Mill Creek Entertainment begins an epic journey with the October 15, 2019 separate Blu-ray, and Blu-ray steelbook releases of the (reviewed) mid-60s Japanese sci-fi classic "Ultra Q" and the follow-up series "Ultraman." These two more-than-ready-for-primetime series are the first of roughly 40 "Ultra" shows,
A related note is that the surprisingly strong production values and delight associated with these scifi classics is worthy of marathons that justify sleep deprivation, However, rationing them to savor over an extended period is advised. They truly do not make 'em like that anymore.
MCE is honoring the unprecedented track record of this 50 year-old phenomenon by releasing other sets of "Ultra" programs over the next several months. One can only hope that the entire franchise ultimately sees the light of day.
Our discussion of "Man" begins with an hearty endorsement of the steelbook editions of "Q" and "Man." Both series look and sound crystal-clear in BD. Further, the well-designed sturdy steelbooks are stylish and have spines that add to "the big picture" as future "Ultra" series hit real and virtual store shelves.
Both BD versions of the "Ultra" series include a "must-own" collectible booklet that commences with an informative essay on how each show makes it on the air. This includes both the collaboration and the "circle of life" elements of the productions.
The booklets go on to provide detailed episode recaps; truly last but not least is an index (complete with photos) of every monster from that series.
The following description of "Man" that is "borrowed" from the MCE website is a comprehensive overview of the lore and the themes of this fanboy fave.
"ULTRAMAN, a giant alien from the Land of Light in Nebula M78, enters Earth's atmosphere in pursuit of an escaped space monster. In the skies above Japan he accidentally crashes into a Jet VTOL piloted by Hayata, a member of the Science Special Search Party (SSSP), an international research and defense agency that protects the world from monsters and aliens of all shapes and sizes.
To save Hayata, Ultraman merges his life force with the dying human and vows to stay and fight for peace on Earth. Now, whenever the Patrol faces a threat too great for them to handle, Hayata transforms into Ultraman to save the day!
ULTRAMAN was Tsuburaya Productions' first color series, a sci-fi action adventure drama that dominated the ratings during its initial 1966-67 broadcast run in Japan. The show was quickly licensed for release in America, airing in syndication for nearly two decades. Colorful, fast-paced, and packed with memorable heroes, creatures and incredible special effects, ULTRAMAN was the foundation for a phenomena that continues to this day."
Part of the rest of the story is that the Energizer bunny has something that the arguable father of the red power ranger lacks; the latter runs on a battery that only gives him three minutes worth of power.
The pilot of "Man" establishes the aforementioned lore AND reflects the cartoonish influence of "Batman" '66. A group of Japanese campers has the first of two close encounters of the second kind when they see a glowing blue object plunge into the nearby lake.
The incident prompts Hayata to pilot the aforementioned aircraft that looks like it is straight out '60s animation scifi series "The Thunderbirds." This leads to the game-changer mid-air collision,
Ala "Superman" and virtually every other superhero franchise, Ultraman comes on the scene at the eleventh hour and puts right what once went wrong.
The aptly titled second outing "Shoot the Invader" is even more comical; the ET with 'tude this time this a lobster on 'roids who seems to have a common ancestry with '60s superhero Multiman in that he can project several images of himself.
First contact gets off to a hilariously bad start, and things go downhill from there. The gist is that Earth gets a taste of being the planet chosen for the site of a civilization do-over.
"Science Patrol, Move Out" awesomely pays homage to "Q" (and "Godzilla") by having the intrusion of the "civilized" world on the natural one literally awaken a sleeping giant. The literal big bad this time enhances the threat by having very effective camouflage and by feeding on electricity.
Particular relevance this time is MCE releasing "Man" a week after a California electric company purposefully leaves a big chunk of that state in the dark for an extended period in order to achieve a greater good.
All of this lead to the epic 39th episode with a title that is a blatant spoiler. This one hits the trifecta of explaining a broad category of real-life unusual occurrences, having the heroes scramble to protect Earth from a seemingly undefeatable force, and providing sensational in both senses of the word conclusion to the series.
The most cool thing about "Man" is that is shows the beginning stages of the evolution of the "Ultra" franchise. The most cool thing about MCE is that it is making at least the next several stages of that progression coming out in the not-too-distant future.