New Ultra Seven 40th Anniversary Show now in Production
Author: James Ballard
Following from the immense success of ULTRAMAN (Urutoraman, 1966), Eiji Tsuburaya’s next creation, ULTRA SEVEN (Urutorasebun), made its first appearance on October 1st 1967. In Japan Ultra Seven’s popularity has continued to thrive, and for many fans it is viewed as the apex of Tsuburaya Productions’ Ultra Series, surpassing even the original ULTRAMAN.
This continued devotion subsequently led to the return of the character in original video spin-offs such as ULTRA SEVEN 1999 (Urutorasebun 1999 Saishuushou 6 Busaku, 1999) and ULTRA SEVEN EVOLUTION (Urutorasebun Tanjou 35 Shuunen Eboryuushon 5 Busaku, 2002), as well as the new character Ultra Seven 21 (read as “two-one” rather than “twenty-one”) in ULTRAMAN NEOS (Urutoraman Neosu, 2000). Ultra Seven’s most recent appearance was made in the television series ULTRAMAN MEBIUS (Urutoraman Mebiusu, 2006) and its accompanying theatrical film ULTRAMAN MEBIUS & ULTRAMAN BROTHERS (Urutoraman Mebiusu & Urutora Kyoudai, 2006.)
This year, in celebration of the character’s 40th anniversary, Tsuburaya Productions are set to return Ultra Seven to the small screen in an all-new series of television adventures entitled ULTRASEVEN X (Urutorasebun Ekkusu, 2007).
Principal photography on ULTRASEVEN X began last month on June 20th. The show is being shot in widescreen; a first for Tsuburaya’s Ultra hero series, although their shockingly-similar BIO PLANET WOO (Seibutsu Suisei Wuu, 2006) had previously been shot in widescreen for NHK’s relatively new high definition television service. ULTRA Q DARK FANTASY (Urutora Kyuu Daaku Fantajii, 2004) was also broadcast in widescreen, although this wasn’t one of Tsuburaya’s giant hero shows.
The targeted demographic is also changing for the new show. For the majority of the series run over the last four decades, the shows have been designed as either afternoon family programming or early morning kids shows. The first major change occured during Tsuburaya’s Ultra N Project, where ULTRAMAN NEXUS (Urutoraman Nekusasu, 2004) had been designed as a prime-time series, but eventually aired early Saturday mornings once the network got cold feet. While the film makers say ULTRAMAN NEXUS was eventually made for both an adult and child audience, ULTRASEVEN X is being produced for adults alone and will be broadcast from midnight. This follows a growing trend of late-night special effects programming in Japan, such as GARO (Garo, 2005), SH15UYA (Shibuya Fifutiin, 2005) and LION MARU G (Raionmaru Jii, 2006).
Modern Ultra series veteran Takeshi Yagi is in the directors chair for the first two episodes, as well as serving as the series producer.
Yagi’s involvement with Tsuburaya Productions’ Ultra series dates back to the mid-1990s, where he served as an Assistant Director for shows such as ULTRAMAN TIGA (Urutoraman Tiga, 1996). Yagi made his directorial debut on episode #4 of Tsuburaya Productions’ mini-series MOON SPIRAL (Muunsupairaru, 1996) for Nippon TV. He continued to serve as both a director and special effects director on shows such as ULTRAMAN GAIA (Urutoraman Gaia, 1998) and ULTRAMAN COSMOS (Urutoraman Kosumosu, 2001). Yagi was credited as the “main director” for ULTRA Q DARK FANTASY – the late-night revival of the classic Tsuburaya series ULTRA Q (Urutora Kyuu, 1966) – having directed five episodes for the series, including it’s premiere episode, and the same year went on to direct episodes of ULTRAMAN NEXUS.
Yagi’s big moment came in 2005, when he was appointed as the series producer for ULTRAMAN MAX (Urutoraman Makkusu, 2005). Yagi made the decision to bring in acclaimed directors Shusuke Kaneko and Takashi Miike to direct episodes for the series, and also served as a director and special effects director for several of the episodes himself. Last year he also directed two episodes of ULTRAMAN MEBIUS.
On June 28th, shooting for ULTRASEVEN X took place in a club in the Roppongi district of Tokyo, a location previously featured in “Stolen! The Max Spark”, an episode of ULTRAMAN MAX also directed by Yagi. The shoot that day began from 8:30am and ran late into the afternoon. The Roppongi club scene made sure there were lots of foreign extras on hand that day, including THE iDOL (2006) writer/director Norman England and the lovely Shelley Sweeney. Shelley is probably best remembered among genre fans for her portrayl of Susan, one of the Mechagodzilla pilots in GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA II (Gojira vs Mekagojira, 1993). Her other appearances include GODZILLA VS. DESTOROYAH (Gojira vs Desutoroia, 1995), ULTRAMAN TIGA (Urutoraman Tiga, 1996) and GODZILLA: FINAL WARS (Gojira Fainaru Uoozu, 2004) but to name a few. She made an appearance as a special guest at the G-Fest XIV event this past weekend. Also present was actor Toshiyuki Watarai, the motion capture actor and on-set voice of the character Ryuk in director Shusuke Kaneko’s DEATH NOTE (Desu Nooto, 2006).
ULTRASEVEN X debuts October this year in Japan.