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October 22, 2021

The Ultraman Story

Est. Reading: 3 minutes
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When I was a freshman in college and I first walked into Miller Dining Hall I saw something I had never seen before. There was a colorful row of bulk cereal dispensers with an inviting stack of bowls next to it. I scanned my options and saw that they had Captain Crunch with Crunchberries. My mom never let me have sugary cereals growing up so I was pretty excited. I helped myself to a bowl and thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the Crunchberries. I liked the Crunchberries so much that I went back and got five more bowls of Captain Crunch, picked out all the berries, and had myself an all Crunchberry bowl of red die number 40 goodness. That was back in the 80s before they actually sold official boxes of just Crunchberries. It seemed like a culinary stroke of genius in the dining hall, but afterward in the bathroom, I regretted it.

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Like a Bowl of Crunchberries The Ultraman Story is what you think you want in anUltraman movie. It seems like a stroke of genius to cut out all the boring scenes of humans running around and all the superfluous plot lines leaving just Ultraman fighting goofy monsters 100% of the time but it isn’t.

The Ultraman Story does indeed dispense with humans but that just leaves an hour and a half of wooden acting compounded by expressionless rubber masks with mouths that never move. It's almost as bad as a Keanu Reeves movie.

The film is a Disneyesque Happy-Meal of sentimentality. The plot centers around a young boy named Taro who is outgrowing his little red and silver spandex suit and becoming a warrior. The target audience for this one has to be pretty young. At any moment you expect Dipsy or Lala to come skipping through. Actually, watching giant Kaiju versions of the Teletubbies battle it out against the Ultramen sounds pretty damn entertaining. The Teletubbies could shoot stuff out of those thingies on their heads and yell “Uh oh!” when they step on a crowd of fleeing civilians. Do you suppose Dipsy’s blood is green? There’s only one way to find out.

Anyway, Taro is an enthusiastic but impetuous young ultra-boy. He is impatient with the pace of his Ultra-father’s tutelage. To save time, money, and effort, Ultradad and his son spend everyday in their ultra-fortress of solitude, watching ultra-clips cut from Ultraman television shows. Taro imitates what his 6 ultra-brothers do on screen as they wrestle one Kaiju after another. There’s nothing like watching someone watch TV to keep you engaged. 

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The film does eventually get to new material and when it does it picks up. There are some fun new costumes and new attack moves. Lots of lasers and explosions. They also include a slow-motion dream sequence with psychedelic distortions and some pretty dire images. The dream is set to pseudo-mariachi music with a trumpet and a harp. It's not your average movie soundtrack. There are also quite a few songs sung by a chorus of children that will make you want shove the nearest sharp object in your ears. 

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There is a whole subplot having to do with family dynamics. Ultra-dad must be ultra-firm with his ultra-son so he can continue the noble and selfless ways of the Ultra-family. Mom, of course, provides the understanding and comfort. It feels a little oedipal at times, especially when Ultra-boy witnesses his Ultra-father on the verge of Ultra-annihilation, but I don’t want to ultra-spoil anything.

The whole Ultraman world is an amazing phenomenon. The television show started in 1966 and it's still going. They have come out with a new season almost every year for the last 57 years! There is even a new series playing on Netflix as I write this article. There are countless movies as well. I must confess I have not been unable to sit through anything made after the 1970s. Some of it is truly awful, but none of it is as bad as Ultra-porn. Yes, you heard me right.   

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