Friday 13 July 2018

First Impressions: Ultraman R/B

Ultraman R/B

One of the best things about being an Ultraman fan in the past three years has been each new series simulcasting on Crunchyroll complete with official English subtitles, in addition to all the past shows from the franchise that have also been added to the site in this time. So you can just imagine the uproar when Ultraman R/B – the latest instalment in Tsuburaya Productions' long-standing tokusatsu series appeared absent after its Japanese premiere. Not to worry though, as the bilingual Ultraman fandom has banded together to create a user-created subtitle track for Tsuburaya's own YouTube stream, which will stay online until the next episode has aired (at which point a fansub will likely become available). It's not ideal, but credit to the amazing efforts of the fandom where it's due. Ultraman R/B is the 30th Ultra Series overall and introduces two new lead Ultramen – Ultraman Rosso and Ultraman Blu.

Update 15/07/2018: It seems Tsuburaya have now got rid of the YouTube subtitles and region-locked the stream, so discount most of that introduction. There are vague details of an English-language version "coming soon", so fans will just have to wait and see.

"Ultraman Has Begun" introduces us to Minato brothers Katsumi and Isami along with their father and sister, Ushio and Asahi. Katsumi is the eldest son who helps out his father's business, while middle child Isami is a university student studying space archaeology in honour of their mother who disappeared 15 years ago.

When the pair are caught in a monster attack on the anniversary of their mother's disappearance, the brothers are saved by a mysterious light. Using the R/B Gyro and calling upon elemental powers from crystals of past heroes Ultraman Taro and Ultraman Ginga, Katsumi and and Isami become Ultraman Rosso and Ultraman Blu – adjusting to their newfound powers whilst fighting off the rampage of Grugeo Bone.

After Ultraman Orb and Ultraman Geed immediately delved into some pretty heavy themes upon their debuts, the only thing that's instantly clear about Ultraman R/B is that it's starting off on a much more light-hearted approach. The episode kicks off right in the middle of the brothers' fight against Grugeo Bone, before rewinding to tell the story of how the pair got their Ultra powers. The two brothers have great chemistry together, with Katsumi being the more hot-blooded and critical one while Isami is more inquisitive and free-spirited of the two.

But amongst the comedy there's still plenty of questions to be drawn from the story, the most prominent of these being the circumstances behind Mio Minato's disappearance. The mysterious hand of a villain pulling the strings from the sidelines is nothing new, but just how the Aizen Tech company and its president Makoto Aizen will factor into this is an interesting bit of speculation.

Though in terms of visuals Rosso and Blu's debut wasn't quite as striking as Geed's night time showdown with Skull Gomora, the added gimmick of having two Ultramen working as a unit prompts a lot of fun in terms of choreography. Cue the brothers struggling with their first stint at being silver giants, accidentally hitting each other with attacks and even stopping while the monster patiently waits for them to stop talking. It's not quite the flashy debut fans may be used to at this point, but has its own unique charm that clearly reflects the core of the show. It's also pretty refreshing to get a fight with plenty of talking over it, with most Ultras being of few words when in their transformed states.

But the one area that the episode struggles in is something that could potentially affect Ultraman R/B as a whole – the transformation sequences. If there's one flaw the "new generation" Ultra series have had it's an insistence on drawn-out transformation sequences – and with R/B this is doubled because of the two leads. Granted there's the argument that these are all new toys and need all the promotion they can get in the early episodes, but between the initial transformations and the subsequent form changes that's four lengthy sequences that pull you out of the fight. It's also disappointing to see Ultraman turn to legacy heroes once again for its powers, making that four out of the five "New Generation" Ultras that have done it. What R/B has done is definitely preferable to fusion being used as a gimmick for the third time in a row, but at this point it would definitely be nice to see a new Ultraman series be able to stand fully on its own two feet. The fact legacy is so important to the Ultra Series is something to be admired, but this can simply be carried across in cameos and returning monsters rather than centring the gimmick around it year after year.

Despite what feels like a weaker premiere than X, Orb or Geed, Ultraman R/B is a series that already shows plenty of promise with the same superb Tsuburaya visuals. The dynamic between the two leads is there, the plot is already posing plenty of questions and the dual-Ultraman set up could definitely lead to some more great fight choreography like we saw here. All it needs to do is tone down the toy commercial element, and hopefully Tsuburaya will strike gold once again.

Oh, and stick the damn thing on Crunchyroll already.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Where did you watch ?