The critique of the content of the show was written by my colleague Ben Belcher.
If you’ve ever wondered where childhood classics like Power Rangers, VR Troopers, or Beetleborgs came from you need look no further than the famous Japanese series Ultraman. Big monsters? Check. Crazy fights? Check. Over-the-top transformations? You bet. Need more? Allow me to explain.
Ultraman Taro is the 6th series in the Ultraman franchise and follows the brave young Kotaro. Until a later film would retcon his origins, Kotaro was actually not one of the famous “Ultraman Brothers.” No, no, no. In fact, while facing a terrifying monster and attempting to save his home, Kotaro is fatally wounded. Here the Mother and Father of Ultra pick him up and imbue him with their power, bestowing upon him the Ultra badge and transforming him into Ultraman Taro: the sixth Ultraman brother. This was a huge change for the series up to this point, and while it didn’t stick around for later iterations of the series, it was still a welcome new narrative take on the famous hero.
The series takes us through a winding tale of giant monsters attacking the Earth and Kotaro and friends valiantly defending our little blue marble. I could go on for pages about what happens over the 50+ episodes, but it would all sound like gibberish, so I’ll gush about other things.
As a long-time fan of other Ultraman series, this was a huge treat for me. The wackiness of all of the villains is so fantastic it made me feel like I was 8 years old again. For guys in foam rubber and latex suits, they manage to make some impressive monsters. Some of them are a bit more… suggestive than I remembered though.
Seeing all of the tiny models of everything from cityscapes to vehicles was wonderful. It’s a level of dedication to the craft that is very rarely seen anymore. Even the equipment used by Kotaro and his allies is impressive in its own way.
Admittedly things do look dated and could be touched up, but it was the 1970’s! Original Power Rangers didn’t look much better and they had 20 years to improve the technology. If you’re a fan of crazy Japanese action adventure and over-the-top heroes, Ultraman Taro does not disappoint.
Ultraman Taro: The Complete Series arrives on Blu-Ray with a pleasing enough AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.33:1. The levels of detail in this presentation are not as robust as other classic material we have seen on disc, but the basic elements such as the Ultraman and kaiju costumes and the setting are reasonably detailed. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the Ultraman series is seeing the textural details of the creature costumes and realizing all of the subtle flourishes that have been stitched into them. The human elements do not fare quite as well with faces lacking the precise detail for which you might hope. The series is not always as bright and colorful as the material should allow, but there are moments of magic with beautiful colors popping off the screen. The hues do not appear to have suffered from any dreaded fading. Black levels are passably deep and give way to a nice amount of detail in shadows. The bright whites of the show do not fall victim to any blooming in this presentation. Skin tones appear very natural across the entire cast. There are numerous instances of ugly macroblocking that are quite unfortunate. For every element that this release does very well, there is a flipside that crops up as an unwanted drawback. Rather than being a homerun or a complete mess, this release verges more on merely being average.
Mill Creek Entertainment brings us this new Blu-Ray set with a lossless DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio mix in the original Japanese that accurately reproduces the series sonically. The dialogue holds up quite nicely, coming though clearly without being stepped on by the score or sound effects. If there are any complaints about this one, it is that the track feels a bit muddy during the most intense action scenes. The mix sometimes struggles to give clear definition to the competing dialogue, music and special effects which results in a stew of sound. The quality of the source material likely did not help on this front. The release mostly sounds fine, but it does not give you the depth of sound you might want from a fight-heavy show. There does not appear to be any damage or distortion associated with the audio track. This is a track that functions competently rather than anything too dynamic. Optional English (SDH) subtitles are provided on this disc.
A key attraction for this release is a sleek new Steelbook that is truly gorgeous in person. The front and rear artwork features our hero in different poses with various other Ultramen and fighting kaiju surrounding him. The interior sports a still photo of the Ultraman dashboard. The packaging also includes a clear plastic slipcover. This Steelbook package includes a booklet which includes details on the birth of Ultraman Taro, a series history, an episode guide, a closer look at the various kaiju and technology in the show, and more. Photos of the Steelbook can be found at the end of this review.
There are no special features included on disc.
Ultraman Taro is another fun entry into the beloved series. If you have a soft spot for seeing men in elaborate costumes fight one another for the fate of the planet, this one should be right up your alley. The formula is familiar for anyone who has viewed even a bit of the franchise, but the core level of enjoyment it provides is undeniable. This new collection from Mill Creek Entertainment provides a pretty decent A/V presentation and a nice Steelbook packaging that will appeal to collectors. Having these episodes on disc is a win, so those who appreciate the series should be more than happy to pick this one up.
Ultraman Taro: The Complete Series is currently available to purchase on Steelbook & Standard Edition Blu-Ray + Digital.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Mill Creek Entertainment has supplied a copy of this set free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.