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Ultraman Ace’s significance to the series/franchise is the creative team fully realizing there’s cause to build on what came before. In Ace there’s acknowledgement of a broader Ultra universe, with frequent cameos from other Ultra brothers, and the reach toward a new demographic – Ultraman Ace is the first to introduce a women to the Ultra-verse as something other than a military member. Yuko (Mitsuko Hoshi) pairs with Seiji (Keiji Takamine) to form this iteration of the superhero, or at least until Yuko effectively disappears partway through the series’ run.

That’s progress, even if Ultraman Ace found itself comfortably complacent. Japan’s transformation into an industrialized society comes through in the action, staged on ever-more-empty sets, appearing more like a giant sandbox than miniature city. It’s as a pile of dirt was shoveled into the studio for each new episode, helping to keep the streets clean from growing pollution.

Without directly saying so, Ultraman Ace skews toward military satire

Other than Yuko and involvement from other Ultras, the routine conforms to the monster-of-the-week storytelling, and the military unit tasked to defend Japan (TAC) more useless than usual. Under attack from inter-dimensional beings, the TAC team shows regular disbelief when the sky cracks, a monster is spotted, or other mysterious happenings occur. This in a world already besieged prior by countless oddities. Faith in government institutions runs low, not only for the ineffective homeland defense, but for their sheer buffoonery. Without directly saying so, Ultraman Ace skews toward military satire.

Prior to joining TAC, Yuko and Seiji earn comically overwritten origins: Yuko is an orphanage nurse, and Seiji is a bread delivery man for said orphanage. It’s a positively saintly pair, more so than even Superman who does right by his country, for the good of everyone. It’s surprising neither rescues a puppy before being granted their powers.

When in hero-ing form as Ace, the duo engage in startling violence. Goofy monster suits or not, Ultraman Ace rips them apart, sometimes flesh torn off or heads decapitated, blood squirts and all. Ultraman Ace wasn’t the only giant monster-centric franchise to do this (Gamera utilized some gruesome kills, and even Toho’s Godzilla employed blood), yet this was television. For the kids. How fun.

Video

Mill Creek brings Ultraman Ace to US Blu-ray for the first time, the 16mm footage clean and freed from scratches or dirt. The source prints capture an unusually well-preserved ’70s era TV effort. Color glistens, especially TAC’s uniforms. Monster suits exhibit an incredible color range, undoubtedly hidden by SD TVs from the period; now those paint schemes pop. When the time comes for gore, reds hit a gorgeous peak.

Given the age, fading isn’t a concern, as each episode brings great, striking contrast and stellar black levels. Depth remains stable. Consistent dimensionality helps elevate the series beyond the lower budget TV origins. A times, Ultraman Ace looks convincingly theatrical.

Sadly, encoding bottoms out. Transferring 16mm to digital is rarely easy, yet compression parameters here smother the imagery. Whatever organic qualities were evident during scanning, they were lost when pressing them to disc. There’s no grain, just noise in gobs. Artifacting crushes detail, robbing images of their potential resolution. The HD gain is wasted because resolution can’t penetrate through the dismal digital haze.

Audio

As is sadly a norm for the vintage Ultraman Blu-ray releases, the DTS-HD mono tracks introduce new audio effects. These clash due to the fidelity differences in the elements, clearer and brighter than the vintage stock sounds. It’s nice to have a little bass in the mix, but clearly, those low-end brusts are out of place.

There’s nothing inherently wrong from an audio perspective. The classic materials sound fine, no hissing or popping, just naturally thin. The original Japanese dialog stays audible, even amid action.

Extras

Nothing, but the set does come with a well-designed/written booklet, complete with episode guide.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Ultraman Ace
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Series

Ultraman Ace doesn’t change the basic formula, but begins the franchise’s charge toward an interconnected superhero story.

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