Max: A Return to Basics
By Bob Johnson (www.scifijapan.com)
After a very heavily
publicized “Ultra N Project”, which led to the
excellent film ULTRAMAN THE NEXT and a very serious,
adult Ultra series, ULTRAMAN NEXUS, Tsuburaya
Productions decided to go back to Ultra-basics with
its follow-up series, ULTRAMAN MAX.
ULTRAMAN NEXUS was a departure from the normal Ultra
series formula. It featured a series-long plotline,
heavy character development and almost soap opera
like writing. Despite the new, adult slant and
quality of the series, the network it showed on
still insisted on putting it in one of its
kid-friendly time slots. The adults never found it
and the children did not understand it, complaining
that the stories were too complex to follow.
Now Tsuburaya returns to the action-oriented,
kid-friendly, classic approach they have taken with
Ultra series in the past. Single-episode storylines,
monster of the week and lots of action! However, to
insure that the series keeps up the production
quality of its predecessor, TPC has brought in a
couple of Japan 's more popular directors to helm
some of the episodes.
Producer Takeshi Yagi, who directed the ULTRAMAN
NEXUS series, shares directing duties with Hirochika
Muraishi (ULTRAMAN TIGA and GRANSAZERS), Hiroaki
Tochihara (who served as Assistant Director under
Shusuke Kaneko on NEN NO NATSU YASUMI/SUMMER
VACATION 1999 in 1988), as well as Japanese horror
cult icon Takeshi Miike and Shusuke Kaneko.
Ultra designer Hiroshi Maruyama created an Ultraman
character similar in design to the classic Ultra
Seven and the series features some of the most
famous monsters from the original 1966 ULTRAMAN and
ULTRA SEVEN (1967). Returning are such fan favorites
as Red King, Gomora, Eleking, Antlar, Zetton, Pigmon,
Metron Seijin and more to join the gallery of new
monsters created for the series!
ULTRAMAN MAX premiered on July 2, 2005. The world is
at peace and people are enjoying a quiet and serene
existence, until monsters begin attacking! The UDF
(United Defense Force) dispatches Team DASH (Defense
Action Squad Heroes) from Base Titan in Tokyo Bay ,
to confront the rampaging beasts! DASH member Mizuki
Koishikawa's (played by Hitomi Hasabe) jet, Dash
Bird One, crashes after it is downed by the monster
Legoras. Kaito Toma (Sota Aoyama), who is a civil
service volunteer, but aspires to be a member of
DASH, pulls her from the jet and takes the controls,
going after the monster himself. He is loses control
of the jet while in battle and is saved by a
mysterious giant. Given the Max Spark, Kaito is able
to change into Ultraman Max to challenge the
monsters and aliens that threaten the Earth!
In addition to Kaito and Mizuki, Team DASH is made
up of Captain Shigeru Hijikakta (Kai Shishido),
marksman Kenjiro Koba (Nobuyuki Ogawa), science
officer Sean White (Sean Nichols) and Eri (Hikari
Mitsushima), the team's android that oversees
operations at Titan Base.
Rounding out the cast are two actors from the
original ULTRAMAN series in key roles. Susumu Kurobe,
who played Hayata, the original human host for
Ultraman is now the big man in charge as UDF Chief
Tomioka. Hiroko Sakurai, who not only played Fuji
along side Kurobe in the original ULTRAMAN, but also
starred in the first series ULTRA Q (1965), plays
the science expert, Professor Yoshinaga.
As of this writing, Shusuke Kaneko has directed the
• ULTRAMAN MAX ARRIVES! Origin story as the monsters
Grangon and Legoras attack, Team DASH encounters the
creatures, and civil defense volunteer Kaito Toma
inherits the Max Spark to defeat the monsters and
carry on the monster-fighting tradition as Ultraman
• THE GIRL WHO KEEPS A MONSTER. The monster Eleking
is draining electricity from the city and causing
major blackouts and then mysteriously disappearing.
Team DASH tracks down the monster, which is being
kept by a young woman in her apartment! Eleking
returns from episode 3 of ULTRA SEVEN.
• PROPHESY OF VALLARGE. The city is attacked by the
magnetic personality of Antlar! A mysterious woman
(played by Shusuke Kaneko favorite Ayako Fujitani)
is in possession of a powerful blue sphere from
ancient times that is the key to defeating the
monster! Antlar returns from episode 7 of ULTRAMAN.
12- PURSUIT AT SUPERSONIC SPEED. Team DASH rocks to
the sounds of a new band, Bad Scanners. Meanwhile, a
supersonic monster, Heiren streaks over Japan at
Mach 10. Team DASH tries to attack the giant flying
beast, but it is much too fast. It is only when
Kaito discovers that the monster is attracted to Bad
Scanners' music that he is able to use the band to
lure the monster out for the final confrontation!
The monster in this episode is named Halen, after
Eddie Van Halen. Shusuke Kaneko's brother, Jiro,
wrote the episode and named the monster after his
favorite heavy metal guitarist. Originally, the
monster was going to be named after Swedish
guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen!!
Another Shusuke Kaneko regular makes an appearance
in ULTRAMAN MAX, but in an episode directed by
Hiroaki Tochihara. In the two-parter, episode 5 --
Monster Island Appears and episode 6 -- Bombing, 5
Seconds Before!, actor Yukijiro Hotaru plays an
Indiana Jones-type explorer who gets caught up in
the action between classic Ultraman monsters Red
King and Pigmon and new contenders Paragura and
Slamandon, in an episode reminiscent of ULTRAMAN
episode 8 -- The Violent Monster Region.
Shusuke Kaneko also directed two episodes that have
not aired as of this writing, episode 35: ADAM AND
EVE OF NEBULA M32, which is scheduled to air on
February 25 and episode 36: EXTRA-DIMENSIONAL WORLD,
scheduled for March 4.
Continue for exclusive
photos from the set of Ultraman Max: