There’s a monster with a toothache. Another critter suffers indigestion and constipation. The anti-monster fighting crew this time, ZAT, drives around in a car sporting what amounts to a clown nose on its front bumper. Their aerial machines look like knock-offs in a drugstore’s minuscule toy section. Ultraman Taro’s audience – or, the entire genre’s viewership – moved in this direction.
Ultraman Taro isn’t without serious drama at times. Taro suffers defeat, and some episode titles refer to his graphic death. This was still the ‘70s – if Godzilla and Gamera shed blood, so too would Ultraman. Stories focus on kids blamed for things they didn’t do; for some reason, in a world where giant beasts exist, adults still don’t believe a monster is at fault. It didn’t have to make sense, but rather speak to an impressionable audience absorbing lessons on bravery, telling the truth, and working as a team.
Beginning to lock into Ultraman lore, there’s focus on making sense of things. Planet Ultra, the Ultra Brothers, and importantly, Ultra Mother play key roles throughout these stories. In terms of scale, multiple episodes bring these gargantuan heroes together in tag team brawls. Where a few previous Ultraman entries felt suffocated by Japan’s industrialization, Ultraman Taro brings eccentricity and color into this world. Beam weapons, of course, but ZAT uniforms and vehicles too, all bright red and blue. Goofy, wacky, and childish? Absolutely. Enormously fetching and entertaining? That too.
Starring this time is Saburo Shinoda, His role is that of a boxer, training hard, which gives the character some onus. He’s not without want to fight, and even beyond his granted Ultra powers, can keep brawling. While rarely sensible, Ultraman Taro offers a slight explanation as to why these heroes can karate their way out of danger. Paired with capable miniature sets and ever more outlandish creatures, Ultraman Taro takes the opportunity to go all out. The sheer zaniness makes for compelling middle school TV.
Following a pattern of other Mill Creek Ultraman Blu-rays, the masters look fine. There’s hardly any damage or deterioration. The 16mm source maintains consistency and purity. A stable grain structure pokes through best it can. Things go wrong in compression.
Each disc holds 10 episodes. At around 25-minutes each, that’s pushing things, but within reason. Still the end result is excessive blocking. 16mm requires more space. Sadly, that’s not happening here, and pleasing resolution is all but destroyed via the cramped encoding. Detail exceeds any prior release (legit or otherwise), but there’s a lot left on the film stock unseen.
Being such a perky and lively series, color takes a predominant role. That’s this Blu-ray’s benefit. High saturation brings out primaries, especially ZAT’s stuff. Their uniforms, their jets, etc. Even beam weapons, then clashing against brightly painted monster suits. It’s a visual delight, even if the rest crumbles a bit.
Other than some low-end that sounds modern, Ultraman Taro doesn’t alter the original audio. That’s a much needed first for Mill Creek’s Blu-ray series (although this was likely done by Japanese mastering and Mill Creek merely licensed the material). Finally, those familiar Toho stock explosions and missile launches stay untouched. While the boomy, loose bass certainly isn’t part of the mono origins, the step forward is appreciated.
Each episode sports DTS-HD, minimal in range as expected for ‘70s TV. There’s enough fidelity to go around, acceptable and clean, which like the video, doesn’t endure any damage.
Nothing, but Mill Creek does again include a great booklet running through the show’s history, each episode, and more.
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Wild, surreal, and wacky, Ultraman Taro provides enjoyable kid’s escapism with the occasional message between monster brawls.
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