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   Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #540  (Vol. 11, No. 31)  This edition is for the week of July 26--August 1, 2010.

"The Kids Are All Right" †by Mike Smith
The Hat Trick †by ED Tucker
July Album of the Month: Dark Night of the Soul †by Terence Nuzum
Ultraman, Series One †by Jason Fetters
They Call Me Coach .... Congratulations .... .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith

Ultraman, Series One

Growing up in the late 70ís, most kids were heavily into Superman and Batman, but I was into a giant Robot from Japan, Ultraman. I was influenced by Sci-Fi thanks to the Star Wars phenomenon in í77. Each morning I would wake up to catch another episode of Ultraman. That was until my parents decided to enroll me in Circle C Ranch for their Summer program, which sucked. I begged and was finally allowed to stay at home so I could veg in front of the TV and watch my show. I would like to think that I made the right decision. I remember running around the front yard at my house on Sparkman Street in Port Tampa, close to the baseball field, holding my dadís small flashlight and pretending I was growing 131 feet tall.

Needless to say, I was happy to get any Ultraman I could find. I found 4 episodes on VHS at Necronomicon, Sci-Fi con not the Lovecraft forbidden tome, back in 1991. I was happy to get that for $4 despite the bad third generation copy and the lack of English subtitles. Watching Ultraman as a young boy was sometimes difficult because the continuity skipped and would often ruin a two-part episode.

I was really glad to see that BCI put out Ultraman Volume One and Volume Two of Series One. A lot of people have complained about this box set; however it was a great purchase for me.

For starters I can now watch all 39-episodes in DVD quality with the Japanese language option. I always hated the lame Peter Fernandez and Connie Orr English Dub. Fernandez would go out of his way to give the characters the worst sounding fake Asian voice he could manage to come up with. It there is one thing that can ruin a cool show, it is a bad dub that has plagued everything from Godzilla, to Bruce Lee, to Jackie Chan, and even Ultraman.

Also, I can see the original Japanese intro, which is so much better than the U.S. opening that appears as an extra in the special features.

Just watching the DVDs brought back fond memories of watching Ultraman with my father. He would make fun of the fights and yell out wrestling moves.

Years later, I was watching Japanorama, a BBC TV show, where Jonathan Ross was interviewing Ultraman series creator, Eiji Tsuburaya and Ross asked him how he came up with all those great fights. Tsuburaya replied that a lot of ideas came from watching wrestling, so my dad was right on the money.

The plot of each Ultraman episode was simple. The Science Patrol would investigate a strange disturbance that usually resulted in a giant monster attacking some part of the city or putting a personís life in danger. Hayata, the Deputy Captain of the Science Patrol, would dash off somewhere to use his beta capsule to transform into Ultraman. Then Ultraman would battle a giant monster. Each week the monster had to be different, which put such a strain on the series creators. My favorite monster was when a group of school children get together to create their own monster by painting an image on a cave wall. Some kind of weird magic occurred that brought the monster to life.

I never realized how huge Ultraman was until I lived in Japan. Standing inside the Toys R Us in Osaka, I saw Ultraman action figures from every series, miniature vehicles that included a submarine, the Science Patrolís Jet VTOL, the spacecraft they used to fly around in, and even the cool 1961 Chevrolet Corvair, the killer silver car. However the best toys were the plastic kaiju monsters for sale. Every monster that appeared on the old show and the newer shows was available for purchase. If I had more than one credit card, I probably would have maxed all of them out on Ultraman merchandise alone.

I even saw Ultraman Underoos for sale and I remember thinking that I grew up in the wrong country.

My major complaint is that all the Ultraman series are available as box sets in Japan. That is the main reason I have a region-free DVD player because I know that the U.S. will never get anything beyond Ultraman Series One. That means Sci-Fi fans are missing out on Ultraseven, Ultraman Ace, Ultraman Taro, Ultraman Leo, Ultraman Gaia, Ultraman Tiga, Ultraman 80, and more recently Ultraman Max and Ultraman Mebius. Ultraman Mebius was a throwback to the original series. There are even a few Ultrawomen in the mix.

Ultraman is still a big deal in Japan with Ultraman showing up at elementary schools to teach safety and how to say no to drugs. There are Ultraman Cons and festivals going on all year round.

I just wish some company in the U.S. would put out the entire Ultra Series so America can catch onto the Ultra phenonmenon. A better version of series one would be a great place to start.

To comment on this or any other PCR article, please visit The Message Board. "The Asian Aperture" is ©2010 by Jason Fetters. Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.