Welcome, readers, to the start of a new journey through Ultraman history alongside the latest series, Ultraman New Generation Stars. For those of you who might be wondering what the deal is for this particular show, it’s another installment in the tradition of “Retsuden” or anthology shows which usually air in the space between the other Ultraman series on TV.
In fact, the “New Generation” era got its start in this format, but that’s a story for another time! For now, we’re back and bringing you weekly updates and recaps to fill in some of the history of the New Generation shows alongside the events shown in this series itself.
While the previous anthology series of this style have had specific framing devices, this one provides a more interesting angle simply because of its scale. The first episode begins with a dire warning from an unknown threat against the Land of Light:
“If you can’t teach future generations your history, then everything you’ve done will have been rendered meaningless”
Appropriately, we already discussed the concept of legacy and the insight and hope it provides for the future in relation to the New Generation era of Ultraman. This series leans right into that concept by setting up a new enemy which now threatens the destruction of the Ultras. That threat doesn’t only come from sheer overwhelming power, but by its ability to destroy the knowledge of that legacy.
And yet, even in these dire circumstances, hope can still be found. A message arrives from the future: “The history you’ve built still remains.” Somehow, that knowledge isn’t lost forever, and will continue to bear itself into that future. Now, it is up to the Ultra Heroes themselves to reclaim that future – albeit in a slightly different way than usual. Instead of punching out giant, evil monsters or destroying them with shining laser swords, the way to save the future is by recalling the previous history of Ultraman and bringing it back into the present in a concrete, tangible form.
That form takes the appearance of the “Dimensionizer”, which also conveniently represents a new collectible which will catch the eye of the audience. It might sound like I’m being flippant, but I genuinely admire the way this show sets up its main ideas alongside these conventions of the genre. I’ve said this many times when discussing Ultraman Decker and other shows, the real strength of this franchise lies in the way it can parallel abstract concepts – of legacy, hope and one’s movement into the future – alongside literal representations of that strength and light.
As another example, the fact that Ultraman Zero receives the Dimensionizer, then passes it off to his own (self-proclaimed) student is a rather explicit representation of that idea of legacy. Zero started off his heroic journey as a young, reckless, and rebellious figure who had to learn his own lessons and grow more secure in his strength alongside friends he had met through that journey. But he eventually grows to become a mentor in his own right, and usually appears in a role of leadership overseeing younger heroes who themselves are starting their own journey.
In fact, I often describe him as the New Generation’s version of Zoffy. He’s an important and powerful figure and serves as a leader who connects many other heroes together, but doesn’t have a series to himself in the same way. Rather, he’s defined by the way in which he connects those heroes together.
More practically speaking, however, the Dimensionizer creates a more interesting framing device to present this series. There are larger stakes than just idle reminiscing about past events; the device literally represents the only way the Ultra Heroes can reclaim their history and protect it from evil forces who seem to want to erase it (and the Ultras, by extension) from the universe. So of course, Zero entrusts it to Ultraman Z, who is a very capable, trustworthy and prudent hero who will use it appropriately and with utmost discretion.
That was sarcasm, for those of you who haven’t seen the Ultraman Z series.
Z himself is – in a word – a dork. But his over-ambitious, albeit slightly misguided, sense of enthusiasm also makes his perspective absolutely hysterical to watch. Even if you’ve seen the shows and are familiar with the heroes he discusses in this first episode, seeing him struggle with immense challenges such as “reading the manual” provide a fun framing device for his narration.
Ultraman Z’s rather… unique perspective makes for several funny moments in the first episode. When prompted to think about the most important aspects of each of the New Generation heroes, the first things which spring to his mind are how cool they appear to be and their various powers which are used in fights. Thankfully, Ultraman Ginga himself shows up to provide some insight to Z’s attempts to revive the memory of their legacy. He must do more than just recall the names of each of their finishing moves, but instead think about the importance of their characters, and how he relates to that legacy on a more personal level.
With that in mind, the first episode leaves off with a preview of next week, where the show will take a deeper dive into Ginga’s history. After all, like Z himself says in this show, you can’t talk about the New Generation heroes without starting at the beginning, with the first show of that era! I hope you’ll join me then. For now, you can catch the first episode of Ultraman New Generation Stars through Tsuburaya’s Ultraman Official YouTube channel.