"You have to know the rules before you can break the rules."
- ―Richard Wagner's music teacher
The reason I'm making this post is because this is an Ultraman fanfiction wiki, and Ultraman as a whole follows a fairly specific format and thematic style which separates it from series like Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, ect, and keeps it distinct and unique. There's no harm in moving away from this formula, but one should first be aware it exists. So I decided to ask, "What is Ultraman?" to help us to think about how an Ultraman fanfiction should be written.
1. The Topic
Believe it or not, a giant hero is not a requisite for Ultra, which started out with Ultra Q and still has series like Neo Ultra Q or spinoffs like Ultra Galaxy which do not feature Ultramen or keep them in the background compared to your average tokusatsu hero series. If a giant hero isn't what makes Ultra, then what is?
While the giant hero has become important to what people think of when they hear the word "Ultraman," at its heart Ultra is sci-fi and mystery, featuring apparently supernatural phenomenon and aliens. Ultra seldom features an overarching plot, going instead for slow character building. One particular tumblr user says that ultra uses underlying "themes," by which they mean that certain concepts are explored over the length of a series. For example:
- Ultraman explores monsters and their tragic relationship with humans in an unexpectedly depressing manner.
- Ultraman Taro explores familial relationships.
- Ultraman Leo is about the hero being a symbol for the life of earth itself, who cannot die or else the world and the sun will perish.
- Ultraman Mebius is about Ultraman's bonds with all of earth.
Sure, Ultra does shift closer to the superhero genre, Ultraman Zero, Ultraman Ginga, and Ultraman Ace all break the ultra standard to some degree. But even Ultraman Nexus had the mysterious, awe-filled, approach to its plot, except this time Ultraman was the mystery as opposed to the monsters.
2. The Hero
While the hero isn't always part of Ultra, they are (I use the singular, gender neutral they), what makes it Ultraman (or, conversely, Ultrawoman, although an argument can be made that the term Ultraman itself is gender neutral.)
Who is the Hero? What do they symbolise? They are someone who comes down among the earthlings to protect and guide them, often a mysterious force, sometimes less so. Often they fuse with a human, and, as Mebius said, they come to earth to learn something themselves.
"The Creator of this earth does not permit your wrongdoing."
- ―Ultraseven 21
Ultraman is a benevolent deity, and, as Hoshino said, the "symbolic deus ex machina." It's no coincidence that Ultramen are often crucified, for they symbolise god, no, they symbolise the Christian God. (Tsuburaya was Christian.)
Off course, there are more human-like ultras, like Taro, Leo, Mebius, and Zero. But they all have that solemn duty to defend the earth. They are beings of light, and that means that they are also heroes of love. Love gives them power, their bonds with the earthlings, or other aliens, give them power, their friendship is what separates them from evil ultras.
Final forms being unlocked by emotions, or by the emotions of the people of earth, is a constant of the series, and because light is already the most powerful thing in the omniverse. The Ultraman just needs to reach into its potential.
I'd go so far as to say that being overpowered is part of being an Ultraman. Sure, an Ultraman can die, but though Ultraman can die, they are still immortal. They will always succeed to defend humanity, even coming back from the dead if need be, this was the whole point of Ultraman Leo.
Leo really does explore this well. Leo has lost everything, all his friends die, everyone dies, but when Mac is collapsing and Dan is vanishing into the smoke and confusion, he shouts to Gen, "You're Leo! The immortal Ultraman Leo! Remember that your life isn't yours to give."
Ultraman is a symbol of all life on earth, and so they receive power from their bonds with all life on earth. It doesn't have to be earth, it can be Planet Ultra, or some other planet in space, but ultimately, the power of Ultraman is already there, it just has to be unlocked by bonds. (Bonds, by the way, are the theme of Ultraman Nexus).
Ultra, then, explores the mysteries of the cosmos. It explores the darkness and horror in the cosmos. But there is someone to defend us from that horror, and their name is Ultraman.
So when writing your fanfiction, think about what the underlying message is, what the underlying theme is. For instance, the theme I'm doing in what I write for the Ultrafan Mashup is light and the nature of light.There is no obligation to follow what the series sets out, but before you break the mold, you should know it exists.