Ultraman, the 45th Collection

12Apr12

I must be back in Japan since the cherry blossoms are out and I’m holding a copy of  Ultraman, the 45th Collection (ウルトラマン the 45th コレクシュン) — a mook produced to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Ultraman series, which first appeared in 1966.  As the fan house at the top of the page clearly illustrates, Ultraman is immensely popular in Japan.  Strangely enough, I also grew up with the series, which was aired on San Francisco’s KTVU in the mid-70s when I was a kid (dubbed into English, naturally).   Unlike Star Blazers (宇宙戦艦ヤマト), which now seems painfully slow to watch, the Ultraman series still holds an allure to me — probably a combination of the glorious retro-future kitsch of the Science Patrol uniforms, the iconic space-Buddha costumes of the unblinking Ultras, and the unending parade of new and ingenious creatures that make their way through the galaxy to threaten Earth (one of the best of which is Dada, a creature of gloriously nonsensical aesthetic absurdity).  The endless parade of creatures thrown up by the Ultraman series is thrilling in the same way that flipping through a medieval bestiary might be, or a couple of ragged copies of the Monster Manual and the Fiend Folio.

There’s also a strange kind of poetry in the names given to the various iterations of the Ultra being, all 37 of which are listed below:

Ultraman
Zoffy
Ultra Seven
Ultraman Jack
Ultraman Ace
Father of Ultra
Ultraman Taro
Mother of Ultra
Ultraman Leo
Astra
Ultraman King
Ultraman Joneus
Ultraman 80
Yullian
Ultraman Scott
Ultraman Beth
Ultraman Chuck
Ultraman Great
Ultraman Powered
Ultraman Zearth
Ultraman Tiga
Ultraman Dyna
Ultraman Gaia
Ultraman Agul
Ultraman Nice
Ultraman Neos
Ultra Seven 21
Ultraman Cosmos
Ultraman Justice
Ultraman Legend
Ultraman Nexus
Ultraman Max
Ultraman Xenon
Ultraman Mebius
Ultraman Hikari
Ultraman Zero
Ultraman Saga

In addition to photos of all of the complete Ultra costumes, the 45th Collection has a brilliant bit in the back where Ultraman wanders around Japan engaged in everyday activities, including sitting in an old-fashioned tatami room while sharing green tea and ramen with Baltan (バルタン星人), his arch-nemesis.  And that’s not even to mention the slightly disturbing, but vastly entertaining, “collaboration” between Ultraman and the comedian Egashira 2:50.

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