories. I asked a friend if she remembered ultraman…..she said no……………….I can’t believe anyone our age would not know this superhero. That would be like not knowing Elvis. LOL!!!!!

  9. Hey – I liked Happy Raine, one of my friends was on her show.

    One thing about Ultraman used to always bother me …. why would he wait until he was almost dead to cross his arms and shoot the bad monster with his deadly rays?

  10. I was on Happy Raine as a kid, too. I hardly remember anything about it except the sudden realization that she wasn’t a real Indian. Actually, I got to know her later as an adult in Charleston. Her real name was Rainey Evans. Cool lady. But not a real Indian.

  11. Awesome! Ultraman or men was the bestest!!! I always wondered who would win between Ultraman and Johnny Soko’s Flying Robot!?

    The Japanese rule!

  12. Mitchell said:

    I grew up with ultraman. He is awesome. one of my favorite shows as a kid. Why do we not see reruns of the show????

  13. “Ultraman” and “Johnny Socko and His Flying Robot” were my favorite shows to watch after school, growing up in Charlottesville, Va….what great memories…then we use to pretend to fight like them in the backyard…totally great memory recap. Are they still on the air?

  14. Ultraman has been in pretty much continuous syndication since its start in the late ’60s. There have been countless new series based on the original, and Ultraman’s appearance has evolved a lot, with time and media attention. Today, he’s as commonplace a sight in Japan as Homer Simpson is in the U.S.

  15. Ultraman still d best.i have all of them.and now Ultra SEVEN X

  16. Happy Raine said:

    Hey! Had to sit through that awful Happy Raine to get to see Ultraman???!!!! Bad Beau! When WCSC-TV took Ultraman off of the Happy Raine Show, I got petitions with over 2,000 signatures to return it to the air. Most Mommy’s didn’t like it … too violent…Just consider the year, kids. Today it would be mild. Say what?
    Happy Raine

    • michael said:

      Happy Raine…you are/were the best. I was on your show in the early 70’s. I just watched a video that somehow got on You Tube of All places. Don’t worry about Beau…he didn’t get you. Ultraman did rock though. C’mon…what is not cool about hyata and the magic stick that turned him into a hero…

  17. OMG!! I absolutely loved Ultraman growing up. Hey, I’m from Charleston too (west ashley) and I’m proud to say that me and my best friend where on the Happy Rain show in 1979! I still remember going to her store in Ashley Plaza mall when I was a kid. God I miss those days!!

  18. it’s very good boys.i love ultraman

  19. Ultraman is the best in the world
    my heart is her heart
    ultramen asli jowo
    don’t forget wath this show oke from wong jowo ?

  20. I did not have a TV at home during 70’s – but instead steal money from my dad to buy the comic book on ultraman – we used to call it superman. 30 years later – my 3 years old boy is rolling in front of the TV set every day when ultraman is on. I do hope he quickly grow out of it, proceed to TopGun, Terminator, Batman, then on to more serious history channel dogfights. Can believe Japanese can create such simplistic characters – absolutely no sophistication whatsoever. But – I guess I was a fan once upon a time

  21. Happy Rain,… I always wondered what happened to her.

    My Brothers and sisters and I all grew up watching her on Channel 5.

    I used to beg my mom and dad to let me be on the Happy Rain show, didn’t happen:(
    I did get to meet her a couple of times though.

    Once she came to our school, and another time she was at the mall. I used to think she was the most magical person. (besides my uncle paul)

  22. Every kid that grew up and seen the 70’s in New Jersey, KNOWS THAT, Johnny Soko’s robot couldn’t last five minutes with ultraman that would be a drop kicking martial arts mess.

  23. jwsellers said:

    I watched Ultraman in Charleston, too. Did anyone else go to the Saturday afternoon Japanese monster movie showings at the Riviera Theatre in the mid-seventies?

  24. Lynwood Hines said:

    I LOVE Happy Raine! I watched her show religiously, especially during the Ultraman years. I’m so glad to see that she responded to this thread. It warms my heart to know that he is still around.

    Rainey, can you please create and act in a new TV series for us 40-somethings? I want to be on your show for my 44th birthday!

    I have also seen some of Rainey’s stage work; she is a very talented lady. Charleston is lucky to have her.

  25. Lynwood Hines said:

    Sorry for typo… should read SHE, not HE, lol! Wish I could edit my post!

  26. I used to watch this series as a kid in Penang, Malaysia in 67-69, i think. Way fun and the predecessor of all superheroes either in tv or the screen. Loveed to watch it. Now I live in Canada and still remember it

  27. BetaCapsuleJunkie said:

    Hey Cashman… How would Ultraman last 5 minutes with Jonny Socko’s Flying Robot? He runs out of solar power after 3 minutes!!! Seriously though… Ultraman kicks ass and anyone who missed it as a kid, is poorer for it. I got the whole first series on DVD and forced my kids to watch it all (they loved it!!!).

  28. Jeff Ermold said:

    I am from Pennsylvania…I watched Johnny Sokko and Ultraman relentlessly as a kid…Johnny Sokko’s Robot was and still is my greatest memory…A Boy having ultimate power to save the universe is the most thrill any young male child could ever exploit in his own mind…Ultraman was great to watch, but Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot was the Best…As far as them fighting, it’s only T.V., and they are unreal characters from different eras of the imagination…Fools!!!!

    • BetaCapsuleJunkie said:

      Jeff, Funny… I’m from PA too. Do you remember Gamera? That was similar in that a chubby little schoolboy befriends the Giant Rocket-powered flying Turtle and rides on his back into space while they kick the Squid monster’s Cephalapoid ass!!!

  29. wan nur atiqah said:

    ultraman is very best. like my slogan be the best among the best.

  30. Today is Happy Rains 80th birthday. I loved her and wanted to be on her show. Didn’t happen. Ultra Man is the most underrated super hero. Awesome!

  31. I just bought an Ultraman 45 record at the Toji Temple flea market. You are a wonderful writer as now I understand what a treasure I found.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s