The latest movie in the Ultraman franchise, Ultraman Ginga S Decisive Battle: The 10 Ultra Warriors, featuring 10 Heisei Ultramen from Tiga onwards all the way to Ultraman Ginga and Victory, premieres tomorrow, March 15, in cinemas all over Japan.
While those of us outside Japan will have to wait a few months for the home video release, and possibly even longer for a fansub (if you do not understand a hint of Japanese), fret not, as there is plenty of Ultra-material out there to be enjoyed over and over again.
Still not sure what to watch? Let’s have a look at our top five Ultraman movies of all time:
5. ULTRAMAN (2004)
A refreshing and updated take on the premise of the original Ultraman, with a more grounded real-world setting, a budget larger than most Tokusatsu films, and an amazing soundtrack by Tak Matsumoto of B’z (Also, the awesome ending song which features Eric Martin of Mr. Big on vocals). Even while sticking to the heroic themes of courage and sacrifice to protect the ones you love, ULTRAMAN delivered true mainstream entertainment that even non-Ultraman fans would be able to enjoy. It also serves as a prequel to the then-running Ultraman Nexus, which is still popular with Western fans looking for an atypical Ultraman series. Sometimes referred to with the extended title Ultraman The Next.
4. Ultraman Mebius & Ultraman Brothers (2006)
What a way to celebrate a 40th anniversary, by bringing back the entire bunch that made the franchise in the first place. The human hosts for the original four Ultramen return along with some familiar villains in a nicely-written storyline that captures the magic of the generation gone by. Keeping in line with Ultraman Mebius, the movie revisists the Showa universe and for the record, gets its continuity right (a rarity for Tsuburaya in the old days). Ultraman Mebius & Ultraman Brothers is a must-watch for any long-time fan looking to relive that nostalgic flavour once again, and again, and again, and again…
3. Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legends (2009)
A massive entry in the Ultraman franchise, establishing onscreen for the very first time the origins of the Ultra race, the decadence of the first evil Ultraman, Belial, and the advent of a new hero, Ultraman Zero, as the first in the latter’s trilogy of films. Having the entire movie take place off-Earth was also new for Ultraman at that time, and Legends also stands out from the rest of the pack with high octane martial arts-style action scenes usually associated with regular-sized heroes, no doubt an influence of director Sakamoto Koichi. This movie is also the first, and only so far, to showcase the Land of Light in such careful detail.
Legends could have been the best Ultraman movie of all time, but faces extremely tough competition from…
2. Ultraman Tiga: The Final Odyssey (2000)
The most epic conclusion to any Ultra series ever. Taking place two years after the end of the series, fans were treated to a big screen exploration of Ultraman Tiga’s dark origins, in the form of his two old evil buddies and a former lover who were accidentally unleashed by TPC scientists looking to replicate Tiga’s light. Final Odyssey is actually a love story in its deepest essence, and also featured a deeper look into the concept of hikari (light) in the Ultraman mythology. Also, look out for the ‘passing of the torch’ moment just before the credits roll!
Finally, our #1 spot goes to…
1. Great Decisive Battle! Super 8 Ultra Brothers (2008)
Despite utilising a similar reliance on the audiences’ sense of nostalgia that made the Mebius movie a success, Super 8 Ultra Brothers trumps it with an imaginative premise, a far superior storyline, and a well-balanced lineup of Ultramen from both the Showa and Heisei eras. In this movie, which takes place in an alternate universe (AU) not unlike our own, Ultraman was a children’s TV show, beloved but almost forgotten, and it was up to our heroes, especially Nagano Hiroshi’s AU Daigo, to rediscover what the ‘spirit of Ultraman’ really was.
As far as that spirit is concerned, Super 8 Ultra Brothers captures it perfectly and thus deserves to be the #1 Ultraman movie of all time. Until the next better challenger…
On hindsight, I find it funny that the list contains only all Heisei-era movies (strangely, Tsuruno Takeshi is in all of them), but it was really only after Ultraman Zearth when Tsuburaya actually put some effort into the silver screen market instead of the Showa-era barrage of clip shows that were Ultraman Zoffy (1984) and Ultraman Story (also 1984).
I would have loved to include Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial in this list. However, as much as I loved that movie, I felt it did not capture the spirit of Ultraman as well as the ones on this list. Truthfully, Ultraman stories do work very well for the big screen, and I would love for the trend of quality Ultraman movies to continue. Hopefully, 10 Ultra Warriors will erase the shoddiness that was Saga.
What is your favourite Ultraman movie of all time? Tell us below!