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[OPINION] The Downfalls of Ultraman Ginga

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[OPINION] The Downfalls of Ultraman Ginga

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Ginga Intro pic

Every Saturday, a member of the Tokusatsu Network staff will post an article pertaining to anything tokusatsu related. To start things off, here are my opinions on Ultraman Ginga and what I believe went wrong with the show.

No matter if it was a relatively new fan or someone who has grown up with the franchise, tokusatsu fans were most likely excited when news came out that there would be a new Ultraman series in 2013. After such a long time without a series, a new hero would arise to take on new challenges. Sadly, no one told us that the challenge would be in the task of actually watching the show.

Being the new face of the Ultraman franchise since Ultraman’s Zero’s appearance in Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legends The Movie in 2009 and the first Ultraman series to air since 2008’s Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle: Never Ending Odyssey, there was a lot riding on Ultraman Ginga being an amazing show. On top of that, Ginga was to coincide with the celebration of Tsuburaya Production’s 50th anniversary. Expectations were rather high for this show from the beginning. So, what happened?

Now, I can only tell you what I believe to be the major problems for this show. And just as a disclaimer, I’ve only seen the first seven episodes of the show that were subbed. But, with a show that ran for only eleven episodes, that seems to be a good enough gauge for what the show is about.

[Over-Time] Ultraman Ginga - 01 [DB6DF226].mkv_snapshot_06.31_[2014.01.18_21.38.22]While the story for Ultraman Ginga felt like there could be something underneath the surface, there was just a lot left to be desired upon its execution. The connection between the Ultras and Hikaru comes off as paper-thin at best. And while they tried to enforce the standard that every acquaintance of Hikaru will turn into a monster after failing to deal with their own demons, you rarely felt a need to care about the problems of these characters. The only one that comes close in that department is, ironically, is Chigusa. While she can be perceived as annoying a majority of the time, her arc felt the most natural because there was a bit of build up to her conflict. Other than that, the story of Ginga often feels like a means to get to the action.

The problem is that the action in this show is not the most satisfying goal to reach. With the low budget that was provided for the show, it is understandable that corners had to be cut to be able to create something with the means they had. And props to the cast and crew for the job they’ve done. But its still hard to move past the blandness of just about every fight in the show. From the lack of locations to the lazy editing, the Ultra battles feel like the drag on a lot longer than they should.

You could say that we, as fans, were spoiled a bit by the Zero movies. With Sakamoto directing the first movie, it set the trend for fast-paced action that moved those movies along. In Ginga, there are times when the camera uncomfortably stays on a shot seconds more than it needed to, with the suit actors standing there in an almost confused manner. And with very little danger being presented to our hero, the fights act more as placeholders than anything else.

[Over-Time] Ultraman Ginga - 01 [DB6DF226].mkv_snapshot_19.42_[2014.01.18_21.22.39]With Ultraman Ginga being an anniversary series of sorts, it seemed only natural that the show would follow in the footsteps of similar series from other franchises like Kamen Rider Decade or Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger. Each series has a gimmick where they use collectible items that represent past heros of their respective franchise in order to use their powers in battle. Decade used cards while the Gokaiger team used Ranger Keys to summon the powers of their predecessors. Since Ultraman as a franchise is a bit different in that the monsters are just as celebrated as the Ultras, Hikaru uses toy figures, known as Spark Dolls, of various monsters with his Ginga Spark to transform into them for his battles. And this would be fine, if only it was done in a more imaginative way.

In order to transform into a monster, Hikaru touches the tip of the Ginga Spark to the foot of the Spark Doll. Now, it looks about as uneventful as it sounds. One of my big problems with the transformation sequences in Ginga is that it never looks like the actor is doing anything. Even in past Ultraman shows, they would strike some kind of heroic pose while yelling and pointing their device in the air. Hikaru just stands there and touches the two toys together and bam, insta-monster. And the main way that Hikaru can turn into Ultraman Ginga is by willing the Ginga figure into existence and having it come in contact with the Spark in the same manner. It’s very lackluster for a gimmick and pales in comparison to past anniversary transformation devices.

[Over-Time] Ultraman Ginga - 01 [DB6DF226].mkv_snapshot_10.45_[2014.01.18_21.38.03]The monsters are not the only characters that are turned into figures. Due to a massive battle, the Ultramen of the past were also turned into Spark Dolls and scattered across the universe, similar to the Ranger Keys in Gokaiger. So far in the series, the only two Dolls that we see with characters are Alien Valkie, who is restored to human size by a mysterious evil figure and Ultraman Taro, who is still in Doll form but can speak and guide Hikaru through his journey. Whether Hikaru ends up using the powers of the other Ultras doesn’t really matter at this point. With the way that the gimmick is set up, it will not look nearly as meaningful as it should. And that’s a shame since this should be a celebration of these characters, not just a means to reuse suits from time to time.

Ultraman Ginga had a lot of things going for it, but somehow the ball was dropped and what was produced was a rather big letdown. A lot of it did have to do with budget restraints, but this is one of the reasons why tokusatsu appeals to so many of us. The cast and crew are capable of doing incredible things with very little and we appreciate this effort on many levels. But, when a show feels constrained and trapped in its own surroundings, you know that a wall was reached. And when the actors themselves look unenthusiastic and give off the feeling of not wanting to be on set, there is only one way that the show can turn out.

One of the founding members and managing editor for The Tokusatsu Network. He also manages podcast production and assists with technical support for the site.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Pingback: [OPINION] The Downfalls of Ultraman Ginga | kidflashdbn's Blog

  2. Ivanhobe

    January 20, 2014 at 8:56 am

    Personally i think that a lot of what went wrong with the show, besides the budget constrains, was the short lenght.

    Now, it is possible to make a great show in 12 episodes, but one of the things that make Ultraman shows work is how they use a slow-paced formula to establish the world and the characters, so whenever a character has a conflict you care about it because it has grown on you.

    The problem with Ginga is that it had relatively good character episodes, but we hardly even knew the characters so all those dramatic moments fell flat for the most. As you noted, Chigusa´s episode is pretty much the only one that actually works because it had some time to establish the character, so the drama felt real.

    A 12/11 episode show like this one really needs a very strong story to drive it forward, or at least an interesting premise that is explored every episode. If Ginga have had at least 26 episodes, it would have worked a lot better in terms of character development, which was clearly the focus in most episodes.

    As for the fights, i don´t think that the style of Mega Monster Battle spoiled us, i mean, even if you compare Ginga´s battles against Mebius´, the difference in quality is clear as day, and it becomes obvious that real limit here was the budget.

  3. Inui Takumi

    January 21, 2014 at 8:14 am

    I agree that the length of the show does play a factor into how it is paced. But then the problem lies with the writer who failed to restructure the story to work for an 11 episode series. Maybe if they got a head writer who specialized in J-dramas or anime series that run for only one season (12-13 episodes), it would have worked out since the head writer for Ginga seems to specialize in year-long shows. That’s a really good point, one that I missed out on with this article.

    As for the fighting, I also agree that from what I’ve seen of Mebius, the fights had a lot better pacing and more energy than what Ginga has offered. Even going a little farther back with Nexus, the fights were rarely boring in that show. Ginga sort of went backwards a few steps in this department as well.

    • Ma, Yong Kang

      June 27, 2014 at 8:08 pm

      Yet, you have to agree on this point, ginga’s suit looks amazing. I think if they reinsert their old ultraseries script writers and prepare a pretty big budget like the ones with kamen rider, I think they could revive the franchise as a whole. Frankly, I miss the old glorious days of Ultraman Tiga and Gaia.

  4. TCGOMEGA

    January 24, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    Hey can you send me a link or tell me a website that has ALL 7 EPISODES ENGLISH subbed?? I was liking the show. The music in the show is awesome and it’s not bad. Ultraman in a more subtle manner. It’s not worldwide Japan catastrophe just a little rural school area.

  5. Tobias May

    January 28, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    The other problem was that the opening for Decade and Gokaiger had epic battles. The Rider War was the good, and the Legend War surpassed that. So you’d think the Dark Spark War would try to at least to keep up. Nope, the Dark Spark War was very brief and you only saw a few Ultras and monsters fighting one-on-one. Even the Rider War, which is from 2009, was done better.

  6. David Fullam

    June 26, 2014 at 6:01 am

    This is what happens when Bandai gets more control over the product.

    • Ma, Yong Kang

      June 27, 2014 at 8:02 pm

      I don’t think that has anything with Bandai having too much power over the serie. Look at ultraman gaia per example, the show was great and their toys was awesome. The real problem here is the budget. Also, the script is so awful. It’s like a baby show instead of a kid show like Kamen Rider. The scriptwriter here may lack experience with ultra series and how he could deliver the morals and lessons of life like the others before him.

  7. Ma, Yong Kang

    June 27, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    Awesome suit + 50th Tsuburaya= expect awesomeness.
    What really happen was dreams being crushed by childish script, no earth defence team, no hardcore hand-to-hand combat(except the final which was a little redeeming), a cast who aren’t motivated and annoying as hell. I felt there was nothing happening throughout the serie until the last battle to the moon and plaf again, nothing. There’s no explanation on how the dark spark war happen, how Ginga arrived in the present, last but not least, how Dark Lugiel came. I was expecting some good shit since it’s the 50th anniversary of Tsuburaya and Ultraman haven’t got a serie for the last 3-4 years or so.Back in time, Ultraman fandom is on par with the Kamen rider one. Now, Kamen Rider is one of the most tokusatsu show and Ultraman is living in the vestige of his glorious past. The last decade wasn’t so good with him, Ultra Park got closed. WHAT THE HELL! It’s outrageous! I can’t stand the lone excuse of low budget (even if it’s the main reason why ultraman sucks now) because Tsuburaya is a big company and Bandai is backing them up. There’s no reason of it. Finally, the last hope that I can linger on is that Tsuburaya don’t sell Ultraman to Legendary if they wanna trash him even more with unnecessary American love stories. I just don’t wanna see another failure like the new Godzilla which looks like fatass Godzilla who’ve eating too much Mcdonald’s for the last decade or so.

  8. jonathan

    December 17, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    ultraman use to be a good show now its gone down the hil 🙁

  9. Wanlop

    June 5, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    I am an old school fan and I can tell you that Ultra series is dead after Mebius ended. I truly despise the way they introduced Zero and Belial because it’s very insulting to the past Ultra. First of all They made Belial very powerful until he dominated all Ultra which is very wrong because it made the past Ultra looks weak and useless. Second of all the brand new Ultra Zero came out and just destroyed all monsters and Belial with ease. Seriously, Where did Zero got all the credentials to be that great? I love Mebius so much and it was very hard for me to watch Zero surpassed him in that awful way. The rest Ultra after Zero are all horrible as well because of their stupid ability to used other Ultras and monsters powers is just too dumb along with the fusion with ultraman Orb bullshit. I can’t accept it anymore. Mebius remains the best for me. GIG.

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