Looking Back at the Geniuses of the Ultraman Series

Looking Back at the Geniuses of the Ultraman Series

Hello and welcome, Ultraman Connection readers! We’ve examined a lot of different parts of the Ultraman franchise’s history, from its unsung heroes to some of its most famous events through the years. Since this week’s episode of Ultraman New Generation Stars took the opportunity to examine many of the aspects of “defense teams”, we here at Ultraman Connection wanted to pay homage to the brains behind their fantastic technology. 

Often we remember the VTOL jets, the classy and stylish Pointers, the sophisticated and advanced techniques of METEOR, and other incredible vehicles, weapons and inventions. But the characters who bring these pieces of technology to life are often even more memorable parts of their respective shows. The original 1966 Ultraman series had its fair share of fun, quirky cast members in the “Science Special Search Party”, better known as the SSSP. Mitsuhiro Ide stands out among them as a particular fan favorite, many decades later.

It’s important to note that the SSSP starts as an organization focused on scientific study and development, rather than being a military group who fights against Kaiju. Almost everyone on the team comes from a scientific or engineering background, and contributes their own specific expertise to the team. What’s Ide’s skill? Other than being a big, friendly goofball who can lighten the mood in the middle of an alien invasion, he’s responsible for developing most of the SSSP’s technology! 

Bazookas, laser guns, missiles, alien language translator modules, you name it – Ide probably has blueprints for it. 

Despite his impressive engineering skills though, some of Ide’s most memorable contributions come from his heart. In episode 23, “My Home is Earth”, Ide serves as the idealistic conscience of the SSSP team, when faced with the awful consequences of heartless, pragmatic politics. He’s disgusted by the thought of humanity’s own leaders casting aside Jamila as a casualty in the quest for scientific exploration and progress – ironically, a quest in which the SSSP itself serves an important role!

Ide’s sentiments sometimes hold him back, however. In episode 37, “The Little Hero”, Ide doubts his own role on the team, and questions why they need stronger weapons when they will never be as strong as Ultraman himself. He stays stuck in his own doubts until the efforts of an unlikely teammate – our good friend Pigmon, in fact – serve as a powerful, undeniable example to motivate Ide and the rest of the team. 

Appropriately enough, only a few episodes later in the series finale, Ide and the rest of the SSSP fight against impossible odds and are able to return that same courage. When facing the Space Dinosaur Kaiju Zetton, the final blow is delivered by humanity’s own technology, securing a victory that Ide, the SSSP, and the Earth as a whole can truly be proud of. 

As the saying goes, “genius” is rarely understood in its own time, but the “geniuses” themselves often doubt their own achievements, just like Ide. In the 2021 series Ultraman Trigger, Akito Hijiri faced many of these same doubts, even when considering the mind-bogglingly advanced tech he was responsible for, such as the Sparklence and Hyper Keys which are used to transform into Ultraman in the show!

Unlike Ide and the rest of the SSSP, Akito finds out his teammate, Kengo Manaka, is Ultraman pretty early on. He acts as Kengo’s partner, or rather, his rival since they are both complete opposites in terms of personality. Where Kengo is unfailingly cheerful and optimistic, Akito is a born pessimist and rarely cracks a smile. His personality is more understandable considering the tragedy which defines his character – and his motivation for fighting on the GUTS-Select defense team. 

Throughout the show, Akito is driven by the loss of his parents, and he creates new weapons and pieces of technology for the defense team in order to fight and protect other lives, so they won’t have to bear the same tragedy. But more than just making shiny guns which light up and make cool sound effects, Akito wants the power of Ultraman, and sometimes even seems to be jealous of Kengo’s role as the titular Ultraman Trigger.

Thankfully, as the series continues, and the two of them fight side-by-side against stronger threats against the Earth, they both grow to appreciate the others’ unique strengths and talents. By the time we see them again, 10 years later in Ultraman Decker, they’re still fighting as side-by-side as partners and friends on Mars, against the Spheres! 

Ide’s role on the SSSP team, and Akito’s friendship with Kengo within the GUTS-Select team, both represent something important about Ultraman overall. Neither the defense team, nor Ultraman, can stand alone against the threats they face. The defense team’s efforts – and their cool weapons – help each Ultra hero to live up to their greatest potential. In the same way Ultraman provides an example of courage and compassion which challenges humanity to live up to their potential.

So what happens when the resident “genius” of the defense team is also Ultraman? 

Gamu Takayama, who served as the titular hero in Ultraman Gaia, was responsible for much of the defense team’s technology – even before he officially joined XIG as a member himself! One of his most impressive contributions was the anti-gravity “Repulsor Lift” invention, which enabled the massive fortress housing XIG’s crew and vehicles to remain floating in the sky.

That’s already a pretty commending achievement, but Gamu wasn’t just called to serve on the team as a scientific advisor and consultant. He also fights alongside them as Ultraman. And like his other fellow geniuses, he often doubts his own skills, his achievements and even his own courage in both of those roles. 

Gamu is far from the only character in the show with a genius-tier intellect, and as threats against the Earth continue to escalate through Gaia, many of his fellow “Alchemy Stars” turn to despair, or even aid the forces who seek Earths’ destruction in the first place! It’s not hard to see why Gamu questions his own calling as Ultraman, when so many of his respected peers turn away from humanity, instead of using their intellect to seek ways to protect it. In the darkest moments of the series, it seems as if the two responsibilities Gamu holds – as a defense team member and as Ultraman – are too heavy for one person to bear.

Just like his predecessors, and his successors in later shows, Gamu wasn’t chosen to be Ultraman because he was the smartest person on Earth (Fujimiya, Ultraman Agul, would probably argue against that point anyways). It wasn’t because he was the strongest either. The real “genius” of all these characters isn’t just about how intelligent they are, or how powerful their inventions are. The power of Ultraman, and the power of humanity alongside Ultraman is not a competition, and neither Gamu nor any other hero in the franchise holds that distinction by themselves.

From the original series, to the modern day, Ultraman always challenges humanity to be better, and the defense teams of each series have answered that challenge in their own unique ways. In the same way, following that same example, the geniuses in each defense team contribute something greater than just cool guns or spaceships to humanity. Their success, their intellect, and their courageous efforts within their teams allows humanity in turn to achieve feats that would be impossible for any single person alone. 

Let that be a lesson for all of us nerds out there.