This week Ultraman Connection got the opportunity to speak to Ethan (@ImmortalTaro), an UltraFan from the UK, a writer for The Toku Source and blogger on all things Ultraman. From reviews, to hot takes, to personal essays, Ethan finds himself pulled towards writing about Ultraman whenever given the opportunity. Like many familiar heroes we know and love, Ethan’s story is one of resilience, community, and the power of light.
Ethan began as a casual Ultraman Series enjoyer, starting his journey with YouTube clips of Ultraman Geed in 2019, but his allegiance to the franchise kicked into full gear during the pandemic when “the right series hit at the right time.” Ethan, of course, is referring to the release of Ultraman Z, the 2020 Ultraman series aired by Tsuburaya Productions on YouTube, complete with English subtitles.
In late 2019, Ethan received the difficult diagnosis of Keratoconus, a severe and incurable eye disease that results in blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and oftentimes, complete loss of vision. Ethan was warned by doctors that if he didn’t receive an operation within the next year, he would never be able to see out of his right eye again.
Heartbroken, afraid, and entrenched in a feeling of powerlessness, Ethan was left with a mid-lockdown world that was just as confused and unwell as he was. With COVID-19 seeming to have no end in sight and the ominous threat of blindness seeming to be inevitable, Ethan was left with only one constant leftover from the world before: YouTube.
In June 2020, Ultraman Z was released on YouTube and made accessible to all English speakers in a whole new way. Ultraman was no longer a curious peephole into a new world for Ethan, it was now a fully immersive experience with an engaged community of equally seeking fans.
Suddenly, everyone was able to join in and discuss Ultraman as it aired and Ethan found himself swept up along for the ride!
“It was a really special experience for me because I knew that things couldn’t be that bad if I was still able to join in with everyone and support Ultraman Z.”
Ethan describes the year of waiting for his operation as the worst of his life, stuck in a purgatory of unknowing, but having Ultraman Z and the community as an anchor, some of that initial fear melted away into trust.
While he didn’t start out as an active participant, Ethan enjoyed his time as a quiet onlooker, enjoying the banter and excitement of the community even without yet sharing his own voice. He felt just as involved as anyone else because of the fanbase’s warmth and slowly built up an interest in contributing, starting by following recurring fan accounts.
When I asked Ethan if the series was only special to him because of the time in his life that Ultraman Z arrived, he assured me there was far more to his love of Z than that.
“Ultraman has always been an aspirational figure for humanity. Ultras have a super-quality that anyone would aspire to. Ultraman Z was special to me because he wasn’t just an untouchable Ultra, he was also kind of a nerd. He was a fan of Ultras, he had encyclopedic knowledge, he looked up to others. I related to all of it and I really wanted to embody the can-do spirit that Haruki always seemed to have.’”
To me, it seemed that Ethan embodied that spirit to a tee. Even the idea of seeking out community engagement during a time of distress is a prime example of the Ultra-instinct to contribute to the greater good when things get rough.
“The Ultraman franchise’s sincerity and heart are its strongest attributes and I absolutely see the same sincerity and heart reflected within the fanbase.”
Once Z came to a close and it was finally time for Ethan’s dreaded operation, he had a choice to make: Was he to shrink into resentment and fear or was he to embrace the future as it came? Well, I think we can all infer the path he chose.
“Ultraman Z ended with that final act of perseverance,” Ethan is of course referring to Z’s self-sacrifice for the sake of humanity and his host, Haruki, “That moment really hit home with me, and I kept coming back to it while mentally preparing for my surgery. I resonated with the message of doing anything you can to not give up. It felt like the message I needed most.”
While in recovery, Ethan doubled down on interacting with the community that, without even realizing it, kept him afloat through all of his trials and tribulations. In an effort to stay connected to something bigger than himself and a determination to get out of his own head, he began making his own memes and posts and interacting a little more than ever before.
“I think the scariest Ultra-villain of all would probably be the version of Alien Dada [Editor’s note: this character is also known as Powered Dada] in the Trigger/Z crossover, the one that could turn into alien ‘data’. The idea of a force that can take over technology is really scary to someone like me who gets so much emotional support from the funny people in my laptop.”
Ethan now identifies as a die-hard fan thanks to the accessibility of Ultra-content expanding in the west. He is a prime example of the importance of increasing worldwide reach. Ethan’s role in the community has grown exponentially since his journey with Ultraman Z and his resilience in the face of his operation.
After responding to an inquiry on Discord about Ultra-fans interested in writing, Ethan landed himself a dream job working for Toku Source where he’s since written multiple essays on Ultraman and all things Tokusatsu. His writer archive on the site is available here https://thetokusource.com/author/lolpey/ and his most notable essay being, “Why I Love Ultraman” https://thetokusource.com/2023/09/08/why-i-love-ultraman/ . He is reachable at @ImmortalTaro on Twitter, and all other platforms. Thank you, Ethan, your love for Ultraman inspires us all.