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Ultraman: Series One – Volume One 
Written by: on July 11th, 2006

Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1966-67
Directors: Akio Jissoji, Hajime Tsuburaya
Writers: Tetsuo Kinjô, Mamoru Sasaki, Shinichi Sekizawa
Cast: Susumu Kurobe, Sandayuu Dokumamushi, Masanari Nihei, Hiroko Sakurai, Akiji Kobayashi, Akihiko Hirata, Bin Furuya

DVD released: July 18th, 2006
Approximate running time: 450 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital mono
DVD Release: BCI Eclipse
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $39.98

Hayata an officer of the elite Science Patrol is investigating some unidentified objects when his jet collides with an alien from M78 Nebula who was chasing another alien Bemular who was threatening the Earth. The alien from M78 Nebula make amends by giving Hayata his life force and a Beta Capsule that when used will give his super human powers and make him fifty feet tall. Hayata returns to action after his accident with Science Patrol as they take on all monsters who threaten the Earth. Hayata keeps his new found powers a secret and only uses them when there is no other solution.

The following episodes are included with this set. “Ultra Operation #1”, “Shoot the Invader”, “Charge Forth, Science Patrol”, “Five Seconds Before the Explosion”, “Secret of Miroganda”, “Coast Guard Orders”, “The Blue Stone of Baraj”, “Monster Lawless Zone”, “Operation Electric Stone Fire”, “The Mysterious Dinosaur Base”, “The Rambunctious One From Space”, “Cry of the Mummy”, “Oil SOS”, “Pearl Oyster Defense Order”, “The Space Ray of Terror”, “Science Patrol to Space”, “Passport to Infinity”, “The Brother From Another Planet”, “The Demons Once More” and “Terror on Route 87”.

Ultraman was created by legendary Japanese special effects artist Eiji Tsuburaya at the height of the Kajiu phenomena in Japan. The series also borrows from two other anthology series The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. The stories follow a basic formula each week Science Patrol is faced with a new monster and when things get to hot and heavy in walks Ultraman in the films final minutes to save the day. The stories are all interesting and they all are packed with action filled adventure. There is wackiness and inventiveness in Ultraman that is serious lacking in all modern television series. Ultraman is clearly a product of its time. It epitomizes everything that is great about Sci-Fi television.

The miniature models while primitive by today’s CGI created special effects are pretty impressive and despite their short comings there are more pleasing to the eye then any crappy CGI. The monsters are well done when they are set against a set. They look like a man in a rubber suit when they fight Ultraman. Hayata is some ways is like two other superhero’s Spiderman and Superman. Like Spiderman he accidentally gains his powers and like Superman he has an altar ego as Ultraman. Also his co-workers just like Superman’s are oblivious to the fact that Hayata and Ultraman are the same person despite never being in the same place at the same time.

Overall Ultraman as series at times doesn’t make a lot of sense and there are many instances of unintentional humor, still these things are part of its overall charm.

The DVD:

BCI presents Ultraman series one in its original full frame aspect ratio. This series is filled with many vivid colors which have been faithfully reproduced for this DVD release. Black levels look good as details are remain sharp through out. Outside of some minor edge enhancement the source material for these transfers looks pretty good for a television show that is forty years old.

This release comes with two audio options Japanese and English. Both are presented in a Dolby Digital mono. The Japanese language track fares better of the two included as it is free of any hiss or distortion and dialog is crisp and clear. The English dubbed track has noticeable hiss and other sound defects in various episodes. The quality of the English sound mixes varies from episodes to episode. Despite their flaws the English dubbed audio tracks are more then adequate. One other thing about the English dubbed audio tracks is how on some episodes the soundtrack switches to Japanese with subtitles. This is most likely due to the fact that some of these episodes may have never aired in their full lengths in the United States. This series is best appreciated if you listen to the Japanese language track. Removable English subtitles that are easy to read and follow have been included.

Extras for this release which are contained on disc one of this set include the U.S. opening credits and an extensive Kajiu (Monster) encyclopedia which details all the monsters that appear in the Ultraman series. The main extra for this release is a twenty three minute interview with Peter Fernandez, Corrine and Earl Hammond. They discuss how they got their starts in show business, working as voice actors on Speed Racer and Ultraman. This release comes with a collectable booklet which includes a text piece on Eiji Tsuburaya and the Ultraman series and there is also an episode synopsis for all twenty episodes included with this set.

BCI gives Ultraman Series one is North American debut on DVD via their box set which comes with a good audio/video presentation and a few informative extras about the series. I can’t wait for the next volume of Ultraman after seeing the TLC BCI put into this first collection, highly recommended.

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