• Ultraman: The Complete Series (Mill Creek Entertainment) Blu-ray Review (Steelbook Edition)

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
    Released on: October 15th, 2019.
    Director: Various
    Cast: Susumu Kurobe, Akiji Kobayashi, Akihiko Hirata, Masanari Nihei, Hiroko Sakurai
    Year: 1966-1967
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    Ultraman: The Complete Series – Movie Review:

    After the success of the earlier live action monster/sci-fi series Ultra Q, Japan’s Tsuburaya Productions unleashed Ultraman on a monster/superhero hungry public by repurposing a design that was originally intended to be an alien on that earlier show. The series ran from 1966 through 1967 and was a pretty massive hit in Japan. The series remains a cult phenomenon to this day and it’s easy to see why. Though the series is ridiculously formulaic (a monster shows up each week, Ultraman fights the monster, repeat!), so too is it ridiculously fun. This writer was first introduced to the show courtesy of a primary school friend of Japanese descent. His parents raised him on Ultraman and all sorts of other Japanese superhero and monster ‘stuff’ and he was keen to share his interests. A lot of the other kids in the suburban Canadian town we grew up in had absolutely ZERO interest in this stuff but once or twice a week I’d find myself in his living room watching tapes his parents had given him. They weren’t subbed or dubbed but it didn’t matter. He’d explain to me what was going on and I’d geek out over the costumes and rubber suited monster mashing, a big, goofy grin no doubt spread wide across my face. And yeah, more than three decades later, Ultraman still brings a big, goofy grin to my face.

    For those who haven’t seen it, the premise is this – in the future of the 1960s when the series was made, Earth is under the constant threat of attack from alien monsters. To keep the planet safe, the Science Special Search Party (or SSSP for short) is formed. Led by Captain "Cap" Toshio Muramatsu (Akiji Kobayashi), these guys are the best of the best and they’re equipped with all of the high-tech gadgetry, vehicles and weapons you could ask for. Alongside the Captain the SSSP includes a tough guy named Daisuke Arashi (Sandayu Dokumamushi), a nutty professor type named Mitsuhiro Ide (Masanari Nihei), a communications expert named Akiko Fuji (Hiroko Sakurai) and the Captain's right-hand man, Shin Hayata (Susumu Kurobe). Along for the ride is a boisterous kid named Isamu Hoshino (Akihide Tsuzawa), who occasionally wears cool hats and frequently gets into all kinds of wacky trouble. In the first episode, when Shin and an alien called Ultraman collide, Shin almost dies. That is, until an alien named Ultraman, who was on Earth hoping to deal with a monster named Bemular, heals him by giving him his life force. This allows Shin to transform into Ultraman any time he needs to with, quite literally, the push of a button and utilize all of the powers that Ultraman to ensure that the Earth stays safe.

    Given that this was a show aimed at a younger audience it makes sense that a lot of the storylines would revolve around Ultraman saving Isamu and yeah, a whole lot of them do, but it doesn’t matter. Each episode basically sets up a simple premise and then, somewhere past the half way mark, Ultraman will show up and get into a brawl with whatever monster or alien the writers deemed worthy for that particular story. It isn’t deep and the monsters are ever so obviously dudes in rubber suits, but it’s such a colorful and screwy show that you can’t help but love it. The show is just so pure in its intent, and it delivers exactly what you want out of it.

    Ultraman is a seriously neat superhero. He’s got pretty serious array of special powers that he can use to send his foes back from whence they came, be it his Specium Ray or his patented Ultra Slash, so the fights tend to mix things up enough to keep things interesting. He’s also able to grow in size to match the massive heights of his monster foes – this always comes in handy.

    Yeah, the effects rudimentary and the film’s modest budget is obvious in its use of miniatures and wires but the show’s influence remains evident in shows like Power Rangers and the like. There’s a lot of neat work put into the monster and character design. While Ultraman himself is sleek and very aerodynamic, his foes are often ugly monsters like the Godzilla-esque Bemular, the lobster-clawed Baltan alien, the Creature From The Black Lagoon styled Ragon, the Mummy Man (who not surprisingly looks like a mummy), the gas emitting Kemulara and the dinosaur-like Skydon to name only a few. There's also an episode where he comes into contact with some spooky Underground People, a tribe split off from the rest of civilization who cannot stand the sunlight but who control a monster named Telesdon.

    Good, goofy entertainment, Ultraman is a blast.

    The episodes that make up the complete series, spread across six discs in this set, are as follows:

    Disc One: Ultra Operation No. 1 / Shoot The Invaders / Science Patrol, Move Out! /
    5 Seconds Before Big Explosion / The Secret Of The Miloganda / The Coast Guard Command / The Blue Stone Of Baradhi

    Disc Two: The Monster Anarchy Zone / Lightning Operation / The Mysterious Dinosaur Base / The Rascal From Outer Space / Cry Of The Mummy / Oil S.O.S. / The Pearl Defense Directive

    Disc Three: The Terrifying Cosmic Rays / Science Patrol Into Space / Passport To Infinity / The Brother From Another Planet / Demons Rise Again / Terror On Route 87 / Break The Wall Of Smoke

    Disc Four: Overthrow The Surface / My Home Is Earth / The Undersea Science Center / The Mysterious Comet Tsuifon / The Monster Highness: Part 1 / The Monster Highness: Part 2

    Disc Five: Human Specimens 5 & 6 / Challenge To The Underground / Phantom Of The Snow Mountains / Who Goes There / Endless Counterattack / The Forbidden Words

    Disc Six: A Gift From The Sky / The Monster Graveyard / Don't Shoot, Arashi! / A Little Hero / Spaceship Rescue Command / Farewell, Ultraman!

    Ultraman: The Complete Series – Blu-ray Review:

    The AVC encoded 1.33.1 fullframe 1080p high definition transfers on the six 50GB discs in this set are less than perfect. Compression artifacts are visible throughout the presentation and detail is soft. Each twenty-five-minute episode takes up between 6 and 7GBS of space on their respective discs, but despite the decent bit rate compression artifacts abound (though this fluctuates from episode to episode they’re always there, but sometimes noticeably worse than other – the final Farewell, Ultraman! episode, for example, is a big offender here). There appears to have been some DNR applied here, waxing out the grain and softening texture in the process. These were all shot on 16mm so they should be naturally grainy but they aren’t. Colors look very nice – which is obviously important to a show like this – and black levels are okay. Are they better than the previous DVD releases? Yep, they absolutely are and by a noticeable margin as well, but room has been left for improvement here.

    The only audio option for the content in this set are Japanese language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. There’s audible sibilance throughout, which is unfortunate, but the levels are properly balanced. The subtitles are clean, clear and easy to read, free of any noticeable typos or errors.

    Those who are keen on the old English dubbed tracks may want to hold onto the older DVD editions for the simple reason that they were included in that set but not with this set (in fairness to Mill Creek it was likely a rights issue that prevented their inclusion).

    There are no extras on the discs themselves outside of menus offering episode selection, but it’s worth taking up a bit of space to discuss the packaging for this release. The six discs stack, three per side, inside some very ornate steelbook packaging that features some very nice artwork inside and out. The discs can be a little tricky to get off of the hubs inside, but this steelbook fits nicely inside a plastic slipcover that also holds a full color insert booklet. Inside the booklet we get a few pages detailing the history of the series and its character as well as some info on the monsters and characters that appear in this series. It’s a very nice-looking product.

    Ultraman: The Complete Series – The Final Word:

    Ultraman: The Complete Series packs a whole lot of monster mashing fun into its six discs and the series is a blast from start to finish. Those with an interest in monsters will love the series, and those of us who remember it from our childhood will, no doubt, get a pretty potent nostalgia rush revisiting this material.

    Click on the images below for full sized Ultraman: The Complete Series Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Andrew Monroe's Avatar
      Andrew Monroe -
      This show had a profound influence on me back in the 1970s. It was a daily weekday ritual to be parked in front of the tv at 4:00. This new set is awesome, though I do wish the English dubs were available, as well as the opening credits. I have to dip into it in small doses these days, the comic relief character really grates on me. One interesting thing is the occasional sad episode, like the Monster Graveyard one. Really melancholy stuff. Nice review!
    1. David H's Avatar
      David H -
      I used to RUN home from elementary school to watch this at 3:00, and would've picked up this set if it had the English dub and/or the opening credits in English. I have the DVD set and it's still lots of fun (and the screencaps actually look nice) but I don't feel the need to upgrade. I am picking up the forthcoming ULTRA SEVEN though because I've never seen any episodes of the next series following ULTRAMAN.