I’ve always had a somewhat tenuous relationship with the Ultraman franchise. It’s a franchise that I’ve always really wished to get into and enjoy because I do sincerely respect the amount of effort and love that seems to go into their various series. I want to be able to enjoy the series but I’ve always had that sort of boundary around my perception of what a tokusatsu should be that has made it hard to really get into any of the series‘. So as I was deciding my schedule for the Archives I decided to remedy my long and difficult relationship with Ultraman by choosing the franchise as the source for my next article.
As with Kamen Rider, though, it was kind of a question as to where in this very long running series to begin. This was made no easier with the somewhat lukewarm reception towards the Ultraman franchise amongst the western toku crowd resulting in a bit of a lack in subs for the various series. Then I remembered that my charmingly sly non-Aresol alter ego had purchased the entire original series of Ultraman on DVD several months prior. So my choice was made abundantly clear as I dived into the 1966 series of Ultraman with our titular character Hayata Shin and his alternate identity as Ultraman.
-Warning: There are things past this point that are spoilers. You’ve been warned, so don’t come complaining if something gets spoiled for you.-
In the future year of 1993, sent out on a mission to inspect a mysterious anomaly the deputy captain of the Scientific Investigation Agency, Hayata Shin, had his ship struck by an abnormal meteorite and was killed. The meteorite contained an alien being from Nebula M78 who felt remorse over what had happened and chose to merge his life with Hayata telling him that should he ever be forced into a desperate situation he could activate the Beta Capsule and he would transform into the alien’s form. After this day Hayata dubbed his alien half as Ultraman.
An interesting, and somewhat difficult thing to grasp at first, is the fact that Hayata is technically not Ultraman. Well, he is and he isn’t. Due to having his body merged with the alien that became known as Ultraman he is in a sense two people in one, but not. The person you see for the majority of the series is indeed Hayata and it is his choices and will that affects when Ultraman comes out and the actions that he takes. Think of their relationship in this way, Ultraman is a parasite and Hayata is the host. Thanks to Ultraman Hayata continues to live and is granted the ability to protect people. Thanks to Hayata Ultraman can survive on a planet that is unknown to him and essentially has a way of camouflaging himself. For the most part Hayata is in total control with the consciousness of Ultraman living within him, and interestingly enough this relationship is somewhat reversed when Ultraman is called upon with him being in control while Hayata’s consciousness resides in him. While they do rely on each other there isn’t really a great deal of interaction between the two and it is at most a very basic parasitic relationship.
Hayata is pretty much your standard strong, dependable hero type. He’s a very calm and responsible person, often going through dire efforts to protect his fellow squad members. This responsible nature often times puts him as a voice of reason as well as making him critical at times of his rather goofy and lighthearted teammates. While he can be a bit critical he always has good intentions for being so and keeps a very kind heart underneath it all, and because of all of this he shows a great potential for leadership. One such instance of his leadership skills comes when his captain became lost resulting in Hayata needing to lead the team. He takes up this responsibility without problem or doubt and commands that team with incredible prowess and competence. It’s also interesting to note that his responsible nature even stems into the usage of his powers as he often only uses them in case of emergencies or as last resorts. This precaution when using his abilities is attributed to the fact that the Ultraman powers are naturally limited by time causing Hayata to need to plan and adapt around this weakness.
Partially due to Hayata’s great sense of responsibility he is a rather dedicated person. Never once was it a case where Hayata questioned himself and his goal, always happily and quietly carrying out his mission. In addition to this he is also very dedicated to his crew having no problems taking orders and is never one to speak out against authority. His dedication to his team and to his mission as Ultraman stems far enough to almost cause him to pass up a chance to further his career, wanting instead to remain with his team and protect them. This dedication of his goes so far as to even cancel out any reflexes of fear, causing him to be very courageous in the presence of danger even when the other members of his crew would back down.
While he shows a good deal of potential for leadership Hayata is, however, a very quiet man and often steps out of the limelight, remaining in the background. While at first it would appear that he is simply a shy man that is not the case. Hayata is often the one to put two and two together and deduce the solution to whatever problem is at hand. This is because he takes his time and steps back to view and analyze the situation before acting. His quiet demeanor is often because of this contemplation over his current situation and is not always attached to his private attitude. As such he acts as a balance to his foolhardy teammates, allowing him to be able to pull the team out of several dire situations both as a human and as Ultraman. This tendency of his to take his time to view the situation serves to help his careful planning of his powers allowing him to better overcome his weaknesses and conserve his energy.
Despite not necessarily being a shy man he is however a rather private one, a trait that very much influences his choice to keep his Ultraman persona a secret. This choice becomes a rather confusing one however as there is no apparent draw back from revealing this secret making his need for privacy a more intense one than is originally perceived. Despite being a private person Hayata is nonetheless a very kind person to the extent of being self-sacrificial at times. Interestingly enough this selflessness isn’t a rash decision, as is a bit of a norm amongst protagonists of this type, but rather a calm and ration one. You see, Hayata isn’t one to rush into things without something planned out in advanced nor does he seem to ever panic, instead he remains calm, collected and adaptable to any situation. This calm attitude is what makes him easily the most reliable person within the team and always the best choice for getting things done without incident.
Despite his usual serious, though cheerful, demeanor it is with the discovery of the Monster Graveyard that we see a sadder side to Hayata. The Monster Graveyard is the result of all of the monsters that Hayata and Ultraman killed and hurled into space, collecting into one area in an endless drift through the darkness of space. Knowing of the fate of the monsters that he had killed Hayata shows a great deal of remorse over what he had done, asking them for forgiveness as he was just doing what he needed to protect the Earth. For the first time in the series we’re shown that this feeling actually extends to Ultraman as well as Hayata as the two stand in seclusion, dwelling on the things that they had done. It’s here that we see that while he may kill these creatures he nevertheless carries a great deal of sorrow over his actions.
Eventually there comes an incident were the crystal on Ultraman’s chest, which dictates how much power and there for life he has left, becomes damaged. At this time his commander by the name of Zoffy arrives on Earth to escort him back to their home planet. Ultraman refuses, declaring that such a thing would kill Hayata and that if he must leave then his life should go to Hayata. Zoffy takes pity on the two deciding to bestow upon Hayata a second life apart from Ultraman. While Hayata’s memory of his time as Ultraman seems to wane because of this event he is without a doubt saddened by the loss of his other half. This parting certainly feels permanent but it is shown in his later years that Hayata still maintains his position as Ultraman’s host should he ever need to return, and even without him he remains a wonderful and upstanding person.
Hayata’s relationships are actually not as strongly focused on as characters that I have previously covered. To his crew he is very much the voice of reason, someone that helps keep things on the straight and narrow when the rest of the team gets too laid back or ahead of itself. As mentioned previously he can be considered a bit strict because of this but it’s without doubt that he does care for his teammates. Interaction between him and the others is a bit scarce, however, but he does keep a steady dialogue with his captain as the two certainly display a deep respect for one another. While he isn’t the captain the others certainly take his criticisms and suggestions to heart, often for the betterment of themselves as it is Hayata that makes sure that no mistakes or courses of action are overlooked. Overall his relationships are slim but do in the end carry a meaningful impact on those involved.
While Hayata does have a lot of good qualities, when it comes to his personality, in comparison to his fellow crew members he is just simply average. He doesn’t have many, if any, quirks and no vices to speak of. He just doesn’t have the kind of personality that would stand out above those around, making him a very subdued protagonist, though in some cases he’s more relatable because of how average of a person he is. While his personality isn’t the most interesting it is still one that allows him to get things done and once again is something that shows a great deal of potential for leadership. In terms of being a hero and protecting a secret Hayata really couldn’t have a better personality than the one he has, it’s the most for his position in life and is simply the most practical choice over all.
Hayata is for the most part the bare bones of what a protagonist is, strong, reliable, and good hearted. As far as heroes go he may not stand out in terms of personality but he certainly goes to stand as an example when it comes to his unwavering qualities. He’s a reserved man and the personification of a kind heart. In the end Hayata isn’t the most interesting character around but he is never the less a fantastic example of responsibility amongst a team of foolhardy compatriots. He may not garner as much attention or praise as he may deserve but he is nevertheless a strong and reliable hero of justice.