When Mill Creek Entertainment acquired the rights to distribute the entirety of the Ultraman franchise, they of course started off with the original series (Ultra Q) and the most well-known entry (Ultraman). While they are still at it releasing the older series (you should see a review of Return of Ultraman on the blog pretty soon), they’ve also been putting out some of the newer series as well. In November, they put out Ultraman Orb and Ultraman Geed. Unfortunately, I was unable to get those two series for review on Geeky Hobbies, which is somewhat problematic as Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga is unsurprisingly a prequel to Ultraman Orb. Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga is also my first exposure to the new-school Ultraman content with its flashier (though still pretty cheesy) special effects and more serialized storytelling. I always prefer to watch franchises in as close to chronological order as possible, even when it isn’t really necessary. However, I did enjoy both Ultra Q and Ultraman when I reviewed them so, even though I hate watching things out of order, I was willing to do so with this. I’m sure it would have been slightly less confusing and I would have gotten a bit more enjoyment out of it if I had the context of Ultraman Orb, but I still found The Origin Saga to be a solid entry (though very different than the older Ultraman series that I have experience with). If this series is anything to go by, the newer series are certainly much better looking, have a lot more special effects, and attempt to do more with the concept and storytelling, but there’s just something about the cheesiness and the older practical effects of the older entries in the franchise that I slightly prefer.
This release consists of the 12-episode miniseries Ultraman Orb: The Origin Series as well as a series of ten 3-minute minisodes compiled into a 30-minute special called Ultra Fight Orb. Altogether, it totals up to a little under five and a half hours of content for about $12 on Amazon. The main entrée is of course Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga, which started airing immediately after Ultraman Orb (the first episode of The Origin Saga technically aired the day before the finale of Orb) but serves as a prequel series to it. Strangely enough, instead of being a typical Kaiju series it’s almost more of a morality tale about fighting and war. Kind of an odd subject for a kids series about Kaijus and giant protectors fighting one another but at least it tries something new. There’s still plenty of fighting but a lot of time is also spent on characters debating whether or not to fight and how to obtain peace (and if its even possible to achieve it without war).
The series begins with friends Gai and Jugglus Juggler (the two main characters of Ultraman Orb) reaching the Warrior’s Top and attempting to achieve the power of light. While both expect that Juggler will be the one chosen (as he is a much more experienced fighter), it actually picks Gai and gives him the power to become Ultraman Orb. Gai is also given his first mission, to protect the planet of Kanon which is under siege by Dr. Psychi, the Kaiju Bezelbs, and a series of monsters infected with Kugutsu (which eliminates free will). Psychi’s goal is to create a new world without free will (and thus, in his opinion, a world without fighting or war). There’s also an earthling (Shohei) and an Empress (Amate) that are connected psychically via a seed from the planet’s Tree of Life. The Empress can turn into a giant known as the War Deity and several other Ultramen (from other past series) make appearances throughout the show’s run.
If this series is anything to go by, the newer Ultraman content has some good positives but also some negatives compared to the older series I’m more used to. On the positive side, these newer series seem to be much more serialized than the old ones whose episodes were almost universally “(giant) monster of the week” in structure. I’m big on serialization on TV (its the main reason why I slightly prefer TV shows over movies) so of course this is mostly a positive. The only real negative from the serialization is that it means only a few different Kaijus are used as its mostly just Queen Bezelb and her brood. The other big positive is the better-looking Kaiju/Ultraman fights. Not everything is an improvement though. Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga has some occasionally mediocre to bad CGI/special effects (that had me wishing for the practical effects of the classic series), a relative lack of monster fighting (though this picks up later in the season), less “cheese,” and a story that is decent but a bit too long-winded for its own good. Ultimately, Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga is highly watchable but I think I will always prefer the cheesiness of the older entries in the franchise over the newer ones.
Meanwhile, Ultra Fight Orb was pretty much a complete puzzle to me. It involves some sort of game (I’m not sure if its a card game or video game), several Ultramen I haven’t seen yet (as Mill Creek hasn’t released their series yet), and a plot involving Ultraman Orb using the skills of the other Ultramen to stop Reibatos from reviving 100 Kaijus from the monster graveyard. Even though this special is technically 10 3-minute episodes combined into one, I have no idea where most of the episodes “ended” and it feels more like an actual 30-minute special than a group of minisodes combined together (it flows much better than most webisode series). Ultra Fight Orb is notable for including the first appearance of Ultraman Geed. Whereas Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga was surprisingly exposition heavy, Ultra Fight Orb is pretty much non-stop fights with just a basic story to tie them together. While many of these fights are very heavy on the CGI (which looks hit or miss), there might legitimately be as many impressive fights in this thirty minutes as there was in the entirety of Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga. The story’s so-so but the action is quite good, it’s basically the polar opposite of this release’s main course.
Unlike Mill Creek’s Ultra Q: The Complete Series and Ultraman: The Complete Series releases (which I gave high marks for the amount of effort put into them), Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga is much more bare-bones. The packaging is standard (instead of the awesome SteelBook packaging or the still pretty solid standard packaging that the older releases are getting) and no booklet is included. However, this release is also much cheaper than those are. I can certainly see why less effort was put into this release as it likely has a much smaller target audience than the older (and more classic) series. While it’s still a decent series, consumers probably weren’t going to want to pay any extra for deluxe packaging for a 12-episode miniseries like this.
Unsurprisingly, the video quality on Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga is greatly improved over the 50+ year old series in the franchise I’ve seen so far. Everything looks much more clear and polished (as you would expect for a series made about 50 years later). The only problem is that the crystal clear video quality also makes some of the less than stellar special effects the show uses look even more obvious and out of place. Otherwise though, Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga looks great on Blu-ray.
Ultimately, while I enjoyed my time with Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga I prefer both of the other Ultraman series I have seen so far (Ultra Q and Ultraman). This series is still good enough on its own merits, just not as heavy on the campiness and cheesiness that I love. I did, however, like the addition of a serialized story even though it does overstay its welcome a bit. If you only like the Ultraman series for the cheese factor, I’m not sure Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga is for you. Between Dr. Psychi and the over-the-top acting, there’s some cheese here but its far more fleeting than the older series. Otherwise, if campiness isn’t all that you’re looking for in these Ultraman releases, Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga is a solid entry that is probably worth your time.
Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga: The Complete Series was released on Blu-ray on February 25, 2020.
Buy Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga: The Complete Series on Amazon: Blu-ray
We would like to thank Mill Creek Entertainment for the review copy of Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga: The Complete Series used for this review. Other than receiving the review copy we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copy had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.