Lately the Ultra Series hasn't quite been its 2001-07 self.
It's gotten much better since Ginga, and I really enjoyed X, but the series still felt a bit lacking compared to how it used to be. Fortunately, the upcoming Ultraman Orb is reported to be a "classic back-to-basics Ultraman" (given the post-Ginga advertising era, I'm really liking the word "back"), and appears to have dumped Spark Dolls. Although their production motto of "When in doubt, play around" seems a bit risky, the show has potential. And so, I've decided to compile a list of items that either its Toei rivals currently have (particularly with Ghost) or that the Ultra Series itself previously had that could make Orb a great show:
- A vast, overarching plot (such as contemporary Kamen Rider's)
- A more nuanced advertising plan (once more, to a small degree, like contemporary KR's)
- A fairly consistent tone (such as with previous Ultra series), and
- A human host (taking inspiration particularly from Nexus)
- SpoilerShowA vast, overarching plot
While I was watching Ghost, it occurred to me that, although X had a nice subplot about Daichi's family, a subplot about X and the purple orb he was chasing, and an event around halfway that effects the other half of the series to a small degree, the show never *really* changes. Near the beginning of Ghost, in contrast, the main villains seemed to be Saionji, Alain and to a degree even Makoto, but by episode 20 it felt like hardly even the same show. With a few character and story-driven twists and turns consisting of more than just upgrades, it could jump to something beyond a monster of the week show.
- SpoilerShowA more nuanced advertising plan
It's a sad truth that advertising in Tokusatsu isn't going away anytime soon. However, it's within reason that it could be less direct. X hid its advertising far better than Ginga did, but it still required the willing suspension of disbelief to look at a toy and think of it as a monster when the show's trying to take an event seriously. I think using cards instead is a step in the right direction (especially as they can be useful in real life, i.e. credit cards), but I feel like I'd be able to deal with collectible items like eyecons/lockseeds, which yell neither "low budget" nor "buy our stuff" quite so much as action figures.
- SpoilerShowA fairly consistent tone
I'm still relatively new to Tokusatsu and the Ultra Series, but my impression has been that each and every Ultra Series (even from the Showa era) has had a distinct tone (arguably with Taro and Max the happiest, Leo and Nexus the grittiest, and Mebius somewhere in between). X was a lot more ambiguous; whereas episodes 9 and 18 felt like virtually Max-level weirdness, 3 was somewhat creepy and 20 had a character-driven, realistic story. In short, whatever in M-78 would happen with the tone was completely up to the directors. While I think it was an interesting experiment, it also made the lack of an overall story all the more evident: again, most of X seemed like basically a MoTW show, and the lack of consistency in directing style made it even clearer that they were focusing on individual episodes rather than the series as a whole.
- SpoilerShowA human host
One thing I liked about Nexus was that it asked what someone entrusted with massive power could actually do with it, and the consequences of having such power. Ginga and the fairly constantly smiling Hikaru felt like the antithesis of this, and while X partially fixed this, I feel like the extra, human level is still missing.
So, what do you think? Is there anything in particular that would get the Ultra Series back into shape? Could they actually achieve a state similar to their rival's or previous self's success again in the near future?
(Translation credit for the interview of Orb's staff goes to The Tokusatsu Network: http://tokusatsunetwork.com/2016/04/fir ... rb-emerge/)