Plot: A number of mysterious events have been unfolding in Japan of late, with stories of strange discoveries, inexplicable experiences, and even otherworldly creatures being told more and more often. Yuriko (Hiroko Sakurai) is a journalist who wants to unlock the truth behind the curious events, with some help from a pilot named Majome (Kenji Sahara) and his co-pilot Ippei (Yasuhiko Saijo). The trio travels to remote locations to follow up on rumors of strange happenings and their adventures prove to be more than a little wild. The amazing claims made by some witnesses are indeed true and a host of scientific marvels are on the loose, some of whom could pose a serious threat to the world if left unchecked. Can science provide answers to keep these mysterious events from spiraling out of control and will the investigative team be able to survive all these incredible encounters?
Entertainment Value: Ultra Q is a “monster of the week” type television series, but it is able to carve its own niche thanks to the obvious kaiju influence and a thoughtful, scientific approach to the narratives. Unlike Ultraman, which would soon follow in Ultra Q’s wake, this series isn’t about a superhero that battles monsters, instead normal people navigate the dangerous situations. I know the idea of people using science and the power of observation to defeat mysterious creatures might not sound exciting, but the show is able to make it work quite well. An almost X-Files feel creeps in as well, with a group of recurrent characters that track these curious events and are involved, but not always in a direct fashion. Kenji Sahara and Hiroko Sakurai were my personal favorites of the show’s core cast members, but the performances are solid across the board, though some over the top turns crop up. But in a show with cheesy monsters and outlandish creatures, a little over the top fits in just fine. The production values are good, especially the visuals, which really shine. I think these Ultra Q episodes feel more like concise kaiju movies, rather than television episodes, thanks to polished cinematography and above average production value elements. As with most shows, some episodes are better than others, but I think overall, these twenty-eight installments keep a steady level of quality that genre fans should appreciate.
Although science and reason often factor into the battles against these monsters and experiments gone wrong, Ultra Q is by no means a slow or passive experience, not even close. The rubber suit monsters and hokey, but super fun special effects ensure there is a good amount of kaiju style mayhem in most episodes. This even includes some clashes between creatures at times and given the “monster of the week” theme, a wide scope of beasts, science projects, and mutants can be found on showcase here. The first episode even repurposes the Godzilla rubber suit to forge a slightly different monster, which is a fun start to the series. I love monster movies and so I was drawn in from the jump here, as it was so cool to check out the assortment of creations that were drummed up, not to mention the well written narratives these colorful monsters were placed into. So yes, the creatures are a massive draw in Ultra Q, but the time is taken to give some background and develop a story in each case as well. As I mentioned before, some work better than others, but the effort made is always evident and I think the work put in helps the show retain a lot of replay value. I had a great time with Ultra Q and for anyone with even a casual interest, this is highly recommended.
The Disc: Mill Creek Entertainment has answered the pleas of fans and delivered the definitive release of Ultra Q. This Blu-ray edition serves up gorgeous new transfers of these classic episodes that are super clean, putting all previous incarnations to shame, to say the least. The black & white visuals here are stark and quite refined, offering terrific depth and detail throughout. Some light debris can be seen at times, but it is minor and never a distraction in the least. This simply makes all other US releases obsolete, a fantastic visual treatment.