Shuwatch now or never: Ultraman is leaving Crunchyroll

Dai

Thousand Master
In typical Crunchyroll fashion, they've only given little over a week's notice that the remaining Ultraman shows are being removed. They're all going on 31st March.

I suspected that the licenses would be expiring soon, so I was planning to suggest an emergency simulwatch after the Gurren Lagann one finishes, but there's probably no way to do one in 10 days, since the shortest series is 26 episodes. So rather than doing a formal simulwatch, I'll just offer some recommendations of how to sample this expansive franchise for anyone who has yet to dip their toes in. I was in my 30s before I could accept the inherent weirdness of a giant dude in a mask fighting kaiju, but I'm glad I gave it a try, as I've been hooked on it ever since.

The rule of thumb with the Ultra series is that each one starts out with a fresh set of characters, so you can jump in anywhere without having to watch them in a particular order. Often each show takes place in its own dimension, with only occasional cross-overs with Ultramen from other series happening as they hop across the multiverse for an episode or two.

Ultraman X (2015)
1616248407500.png
This show marked the beginning of a significant increase in the quality of effects in the franchise, with larger miniature city sets and more dramatic action direction. It follows the typical setup of having its Ultraman's human counterpart work for an Earth defence force. The biggest strength of X is its individual episodes. They're varied and interesting, and it follows an interesting theme of trying to coexist with kaiju. The only weakness of X is how deeply integrated the toy element was by this point. You need to be able to accept the main character talking to kaiju in their miniature 'spark doll' forms, which are literally action figures. If you can overcome that hurdle, X is one of the best shows in the franchise.

Ultraman Orb (2016)
1616248449948.png
If spark dolls are too weird for you, try Orb. This time toy elements are limited to the transformation device and a god-awful sword design that shows up in the latter half, so they're not as distracting. The show breaks from tradition by following a group of amateur investigators in a setup closer to the one seen in Ultraman's precursor series Ultra Q. Orb starts out a bit more shaky than X, but has a stronger ongoing story that gets better as it goes along. It also has possibly the best humanoid antagonist in the franchise.

X and Orb are both available on cheap, region-free blu-ray sets from Mill Creek in the US, so I'd recommend streaming a few episodes of each to see if you like them, since they won't break the bank to buy. If you only try binging one Ultra series in the next ten days, make it:

Ultraman Nexus (2004)
1616248488988.png
This is often referred to as the Evangelion of Ultraman shows. It was Tsuburaya's attempt to reboot the franchise for an adult audience, with a darker tone, and more mature and complex ongoing plotline. The main weakness in Nexus is that it's a significantly lower budget show than the two mentioned above, which can be seen in most of the kaiju battles taking place in the same empty environment, but the story more than makes up for it. If you're up for spending the next ten days on Dante Must Die mode, I highly recommend trying to make it through this 37 episode series. It doesn't have a US release yet, and due to it not having a blu-ray release in Japan yet it's likely to be one of the last Ultraman shows that Mill Creek release, if they do at all.
 

Geriatric hedgehog

Thousand Master
In typical Crunchyroll fashion, they've only given little over a week's notice that the remaining Ultraman shows are being removed. They're all going on 31st March.

I suspected that the licenses would be expiring soon, so I was planning to suggest an emergency simulwatch after the Gurren Lagann one finishes, but there's probably no way to do one in 10 days, since the shortest series is 26 episodes. So rather than doing a formal simulwatch, I'll just offer some recommendations of how to sample this expansive franchise for anyone who has yet to dip their toes in. I was in my 30s before I could accept the inherent weirdness of a giant dude in a mask fighting kaiju, but I'm glad I gave it a try, as I've been hooked on it ever since.

The rule of thumb with the Ultra series is that each one starts out with a fresh set of characters, so you can jump in anywhere without having to watch them in a particular order. Often each show takes place in its own dimension, with only occasional cross-overs with Ultramen from other series happening as they hop across the multiverse for an episode or two.

Ultraman X (2015)
View attachment 17690
This show marked the beginning of a significant increase in the quality of effects in the franchise, with larger miniature city sets and more dramatic action direction. It follows the typical setup of having its Ultraman's human counterpart work for an Earth defence force. The biggest strength of X is its individual episodes. They're varied and interesting, and it follows an interesting theme of trying to coexist with kaiju. The only weakness of X is how deeply integrated the toy element was by this point. You need to be able to accept the main character talking to kaiju in their miniature 'spark doll' forms, which are literally action figures. If you can overcome that hurdle, X is one of the best shows in the franchise.

Ultraman Orb (2016)
View attachment 17691
If spark dolls are too weird for you, try Orb. This time toy elements are limited to the transformation device and a god-awful sword design that shows up in the latter half, so they're not as distracting. The show breaks from tradition by following a group of amateur investigators in a setup closer to the one seen in Ultraman's precursor series Ultra Q. Orb starts out a bit more shaky than X, but has a stronger ongoing story that gets better as it goes along. It also has possibly the best humanoid antagonist in the franchise.

X and Orb are both available on cheap, region-free blu-ray sets from Mill Creek in the US, so I'd recommend streaming a few episodes of each to see if you like them, since they won't break the bank to buy. If you only try binging one Ultra series in the next ten days, make it:

Ultraman Nexus (2004)
View attachment 17692
This is often referred to as the Evangelion of Ultraman shows. It was Tsuburaya's attempt to reboot the franchise for an adult audience, with a darker tone, and more mature and complex ongoing plotline. The main weakness in Nexus is that it's a significantly lower budget show than the two mentioned above, which can be seen in most of the kaiju battles taking place in the same empty environment, but the story more than makes up for it. If you're up for spending the next ten days on Dante Must Die mode, I highly recommend trying to make it through this 37 episode series. It doesn't have a US release yet, and due to it not having a blu-ray release in Japan yet it's likely to be one of the last Ultraman shows that Mill Creek release, if they do at all.
I've had the same reservations you mentioned of starting with Ultraman, especially based on my utter hatred of power rangers as a child (just my personal opinion and apologies to fans!) and despite the distinguished fanbase.

However, you have piqued my interest with Ultraman Nexus. I'd happily put up with issues inherent to budgetary limitations, if the narrative elements are worthwhile. 37 episodes though, is groan inducing. Especially in the context of my recent Amazon binges over the last week, which will probably total 63 episodes (oh my goodness...) by the end of the day. I really just want to watch at a relaxed place again now, soooo, let's see...
 

Scrambled Valkyrie

Student Council President
Thanks for this list Dai. All of the Ultra shows I've watched are earlier ones from the 60's to the 90's (haven't watched all of em from this period but have seen a few in each era) I actually got interested in the franchise as a teenager. I used to buy Manga Mania, a monthly magazine in the 90's which had an ultraman article in it one month and i recognised him from a cartoon I'd seen as a kid (That i realised after reading the article had been a re-edited Ultraman anime). The article was prompted by Ultraman: Towards the future, the Australian/Japanese co produced Ultra show arriving on UK TV via Sky. My best friend Adam had Sky so we'd watch it at his and we quite enjoyed it despite the obvious budget limitations. I haven't watched that one since but it's not held in high regard among fans, I think it'd be kind of weird now seeing characters in an Ultra show speaking English. I will rewatch it at some point for the nostalgia though.

I've been getting the Mill Creek sets quite slowly. Now all I need is the time to watch them all (and everything else in the eternal backlog).
 

Dai

Thousand Master
Thanks for this list Dai. All of the Ultra shows I've watched are earlier ones from the 60's to the 90's (haven't watched all of em from this period but have seen a few in each era) I actually got interested in the franchise as a teenager. I used to buy Manga Mania, a monthly magazine in the 90's which had an ultraman article in it one month and i recognised him from a cartoon I'd seen as a kid (That i realised after reading the article had been a re-edited Ultraman anime). The article was prompted by Ultraman: Towards the future, the Australian/Japanese co produced Ultra show arriving on UK TV via Sky. My best friend Adam had Sky so we'd watch it at his and we quite enjoyed it despite the obvious budget limitations. I haven't watched that one since but it's not held in high regard among fans, I think it'd be kind of weird now seeing characters in an Ultra show speaking English. I will rewatch it at some point for the nostalgia though.

I've been getting the Mill Creek sets quite slowly. Now all I need is the time to watch them all (and everything else in the eternal backlog).
I remember the trailer for Towards the Future that was on some Manga Video tapes in the mid-90s, but I had such a single-minded obsession with anime at the time that I never considered buying it (it also didn't help that I didn't have much money back then). While I had a few Godizlla movies taped off TV, I didn't start buying kaiju movies until I saw a trailer for Gamera 3 on an AD Vision anime DVD in the early 00s.

I have some of the Mill Creek Ultraman releases. While I keep telling myself I should buy more of them before they go out of print, I tend to only get into a major Ultra-mood a couple of times a year, so watching the older 50-episode shows can take a while.
 
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