Today, I am going to review two installments in the Ultraman franchise that I found both unique and entertaining. They are Ultraman: Towards The Future (released in Japan as Ultraman Great) and Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero (released in Japan as Ultraman Powered).
Both of these installments were filmed outside of Japan and both were coproduced with Tsuburaya Productions.
Lets start with Ultraman: Toward The Future.
Ultraman: Towards the Future (1990)
Ultraman: Towards the Future was produced in 1990 in Australia by the South Australian Film Corporation and Japan's Tsuburaya Productions (the creators of the Ultraman character). There were 13 episodes filmed (the first 6 episodes were the "Goudes/Gudis Threat" story arc). Titled Ultraman Great for its Japanese release, the 13-episode show was released on home video in Japan, and was later broadcast on Tokyo Broadcasting System from July 8 to September 30, 1995. The series did air on American tv in 1992 for a short while.
Now my two cents on Ultraman: Toward The Future. Like any show or series, it will have it moments both good and bad. Ultraman Great (Towards The Future) was entertaining. The monsters and vehicles were decent looking. The miniature sets were alright. The actors/crew of the UMA team (modern day Science Patrol is you will), had decent acting skills and made the show good to watch. The suit used for Ultraman looked pretty impressive. Also, his energy attacks were okay. The color timer was in a triangular shape.
Each episode was good and the plot was written well, but at the same time, it seemed like some story elements and scenes seemed rushed and details left out. For example, in the first episode, we see astronauts Jack Shindo and Stan Haggard on the surface of Mars, they witness Gudis moving along within a large crater. Shortly after, we see Ultraman appear and battle Gudis, but is knocked down for a period. Shindo is pinned by a rockslide and Haggard tries to escape in their ship but is blown up by Gudis. Ultraman gets back up. But, before he could defeat his foe, Gudis changes into a virus and travels to Earth, where it plans on corrupting all life, mutating other creatures into monsters and awakening existing ones. Ultraman and Jack are left on Mars.
Later in that episode, we see Jack on earth walking through downtown. The UMA team are seen battling a monster called Bogun. Later we see Jack with a pendant and Ultraman appears on earth and battles Bogun and then defeats the monster. Never once was Jack's return to earth explained by Jack or the narrarator, or explain the merging of Jack and Ultraman back on Mars.
Now on to Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero.
Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero (1993)
Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero was an ambitious production. 13 episodes were produced in the US in 1993 by Major Havoc Entertainment (later renamed Steppin Stone Entertainment) and Tsuburaya Productions. Following the footsteps of the Australian-produced Ultraman: Towards the Future, this was the second live-action Ultra Series produced outside Japan. It is considered to be a remake to the original Ultraman show by many fans. Titled Ultraman Powered for Japanese release, the show was released on home video there in December of 1993, and later aired on Tokyo Broadcasting System from April 8 to July 1, 1995. This was the 11th Ultra Series. However, despite being produced in America, the show was never broadcast there. Although having impressive costume designs, the action was quite weak compared to other installments of the Ultra Series, due to the costumes being fragile. After this series, Tsuburaya has since focused on domestic productions.
Now my two cents on Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero. The suits used for the monsters were recycled monsters from the original Ultraman series from 1966. However, they were redesigned and really looked impressive. The suit for Ultraman was by far more detailed. He was given a muscular and more heroic look. His energy attacks were well done. The fight scenes between Ultraman and the monsters were more or less flimsy and weak. Rather than see chops, punches and kicks, we saw nudging and shoving. Still, the scenes were okay to watch. The actors/WINR Team seemed more closely knit and and the series had a more serious tone.
Here is a shot of both Ultraman: Towards The Future and Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero figures.
Now, would I recommend either of these to be watched? Yes, but to compare compare the two series, that would be up to you. I personally enjoyed them both.
If you are new to Ultraman, start with the 1966 Ultraman.