Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ultraman Ginga: First Impressions

So Ultraman Ginga's first episode was up on Tsuburaya's YouTube channel. At first after finding out that Grown Ups In Spandex won't be fansubbing this series, I decided to just wait for the DVD or Blu-ray release, because whatever, I had other things to watch anyway, and I was planning to buy regardless. But turns out the first episode was up on Tsuburaya's YouTube channel (although it's probably only temporarily available, like these episode videos on Tsuburaya's YouTube channel tend to be), so I was "eh, why not?".

Hikaru doesn't look all that cool here, to be honest
Please keep in mind that I a) do not speak Japanese, so I don't completely understand the dialogue, even though the stuff that happens isn't hard to follow and b) took these pictures by screencapping my browser when viewing the video on YouTube, then cropping the screenshots.

update: Well, looks like fansub group Over-Time suddenly released a sub of Ginga's first episode, possibly right after or exactly during the time I was writing this blog post. (I'm not sure since I don't know what timezone their site is on) Pretty surprising, considering they previously announced they had no plans for this show. I have not seen their sub as of this writing, so this post is still based on my viewing of the untranslated episode.

The episode starts of really... calm. A little too calm and rather slow, and it spends a little too long in that mood. The main cast is introduced, with Hikaru and Misuzu established as the leads. Kenta and Chigusa don't actually do much. Chigusa has a squeaky voice. Wonder if that's gonna get annoying.

Ultraman Taro looks to be a recurring character too. While he is in doll form, he seems to be the only doll with a consciousness. But he is able to speak, and has access to a few powers, like Ultra Willpower (which he used to deflect a soccer ball for some reason) and some sort of teleporting ability. Also unlike the other dolls, the Ginga Spark (so far) doesn't have any effect on him. It doesn't restore him, nor does it allow Hikaru to use his powers. Taro's situation, and his apparent role of mentor might be reminiscent of Dan Moroboshi (a.k.a. Ultra Seven)'s role in Ultraman Leo, although I'm not completely sure since I haven't seen Leo. I know, I need to fix that.

One thing I don't really "get" is that the Ginga Spark was apparently stored at a Shinto(?) shrine as if it were a sacred object. Maybe Tsuburaya want to make Ultraman seem more mystical. Or maybe it's something in the dialogue that I couldn't understand.

dolls floating about
dolls in villain's lair or someplace

The Spark Dolls in the show are pretty blatant product placement, but it doesn't bother me that much. Although seeing that the mysterious villain doesn't seem to possess anything besides the Dark Spark (pretty much an evil version of Hikaru's Ginga Spark) and a room full of dolls makes him seem a little unthreatening. Alien Valkie (originally from Ultraman Taro) is apparently a recurring minion here, passing about the Dark Spark for whomever this mysterious villain is. Strangely, despite having been restored from a doll, he appears to have a consciousness of his own. He also demonstrates a few goofy mannerisms, which I am neutral toward.

Speaking of the Dark Spark, it seems to works somewhat differently from Hikaru's Ginga Spark. When the two guys who were earlier throwing garbage in the forest get transformed into Thunder Darambia, they appear to be under someone (or something) else's control, while Hikaru was still himself, even when he transformed into the monster called Black King.

Yes, Hikaru first transforms into a monster. The transformation sequence was a little amusing, but this is just blatant advertising for how the Ginga Spark has sound effects for both monsters and Ultras. Obviously, Black King couldn't defeat Thunder Darambia, and the Ultreaman Ginga doll suddenly appears. At this point, the episode gets more exciting. Even the music gets pretty good.

All in all, most of this episode was a little underwhelming for me. It's pretty quiet for a good portion, and Hikaru facing a pair of litter bugs was a little lame, even though they were throwing rather large pieces of garbage. Having the two of them change into a monster, and change back once defeated reminds me a lot of the Dopants of Kamen Rider Double, who generally revert to human form after being defeated. Killing the two litterbugs would have been waaaaaay too extreme, anyway. But it seems in this case, unlike in KR Double, the Spark Dolls stay intact, whereas the Dopant's Gaia Memories would break.

Also underwhelming so far is the talk of dreams in this episode, at least from what I can gather based on this post on Henshin Justice Unlimited. Hikaru has apparently been carrying out (or perhaps working toward?) his dream of becoming an adventurer and seeing the world, and he gets his determination after recalling that Misuzu is motivated to follow her dreams because of him, but we don't really see any of this adventure/travel stuff that's apparently so important to him. It's just talked about, but none of it is actually shown. Just underwhelming.

edit: Based on further explanation, Hikaru's dream is exploring unknown parts of the world, which apparently he hasn't done, although he apparently has been outside Japan before. Still, none of this is actually shown or even alluded to except in dialogue, so it's still underwhelming.

I'm still looking forward to the rest of this series, though. The next episode preview suggests that it will introduce the rival character, Tomoya.*

There's also a puppet theater-type segment at the end. At least based on this translation, the one on this episode doesn't really tell you anything besides that Taro doesn't really know anything about Ginga, but you could have already guessed that based on how confused he sounded seeing Ginga.

I'm not really sure if this series will impress me very much, and I'm more than a little worried about the main casts' acting ability (although I'm probably not a good judge of acting) Hopefully, the rest of the episodes will be more exciting (and available on YouTube). Ginga's powers are at least neat to see, and I'd like to know more of this strange alternate universe's backstory and whatnot. Also, Thunder Darambia was pretty cool.

Ultraman Ginga is © Tsuburaya Productions

*His name isn't mentioned in the preview, but it's already known from press material and such.

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