Ultraman has been with me my entire life. My connection to Ultraman actually predates my memory. I was just three years old when Ultraman Max was released, and the very first memory I have of Ultraman is that series theme. song and a burning image of Ultraman Max growing even bigger in Ultraman Max Episode 33: “Welcome! To The Earth: Part 1: The Science of the Planet Baltan.” I remember my awe as he grew to meet Baltan’s size, thatUltraman could be even bigger than he already was.
My mother, who grew up watching the original Ultraman and Ultraseven in Japan, went through a great deal of trouble to track down these DVDs for me. Living in the. U.S., these shows didn’t air on television, so the only way I could watch them was for my mom to track down imported DVDs in specialty stores from New York and Boston. At that time, I couldn’t appreciate her effort to show me these incredible series, but I do now. It was important to her that I experience these shows as a cultural phenomenon, and as a kid living in the United States, it was also one of the only ways I was able to practice my Japanese.
The first show I was able to watch during its original airing was Ultraman Mebius, which has since remained my favorite Ultra series. Being slightly older, I was able to better comprehend the stories and characters of the show, and when visiting my grandfather in Japan, my mom got me many of the awesome toys from the show! I still have and cherish my Max Spark, Mebius Brace, and the ships and figures that I got at the time. I watched my DVD of Ultraman Mebius & the Ultra Brothers so many times that the DVD case is quite worn down. Ultraman Mebius was also my introduction to the original Ultra Brothers, as those characters guest starred throughout the episodes and appeared in the movie, so it brought me further into the franchise.
I still remember my shock when my mom read me an article from the internet saying that Ultraman Mebius would not have a follow-up, and the Ultra series would be going on hiatus. I couldn’t imagine how this was possible, and I was heartbroken. However, I’m thankful for this in hindsight, as when I visited Japan again with my mother, I was hungering for more Ultra content. She decided to take me to Tsutaya, a Japanese video rental store, and I went through almost all the old series. First, I watched the more recent ones, like Ultraman Tiga, Ultraman Dyna, Ultraman Gaia, and Ultraman Cosmos, but when I burned through all of those, she showed me the shows she grew up with, and I was introduced to every generation of Ultraman. I even remember playing the Ultraman Fighting Evolution and Ultraman games on my cousin’s PlayStation2! She bought DVDs of my favorite series to bring back to the U.S. and watching them over and over helped me maintain my ability to speak Japanese to this day.
This is all to say that Ultraman holds a very special place in my heart. It symbolizes to me my love for Japanese pop culture, keeps me tethered to a language that I grew up with, and reminds me of my childhood awe. As you get older, it becomes less common to feel pure hope and joy, and to be amazed by the incredible world around you—but Ultraman always brings me back to the wide-eyed excitement of my childhood.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that although Ultraman is not as well-known in the U.S. as in Japan and Asia, when I talk to another Ultra fan anywhere in the world, we always light up about our shared affinity for the beloved characters. I hope that in some way, through working with Ultraman Connection, I can help introduce that love and joy to more people in the West and pay back the debt I owe to Ultraman, his franchise, and of course, my mom.
ありがとう, ウルトラマン (Arigato, Ultraman)