The Most Bizarre Adaptation In The Ultraman Franchise Had Three English Dubs

The release of ShinUltraman proved that the legendary hero is as popular as ever, with the film quickly rising up the box office charts. Fans out west were thrilled to learn that the film will make its North American debut at the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival, which could hint at plans for a wider release. However, this will not be the first time that a Ultraman the series has arrived in America. In fact, a previous attempt to bring the giant hero to the United States led to one of the weirdest anime localizations in history.

The ☆Ultraman hit television screens in 1979. As the eighth mainline entry Ultraman franchise, The ☆Ultraman has established itself as the first main line series to animate rather than to live. The series was animated by brand new studio Sunrise just before it rose to fame for its work on Mobile Suit Gundam.

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The ☆Ultraman follows Chouichirou Hikari, who has been scouted to join the Science Guard Party, a group that defends Earth against strange monsters. However, Hikari bonds with Ultraman Joneus, an Ultra person, and the pair soon begin fighting the various kaiju attacking Earth. However, Hikari is keen to keep his identity a secret, not wanting anyone to know that he is an Ultraman host.

Interesting way, The ☆Ultraman has been dubbed into English three times. The first only dubbed Episode 14, titled “The Star’s Devil Has Come!” This episode aired on WOR-TV Channel 9 in April 1980 as part of the program “Japan Tonight!” programming block, which saw the New York-based super station broadcast several hours of content from Japan’s Tokyo Broadcasting System network. Although the block was hosted by Telly Savalas, The ☆Ultraman was introduced by Japanese talk show legend Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, who explained Ultraman to American viewers by saying that he was “like your Superman.”

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Then in 1981, Tsuburaya Productions took over the animation of The ☆Ultraman and used it to create a new film specifically for the American market. Title The Adventures of Ultramanthis film had a completely new script and soundtrack, completely unrelated to The ☆Ultraman. This film sees the evil starlord Barock attempt to invade Earth, forcing a man called Scotty to transform into Ultraman and repel the invasion while rescuing Mentor – the guardian of the Ultramind – from Barock’s clutches. One of the weirdest details about this entry is that most of its footage is from the latest episodes of The ☆Ultraman. This makes The Adventures of Ultraman quite difficult to follow, as the audience is thrust into the middle of a massive spatial conflict without much build-up or context.

Animation of The ☆Ultraman was reused in 1983 to create Ultraman II: The New Adventures of Ultraman. Co-produced by Tsuburaya Productions and Associates Entertainment International, this outing took the first four episodes of The ☆Ultraman and doubled them again. While this dub is closer to the original series, the character names have been changed, with Lt. Harris now serving as Ultraman’s host. For unknown reasons, episodes 3 and 4 have been reversed for this release.

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What makes this even more fascinating is that although it is called Ultraman IIit has nothing to do with The Adventures of Ultraman; the names used are different from those heard in the previous dub. And, because it adapts the first episodes of The ☆Ultramanit uses material that happened before the first movie.

It’s kind of funny that an anime series can have three different English dubs, all of which tell different stories. It gets even funnier when you realize that even if you watched all three dubs, you wouldn’t get the full story of The ☆Ultraman because a good part of the original images was not dubbed. However, modern viewers can watch a subtitled version of The ☆Ultraman on Tubi, making it easy to dive into this classic slice of 80s anime. Fortunately, modern tokusatsu fans can rest easy knowing that when ShinUltraman arrives at the Fantasia International Film Festival, viewers will see the exact same story their Japanese counterparts saw.