We know ULTRA Q and ULTRAMAN (both 1966) are tokusatsu sci-fi TV classics in Japan, but the very peak of Tsuburaya Productions' famed Ultra Series was reached with ULTRA SEVEN, which Japanese fans have, to this day, hailed as the all-time best Ultra Series, and for good reason! It is basically the JAPAN of Japan (long before shows like SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO/STAR BLAZERS). Even underneath the wild battles between the red & silver alien from M78 and his alien foes, this is a very serious and thought-provoking sci-fi drama. Especially in the human scenes, with our protagonists, the Ultra Garrison. This is a very different series from its aforementioned two predecessors. Later Ultra Series like ULTRAMAN TIGA and the more grown-up ULTRAMAN NEXUS would duplicate this formula.
Seven himself is different from Ultraman (who is a mysterious godlike being), as he's become the greatest archetype for the high-tech Japanese superhero. His powers/weapons are incredible (who *doesn't* love his flying boomerang-like Eyeslugger weapon?)! But underneath his cool exterior, he has even more heart, personality and depth than his famous predecessor. And the transformation from Dan Moroboshi (Kouji Moritsugu) to Ultra Seven, each time he puts on the "Ultra Eye" glasses, is without a doubt my favorite Japanese superhero transformation ever. I would also say that Ultra Seven is technically more like Japan's answer to Superman than Ultraman (who is more like the Green Lantern), only "Clark Kent" *puts on* his glasses to become Superman!
The Ultra Garrison's not half-bad either. Very different from the Science Patrol from Ultraman. The team uniforms (helmets, jumpsuits and rayguns) are memorable, so much that they have become pretty much the template for the defense forces in all future Ultra Series (and few of the series would copy them closely, like the 1979 anime series THE ULTRAMAN). And the mecha is awesome. I really love the Ultra Hawk, which splits into three different jet vehicles (ULTRAMAN DYNA had something like this, too)! Of course, just like in ULTRAMAN, the team members have similar personalities, but Dan Moroboshi (Seven's human alter-ego) is a different person from ULTRAMAN's Hayata. He's still a tough member, but he's also very considerate. And even in human form, he's well equipped to fight alien invaders, from having X-ray vision/telepathy to being equipped with miniature "Capsule Monsters" (Windom, Miclas and Agira), which are like tiny capsules that, when thrown like a grenade, explode and transform into giant monsters (and Dan can call it back into a capsule any time). I wonder which two anime series did *this* later on . . .
The music score and theme song, composed by the great Tooru Fuyuki (who would compose for many future Ultra Series and other Tsuburaya shows) are absolute classic, and one of the best soundtracks ever. Quite a different case from Kunio Miyauchi's jazzy score for ULTRAMAN, Fuyuki's orchestral score for this series evokes more power, ranging from neo-classical to avant-garde. The "Song of Ultra Seven" theme song is one of the best superhero theme songs ever. In a way, this score recalls Barry Gray's famous music for many of Gerry & Sylvia Anderson's "Supermarionation" shows (like THUNDERBIRDS and CAPTAIN SCARLET).
And, of course, there's the bizarre and imaginative alien & space monster threats! Some of my favorites include Eleking (a fan-favorite), Dankan, the Guts-Seijin and Seven's final foe, Pandon.
Sadly, this was also the final Ultra Series by creator Eiji Tsuburaya, who originally wanted this to be the final Ultra Series. (And the heart-rending farewell finale couldn't have emphasized it more!) Due to this series' unbelievable popularity, a new Ultra Series was planned in late 1969 (ULTRAMAN CONTINUES), but Eiji died (in 1970) before production began. The said project later became RETURN OF ULTRAMAN in 1971, when Eiji's first son Hajime Tsuburaya took over the studio (until his untimely death in 1973). But needless to say, Seven himself (and his alter-ego Dan) continues to make appearances in future Ultra Series, and due to fan response, got some TV specials and direct-to-DVD series.
This series was originally seen in the US in Hawaii in 1975 (the dub of which is now lost, but two episodes still remain), and on TNT in 1994 (from a somewhat comically-dubbed 1985 dub by Cinar in Canada), but ULTRA SEVEN is a series that truly deserves the same revisiting as ULTRAMAN in the US. If fans of Japanese pop-culture know what's good for them, they must watch ULTRA SEVEN! Disregarding it is like sci-fi fans disregarding, say, STAR TREK or DOCTOR WHO.
No more words need to be said, ULTRA SEVEN is a true Japanese sci-fi classic. But to quote LeVar Burton, "You don't have to take my word for it."