DVD REVIEW: ULTRAMAN MEBIUS & ULTRAMAN BROTHERS
New DVD Collectors Set With A Few Surprises
Author: James Ballard
Official Website: Ultraman-Movie.com
Last summer’s hit movie ULTRAMAN MEBIUS & ULTRAMAN BROTHERS (Urutoraman Mebiusu & Urutora Kyoudai, 2006) from Tsuburaya Productions was released on DVD in Japan on January 26th. Available alongside the regular one-disc issue of the film is this rather special two-disc Memorial Box.
MEMORIAL BOX: What’s Inside
The box itself is constructed with rather sturdy cardboard, with the outer design printed on a metalic foil surface. The design represents one of the most iconic scenes from the film, with the seven Ultra characters standing in line; Ultraman Ace, Zoffy and Ultra Seven on the back, Ultraman Mebius on the spine of the box, and Ultraman, Ultraman Taro and Ultraman Jack on the front. On all three sides, the English title “Ultraman Mebius & Ultraman Brothers” is used in place of the Japanese title. The whole set is wrapped around by the typically Japanese obi-strip – a piece of paper used as a means of advertistment and providing technical information to consumers, which can be seen wrapped around almost all Japanese music and movie releases.
Inside the box, the DVDs are contained inside a regular white-style Amaray DVD keep case, with a flipper section in the middle to hold the second DVD disc. Along with the discs, the case also contains a small 8-page “Ultraman Mebius & Ultraman Brothers Guide Book”, which features profiles for both the human and monster cast, as well as interviews with screenplay writer Keiichi Hasegawa and cameraman Soh Takahashi. Also inside is a small double-sided insert outlining the DVD menu hierarchy for the two discs.
However, without a doubt, the most impressive part of the package is the inclusion of two fantastic books.
First is the film’s screenplay, a 130-page reproduction of director Kazuya Konaka’s personal copy, every page filled with his hand-written notes, changes and ideas. For the Japanese-literate, this is an incredible insight into the evolution of the movie from paper to film. For those that can’t read Japanese, there is still perhaps some enjoyment to be found in holding one of the uniquely numbered limited edition reproductions of the script.
Finally is huge 320-page book containing the complete collection of hand-drawn storyboards. Unlike the screenplay, whether you can read Japanese or not the storyboard collection offers a fantastic visual comparison of the pre-production vision of the story by director Konaka to what was realized in the final cut of his film.
The first disc contains the film and a select few special features. Upon entering the disc the film will begin to play automatically. To reach the main menu, you must either press the Menu button on your remote or wait until the end of the movie for the main menu to appear.
The film is presented in its original theatrical ratio of approximately 1.85:1, and features anamorphic enhancement for widescreen televisions. The film print used for the transfer is free of hairs, speckles and other notable damage that can occur, although this is hardly surprising for a film less than a year old.
The digital transfer is very well done, only a slight step down from the Japanese DVD release of the last film, ULTRAMAN THE NEXT (Ultraman, 2004). For the most part the film looks sharp and clear. The black levels and color reproduction is absolutely wonderful, and really does justice to the vibrant and colorful cinematography just as it was in the theatrical release.
On occasion, however, there appears to be some slight macro-blocking artifacts. This is caused by the digital compression process onto a DVD, and gives a visual “blocking effect” where fine details are lost and become solid blocks of color. The amount of macro-blocking on this transfer is almost minimal and very infrequent, and will most likely be unnoticable to most viewers. The occurances are mostly limited to high motion shots with lots of finer details, generally during explosions with flying debris, or in the rays fired by the Ultra and alien characters. There is a very small amount of edge enhancement (a halo effect around the edges of objects), but this is once again minimal and limited to a select number of scenes. Overall, the video quality is of Bandai Visual’s generally high standard.
As for the audio, the disc offers three different options. The first and default audio option is the original Japanese 5.1 surround theatre track, presented in Dolby Digital. This is one of the better 5.1 tracks I’ve heard in a while, making very good use of all the available channels. The opening battle at the beginning of the film is a perfect example of the use of the 5.1 channels, with the sounds and screams of the four Ultra brothers circulating around the room with the monster U-Killer Saurus firing rays and swinging the Ultras around in all directions.
The second track on the disc is a 2.0 Dolby Surround downmix of the original Japanese track. While not an option you need to consider if you have a home cinema sound system, this is certainly the better option to use on a simple setup. In the event that you’re listening using a set of good headphones, the sound on this track is reproduced especially well.
The third and final audio option is an audio commentary track with director Kazuya Konaka, screenplay writer Keiichi Hasegawa and CGI director Ichiro Itano.
Unfortunately, unlike the release of the last film ULTRAMAN THE NEXT, this disc does not feature English subtitles.
The DVD menus on this disc are static/non-animated and feature anamorphic enhancement. They serve their basic purpose, and allow you to play the movie, browse through the chapter selection, change the language and subtitle options, and access special features.
The available bonus material on this disc mostly consists of various promotional videos. They are all presented in their original ratios, but do not feature anamorphic enhancement:
- Teaser Trailer
- Theatrical Trailer
- Theatrical Trailer (Extended Version)
- 30-second TV Spot
- 30-second TV Spot (Dandy-4 Version)
- 15-second TV Spot
- Shochiku Lineup Press Conference Promotional Video
- Theater Lobby & Retail Store Promotional Video
Last but not least, there is also a Digital Gallery option which offers a fairly large selection of monster designs and artwork to browse through.
As you would expect, the second disc contains the majority of the bonus material. On here you’ll find:
- Cast Interviews
- Ultraman Train
- Deleted Scenes
- Full Size Party Scene
Running just shy of thirty minutes, the featurette quite simply titled “Making” follows the film through the main production and post-production processes. This opens with crank-in in November 2005 as the main cast begin location shooting in Kobe, the city in which the film is set. The first half continues to cover the live-action shooting with the cast. Around the middle featurette, we see ‘behind the scenes’ footage from the 40th Anniversary Ultraman party held at the Seaside Hotel Maiko Villa in Kobe, which was featured during the rolling credits at the end of the movie. The second half of the featurette contains footage of the live-action special effects production, as well as CGI design and other various visual effects production. The featurette closes quite fittingly with the public premiere screening at the Prince Cinema in Shinagawa, Tokyo, on September 16th 2006, introduced by the main cast and director Kazuya Konaka.
The “Cast Interviews” featurette runs for little over ten minutes. The interviews were conducted during a crew party at the La Forte Hotel in Tokyo. Interviewed are Susumu Kurobe (Hayata/Ultraman), Koji Moritsugu (Dan/Ultra Seven), Jiro Dan (Goh/Ultraman Jack), Keiji Takamine (Hokuto/Ultraman Ace), Shunji Igarashi (Mirai/Ultraman Mebius) and Aiko Ito (Aya).
“Ultraman Train” once again runs for around ten minutes, and features footage from July 13th 2006 aboard a specially decorated JR “Ultraman Train”. Both the interior and exterior of the train was elaborately decorated to promote the new film. On the outside, the carriages were covered with large posters featuring the various Ultraman characters from the film. The inside was filled with flyers, factoids and quizes about Ultraman history. Of course, the main addition was the cast, crew and Ultraman characters aboard for the ride to meet the public.
As with DVD release of the previous film, ULTRAMAN THE NEXT, the disc contains a good selection of deleted scenes to enjoy (although most are actually just extended). There are eleven in total, astonishingly nine of which are special effects scenes. This includes longer versions of the opening battle on the moon and Ultraman Mebius’ fights with the various aliens. Though all contain background music, many of the scenes are devoid of sound effects. With most of the fight sequences, it’s easy to see why the cuts were made. The extended versions can look a little clumsy and/or slow paced, the cuts in the final film giving the action a much more steamlined effect. There are some unfortunate cuts however, Ultraman Mebius’ second battle with Alien Nackle and Alien Guts in particular (as this scene has a complete sound effects track, one would assume this was cut down quite late in post-production.) All the extended scenes run for approximately fifteen minutes in total. All the scenes are also presented in their original ratios and feature anamorphic enhancement.
The final feature, “Full Size Party Scene”, is the footage seen during the rolling titles of the film, though as the title suggets is in full size. Some of the dialogue is also audible, which wasn’t originally heard in the film. The feature runs little over two minutes, and is set to composer Toshihiko Sahashi’s new Ultra brothers theme music.
Disc Distributor: Bandai Visual
Catalogue Code: BCBS-2844
UPC Code: 4 934569 628442
Retail Price: 8,190 JPY (approx. $65 USD)
Region Code: 2 (Japan, Europe)
Colour System: NTSC
DVD Format: Single Sided & Dual Layered (disc-1), Single Sided Single Layered (disc-2)
Video Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (main feature), 4:3/Letterboxed (features)
Main Feature Runtime: 93mins
Main Feature Chapter Stops: 18
Main Feature Audio Tracks: Japanese (5.1), Japanese (2.0), Audio Commentary (2.0)
Main Feature Subtitles: Japanese