13 August 2009 | xamtaro
Awesome Animated Adventure for Ultraman fans
Though its not the first time Ultraman has been done in animated form(this show was preceded by one "Za Urutoraman: Ultraman Jonias"), this is the first time that Ultraman has been done outside of Japan(yes this series precedes Ultraman: Toward the Future by a couple of years) I've always thought that animation was the better way to go to fully flesh out epic battles between monsters and giants, and this show proves it. No longer encumbered by goofy looking rubber suits, laughable special effects and other limitations of live action, this short lived TV movie allows the concept that is Ultraman to be fully realized.
The movie starts off with a team of stunt pilots called the "Flying Angels" consisting of Scott, Chuck, and Beth. During a mid flight accident, they are caught in a bizarre flash of light and crash, only to emerge unharmed. The trio have now become the host bodies of warriors from M78 sent to capture escaped monsters who have arrived on Earth. They become the Ultra Force under the guidance of an old golf course groundskeeper(who is actually an intergalactic peace keeper agent), and assisted by 3 robots, (Andy, Samson and Ulysses). From their headquarters within Mount Rushmore(think Team America) they respond to any sightings of monster attacks across the globe. If a monster proves too tough to take down by conventional means, one or more of the team is required to transform into an Ultraman(or UltraWoman in the case of Beth), a powerful red and silver giant, to battle the monsters.
The first thing anyone would be blown away by is the look of the show. Sure is hard to believe that this show was done by the same company that did Flintstones, Jetsons and Scooby Doo. The level of art detail is astounding with all the right color tones, shadowing, metallic sheen, and dark/light contrast. Dynamic shot angles and some creative storyboarding adds to the dramatic effect and impact of many scenes, especially the intense battle sequences. Too bad the richly detailed art comes at a price, which in this case is the animation. The frame rate is inconsistent with many shots looking only as well animated as a modestly budgeted animated TV series. There are a few good "money shots" like the Ultra Transformation sequences, some aerial fighting scenes and the signature "finishing moves", but other than that, the animation is mediocre at best.
The characters are likable with great personalities given form by a excellent voice cast assembled by Casting director Andrea Romano(who would go on to cast and direct the critically acclaimed Batman Animated series and other DC animated series). The 3 robot sidekick characters might remind one of Alpha 5 from Power Rangers but they are a lot more helpful to the team(not just giving combat strategies and advice but also actively helping the Ultra force when they are in trouble) as opposed to Zordon's irritating little desk clerk. They are also great in lending a lighthearted tone to some of the scenes with the interactions among the 3 robots resembling that between C-3PO and R2D2 in Star Wars.
The storyline is in keeping with many Ultraman staples with A more competent script, a romantic subplot and stronger adherence to the whole science fiction setting of the series thrown in for good measure. IT definitely has a stronger "saturday morning cartoon" feel, which fits in well with the animated nature of the show and does not take away from the overall entertainment value.
It was a huge pity that this TV movie, quite obviously a pilot movie for a potential animated series, was never followed through. Instead it descended into obscurity, appearing only on a few TV broadcasts, bootleg video tapes and most recently, youtube. Such a waste of opportunity considering the potential the show had.
Ultraman: The Adventure Begins is truly THE show to watch for some good giant vs monster action. Viewers of all ages young and old, Ultraman fans or just cartoon addicts, would get a real kick out of viewing this.