[Ultraman painting by Alex Ross]
Like most boys growing up in the 80’s, I was fascinated with ninjas and the martial arts. These sleek warriors wrapped in black from head to toe were one of the “coolest” things I had ever stumbled upon and I spent countless hours outside trying to become on of them through my own strict regiment of tree climbing, jumping, rolling, kicking and plastic sword…ahem…kata (and yes, Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow are my two favorite G.I. Joe characters so we’ll get that out of the way right quick). Neighborhood evildoers beware! Anyway, it was about this time that I found out that these ancient warriors hailed from Japan, and thus my life-long fascination with the “land of the rising sun” was born.
Now, in setting this up you’ve likely already figured out that I love the American super-hero as well, so imagine what it must have been like for a 6-7 year old boy to stumble upon the closest thing Japan has to a Superman and a ninja combined, the man known as ウルトラマン or “Ultraman.” Hoo-boy — what a fantastic world in which I lived! When trouble reared it’s head, Shin Hayata of the Science Patrol would call forth Ultraman to fight, wherein he’d transform into a 40 meter high goliath donned in red & silver armor and combat the threat (which was usually a monster or “kaiju” ~ 40-50 meters tall themselves) until he had won the day. Sadly, I only had a few years to really enjoy the show before it was gone, but the character carved a fond place in my memory where he’s been ever since.
Now, when I stumble upon something related to good ‘ol Ultraman, I smile fondly, and remember that kid inside. And funny enough, it appears that both of my older nieces have a little of their uncle inside and are huge Power Ranger fans (admittedly, I’ve never been much of a fan myself) so you can reckon I’ve taken the occasion to tell them about The Power Rangers granddaddy, Ultraman. And now that the original series is available in America on DVD, and I have their attention, I think its probably high time to introduce them to the original.
That, and It’ll be great to see an old friend again!