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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Song of the Week! 10 September 2016

This week's feature is dedicated to one of Japan's more revered superhero series as we briefly take a look at its history in Taiko gaming, from one-off collaboration partnerships to becoming the current high-difficulty hallmark staple of the whole Anime genre. Shuwatch!

 Ultraman no Uta (ウルトラマンの歌) --- Old ---
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 Taiko Anime 1

 Ultraman no Uta (ウルトラマンの歌) --- New ---
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 Taiko +

Born in 1966 from the mind of Godzilla series co-creator Eiji Tsuburaya (円谷英二) as a tokusatsu (特撮, lit. 'live action') science fiction series, the Ultra franchise is highly regarded as one of the trailblazers for Japanese action series that focuses on battles within giant monsters (or Kaiju, 怪獣, in Japanese), still active to this day due to the Ultraman (ウルトラマン) show's popularity and the prolific sequel and spin-off production that followed its success and is managing to stay strong to this day, even after its creator's passing in 1969.

The very first 39-episode series in which the titular Ultraman is the main protagonist is actually the 2nd one overall, continuing from the events of the January 1966 tokusatsu Ultra Q. In this series, set on a near-future Earth (later to be revealed in the 70ies), monsters of any kind and shape are threatening the planet's population, with the Human organization known as the Science Special Search Party being the only force capable to repel the threats. The plot starts when SSSP ace member Shin Hayata goes after an unidentified alien creature, tracked off as a blue orb being chased by a mysterious red orb. During the chase, the red orb crashes into Hayato's ship and kills him in the process; upon landing, the red orb's pilot is revealed to be Ultraman, a red-and-silver alien from Nebula M-78 who was looking after the escaping monster known as Bemular. Feeling guilty for the death of Hayato, Ultraman uses his own life source to bring the human back to life, as well as being hosted by the very same Hayato in order to offer his help against planet Earth's monster/alien attacks.

The adventures of the space soldier (and its many successors) against the many invading creatures from space have been featured in many kinds of media across the years, including over 90 different videogames from Banpresto and Bandai/Bandai Namco itself, some manga/Anime adaptations and the series itself getting localized for the Western audiences. The Ultraman show, in particular, got two different full DVD releases including an English dub in 2006 and 2009, being published respectively by Chaiyo Productions and Navarre's Mill Creek Entertainment label. On the comic front, Harvey Comics Entertainment released two short series between 1993 and 1994 about this entry in the so-dubbed 'Ultra series', while in 2011 a Japanese manga simply titled ULTRAMAN (in all caps) was released as a sort-of sequel to the original Ultraman, with an English localization by Viz Media occurred in 2015.

Coming to the Ultraman show's main theme, Ultraman no Uta is performed by the Misuzu Children's Choral Group (みすず児童合唱団), with Kyoichi Azuma (恭一あずま) retaining the authorship of the song's lyrics and Kunio Miyauchi (邦夫宮内) being the composer for both the Ultra Q and Ultraman series's music. For the English dub, the iconic theme song has been remade by The Serendipity Sisters.

Ultraman's journey in Taiko gaming started from this song, making its debut in the first PS2 Anime compilation and later on getting revived for Taiko Plus's Ultraman Pack, giving the song a longer playable version with modernized notecharts and custom dancers starring many heroes and villains from the Ultra series up to said song pack's release. In both notecharts, 1/12 and 1/16 have their own time to shine without looking too menacing, with the PS2 charts more focused on monocolor clusters and long hitballoons while the latter offers some simple handswitching practice for newcomer Oni players.

 Ultraman Ginga no Uta (ウルトラマンギンガの歌)
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 Taiko 0 M

After the aforementioned Taiko console outings and one selected arcade song debut in Taiko 8 with former shortest-song Taiko champion Unmei no Shizuku ~Destiny's star~, Namco's music games and the Ultra series seem to have parted ways for good, until the inception of the 2013 Ultra show Ultraman Ginga (ウルトラマンギンガ) which lead to a second coming for the brand in Taiko.

A part of the New Ultraman Retsuden programming block on TV Tokyo from July to December, the Ginga series was made in order to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Tsubaraya Productions, the special effects studio founded by Ultraman creator Eiji Tsubaraya and holder of the Ultra franchise. In this series, all of the Ultraman and Ultra Monsters have been turned into darkness-filled artifacts known as the Spark Dolls, causing havoc in the universe. When teenager student Hikaru Raidō finds the Ginga Spark, he's able to transform into Ultraman Ginga which, guided by former Ultra fighter Ultraman Taro, is up to rid the universe of the Spark Dolls by reverting them to their original state and finding out who's behind the whole evil scheme. The Ginga ark is also one of the few in the Ultra franchise to get a sequel series, with 2014's Ultraman Ginga S.

Ultraman Ginga no Uta is the titular hero's insert song, which can be heard in selected episodes in both the Ginga and Ginga S series. This song's creation involved four main artists, as well as Ginga's main human characters as its main/choral singers; starting from the composers we have voyager, Chisa (千紗) from the Girl Next Door unit, Maria Haruna (マリア春菜) and Hiroaki Takeuchi (竹内 浩明), while the voice actors of Hikaru Raidō, his childhood friend trio of Misuzu/Kenta/Chiguya and child prodigy Tomoya provide the song's vocals.

With the averagely-high BPM setting being a good guarantee of high difficulty alone, Ultraman Ginga no Uta's Oni notecharts are the difficulty trailblazers for the later modern Ultra songs's difficulty approach, mostly starring stamina-draining repeaded 1/16 notechart formations and long/intricate note streams during the middle guitar portion where sudden 1/24 bursts are a constant combo break menace to the players. For a song genre which is usually used to under-600 notes charts, Ultraman Ginga no Uta has been the song with the highest Oni mode note count among the Anime songs, only to be topped years later -again- by the subsequent Ultra songs.

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