I was amazed to get Amazon's notification of the Ultraseven series coming to DVD. From my youth, I knew of Ultraman and only Ultraman. It would be years into adulthood before I knew there were any other series like this, much less finding out Ultraman was ALSO a sequel of its own from "Ultra Q" (aside from Johnny Sokko and the various Godzilla adventures that were shown endlessly in US syndication). It was my understanding that the original Ultraman series became too expensive to produce, thus it was only in production for one year. Evidently, with series still in production as of the date of this review, that may not have been the case.
I first became aware of "Ultra Seven" when it showed up in weekday morning syndication on the US TNT network mid-90's. They would run two half-hour episodes, which were HEAVILY edited and almost comedic in their English translations (dubbed in the mid-80's by Canadian outfit CINAR). Visually, the series looked a lot like the original Ultraman....but the tone took a different direction, bringing in heavier moral and ethical scenarios (even in the limp Canadian dubs). The creatures also became more outrageous (whereas many of Ultraman's foes appeared to be based on actual mutated animals). The series eventually shifted to weekend overnights, usually late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, for an hour...unless a movie ran late. TNT was good about posting schedules and episode titles.
I got ahold of an original DVD set of Ultraseven a few years ago. At the time, the going price was $500. You read that right. Five HUNDRED. Boxed set of 12 discs, with subtitles in other Asian languages, no English. It is still available here on Amazon, I think a new set is going for $1500 (add one THOUSAND to what I just quoted!) or something like that & used for about half. One thing I learned early, legitimate Japanese DVDs are not produced "en masse" and first runs tend to be very limited. For example, when the Godzilla franchise was rebooted in 2000 and the second film didn't come out over here, a Japanese DVD was almost $100, while a no-frills import from another Asian outlet was about $10. Same quality, just no extras. Many of the Ultra series have been released on either LaserDisc or DVD over the years. All very expensive.
There is another Asian set for Ultraseven out there for $20 or less that likely falls into the same category as the Godzilla films I mentioned, but it has recently disappeared from listings, so your best bet is likely going to be this set coming out in December. I cannot comment on the legalities of the parties producing the set, but it is widely available for research online. While the original Japanese set was 12 discs, this set advertised is six...so they obviously doubled up on each disc.
Ultraseven appeared later in Episode 18 of "The Return of Ultraman", which began the "guest star" episodes so popular in the rest of the series, most notably Episode 38 of "Return" with both Ultraseven AND the original Ultraman.
One thing all of these Ultraseven DVD sets have in common, the lack of infamous "Episode 12", YUHSEI YORI AI O KOMETE titled (and banned) "From Another Planet With Love" in Japan and dubbed "Crystallized Corpuscles" in Canada. Bootleg copies of the Japanese print are out there, but TNT did in fact air the episode once in 1997 and once more in 2000. At the center of the ban is the storyline, radioactive aliens that use wristwatches to suck the blood out of young women, storing it as crystals, to replace their own polluted blood. As the episode progresses, the aliens discover the blood of children to be "more pure". Also, the episode's Alien "Spell" (or "Spehl" in dub) is referenced as "Hibaku Seijin", a play on "Hibaku-sha", a term used for survivors of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When it becomes giant-sized to fight against the backdrop of a setting sun, it has welts and lesions all over its body. A print article ran about it, calling Spell-seijin HIBAKUSHA-monsters. Complaints arose, citing the episode compared bombing victims to vampire aliens that use children's blood to cleanse their radioactive blood. Tsuburaya Productions pulled the episode from circulation and it is rarely referenced in Japanese archives of the series. Hiroko Sakurai, who played "Fuji" in Ultraman, has a role in this episode.
The two prior releases of Ultraman looked pretty good to me, both the multi-disc two-parters and the economy-packed set, and I used to have VHS tapes made from the 16mm films that were traded for so many years. I would expect this new release to follow in that range. I will update once I have my own copy to review.
**ADDED January 4** I logged in to update my review and am surprised to find the item unavailable from Amazon. It was shipped to me when it came out by Amazon, so there must be something I'm not aware of that has come about since shipment. As for the DVD set, it's certainly not the pricey Japanese treatment, but this is essentially all you need. The discs are kept in safe two-sided plastic trays that allow for all the discs to fit in the standard size DVD case. Extensive booklet is included and Episode 12, plus the lack thereof in the set, is covered equally extensively (including mentioning the airings on US television!). The picture quality is about as good as you will get anywhere else, I did note night time scenes occasionally have an "overprocessed" look to them (like punching up the saturation too much in PhotoShop on a frame), but it actually reveals small details in scenes I hadn't noticed before. Overall it's a worthwhile purchase.