Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Now Playing: Ultraman Tiga's "The Ultra Star"

My favorite episode of the consistently entertaining Ultraman Tiga series is "The Ultra Star." In it, Daigo/Tiga follows a time-traveling alien back to the mid-1960's, where the Charlie Chaplinesque extra-terrestrial (!) attempts to purchase monsters from a fledgling studio called...Tsuburaya Productions.
Meanwhile, Tsuburaya's head screenwriter is battling a serious case of writer's block, which threatens to derail the new company. Eiji Tsuburaya gives the writer a jewel (the Ultra Star) and reveals that it was given to him by a certain red and silver fellow from Nebula M78.
Later, when Tsuburaya witnesses Tiga's near defeat at the hands of the monster Yanakagi, his will to help releases a familiar red sphere that become the original Ultraman. Yanakagi is no match for the combined power of the two titans, and Tsuburaya has the inspiration his production needs: an otherworldly hero.

"The Ultra Star" is a sentimental, mythologized tribute to the imagination of Eiji Tsuburaya. It is a perfect way to introduce children to the Master of Monsters, while giving the knowledgable grown-up much about which to smile. From the concept sketches of Ultra Q kaiju visible in the office, to the inclusion of sound effects and musical cues from the original series, the viewer is transported back to the time when Ultraman existed only in the daydreams of a select few. The closing credits offer conclusive proof that Tsuburaya made his dream come true, while honoring the Tiga series as a continuation of that dream. "The Ultra Star" is nothing less than a slice of self-referential, smart, and sweet T.V. magic.

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