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Ultraman Enjoys Renewed Popularity (September 29, 2006)

Ultraman and his brothers team up
(c) Ultraman Mebius and the Ultra Brothers Production Committee, 2006
The Ultraman series of television shows, in which giant beings from the Land of Light fight vicious monsters to protect Earth, first appeared on Japanese television 40 years ago. Children who were once riveted to the heroes on the screen are now grown up - many of them parents - and today it is not uncommon for families to include two generations of Ultraman fans. A string of events to commemorate the series' fortieth anniversary, including the release of a film and an exhibition, are reigniting the Ultraman boom.

Craftsmanship Leads to Superhit
Ultraman is a TV series that began in 1966. It was produced by Tsuburaya Productions, a company founded by director Tsuburaya Eiji. Tsuburaya became a legend for his work in tokusatsu (special effects) and was responsible for the effects in Godzilla and many other movies. The eponymous protagonist of the Ultraman series is an extraterrestrial from a distant planet who lives on Earth in human form.When a crisis hits the Earth, he transforms himself into his giant form to combat evil monsters and aliens.

Ultraman fights a monster
(c) Ultraman Mebius and the Ultra Brothers Production Committee, 2006

In the pre-computer-graphics age Ultraman was filmed using elaborate special effects techniques that until then had only been used in cinema, such as rubber suits, miniature sets, and miniature aircraft manipulated by piano wire. The immensely popular program had children glued to the TV with its realistic and powerful images.

Seven more series, including Ultra Seven and Ultraman Taro, were produced in the years up to 1981. The heroes who appeared in the series at the zenith of its popularity were known as the Ultra Brothers. The series subsequently lost ground against the rising popularity of anime, however. Although attempts were made at overseas production in Australia and the United States, the series was not able to regain its former hit status.

Blending the New and the Nostalgic
In the latter half of the 1990s the Ultra heroes returned to the TV screen after an absence of 15 years. The latest series that is currently being aired, Ultraman Mebius, celebrates the fortieth anniversary of Ultraman. It was made as a sequel to the early series that ended 25 years ago. The protagonist is a rookie from the Land of Light, and the series depicts the growth of this young hero.

A poster for Ultraman Mebius and the Ultra brothers
(c) Ultraman Mebius and the Ultra Brothers Production Committee, 2006

Ultraman Mebius and the Ultra Brothers, a film released in September 2006, also commemorates the fortieth anniversary. Not only do the Ultra Brothers appear in the movie; they are played by the original actors themselves, who performed their transformation scenes for the first time in more than 30 years. By combining classic special effects with computer graphics, the film's visuals achieve tremendous impact and speed.

Numerous other commemorative events are taking place, including an exhibition titled The Legend of Ultraman that is being shown from summer through fall at the Taro Okamoto Museum of Art in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, and the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum in Hiroshima. Special Ultraman merchandise like watches, T-shirts, and even shoes have been produced to mark the anniversary.

In March 2006 an Ultraman statue was unveiled at a shopping district near Soshigaya Okura train station in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward, the home of Tsuburaya Productions. The district attracts both local shoppers and Ultraman fans.

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Copyright (c) 2006 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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