Series Recommendation: Ultraman Z

Another Tokusatsu recommendation from us. Ultraman is an enormous franchise that has been going strong for 55 years and counting. The franchise has always focused on the “connection” and “brotherhood” between the Ultras. That previous Ultras are either mentors or senpais to later Ultras – some of them parents even. The connection are more apparent during the Heisei Era, where Ultramen usually borrow powers from previous generation to help them fight, and previous Ultras also often show up in crossover episodes as well as movies. So there’s a bit of hesitation when someone new to the franchise want to find a series to start with, since they presume that it is necessary to watch previous series all the way from the top to watch the current one, which is understandable but not true at all. There are many series that despite their connection to previous series, can be watched as a standalone. And one of them is Ultraman Z!

+ Plot: Ultraman Z follow Haruki – a young member of STORAGE, an organization that specializes in combatting Kaijuu (pretty much any Ultra have an organization like that). Haruki is a passionate karateka with a very clear sense of justice for himself. And he is determined to use his strength to protect mankind and his comrade. In comes Ultraman Z – a young Ultra that is a bit on the cocky and inexperienced side. Z and Haruki met through an accident and decided to fight together for both of their sake. And then, a new giant of light descends!

The cast of Ultraman Z is very likeable. Haruki is definitely your shonen protag that is very idealistic, hardworking and naive. But he soon come into contact with the harsh reality and has to grow up. Around him are people that helps him in the process, including Z himself. Since Z is also a greenhorn, they bond very fast and quickly became good partner that develop together. Yoko is a very nice senpai that inspire Haruki to become a better person (and she’s also badass as hell). Captain Hebikura is the wildcard in this series and he definitely pull some interesting stuff. Yuka is the tech-savvy girl with a kinda questionable hobby (well, every crew needs a weirdo after all). The plot is quite MotW for the most part, but all of them contribute to the overarching plot. Ultraman Z’s story, as other Ultras, have vague connections to previous Ultra but is largely standalone on its own. If you have watched Ultraman Zero, Orb or Ultraman Geed, you’d get some nice references and crossover, but it’s not a must by any means – this series is truly a series dedicated to Z and Haruki entirely.

+ Action: Since this is a Tokusatsu, there’s no animation but rather Live action with Special Effects instead. And of course, Tsuburaya really does know their action. The Ultraman series focus on fights between giant beings that is as tall as skyscrapers with the weight to match. Therefore the Ultras and the Kaijuus feel really heavy, but not extremely sluggish either. Ultraman Z has some really awesome camera work with very dynamic perspective that make the viewer feel like they are in a jet flying around the battlefield at extremely close-range. As for special effects, the Ultra series have been nailing it for decades, so there’s nothing to worry about on that part. The special effect looks awesome while not too overly blinding that you can’t see what’s going on. Especially with more flashy-intensive fights like those with Gamma Future.

+ Design: For character design, Z is a pretty simplistic design regarding his armor. His body’s color are separated into quite a few color pallete, but the majority of his body suit is blue. The Ultras’ design are generally very simple with the exception of the chest and head. And it’s not until later forms that the design get more intricate and detailed. So the simple looks is pretty good. Not too busy, just enough armor to make him feel modern.

Then we come to the other star of the show: the Mechas. Featured in Z is 3 other pilotable robots: Sevenger, Windam and King Joe. Sevenger and Windam debuted way back then in Ultraseven but their design have been repurposed with a more mechanical looks. King Joe is the classic Ultraman robot but, once again, redesigned for a more modern looks. Sevenger is a clear reference to robot anime as it possess many abilities that is reminiscent of other mecha animes such as the Rocket Punch. Its design is also similar to Tetsujin and Giant Robo, but that is due to his original design being quite similar to those anyway. Windam is pretty much the same as the Ultraseven one. King Joe went through a huge change of course (to sell more toys). And it’s probably the most “mechanical” robot in the show, as it’s also a combiner and weapon platform. Sevenger in Z is so immensely popular that it got itself a spin-off manga and dozens of toys by Bandai, even more than the main character – Z himself. Mostly due to its mecha homage and cute but deadly aesthetic.

+ Music: GOSHOWA KUDASAI WARE NO NA WO! The extremely catchy and badass opening song by the lion of anisong – Masaaki Endoh – reverberate within out souls. The Opening, which also feature the slogan of Z, is very energetic and nigh unskippable. It pump you up for an episode full of hotblooded kickassery – just like Haruki’s personality: disciplined and always give it his all to push ahead to the future. The ED songs are also very nice, one of which was sung by Z’s voice actor – Tasuku Hatanaka. The EDs are very uplifting, feels like a good song to vibe to after an intense workout session.

Overall, Ultraman Z is a very newbie-friendly Ultraman show despite its many references to previous Ultras. However, you can still enjoy Z and Haruki’s story of growth without inhibition, as well as the super badass fight scenes and rocking music. The characters are quite likeable, including the supporting cast as well. There’s actually a balanced amount of drama/romance/comedy mixed up to make Z interesting without going stale after a while. The short episode count also help it not overstaying its welcome. And of course, we will see more Haruki and Z later in future crossover series from the franchise.