9 October 2011 | ebiros2
Seminal Ultra Series, and a precursor to the Ultraman series
In 1964 newly formed Tsuburaya Production was looking to make Japan's first sci-fi TV series. The series that was tentatively named "WOO" was canceled, but Tsuburaya Production already spent considerable cash to purchase the optical printer needed for the special effects. So Tokyo Broadcasting Station paid for the optical printer, and advanced the money needed to film the new series called UNBALANCE. Initially the program was modeled after the "Twilight Zone", and "Outer Limits" that was popular in the US, but due to the producer's desire to target specific audience, the program was changed to feature much of kaijyu style monsters in the episodes. The series name was also changed (again) to "Ultra Q".
The story features pilot Jun Manjyome (Kenji Sahara), assistant pilot Ippei Togawa (Yasuhiko Saijyo), and a news reporter Yuriko Edogawa (Hiroko Sakurai), with other supporting cast. The story featured ancient kaijyu coming to life, invasion from outer space, invasion from the future, mutated monster, a boy that turned into a monster, a boy that befriends a giant turtle, battle with giant octopus etc. and was a veritable smorgasbord of kaijyu related topics. The TV series that had unknown potential frequently rated over 30%, and became a huge success. This lead to the follow on program the Ultraman - of which variation still continues to this day.
Total of 28 episodes were aired, and all the episodes were filmed in black and white, but recently, a colorized version has been released.
Looking back at this series now, the rough edges are evident at various places, but it filled the need of young viewers to see exciting new monster every week. Quality of the stories varied, but they were all very experimental, and difficult to rate either by their effort or by their quality. By today's standard, they were all of low budget nature, but at the time, this was one of the most expensive TV series to be produced.
All of this makes this series difficult to rate. Depending on who sees it, it might be taken as a low budget crap, or highly experimental masterpiece. My opinion varies between the episodes. Focus of the stories varied from episode to episode. Some were bona fide sci-fi, others were like fantasy, and the series lacked focus compared to the Twilight Zone that had intrigue at the center of each episode.
Copy of this series is rare outside of Japan, but if you can find them, it's a worthy relic to be seen from the '60s Japan.