Brothers United

It’s not unusual for Ultraman to feature multiple heroes, fighting alongside one another. The change in Ultraman R/B brings together two siblings, gifted the power to merge and sync abilities. And also bicker. Because brothers.

The series plays out in two strictly defined acts. Ultraman R/B begins with an eccentric tech billionaire villain – outrageously overplayed for effect – aimed distinctly at kids. Prior Ultraman offerings sought dark, subversive themes; Ultraman R/B is not one of them, but that’s fine.

… Ultraman R/B feels right as part of this pop TV series

Lively family in-fighting satirize typical social dynamics, the high-energy monster brawls finally quieting tech executive Makoto Aizen (Motoki Fukami) amid frequent explosions. It’s repetitive, keen on selling toys, and the unending transformations clip the already thin storytelling time (minus opening/closing credits, each episode is lucky to reach 20-minutes). Still, Ultraman R/B doesn’t veer from the formula, laced with visual effects and continuing the drama from inside the galactic hero forms.

In the second half, Saki Mitsurugi (Ayana Kinoshita) brings a compelling force to Ultraman R/B. Evil, but empathetic. Vengeful, but pure. There’s no certainty with her, and in replacing the outlandish Aizen, the series finds its footing. Suddenly, the brotherly squabbles seem quaint, forcing the family to unite to save Earth, using the simplistic for-kids baseline as a mere set-up for the genuine consequences of their arguing.

Twists and mysteries build, held to the final episode or two before finally relenting with answers. It’s not even clear why the brothers were granted powers until the last few minutes, flawlessly connecting Ultraman R/B to its familial themes and believing in one another. Simple, yet told with clever, misdirecting complexity, clear enough for the young demographic, sharp enough to keep adults fooled.

The explanation involves black holes, Hadron colliders, multiverses, and planet-sized threats. Ludicrous sci-fi, if enough to catch the interest of grade school students, eager to explore these ideas. Mix that with gorgeous miniatures, awesome monster suits, and jumbled make-it-up-as-they-go lore, and Ultraman R/B feels right as part of this pop TV series.

Video

Mill Creek transparently encodes (mostly) this digitally-shot series. HD video shows only rare compression issues, the five discs enough to host 25 episodes. Minimal noise (limited to just a handful of scenes) pose no threat to the superb clarity. Definition handles precise facial texture, sharpness unwavering. Delicate touches to suits and miniatures stick out in the chaos.

Flashy backgrounds and laser beams heighten saturation levels, going for bold primaries. One of the monsters is a blue ape-like creature, its skin beautifully represented on these discs. The Ultra brothers carry their own aesthetics, even when not in hero form, easily identified by the pleasing color reproduction.

Ultraman R/B only turns toward darkness in later episodes, utilizing rich black levels then to perk up dimensionality. Contrast is never questionable either. Well-lit special effect scenes recreate exterior sunlight convincingly, and simulated heat within beams captures a blinding white.

Audio

Capable DTS-HD stereo (Japanese only, with subtitles) splits wide on occasion, but lacks finer precision. Action primarily sounds centered, moving in extreme situations only. For TV on a budget, the mixing follows typical expectations, even if shows like this beg for greater separation given their visual scope.

Some small energy runs down into the subwoofer, accentuating explosions to add mild range. Again, it’s limited by format.

Extras

Nothing, although Ultraman R/B does come in an optional package that includes its theatrical movie finale. Or, you can buy each separately.

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 R/B
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
3

Movie

After an inconsistent start, Ultraman R/B finds its footing through a complex villain, challenging the show’s family dynamics.

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