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Though its not the first time Ultraman has been done in animated
form(this show was preceded by one "Za Urutoraman: Ultraman Jonias"),
this is the first time that Ultraman has been done outside of Japan(yes
this series precedes Ultraman: Toward the Future by a couple of years)
I've always thought that animation was the better way to go to fully
flesh out epic battles between monsters and giants, and this show
proves it. No longer encumbered by goofy looking rubber suits,
laughable special effects and other limitations of live action, this
short lived TV movie allows the concept that is Ultraman to be fully
The movie starts off with a team of stunt pilots called the "Flying Angels" consisting of Scott, Chuck, and Beth. During a mid flight accident, they are caught in a bizarre flash of light and crash, only to emerge unharmed. The trio have now become the host bodies of warriors from M78 sent to capture escaped monsters who have arrived on Earth. They become the Ultra Force under the guidance of an old golf course groundskeeper(who is actually an intergalactic peace keeper agent), and assisted by 3 robots, (Andy, Samson and Ulysses). From their headquarters within Mount Rushmore(think Team America) they respond to any sightings of monster attacks across the globe. If a monster proves too tough to take down by conventional means, one or more of the team is required to transform into an Ultraman(or UltraWoman in the case of Beth), a powerful red and silver giant, to battle the monsters.
The first thing anyone would be blown away by is the look of the show. Sure is hard to believe that this show was done by the same company that did Flintstones, Jetsons and Scooby Doo. The level of art detail is astounding with all the right color tones, shadowing, metallic sheen, and dark/light contrast. Dynamic shot angles and some creative storyboarding adds to the dramatic effect and impact of many scenes, especially the intense battle sequences. Too bad the richly detailed art comes at a price, which in this case is the animation. The frame rate is inconsistent with many shots looking only as well animated as a modestly budgeted animated TV series. There are a few good "money shots" like the Ultra Transformation sequences, some aerial fighting scenes and the signature "finishing moves", but other than that, the animation is mediocre at best.
The characters are likable with great personalities given form by a excellent voice cast assembled by Casting director Andrea Romano(who would go on to cast and direct the critically acclaimed Batman Animated series and other DC animated series). The 3 robot sidekick characters might remind one of Alpha 5 from Power Rangers but they are a lot more helpful to the team(not just giving combat strategies and advice but also actively helping the Ultra force when they are in trouble) as opposed to Zordon's irritating little desk clerk. They are also great in lending a lighthearted tone to some of the scenes with the interactions among the 3 robots resembling that between C-3PO and R2D2 in Star Wars.
The storyline is in keeping with many Ultraman staples with A more competent script, a romantic subplot and stronger adherence to the whole science fiction setting of the series thrown in for good measure. IT definitely has a stronger "saturday morning cartoon" feel, which fits in well with the animated nature of the show and does not take away from the overall entertainment value.
It was a huge pity that this TV movie, quite obviously a pilot movie for a potential animated series, was never followed through. Instead it descended into obscurity, appearing only on a few TV broadcasts, bootleg video tapes and most recently, youtube. Such a waste of opportunity considering the potential the show had.
Ultraman: The Adventure Begins is truly THE show to watch for some good giant vs monster action. Viewers of all ages young and old, Ultraman fans or just cartoon addicts, would get a real kick out of viewing this.
It was the 80s, Toei was on fire, not just with its own tokusatsu shows (Space Sheriff, Kamen Rider, Super Sentai) but with the ever growing American market for anime. Not to be outdone rival company Tsubaraya Productions (founded by Eiji Tsubaraya, the special effects god behind the original Godzilla movie, heavily inspired by King Kong) decided to commission an anime adaptation of its biggest cash cow and one of the most famous and popular tokusatsu in Japan; Ultraman. Ultraman is a live-action tokusatsu series about a species of giant aliens called Ultramen who police the universe. Each series follows the one assigned to watch Earth. The series is widely popular and one of the biggest tokusatsu series in Japan. It's also the most successful tokusatsu series that Tsubaraya created running even to this day, it was the natural choice to bring over to America. But who to partner with? Well in that regard Tsubaraya turned to cartoon tycoon Hanna-Barbera. Odd choice but you must remember that aside from Yogi Bear, Flinstones and those old cartoons you see on Boomerang Hanna-Barbera had also made a few Superhero series namely Space Ghost, Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, and a cartoon adaptation of the Fantastic Four. The best in American cartoons meets the best in Japanese tokusatsu to create an animated superhero cartoons series? Sounds brilliant doesn't it? And this should be the point when most of you are wondering why you haven't heard of this series before, well that's because it only lasted one episode, One. You'd think giving the pedigree this film has that it'd be a least interesting but no, the animation is surprisingly cheap, the pacing is abysmal with every scene going on far far too long, the fight scenes are slow and clumsy, the dialogue goes from being uninteresting to hilariously bad, the story is clunky feeling more like several episodes taped together then a pilot episode, the music is repetitive and uninteresting, and the film overall just feels like these two companies rushed it attempting to make a quick buck. This one is not even enjoyably bad, avoid.
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