In recent years, Tsuburaya has made leaps and bounds in its attempts to bring the beloved Ultraman franchise to a global audience. Now, the 32nd entry in the series takes an even bigger step, giving fans outside of Japan official access as it debuts on home soil.
This past weekend Ultraman Z made its debut on Japanese TV, introducing the newest size-changing alien hero to the ranks of Ultra-legend: the titular Z (pronounced Zett), an apprentice of prior Ultra hero Ultraman Zero. Fusing with Haruki Natsukawa (Koshu Hirano), a human working for the anti-alien defence force STORAGE after a fatal battle nearly kills them both, Ultraman Z works alongside STORAGE to protect the world from the threat he and his master fought across the galaxy.
Don’t take my word for it, though: you can just straight-up watch the first episode of the season on Tsuburaya’s official YouTube channel, complete with English subtitles. It debuted there once it broadcast early Saturday morning in Japan!
This isn’t the first time there’s been official access to Ultraman in English. Prior seasons have debuted on anime streamer Crunchyroll, plus there’s Mill Creek Entertainment’s ongoing process of bringing classic Ultraman shows all the way from the franchise’s origins as Ultra Q to Blu-ray, and Tsuburaya has been releasing classic series subtitled on YouTube in recent months. But Ultraman Z is the first time ever the company’s done a simulcast release for a current Ultraman show — even if episodes will only be available for two weeks after the first broadcast, it’s still a huge step forward in providing access to one of the most iconic Japanese superhero franchises around.
It’s not the only thing Tsuburaya has been doing this year in its quest to bring Ultraman to an international audience. Aside from the aforementioned streaming and Blu-ray releases, there’s of course the Netflix animated adaptation of the Ultraman manga, confirmed for a second season. There’s also the upcoming ongoing Marvel Comics series The Rise of Ultraman from Kyle Higgins, Mat Groom, and Francesco Manna that will re-imagine the original Ultraman for a contemporary Western audience, akin to Higgins’ work at Boom Studios on the excellent Power Rangers comic.
While Tokustatsu giants are slowly but surely embracing the fact that there are audiences willing to see these shows legally beyond Japan’s shores, it’s still cool to see that one of the most influential icons of the genre is leading the way in ensuring that accessibility. New episodes of Ultraman Z will be available on the official Ultraman YouTube channel every Saturday.