The Ultraman Series has existed for 57 years, telling stories with countless characters from Earth and across the stars, played by hundreds of deeply talented performers. Many of them have returned to reprise their roles, decades later. Some play new characters when they reappear. However, few actors can lay claim to a place as formative to the Ultraman Series as a whole as Hiroko Sakurai, the “Original Heroine” of the Ultraman Series.
In honor of Ms. Sakurai’s special appearance at Japan World Heroes this weekend, Ultraman Connection is shining a spotlight on her most notable roles — the characters she played that built not only the Ultraman Series, but set a model for female protagonists in decades of media to follow. This is our final piece in the series, and revolves around a number of other characters who Ms. Sakurai played in the 57 years since Ultraman ended, primarily focusing on Ultraman Max’s monster expert, Yukari Yoshinaga!
Introduced in the first episode and appearing throughout the entire series, Yukari Yoshinaga is the UDF’s foremost authority on the science of Kaiju. Though not officially part of DASH, the defense team of Max, she regularly helped the team to understand the monstrous and alien threats that they often encountered. In addition, her discerning eye was one of the first to recognize the mysterious Ultraman Max as an ally — almost as though she had fought beside a giant of light before.
Though Yoshinaga was the largest role Ms. Sakurai played after Ultraman, she showed up several times in the interim period. In Ultraman Leo, she played Hoshimura, the human alter-ego of the Kaiju Rolan. In Ultraman 80, she returned as the mother of Takeo, the human boy who controlled the Kaiju bird Barebadon. Perhaps her best known role during this period, however, was one where she never even appeared on screen, as the voice actor for the friendly robot Clevergon in Ultraman Cosmos!
To say that Hiroko Sakurai is anything less than a fundamental pillar of the Ultraman Series’ success and longevity would be a vast understatement. For 57 years, Ms. Sakurai’s performance has been the model by which heroines are made in the series. Even outside of the series itself, Ms. Sakurai’s efforts as part of the Ultraman Foundation have made her a heroine in reality as well. This last weekend, Ms. Sakurai came to Japan World Heroes in California and reminded fans of the greatness of the “Original Heroine.” Want to know more about what happened? You’ll have to come back tomorrow! So, with that in mind, stay close to Ultraman Connection!