Friday, August 10, 2012
Ultraman MAX Review
After finishing the original Ultraman series, the question of "Now what?" came. I knew the original series was really the only one that was released in America, so I had no clue how I was going to watch the others. After some quick searching, I found out that many of the series were officially released in region free format, thanks to Malaysia. The only drawback is the subs. While they're understandable and not awful, there's spelling errors all over the place and sometimes it just doesn't make sense. Well, nothing could be perfect, right? There were many choices to pick, from Nexus to Mebius. Ultimately MAX sounded the most cool out of them. After reading up on it, I found out that my main kaiju Antlar returns, and a bunch classic monsters also come back. That, and the show overall just sounded fun. After a few months, finally finished it. Ultraman MAX is a slightly different kind of Ultraman show, with many comedic aspects. It also has a lot of emotion in the stories. MAX is definitely a fun show that will surprise you.
After Episode 13 with Zetton, I felt the the quality of the show kinda lessened. There was more slapstick, especially in Episode 16, the worst episode of the show. I could see the point of adding humor, but often it comes off as rather dumb, making the characters look kinda silly. (The captain of any show should always look tough.) Like in the original show, there was a notable joke episode with this monster called Cloudos. It wasn't as bad as Episode 16, but for Cloudos they might as well have brought back Skydon, it would have given the episode a nostalgic touch. The latter part of the show wasn't as great as the first part, but there were many great episodes. A popular one is Episode 15, with this very strange monster 'If.' Basically this guy is kinda unbeatable, he absorbs what's thrown at him and mimics the ability. Then in the end his outlook is transformed into musical instruments thanks to a little girl playing the flute. It's one of those 'work of art' episodes that Shakespeare people would like. What I do like is that often we're provided extensive backstory in these episodes. Take Episode 9 for example with the legendary dragon Natsunomeryu. He's not evil, so the episode has a rather tragic touch. Ultraman MAX does have better established stories than in the original Ultraman, but is lacking the its charm. (Nostalgia? Retro?)
One cannot forgot to mention the core of the show, the characters. Instead of the Science Patrol, it's DASH. Captain Shigeru, Kaito, Mizuki, Sean, Koba, and Elly make up the main team. Kaito is the new holder of Ultraman. He's no Hayata, (don't think anyone ever will be) but he grows on you. Captain Shigeru also doesn't have anything on Captain Mura from the old show, but he isn't bad. (Though some of the comedic moments make him look pretty awful.) Mizuki is the new main female. I like Fuji from the classic show more, but she isn't bad. Aside from the the fact that she gets knocked out almost every episode. Sean is the Ito of the group. (And he's American!) He's the guy with the out-of the-blue comments and over the top remarks, he's just a funny and needed addition to the squad. Koba is the sharp shooter, similar to Arashi from (you guessed it) the 1966 show. Like Arashi, Koba isn't given as much of a focus as the other members. The most interesting (and best) character is Elly. She's an android, Data from Star Trek as you will. Elly brings a certain coolness to the group. She's not an emotionless robot, in fact, it's quite the opposite. While she isn't technically emnotional, she displays the greatest of compassion for her fellow teammates. I would have liked to see her fight more. (She does get some Ellen Ripley action in one episode, #19.) Unlike in the original show, there is some romance in MAX. Thankfully, it isn't overplayed. Kaito and Mizuki's relationship is built up gradually well, nothing beats fluid romance. One of the worst things in media is a shoehorned in romance. Then there's a little romance between Elly and Koba, which is pretty cute as it unfolds later in the show. Other characters include Professor Yukari, whom classic Ultraman fans will remember as Fuji from the original show. (How awesome is that?) Then as a treat to fans, the actors who played Hayaya and Ito return here for some appaearances as other chatacters. It was great seeing them, Ito still has the same smile for everything!
Talking about the series finale, it definitely had that 'this is the end' feel. The final boss is this giant (I say giant this time because it dwarfs Ultraman!) thing that looks a bit like Legion from Gamera, it's pretty cool. The final battle however is disappointing, since there wasn't really much fighting. It's Ultraman attacking a giant thing, gets defeated fast, then gets a powerup and slashes the thing to oblivion. Anti-climatic? A bit, could have used more of a fight. But really, it isn't about Max's final battle, it's what happens afterward with the characters. We get to see Kaito and Mizuki together married and old. (Though it's not really known as to what happened with the other members, save Elly.) But overall it was a fine finale. After that was a reflection episode and a preview of Ultraman Mebius, a nice touch.
Overall, Ultraman MAX is fine series in the Ultra-verse. It's jam packed full of awesome monsters, satisfying fights, and interesting stories. It's not a perfect series, I felt the comedy got a little too slaptstick. In the end, nothing can match the charm of the original show, but MAX is a great series its own right. Ultraman MAX is a great show with lots of care (the theme song is amazing) and heart injected into the stories.