J-Drama Review: Ultraman Orb
To us Westerners, we think of this genre as “The same one that Power Rangers is in”. Known as Tokusatsu, this style of highly specialised special effects makes for a striking viewing experience. Regardless of what you think of Power Rangers, join Timlah as we take a look at Ultraman Orb.
Now I’m not going to compare this show to Power Rangers any more in this, because other than the genre, that’s about as far as the comparison goes. Tokusatsu in Japan could even refer to Star Wars for crying out loud; but effectively it’s a term which basically means “special effects”. Ultraman Orb then is something that relies heavily on the visual use of special effects in order to tell the story. From the massive monsters, to the larger than life characters, you certainly won’t be left bored. This is a highly entertaining show which is currently being aired in Japan, but like always, you will be able to watch this completely for free over on Crunchyroll.
Ultraman Orb follows Ultraman, an alien who follows in a long line of other Ultraman characters. In fact, Ultraman Orb is a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the franchise, which has seen numerous imitators, parodies and of course, different series on the character and his adventures. Known as the true protector of our galaxies, Ultraman is capable of feats that no one else on Earth is able to do. However, these powers come at a great cost, in that he is only able to maintain this form for about 3 minutes. This becomes troublesome, as he’s not able to endure long arduous battles, against the massive beasts that he’s protecting the world from. In the first episode, the titular character is fighting off a massive beast who produces the “Devils Wind”, Maga-Basser.
To fans of the series, it appears that a lot of the enemies are the same as before; having been shown to be kept in a card form, these beasts are summoned by a man who seems more content with trying to take down Ultraman than seemingly having any real purpose for destroying the world. As I’ve never seen any Ultraman episode before, the series quickly established the bad from the good, which is great! There’s no ambiguity, just a simple story of a really big alien man and his quest to beat up even bigger monsters.
I have some issues with the opening of the first episode. If you’re like me, you don’t know anything about the series, nor do you know much about Tokusatsu. You feel that you’ve got to know these things before watching this. However, I fully appreciate that this is a 70th anniversary series. Also, just because it opened in a very cringe-inducing manner to me, I think it’s still a fun and entertaining watch. So don’t take my cringing as a shining example of what to expect from this, especially if you’re well versed in Tokusatsu programmes, anyway. You don’t really need to know the characters beforehand, as Orb is the latest incarnation of Ultraman, who seems to be a combination of other Ultraman characters.
You follow three unlikely friends who are part of the SSP, a group of friends who are out there to find anomalies and aliens. The three friends are referred to as “Cap” Yumeno, “Doctor” Matsudo Shin and Jetta. The three characters are zany and colourful, who stand out like a sore thumb. This is a breath of fresh air, even if they can sometimes be far too colourful for the situations they’re put in. For instance, at one point, they are sucked up into a tornado in their vehicle. For some reason, they hold onto their device which explains that there’s a damn tornado there! Just put that device down damn it! You’re in a tornado!!!
As for the special effects, hmm… Well, I’ll let you be the judge of this with our gallery below.
Overall, I do think this was a great, fun show and I will be watching more to try to understand it a bit better. Since it’s still so new and there’s only 3 episodes available on Crunchyroll at the moment, I can’t say too much without explicitly telling you everything that happens in it. The cringe-factor that the show produces might just be to me – I think it’s fun if you like things such as Godzilla, Super Sentai and so on. You might be somewhat disappointed at the “transformation” scenes, as these are literally just a sort of “splash screen” as I’d like to think of it. What I mean by this is that we see our hero, then the Ultraman he’s turning into, and then boom! There’s Ultraman! As such, there’s no real transformation, but you get to see the hero turn into Ultraman, so that’s cool.
I am a bit mixed about this show. I feel like they’re following the Ultraman lore and story quite well, but I do feel as if a lot of quality has been skimped, just to ensure it was released for the 70th anniversary. Perhaps in later episodes, we’ll get to know more, along with the involvement of the SSP protagonists. I’m certainly going to watch more, however I’m not fully sold on this. A shame, as this was my first introduction to the genre… Unless we count Power Rangers. So, what do you think of Ultraman? Is this something you would watch, or do you think that this isn’t ultra enough for you? As always, leave your comments below, or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.