In a way, Ultraman X’s debut reminded this fan of what he loves and hates about Ultraman. It wasn’t as fancy or colourful as most modern Tokusatsu, but there was a sort of honest quality to X that harkened back to the late 90’s Ultra series.
About a month ago I wrote an column in which I expressed my worries for the Ultra franchise, which received quite a bit of attention from fellow fans who felt the same way. Though there are still no updates regarding the legal issue (expect that to take more years to resolve), the unprecedented announcement from Crunchyroll that Ultraman X would have a worldwide simulcast (free and subtitled!) showed that things are moving in the right direction…… except that we (as in the folks living in Asia, outside of Japan) are not in the list, most likely due to licensing issues.
While it is really nice to see the bulk of the fandom backing the legal release and telling others to support it, the unfortunate fact is that those of us living in Asia would still have to rely on illegal avenues to watch Ultraman X—a product that is available to the rest of the world for free. Perhaps the real stumbling block in this issue is the whole tussle over ownership rights.
You see, I’d (we all would) love to be able to watch Ultraman X legally. To be able to support Tsuburaya Productions and whoever distributes their properties, so that they can create more Ultraman shows to entertain us, our children, and generations after.
I remember a time not so long ago when Ultraman series, dubbed in Mandarin or Malay, were a regular feature in the family programming slots on Singaporean & Malaysian free-to-air (FTA) channels, until a strange exodus of Ultraman material in mainstream media happened in the early-2000s, which could be linked to the Chaiyo rights dispute.
I do really like what Crunchyroll has done with the four (now five) series they stream, and I’m sure they’d love to make programmes available to Asian audiences if they could, but with the series gaining eyeballs all over the world, this can only mean bigger things are in store for the Ultraman franchise.
For the rest of us living in Asia, we can only hope that we’re not left out of the game when that happens.