I think it’s pretty clear I’ve had a negative opinion toward most modern tokusatsu shows. I haven’t cared for any Kamen Rider series since Kamen Rider Fourze in 2011 and with Super Sentai, it probably goes back to Magiranger in 2005. For Ultraman, the last thing I’ve even watched all the way through was Ultraman Nexus back in 2004. I’ve described my feelings on the whole thing in detail before and I’m not going to do that again. But I decided to take a look at the newest edition, Ultraman X and it just might change my mind.
In the not too distant future, a catastrophic event called the Ultra Flare awakened Spark Dolls around the world, making them grow into massive monsters that attack the people and generally do not nice things. It is the job of UNVER and their XIO attack team to combat these creatures, but when one of the members, Daichi, learns that Ultraman X has become trapped inside of his computer and is the key to fighting the monsters, he joins together with him and turns the tide of the war.
One thing that becomes immediately obvious is that Ultraman has taken a page out of the Super Sentai/Kamen Rider playbook. It’s all about cards and figures now, a clear move to promote marketing. Virtually every episode has a new monster or a new armor so that Bandai can sell more action figures. Now I know that they have to make money somehow but I think that these shows in recent years have gone completely over the top. I mean there are almost no episodes where something new doesn’t appear and I’m sure Bandai had weekly releases ready to prey on the little kids and their gullible parents.
And, as you might expect, this is definitely designed to skew young. Ultraman is traditionally aimed at the youngest Japanese audience and here it’s no different. My favorite Ultraman series, Nexus, specifically tried to aim at older teens and adults and that’s why it was a failure in the ratings, because people expected it to be different. I was sort of hoping that this show tried something similar, but no such luck. However, just because it was clearly aimed at the young, that doesn’t mean that it didn’t have elements that adults would enjoy. It did.
It’s clear that this is a relatively low-budget series, the miniatures are very clearly miniatures and even though they’re very well done, it is obvious that they aren’t CGI. CGI has come down in price considerably, I think a lot of it could have looked better if it wasn’t so clearly miniatures. The final boss of the series was very CGI and looked fantastic. They should have done more of that.
Now I haven’t seen a lot of the more recent Ultraman series, in fact, I just got Ultra Fight Victory and Ultraman Ginga S but haven’t seen them. But as I said before, it’s clear they’re going full toyetic, much further than they have in the past, to make Bandai money. I hope that they’re not going to throw story out the window like so many Super Sentai and Kamen Rider series of late have because I actually liked this series. Sure, it isn’t Ultraman Nexus, even though Nexus and two other previous Ultramen (the aforementioned Ginga and Victory) made appearances, but it was at least enjoyable. But the appearance of the other Ultramen made it feel like they were trying to remind the audience that there were other series out there to buy toys from. They didn’t really have a reason to appear, except as a toy-buying cameo.
I might take a look at Victory and Ginga S and see if they’re similar to X. They’re all short series and even though I think that ultimately hurts the story because there’s little time for character building, it also makes for very little commitment. If it’s a bad show, you didn’t waste much time, but if it’s a good show, you’re left wanting more. I’m kind of like that here, I’d like to see more X, but there’s a movie that just came out in Japan and that might scratch that particular itch.