ULTRAMAN MAX (TV, 2005)
I'm amazed at how the Tsuburaya Production Company keep taking a limited formula for a show and making it work so well. For every poor Ultraman series there are several great ones.
After the childishness of Ultraman Cosmos, Ultraman Max is a return to form. Not that the format is that much different, it's the more mature characters and the teen target audience that matter.
The series sits between the much more serious Ultraman Nexus and the latest, Ultraman Mebius. Max is invigorated by fast, inventive action. It's great to see their patrol cars finally fitted with useful gadgets - they can even fly out of trouble!
There's an emphasis on special guests and guest directors. None other than Takashi Miike came in to direct two episodes (15 and 16), wishing to take to any job offered to him. I've even recognised some of the guest actors, recruited from some recent, classic monster movies. For example, Steven Seagal's daughter Ayako Fujitani, and comedy relief maestro Yukijiro Hotaru, who both featured in the three recent Gamera movies, both star in episodes.
It's not dark like Nexus, Max has got tongue-in-cheek humour together with a remit for fast-moving action, making it a series that's enjoyable for adults too. The very silly episodes (like the Bad Scanners concert, where rock 'n' roll saves the world), is successfully funny. The series seemed to be veering towards self-parody to prepare audiences for the next series Ultraman Mebius.
On an irrelevant note, I don't understand it when someone in Earth defences spots a new monster they've never seen before, how in blazes do they know it's name?
The entire series of Ultraman Max is out on Hong Kong DVDs (examples pictured above) with English subtitles. There are also 2 CD albums of the soundtrack music.