All spoilers for the Ultraman Zero media, Ultraman Orb, and Ultraman Geed are unmarked. You Have Been Warned!
Ultraman Z is a Tokusatsu show in the Ultra Series that premiered June 20, 2020 on TV Tokyo. It is currently being simulcast on Tsuburaya Production's official Youtube channel with English subtitles. The series is also the eighth entry to the New Generation Hero era that started from Ultraman Ginga, and it's also meant to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Ultraman Zero.
Ultraman Z (pronounced "Zett") is a plucky young fighter from the Land of Light who dreamed of following in the footsteps of his idol, the famous hero Ultraman Zero. To pursue this goal, Z joined the Inter-Galactic Defense Force and began training under Zero as his apprentice. However, while investigating a plot to spread evil powers known as "Devil Splinters" across the universe, Z is separated from Zero and follows the trail alone to Earth.
Once on Earth, Z has a fateful encounter with a hot-blooded pilot named Haruki Natsukawa. Haruki is a member of "STORAGE" (Special Tactical Operations Regimental Airborne and Ground Equipment), a division of an elite international task force which uses giant robots to resolve monster-related threats to the peace and security of Earth. With the aid of the "Ultra Z-Riser" and the "Ultra Medals", which channel and fuse the powers of great Ultraman heroes, Haruki and Z unite as one to defend the world.
Like the previous entry Ultraman Taiga, Ultraman Z also had its prequel series, the Ultra Galaxy Fight: The Absolute Conspiracy, which also feature Ultraman Z himself as one of the participating heroes.
A manga adaptation, Fight! Sevenger is in the works focusing on the exploits of STORAGE and Sevenger before Ultraman Z arrived on Earth.
A spin-off mini-series Sevenger Fight was announced in March 17th, 2021 consisting entirely of mini-episodes depicting Sevenger and Ultraman Z facing off against many Ultra Series monsters and aliens (in the style of the old Ultra Fight shows). It debuted in Tsuburaya's new streaming service "Tsuburaya Imagination".
In April 2nd, 2023, an English dub of the series was announced helmed by Okratron 5000 which was responsible for the English Dub of Shin Ultraman; starring Matt Shipman as Ultraman Z and Zeno Robinson as Haruki with Christopher Sabat as the narrator, the dub began streaming on Tsuburaya's YouTube channel on April 8th, 2023.
Recurring Ultra Series Tropes
- Big Bad: A parasite named Celebro fulfills this role by stealing the Ultra Medals, a Z-Riser and orchestrating monster attacks through the Kaiju Medals he reverse engineers.
- Boss Subtitles: Carrying on newer traditions, they once again appear alongside the weekly monster's introduction within the series rather than in the titles.
- Creature-Hunter Organization: STORAGE is an interesting departure from tradition in that it lacks the usual colorful uniforms and fights mostly through giant mechas. Other than that, they fill the standard role of the attack team in the series, often assisting Z and other heroes against the many threats that show up.
- Critical Annoyance: A classic element of the Ultras, Z has a Color Timer in his chest that glows when his time as Ultraman is running out, though his timer is shaped like the letter Z as opposed to being circular or oval in shape.
- Henshin Hero: Not only does the show feature Haruki and Ultraman Z, Ultraman Zero and Riku Asakura/Ultraman Geed also appear though only Riku actually transforms from human to Ultraman in this series.
- Hour of Power: Like most other Ultras, Z can only stay transformed for some minutes. It's even worse if he's human-sized as his time is shortened to just one measly minute due to exhaustion.
- Kaiju: In a deviation from past New Generation shows, this series' kaiju are natural-born creatures of Earth for the most part as opposed to being summoned by a device.
- Mid-Season Upgrade:
- Midway through the series Z gains his most powerful Ultra Medal form, Delta Rise Claw, from the medals of Zero Beyond, Geed and Belial Atrocious. He also gains the Beliarok, a powerful dimension-controlling weapon.
- STORAGE first obtain Windam after development and subsequently reverse-engineer King Joe into King Joe Custom, expanding their overall arsenal to 3 main robots.
- Celebro himself also gets one not just by getting the Medals for Five/Tri King, but also by body surfing from the exhausted regular worker Kaburagi into GAFJ Captain Asano and then Director Kuriyama himself to culminate his master plan.
- Monster of the Week: As opposed to an overarching connection of a group, most kaiju and aliens in this series are standalone and independent threats from Celebro.
- Multiform Balance: Z inherited the fusion gimmick used by Ultraman Orb and Ultraman Geed. Unlike the two however, he has access to his non-fusion original form since the start of the series and on top of it, he has a finisher (Zestium Ray) which can be used in all forms altogether.
- This also qualifes for Celebro. In episode 7, he starts his new transformation sequence with his Z-Riser to become Skull Gomora, but then he also uses it to become Thunder Killer and Pendamiun Zetton as well, and switches between all three forms rapidly.
- Swiss-Army Hero: Ultraman Z's forms are not based entirely on just speed, offense and balance. He's also got the illusion/trickery based Gamma Future as well as the dimensional/anomaly-countering Delta Rise Claw.
- Symbiotic Possession: Ultraman Z saves Haruki's life in the first episode by doing this with him, letting Haruki transform into him with the Z-Riser.
- Title Drop: Haruki namedrops the title during his first transformation into Z.
- Toku: A series celebrating the 10th anniversary of Ultraman Zero that stars his (self-proclaimed) pupil and newbie, Ultraman Z.
- Transformation Trinket: The Ultra Z Riser allows its user to transform into Ultraman by inserting the Ultra Access Card (which have identification to their user). By inserting Ultra Medals on the other hand allows the Ultra to use fusion forms at their disposal. Haruki uses it as a means of transforming into Z, as does Riku after his Geed Riser was damaged, while Celebro can use a Riser to transform into a fusion kaiju. Jugglus Juggler also has an Evil Knockoff version that allows him to transform into fusion kaiju.
Ultraman Z provides examples of the following tropes:
- Badass Cape: Zero's Ultra Zero Mantle, in the same way as the Ultra Brothers. It was given to him by Leo and served its purpose in protection.
- Badass Crew: Anti-Monster Robot Force STORAGE, which Haruki Natsukawa (Z's host) is part of.
- Badass Teacher: Zero reluctantly becomes one in this series by mentoring the eager Fanboy Z.
- Batman Cold Open: Episode 3 scores a victory for Sevenger, using its new rocket punch attack against Gigass. Though it wasn't exactly a moral victory since Haruki knocks Gigass through the observatory they were supposed to protect.
- Beam-O-War: Happens in the first episode, where Z fights Genegarg. The shark kaiju's Genebuster collides with the Ultra's Zestium Beam, and the hero quickly comes out on top. It then proceeds to happen twice in the last two episodes when Z goes up against Destrudos and it's D4 Ray.The first time he does in in Gamma Future, and quickly loses, but the last episode has him win the beam struggle in only his base form.
- Body Surf: Celebro starts out by controlling Genegarg's body to steal the Ultra Medals, then switches to Kaburagi's body after the former's death. Later moves on to take over GAFJ Captain Asano, Haruki's workmate Yoko, and eventually Destrudos.
- Book Ends:
- The first episode ends with Celebro having possessed a kaiju (Genegarg) himself with the battle concluding with a Beam-O-War with Z's Alpha Edge. The final episode concludes the battle with Celebro possessing Destrudos himself once Yoko is freed from his influence and ends with a big beam war with Z. Except this time he's in his base form than a Z Riser fusion.
- Both the first and final episodes has Yoko unknowingly find an Ultra Medal: Ultraman's medal in the aftermath of Genegarg's destruction, and Belial's medal after she is freed from Celebro, respectively.
- Boss Subtitles: For the first time since Ultraman Max on how the Monster of the Week is introduced, and the first time the franchise does so on the Reiwa era.
- Canon Character All Along: The Captain played by Takaya Aoyagi appears to be a typical The Comically Serious character. But episode 5 reveals him to be Jugglus Juggler.
- Canon Welding: The previous series, Ultraman Taiga, shows that there are enough of Belial's remains to recreate Skull Gomora and a mindless clone of Belial himself with Zero even noting that there may be more remains along with Mad Scientists using them throughout the universe. This series classifies them as Devil Splinters with the New Generation Heroes being busy locating and destroying them, while Celebro on Z's Earth using the splinters for his own plans.
- Central Theme:
- Following the footsteps of the one you idolize to is easier said than done. You must work hard from the bottom to reach the top to earn their respect. The titular Ultra becomes the latest addition to the Master-Apprentice Chain that started from Zero's father to his teacher, and now Zero himself towards Z out of Hero Worship.
- Another underlying theme which takes a cue from Ultraman Cosmos and takes this a step further; just because the monsters rampaging one episode after another doesn't necessarily mean they are attacking innocent people for no apparent reason at all, it's because some of them have no intention of inflicting harm and their rampage is the result of humans unwittingly angering these monsters. Both Z and Haruki are unaware of what causes the monsters to go amok, that is until episode 11 when they realized after killing a Red King that it and its mate were protecting their unborn child.
- Continuity Nod: To show that Z and Haruki do try to remember important basic tricks he focuses and senses Zeppandon in episode 5 with the same trick he used to detect Neronga in episode 2.
- Conveniently-Empty Building: The battle between Z and Genegarg in the pilot episode has Genegarg pushing Z through a tall office building, followed by a shot of an empty conference room which both combatants crashed through. A shot that was added by the directors to assure audiences that, yes, the destroyed building is empty and there are no casualties.
- Don't Think, Feel: To defeat Neronga's invisibility power Haruki has himself and Z close their eyes and sense the kaiju's presence. He also remembers this trick when fighting Zeppandon thought it isn't quite as effective. Bako even quotes this in episode 22.
- Demoted to Extra:
- Riku Asakura returns to this series in episode 5, with a new form for Geed known as Galaxy Rising, but he is reduced to more of a side character even in his second appearance.
- Despite the series being made to commemorate his anniversary, Ultraman Zero only appears in 2 episodes total; discounting cameos and Ultra Medals, compared to the previous series continuing his adventures and legacy, Geed, where he was part of the main cast.
- Evil Knockoff: The Dark Z Riser, created by Jugglus Juggler and containing medals to recreate his old Zeppandon fusion.
- Gaia's Vengeance: Yuka suggests in episode 25 that the various monsters that awoke when Ultroid Zero was activated in the previous episode were doing so according to the "will of the planet", basically bringing up the Gaia hypothesis.
- Greater-Scope Villain: Ultraman Belial (and Alien Rayblood by extension). And the reason how the Devil Splinters came into existence is from the wounds he sustained through various fights and rampages, best exampled during his fight with Ultraman Taro. They have since scattered across the multiverse, and the monsters lose control upon coming contact with these artifacts. Celebro is apparently gathering these splinters in order to create a Belial medal.
- Green and Mean: Not Celebro in general, but his human host Shinya Kaburagi is shown wearing a dark green hazmat suit and is in possession of a green-colored Ultra Access Card with a green background.
- Helping Would Be Killstealing: For the very final part of the final battle. Z takes on Destrudos not only by himself but in his base form. Basically for the final push he has to rely on his own power without other Ultras, or STORAGE robots or Ultra medals to transform or the Z-Lane Arrow. Considering Z was ranked as 1/3 of an Ultra hero in the first episode this was a huge personal development.
- History Repeats: This is not the first, nor the second time the hero from a previous Ultra series lost their ability to transformnote , or in the latter casenote , their original Transformation Trinkets, but are obliged to use a new power set in place of their damaged device. Riku experiences the receiving end of the similar predicament that Seven and Zero had after losing to Gillvalis. Likewise, Ultraman Hikari provides Zero his own Geed Riser and New Generation Capsules to access Zero Beyond; Hikari does the same by having Pega deliver the Ultra Z Riser to Riku, along with the Ginga, X, and Orb medals to access Galaxy Rising.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: An underlying theme from episode 20 onwards. It comes into full circle in episode 21; where GAFJ developed a superweapon that could destroy even the fabric of dimensions even when the heroes object to its use reveals that the humans on Z's earth at their absolute worst rearing on its ugly head. It doesn't help that said superweapon was built from the remains of a terrible-monster controlled by Yapool, an interdimensional being. Even Juggler starts to view Kuriyama's actions this way so much he glares at him with contempt.
- Humongous Mecha: STORAGE's modus operandi in against Kaiju usually involves unleashing past robot Kaiju against them. Sevenger and Windom are constructed by STORAGE themselves, whereas King Joe ends up being rebuilt into King Joe STORAGE Custom.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Episode 11 has Haruki exclaims that "The wait is over!" as he introduces the newly-built King Joe STORAGE Custom and its additions STORAGE made to it since salvaging it. Naturally, Shota brings him down from his excitement and points out that they already know that.
- Mech vs. Beast: STORAGE is an organization that builds giant robots to combat the threat of Kaiju and evil aliens on Earth, many episodes give focus to the battles and all the mechanics and processes that happen behind the scenes to make these battles possible, as well as the ramifications of such projects.
- Mentor Occupational Hazard: A non-fatal example, in the first episode Zero ends up trapped inside of a black hole, courtesy of Bullton spat out by Genegarg, before he is fully sucked inside of it he gives Z the Ultra Medals and Z Riser so he can continue the fight for him. He later escapes it using Shining Star Drive to reverse the effects, but ends up too drained to immediately assist Z and ultimately leaves the series for good once he recovers his energies, entrusting Earth to Z.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Haruki has this moment when he realizes that the Red Kings were trying to protect their egg, and recalling how his Disappeared Dad died to protect him as a child which leaves him shocked as he had just killed one of them despite them being similar and not evil or malicious at all.
- Mythology Gag
- Neronga and Erimaki Telesdon have parts of their body that is just too tempting to damage. In Neronga's case he gets his two long horns twisted backwards like in his original show. While Erimaki Telesdon is Telesdon with Jiras' frill he suffers the same harm as Showa Jiras by getting his frill torn off.
- Just as in Ultraman: The Ultimate Hero, a mated pair of Red Kings appear, and one is spared after the other is slain, who later comes comes back to be killed by a kaiju bioweapon. The differences being that neither one is colored red, and they have laid an egg together.
- Ultroid Zero absorbs Majaba into itself somewhere in Australia. This is a nod to Majaba's Australian origins, and it's also appropriate for Ultraman: Towards the Future's 30th anniversary.
- Mood Whiplash: One of the biggest occurs in episode 11. It starts off very typical, Haruki is Ultra-excited that the King Joe STORAGE Custom is finished. Then it gets serious when we learn about his backstory. Then it gets typical again as the monster action starts. Then it ends with Haruki wondering if he is the monster for fighting and killing one of the Red Kings for protecting their egg.
- Non-Standard Character Design: Z is the first Ultra Warrior since Ultraman Max with a forward crest.
- He's also the only Ultraman with the crystal-like textures in his eyes.
- Product Placement: In episode 4, Hebikura can be seen fidgeting with Rubik's Color Block, a harder variation of the Rubik's Cube made by MegaHouse Corporation.
- Red Is Heroic: Z's Beta Smash form is almost fully red with a white stomach and some black and orange stripes littered throughout. Still, he easily qualifies.
- Rookie Red Ranger: According to Zero, Z is still a trainee and he is perhaps 1/3 or half the strength of a full fledged Ultra Warrior.
- Beta Smash resembles another toku hero, something that attention is drawn to at one point.
- Gamma Future's Z Aias, a magic shield with seven layers and contains a seven-pointed star on the final layer, brings to mind the appearance of Archer's Rho Aias in the Fate Series.
- Shown Their Work:
- Episode 4 has Yuka checking on Windom's schematics while looking at the algorithms in her book. Those are accurately written by a cooperation with a professor in Gifu University.
- Many of STORAGE's protocols and operations in the series are accurate to those of militaries in real life.
- Spell My Name with an S: The first English press release referred to the show as "Ultraman Z" but the character as "Ultraman Zett". In Japan there's no real difference between the two, but Western English speakers would be likely to pronounce the letter as "Zee" if Tsuburaya didn't indicate otherwise. Averted after that, as further English news items consistently used "Z", with an occasional "(Zett)" afterwards as a pronunciation reminder; even the original press release on the English Ultraman Galaxy website was updated to reflect this.
- This is happening more and more with the monsters. Tsuburaya doesn't use fan translations for the kaiju, rather going for their own version of taking the Japanese kanji and then translating it into English. Sometimes they match up with the fan-translations, but there's some rather noticeable diversions. Gigass became Guigass. Gillbaris became Gillvalis. Reigubas became Reicubas. And probably the biggest one of all, Jirass became Jirahs.
- Spiritual Antithesis: To Ultraman Leo and Ultraman Geed:
- For the former, both series featured an Ultraseven-based Ultra as a mentor to the hero and a robotic being called Sevenger. The only main difference is that in Leo while unable to transform into Seven, Dan Moroboshi spends the entire series putting Gen Ohtori through a gruesome training regimen each time the latter is facing powerful monsters. Whereas Zero reluctantly took Z as his disciple as the latter somewhat agitates him. However, Zero in this series, got Put on a Bus in another world for several episodes and ultimately leaves Earth to resume his duties in the Inter-Galactic Defense Force, which leaves Z to his own devices by having bonded with a human host and discover what it means to be an Ultraman. On top of that, Z lacks the serious storytelling of Leo.
- Riku's appearance in this season is an inversion of Zero's role in the former's home series. Given the fact that both of them receive new power-ups that uses the powers of the New Generation Ultras. Though, Geed himself is a New Generation Hero, using his predecessors' Medals, not unlike Zero Beyond which uses not only Ginga, X, and Orb, but also Victory.
- While there is a looming alien big bad and the aggressive Genegarg the bulk of Z's early episodes are strongly avoiding random aggressive alien conquerors along with Orb and Geed's 'summon a kaiju' gimmick but playing up that the Earth kaiju are animals and are disturbed. Neronga was hungry for the new power plant, Gomora was being re-located so construction could continue, Telesdon was driven angry by the noise of an underground city being built and Peguila was woken up by Global Warming. Z is empathizing that humans and kaiju living together is tricky.
- Spiritual Successor:
- Keeping up with Ultraman Taiga being one to Ultraman Tiga, Z is one to Ultraman Dyna in that they are both the second entries of their respective eras (Heisei for Dyna, Reiwa for Z) and serving as a followup for their previous series in some form (Tiga and Dyna share the same universe and the latter series serves as a sequel to the former. Whereas Taiga and Z are Ultras from the Land of Light who are connected to one of the Ultra Brothers — Taiga is the son of Ultraman Taro and Ultraman Ace is later revealed to be Z's godfather). Both series' endgame arc even deal with a splinter faction within the main attack team's organization who plan to construct their artificial Ultraman (Terranoid and Ultroid Zero) to be used to protect humanity, only to be hijacked by an alien force (Spheres and Celebro), resulting them into being mutated into an Eldritch Abomination (Zelganoid and Destrudos) to be used against mankind. It also helps that Dyna, along with Tiga and Gaia serve as the main component for Z's psychic-oriented Gamma Future.
- Also, to Ultraman Max. Both shows are also set on different universes separate from the main Showa continuity, but nonetheless have a Sequel Episode to a Showa entry (Max has "The Untargeted Town" and Z has "Do-Over in the Year 2020", both of which are continuations of storylines started in Ultraseven and Ultra Q). Both series have a fair share of lighthearted moments and a general relaxed tone, though that doesn't mean their respective series does not have its serious moment. Matters also help that Max was streamed on YouTube at the same time that Z was first aired.
- Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
- STORAGE's arsenal consists mostly of giant robots designed to kill monsters that appear from nowhere. As such, very few backers are willing to fund them for further robots.
- The minute Celebro-as-Kaburagi is sighted exacerbating a monster incident, the military police waste no time in giving chase to him.
- After STORAGE is disbanded, their resources are handed over to the regular military. Unfortunately for the regular military, their best pilot has no training when it comes to giant robots getting beaten with the strongest robot, King Joe, almost instantly. As such, his superiors are forced to bring in Yoko, STORAGE's best pilot, in order to ensure their own robot can be used effectively, which she does by using the much less powerful Sevenger yet having more success. This also leads to her being rehired due to a shortage of possible candidates.
- Wham Episode:
- Episode 5 reveals that Hebikura is actually Jugglus Juggler in disguise the whole time!
- Episode 11: Haruki finds out too late when one of the Red King he and Z destroyed was actually a father to his unhatched egg. This would make Haruki question his own reasons for fighting and teach him the fact that kaiju are not just monsters, but living beings.
- Episode 21: STORAGE are ordered against their collective will to test a dimension-shattering superweapon for the GAFJ. After stalling for as long as they can, Yoko deploys the weapon against a horde of Kelbems and almost dies during the fallout, then STORAGE is disbanded anyway for its members' insubordination.