Anime News Service-Review: Ultraman Tiga - Dyna - Gaia

Ultraman Gaia By Daniel Zelter

I first got into Ultraman when one of my local stations showed the Australian remake. Other than having an entirely Australian cast, the monsters and fights seemed very close to the Japanese version. And for a while, I was so into the show I would play the Bandai Super Nintendo game. (I've even seen clips of the 60's dubbed versions which were still better dubs than the 60's Giant Robo series known over here as "Johnny Soko and his Spinning Toy") For those who aren't aware, Ultraman(at least from what I remember) is a long running series about a special taskforce which fights aliens(aka GUTS); and one of them has the power to turn into a giant robot known as Ultraman. Each Ultraman then uses wrestling techniques and lasers to subdue the said monster. Anyway, after seeing these dvd's in my store, I knew I had to rent them.

Tiga and Dyna is about the newest generation of heroes-the Super GUTS. They allow a mysterious Dr. Kusaragi to "borrow" their fighting styles in order to power up a space ship(with a cannon reminiscent of Yamato), which is supposed to be more reliable against aliens than Ultraman Dyna. (The current Ultraman tv series this movie is based on.)Unfortunately(and predictably), Kisaragi is really being possessed by a group of aliens who use the space ship(which can transform into a giant robot)to wreck havok on earth. Asuka(the person who can turn into Dyna) and his girlfriend Mai are badly hurt in the on-going battle; so Asuka tries to find out how Ultraman Tiga(the last Ultraman)managed to save the world, so he can use that same technique. If you've seen enough anime, this is not the movie for you, as the dialogue has enough cliches to fill the Grand Canyon. ("Human beings can do anything", "Human beings are weak and therefore deserve to be destroyed", it's all there!)

Not to mention the actors for this film, particularly Takeshi Tsuruno(Asuka)are really annoying, since they deliberately try to over-act. (For example, in one scene, Asuka and the GUTS captain discuss this threat as if it were a baseball game. But the worst scenes are when they get a child with an Ultraman figure to try to help raise morale among the population. The product placement and the fact that they used a kid really cheapens the drama.)

And I'm assuming that-for marketing purposes-Asuka's supposed to be a cross between a bishounen and a rebel, but he comes off as an annoying jackass similar to Freddie Prinze Jr. Why Mai seems to care about him is beyond me. If it weren't for the comic relief of Ryo Kinomoto, who plays the GUTS captain, I really wouldn't be able to stand this movie. On the plus side, the cgi works, with ships that look more realistic than anything from the recent Star Wars films; and the fact that its from Studio GONZO(Blue Sub No.6)might be enough for you to want to check this movie out. But the other problem with the film is that relationships from other Ultraman series are mentioned, so you can't entirely enjoy Tiga and Dyna as a stand-alone movie.

On the other hand, this isn't a problem with Ultraman Gaia. In this movie, Tsutomu, a grade-school kid, is an Ultraman Gaia (the Ultraman which apparently comes after Dyna)otaku, with merchandise all over his room. Unfortunately, his grades are in trouble, and he's not popular with his peers. Even his friends(including the new student Lisa Nanase) don't take him seriously when he regales them with his dreams involving Gaia. So when he sees a mysterious red ball which grants him any wish he wants, he decides to summon Gamu(the bishounen pilot who is really Ultraman Gaia)to his world. Of course, the bullies who picked on Tsutomu find out about the ball's powers and use the ball to summon deadly monsters. Gamu is then in for the fight of his life, as he tries to protect Tsutomu's world from being destroyed.

There were a lot of reasons I liked Gaia more than Tiga and Dyna. One, the acting was much better, especially from the actor who portrayed Gamu. His friendship with Tsutomu was so realistic and meaningful that no yaoi doujinshi artists could ruin it, even if they tried. I also liked the use of fire and explosions to demonstrate the scope of the power of the monsters. Combine those with harrowing moments(such as when the children are holding on to upturned balconies),and you get one of the most dramatic and powerful kaiju films for your money. On a side note, Gaia also has a more memorable theme song. Finally, even though characters from the Gaia series appear, their relationships are kept to a minimum, so you can enjoy the movie without needing to know who's who.

Since I'm not really a tech-head like people who run other anime sites, I'll just say I liked the Japanese audio on both dvd's, and had no problems with the track. (I didn't hear the dub.) The picture was lovely, and had a nice widescreen format for the viewer to appreciate all of the action. My only gripe is the theme songs at the end-as well as the credits-weren't subbed, and I'd really like to know who played Gamu, as well as the staff who produced the special effects.

Anyway, if you need to know the cast for Ultraman Tiga and Dyna, go to http://us.imdb.com/Title?0184974. The director and writer for Gaia is mentioned at http://us.imdb.com/Title?0184973.

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