It’s been a slow news week for Japanese genre fiction stuff… I think. I mean, maybe Kyokai no Rinne is getting an anime or something. Maybe there’s a traffic light going up in honor of Astro Boy. I wouldn’t know, since all of my attention’s been diverted to Ultraman Leo.
Up until now, English translations of the 1974 Ultraman series had been limited to TV broadcast in Hawaii (much like the Californian broadcast of Ultraman Dyna, if anyone recorded it they haven’t shared), but this week the series hit crunchyroll for streaming. I was pleased seeing Ultraman Max and Ultraman Mebius picked up by the site, but both of those are series that at least had Hong Kong subtitles (if not fansubs) before… keen fans had already seen them. Ultraman Leo, on the other hand, is effectively new. This actually marks the first official translation of any 1970’s Ultraman series, if we’re not counting the anime.
It’s really funky watching this series, as I’m not intimately familiar with this era of Ultraman, but I’ve got to say: it feels a lot like Kamen Rider. The budget is clearly slashed from the shows preceding it (possibly due to the energy crisis, but more likely because of Tsuburaya’s newly-completed independence from Toho), so the action is really dialed up, with heavy emphasis on martial arts and training sequences. Another Rider-ish aspect (again due to budget) is the prevalence of two-part episodes, though that drops off as the series progresses.
So, why did crunchy get Leo? I can only speculate, but I’ve got a few ideas. First, the translation was already done, having aired in Hawaii. Secondly, the show is the oldest Ultra that Tsuburaya has actually cleared for international distribution, as Ultra Q–Ultraman Taro are caught up in the rights mess with Chaiyo, and folks watching Mebius might want to check it out it for the references. Plus, now that Ultraseven is readily accessible in the US (again), any fans of his show can tune in to see their hero transformed into the crusty mentor/defense force captain/boarderline psychotic martial arts instructor role. And finally: it’s just plain entertaining.
So, yeah, go watch Ultraman Leo. It’s knocked Spider-man off the throne for “best 1970s tokusatsu series streaming with English subtitles”.
- Here’s a trailer for the Ultraman Ginga S movie, a crossover of the 10 major Ultramen to emerge in the Heisei era (sorry to Neos, Zearth, Great, Powered, Nice, and Boy, who didn’t make the cut). Since it’s sort of already been established that some of them are pretty OP (Zero, Nexus), I wonder how they’ll balance things in this film…who’m I kidding; they’ll make sure that Ginga takes center stage.
- In another weird bit of Ultraman-related stuff (and Ultraman-related stuff can get pretty weird, trust me), there’s going to be an official crossover between Ultraman and the Malaysian cartoon Upin & Ipin.
So, uh, yeah, that’s all I got this week. Back to watching Ultraman Leo!