Alternative titles: Ultraman Ecks Ecks, Ultraman Ten (I’m kidding)
Streaming on Crunchyroll
Rejected Godzilla monsters become very angry after a space marble crashes into the sun, creating a purple aurora borealis. Only a spandex-clad ultra person with swathes of merchandise can stop them.
Euri’s verdict: Attack the glowing weak point
I’m not exactly an expert on Ultraman, having seen only parts of the original series and a handful of episodes of Ginga, but it does seem like Ultraman X is reusing the tried and tested opening episode. We have a special defence force that tries (and sucks) at defending the planet from giant monsters. We have an unlikely hero who finds themselves in a dangerous situation, only to end up transforming into Ultraman. We even have Daichi, our protagonist, hiding the fact that he is Ultraman, just like in the original series. I suppose that’s not necessarily a bad thing for now, as we’re still being introduced to the important characters and the setting, but it didn’t really help what was already a very predictable episode. Monster attacks, Ultraman shows up, monster blows up. Not too much to figure out for the first episode.
Spark Dolls have returned from Ginga, which are miniaturised forms of Ultraman monsters. In Ginga, they contained the form and powers of the monsters they represented, allowing for Hikaru Raido, the show’s protagonist, to transform into them. In Ultraman X their use hasn’t been fully explained, but we do get to see Demaaga, the monster of the week for episode one, return to its Spark Doll form after being defeated by Ultraman X. In our world, Spark Dolls are articulated figures that the show’s producers would very much like you to purchase. As you don’t see these figurines during the main fights, we get to see Daichi chatting to Gomora (below) with worrying frequency. This may seem daft even in the context of this show, but it still hasn’t topped seeing people praying to Ultraman Ginga’s Spark Doll (read: action figure), which appears in a family shrine.
If you’re not a figurine collector, fear not, for Ultraman X has more merchandise to sell you! We see them briefly in episode one, and more so in the opening sequence, but Daichi will be able to power up Ultraman X in the form of Cyber Cards. These are your run-of-the-mill trading cards featuring previous Ultras, monsters, aliens and other things that Ultraman X will be able to borrow characteristics from. Xio, the defence force that Daichi is a member of, is developing these cards with the aim of creating, as the show calls them, “strategic assets”. Basically, they want giant monsters with ridiculous enhancements to fight for them. They haven’t quite sussed it all out yet, so I’m sure we’ll see this show up in the next episode as an early power-up.
Now, many of us are going to be interested in this show for the giant monsters, fight sequences and obligatory explosions, and that’s fine. It’s certainly hard, for me at least, to turn away from what is essentially weekly mini Godzilla movies. On that front, Ultraman X does a reasonably good job. The special effects varied in quality throughout this episode. For example, much of the CGI used for the laser shows actually looks pretty good, but the scenes that show a jet flying around and attacking Demaaga looked awful. We got to see a model building fall over on its side without any kind of wall buckling or smashed glass, but when we see Ultraman X thrown through one, it looked great! The fight itself was rather throwaway, but that’s because there was more of a focus on setting up the relationship between Daichi and Ultraman X, and getting used to actually fighting. We’ll get a better idea of what to expect in the coming episodes, which is fine because we got to see Ultraman X grasping a building over a fear of heights. Some much appreciated humour, which I hope we see more of, as we’re not quite Super Sentai/Kamen Rider levels of goofy yet.
If it’s your first venture into Ultraman, you should probably go ahead and give this a go. Crunchyroll has managed to grab the simulcast rights for it, so there’s nothing stopping you! I’m going to stick with it to see how the story moves on from here, as well as to check out that mascot character the next episode has teased. If you’re a big fan of Ultraman, I’d very much like to hear your opinion on whether this holds up to the previous series’ or not.
colons’ verdict: I have basically no opinion, but the fights are okay
I barely even noticed a story watching this, aside from the obligatory ‘hey let’s pretend these toys look like competent props,’ but that doesn’t matter, because the fight sequence delivered everything I enjoy about Godzilla fight scenes. People in cool-looking rubber suits fighting awkwardly in tiny polystyrene cities, bad compositing, low-budget CG; the works. I feel no commitment to this show whatsoever, but if future episodes have similarly ‘spectacular’ fights, I could totally see myself passing a weekly half hour numbing out to this. The only real danger is that the constant toy marketing works and I end up coming home from our next Japan trip with a suitcase full of awful-looking monster of the week figures.