It took me a while, but I finally got done. And by "a while", I mean the DVDs have been sitting on my shelf for almost two years now. I plunked down the cash for the whole set 'cause after seeing the first few episodes I was pretty sure I'd want to see all of them. Happily, I was right -- though it took a whole lot of episodes for me to confirm it.
I like that this series isn't just a collection of monster of the week fights, the way many Ultraman (and, let's be fair, tokusatsu) series are. There's an overarching story, even though it doesn't always seem like there is. Things from the past come up and have relevance by the end far more than in most of the Ultraman series I've seen so far, and I like that. Folks who seemed to be one-shot, throw-away characters came back by the end, and in some cases proved to be important. Stuff like that will always get my vote, no matter what. Add in a bit of secret identity fun and just a bit of character work and I'm a happy fangirl.
Gaia's an interesting show for me... Style-wise, half of it feels like Tiga to me (largely the earlier parts, which is probably part of why it took me so long to get through them.) The other half showed where a lot of elements that I liked in Mebius came from. And there were several bits that are, I think, largely unique to Gaia that made me happy.
Finding out where George's name came from gave me a long, loud giggle fit. (Japanese pronunciation having no distinction between "George" and "Georgie". The part Japanese/part foreigner was just the nail in the coffin.) Agul was undeniably lifted and changed for Hikari, as was the whole red Ultraman/blue Ultraman dynamic. (Minus the racism theme that came up in Mebius that wasn't possible really in Gaia. And they had other fish to fry. And typing red Ultraman/blue Ultraman makes me want to write a book entitled "One Ultraman, Two Ultraman, Red Ultraman, Blue Ultraman". Good thing I'd get sued from multiple sides for copyright infringement.) I probably like Commander Ishimuro so much because he shares traits in common with Sakomizu. (Though some of it is just that he's cool. And is clearly not a hologram projected by the coffee pot.) The overall flow of the series is very similar to Mebius -- more than once I would compare what was happening in a given episode number in Gaia to what was happening in Mebius at the same point in the series. Gamu, like Mirai, gets publicly outed on TV. (More on that in a minute.) Oh, and I found out where Takato's name comes from. (He'd be the kid from the Ultraman Moebius and The Ultra Brothers movie. I'm pretty sure this is it, since there are strong similarities between his story and the movie Takato's. Just lots of little things that were familiar or similar or made me go "oh, is *that* where that's from?" made the series just that much more fun for me.
Oh yeah, and the mechanic guy who is so clearly Araiso's precursor is just hilarious. "Sorry, am I interrupting...?"
Speaking of the news reports... (Which I was, peripherally.) I was surprised how useful they were, and how much they integrated by the end of the series. I'd heard before watching the series that Gamu got outted on TV, just not how. At first I assumed that they would be chasing him around the whole series and one day just catch him at an inopportune time. By the time it actually came down to the last few episode I began to doubt what I'd read, things had changed so much. I like seeing the media being portrayed as reasonable people with some sense of decency. (Yes, that is a slam against Hirukawa -- but also against other media folks IRL who sometimes aren't particularly respectful of other people.)
This one's weird, in that it's the only Ultraman series I've seen before where it's very clear that the Ultraman is separate from the human host. It amuses me that Gamu sticks his Ultraman is a little Technogizmo (tm), and makes me want to quote Disney's Aladdin a bunch. "Great cosmic powers -- itty, bitty living space." (That, and saying "dude, you stuck Ultraman in a bottle. Srsly.") It's very Heisei, since I think most of the Showa hosted Ultramen at least had the courtesy to introduce themselves. Heisei's all most down to business. No time for dinner and a movie first, here.
I love that Gamu's a techno geek. It's a nice contrast to Daigo/Tiga, who's on a team of supposedly very bright people (who rarely show it...) and is Very Clearly Not. Besides, how can I resist a series with a geek main character? Yeah? Come to think of it, technically Fujimiya is kind of co-main character, and he's a geek too. (Though a geek with a bad case of Grumpy.)
The first half of the series I felt the character development on everyone except Gamu was kind of lacking. So while on the one hand, I was glad to see that The Earth Will Be Saved by more than just a team of six folks, on the other hand they were kind of distracting at first. Too many people, too much hassle keeping track of them. And Kajio seriously Needed To Pull The Stick Out. Happily, the character development did eventually kick in, and by the end Kajio was one of my favorite characters. And the rest of the teams eventually formed up into a cohesive group, thus addressing my irritation with the unrealistic Lone Uber Team Saves The World. (Tiga pulled this just as much as Mebius did, and it frustrated me both times.) By the time they got to nearly killing characters I was to the point of actually caring -- and even yelling at one of them that he does NOT get to get himself killed, 'cause that would just suck.
It was fun reading through the credits and seeing names familiar from Mebius -- and seeing what they used to do, Mebius being 10 years later, some of the folks who were senior on it were just starting out in assistant positions. A little over a third of the episodes had writers who are still with Tsuburaya, and half the episodes were directed by the same people.
I like that this series made a clear effort to show that Saving The Earth From The Monsters is an international, global effort. That's something that bugs me in the other series (for all that I can understand why it happens that way, and it's not like US TV doesn't do the same thing.) On the flip side, oh my word, the number of people speaking Japanese who shouldn't. I mean both shouldn't in terms of it being unrealistic for them to be doing so (who knew there were so many Japan enthusiasts in Canada?), and also who are clearly just non-native speakers. (Yes, I know. Rocks. Glass houses. Nonetheless, I groaned every time Katherine showed up, because her accent makes it so hard to understand what she says. For all that the blonde chick in black leather sporting a bazooka amused me.)
I am amused yet puzzled by Tsuburaya's urge to throw the fangirls bones. There were multiple points where I wondered if they could make the interactions between Gamu and Fujimiya any more slashy. Or the bit where everyone's getting kisses, with the montage ending with Gamu and Fujimiya staring at each other. Yes, you know you want to. Just get on with it, really. You'll feel better after you do.
(For all that, while I certainly wouldn't object to the pair of them being slashed, it just doesn't scream at me the way certain other pairings do.)
That all said, I still think my favorite part has got to be... that I got the handsome guy! *snerk*
And for reference (and my own accounting), Ultraman series I've seen all of are: Sho-man (though so long ago that I need to go back and finish re-watching; I got derailed at Ultraman vs. the Giant Twat Monster), Tiga, Gaia, and Mebius. (*sweatdrop* I should get watching more...) Man, I'm a Heisei girl. :P Must get cracking on watching some of the older series that I have copies of.