Ultraman Z was one of 2020’s sleeper hits. While it is part of a franchise that stretches back to 1966, many outside of Japan are unfamiliar with the series, though its spin-offs, like the Netflix anime and the Marvel comic, have made Ultraman more known in recent years. Until now, the live-action tokusatsu show was something that English-speaking audiences could only view via sporadic physical and digital releases.
However, Ultraman Z has changed this. While the show was broadcast on TV networks in Japan, Tsuburaya Productions also recently released the show on its YouTube channel, complete with English subtitles. This means that many people who had never seen an Ultraman show before finally got the chance to watch the series. This resulted in the show going somewhat viral, with many sites included it on their best of 2020 lists. In fact, it was so popular that Tsuburaya Productions are doing a rerun of the series on its YouTube channel exclusively for international fans, giving those who missed it a chance to dive in from the start.
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Ultraman Z follows Haruki Natsukawa, a pilot for a group called STORAGE. STORAGE uses robots to fight giant monsters that often threaten Japan. However, when a monster called Genegarg lands from outer space, Haruki seems to be stuck in an unwinnable fight. But, a hotheaded Ultraman called Ultraman Z also lands on Earth after chasing Genegarg through space. Ultraman Z fuses with Haruki, and the pair head out on a quest to defend Earth from kaiju threats.
It isn’t hard to see why Ultraman Z proved so popular with viewers, with its fun and memorable characters, including several familiar faces from previous Ultraman shows. The plot perfectly balanced suspense, comedy and action, keeping you on the edge of your seat the entire time. The fight scenes were also excellent, featuring brilliant choreography, amazingly designed monster suits as well as hyper-detailed miniature sets.
After the success of Ultraman Z, it has to be asked whether other companies will follow this YouTube trend. Toei seems to be testing the waters with this model by releasing classic episodes of Kamen Rider on its YouTube page. And it isn’t hard to see the appeal. The format presents a way for a company to generate hype and interest in its shows without needing to make a deal with a streaming service or TV network, allowing the company to retain near-total control of the show and its release schedule.
YouTube has a massive reach, and due to its algorithms and shareability, it makes it easy for people to stumble across a new show and, if they enjoy it, share it with their friends. That and YouTube’s ad system allows a company to monetize a show while keeping it free to view, meaning that viewers who usually wouldn’t watch the show are more likely to give it a shot. However, Tsuburaya Productions have not released information about Ultraman Z‘s YouTube earnings, so we can’t say for sure how the money compares to other release methods.
Time will tell if other companies follow Ultraman Z‘s lead. Until then, the rerun gives fans another chance to enjoy one of 2020’s most hopeful and exciting shows. And with the release of Shin Ultraman just around the corner. This is an excellent and cost-effective way to introduce yourself to this legendary franchise.
Episode 1 of Ultraman Z “Chant My Name!” is out now on the Ultraman Official by Tsuburaya Productions YouTube channel.
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