Is Time Running Out for the Ultraman Franchise?
Previous Review: Seijuu Sentai Gingaman (1998)
Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the long running franchise, Tsuburaya produced and created its first new series in 7 years, titled Ultraman Ginga. The series sparked off with a battle between the Ultra Brothers and their sworn enemies. However, they were all turned into Spark Dolls by a mysterious being in the midst of battle, causing them to be scattered all over the universe. A young man named Raidou Hikaru comes across an item called the Ginga Spark, which allows him to UltraLive into signature monsters in the Ultraman franchise, as well as the mysterious Ultraman Ginga.
2 years later, Hikaru has achieved his dream of becoming a world adventurer. He is then faced with a new threat in the form of Chibull-seijin Exceller. Fascinated with his skills and courage, he was also immediately scouted by UPG to battle Exceller and his lackeys. Along his journey, Hikaru meets a young Victorian named Shou, who also possesses the ability to UltraLive into Ultraman Victory, as well as gaining the ability to combine with Ultraman Taro to become Ultraman Ginga Storium.
When the first official image of Ultraman Ginga surfaced onto the internet back in 2013, I was happy at the news of a new Ultra series after such a long while. However, I was not pleased with the modern design (the blue gems and smaller eyes), even though Ginga did retain the traditional red and silver patterns. It was not until I have seen people posting positive comments about Ginga S and tokuAsia”s subsequent trip to the Ultraman Live in Genting event that convinced me to check out Ginga and Ginga S.
While Ginga was a mess, possibly due to the fact that Tsuburaya was taken over by a new team and they probably didn”t know what to do with the franchise, Ginga S was a vast improvement thanks to the addition of Sakamoto Koichi, the legendary director behind the Power Rangers franchise. With a combination of Ultraman”s traditional fighting style and Sakamoto”s fighting choreography, as well as the return of familiar elements like a defense team, mobile casino Ginga S proved to the audience that Tsuburaya could do great things with the Ultra franchise even in the absence of Tsuburaya Eiji. Did I mention that Ultraman Ginga has some great music too? Particularly Ginga and Victory”s theme song, as well as Ginga S”s theme song.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Unlike the Ultra series before it, Ginga was created with a whole new approach – the lack of a defense team and plot divergences were all replaced with a group of five childhood friends looking out for each other and their attempts to battle the influences of the Dark Spark, which were split into two arcs with a movie in between them. Many old time Ultra fans and even a casual watcher like me did not take a liking to this new approach. Not only that, I thought it was pretty difficult to sit through it as it was too childish even for an Ultra series. Besides Hikaru, none of the other characters were likable.
SHOULD YOU WATCH IT?
As mentioned above, if you are an old time Ultra fan who is more comfortable with an Ultra series with all the familiar elements from previous Ultra series, you can skip Ginga and jump straight into Ginga S without missing out any important details. Toy gimmicks may have invaded the Ultraman franchise, but it is not as bad as how Super Sentai and Kamen Rider are handling it.