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WHAT'S COOL IN JAPAN
Ultraman Tiga and Dyna
Ultraman is Japan's biggest superhero. The star of a TV series that first aired more than 30 years ago, Ultraman is 40 meters (131 feet) tall, can fly at a speed of Mach 5, and can lift objects weighing 200,000 tons. His mission is to save Earth from evil monsters from outer space, and his main weapon is a powerful laser beam fired by crossing his hands. In human form, he's a member of the Science Patrol but can transform himself into Ultraman for three minutes at a time when the need arises.
Ultraman eventually returned to his home star after a highly successful run, but then his "brothers" like Ultraseven, Ultraman "Jack" (Return of Ultraman), and Ultraman Ace took over with TV programs of their own. The series that aired between 1966 and 1981 starred various "Ultra-heroes." These shows were so popular that people who grew up watching them are said to belong to the "Ultraman generation," and Ultraman merchandise has continued to sell well over the years.
The brains behind Ultraman is the late Eiji Tsuburaya, a special-effects expert who also created Godzilla. The Ultraman characters have gained a wide following not just in Japan but also in countries around the world; you may have seen some of the shows on the air.
In response to strong demand from many Ultraman fans, Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd. launched a new series in 1996--16 years after the last TV series ended--to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the start of the program.
The new hero, named Ultraman Tiga, immediately captured the hearts of a new generation of youngsters, and in September 1997, another new series starring Ultraman Dyna was launched.
The Ultraman boom gained added momentum when a movie was released in March 1998 featuring the two latest Ultra-heroes together. "Ultraman Tiga and Dyna" had the two heroes battling giant robots trying to destroy a space station and was a huge hit--not only with school kids on spring vacation, but also with their parents, the original generation of Ultraman fans.
People's devotion to Ultraman and his family shows no sign of letting up. A new series is scheduled to start as a successor to Ultraman Dyna in the fall of 1998.