Ultraman To Make An International Splash
by Erik Amaya
With the buzz around Godzilla: King of the Monsters exceeding expectations, other Japanese properties are beginning to make their way across the Pacific. And according to The Hollywood Reporter, Ultraman may lead the charge.
Created by Godzilla effects genius Eiji Tsuburaya for the 1966 series of the same name, the follow-up to the Ultra Q series proved exceptionally popular with many sequels, spin-offs and rip-offs to follow. The original series followed Science Patrol Officer Hayata. While his organization defended the Earth from monstrous alien invaders, he could turn into the giant-sized man of power known as Ultraman and attack the aliens head-on. But as the show followed superhero tropes, no one knew Ultraman and Hayata were one and the same.
Meanwhile, Ultraman’s red-and-silver suit and grey alien-like mask became instant icons of Japanese television and giant monster culture.
The series debuted on American television shortly thereafter and stayed in syndication for nearly twenty years, resurfacing on cable networks like TNT. Hanna-Barbera produced an American Ultraman animated series in the late 1980s, but the character never hit the mainstream.
But a mainstream US success is what Tsuburaya Productions, the company behind the official Ultraman series, wants. THR reports they have hired Starlight Runner Entertainment to make its mythology accessible outside of Japan with an eye toward a television series. The plan encompasses an international reach like the one Warner Bros. and Legendary Entertainment plan for its Godzilla Monsterverse. The two companies also hope to take Ultraman into any medium which will support it.
The fact Ultraman never broke through on a global scale was always surprising considering the success of Godzilla as a brand and Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Perhaps its similarities to the latter always made it seem like an also-ran despite predating most Sentai shows in Japan.
Nonetheless, it seems other long-standing Japanese icons will make their way to the US and international stages. One has to wonder if Gamera will get his chance to become a star as well.