The storyline begins in the near future, as referenced from the mid-1960s. In episode 23, "My Home Is Earth", it is definitively established that the series takes place in the early 1990s, via a plaque shown at the end of the episode dated 1993. Sinister aliens and giant monsters constantly threaten civilization during this period. The only Earth organization equipped to handle these disasters is the Science Special Search Party (SSSP), a special worldwide police force equipped with high-tech weapons and vehicles, as well as extensive scientific and engineering facilities. The branch of the Science Patrol that is focused on in the series is located in Tokyo, Japan. Led by Captain "Cap" Muramatsu (shortened to "Captain Mura" in the dubbed English-language version), the Science Patrol is always ready to protect the Earth from rampaging monsters, but sometimes finds itself outclassed. When the situation becomes desperate, Hayata, the Patrol's most capable member, holds the key to salvation in the form of the "beta capsule," which, when activated, allows him to transform secretly into the super-humanoid-powered giant from space, who becomes known to the people of Earth as Ultraman.
While active as Ultraman, Hayata's human body goes into a type of deep coma, reviving only after the threat has been neutralized and Ultraman willingly departs. Victory is never assured, however, as Ultraman's powers--his very life force--comes from rapidly depleted, stored solar energy. At the beginning of each transformation from Hayata-to-Ultraman, the warning light on the giant's chest begins as a steady blue color. Yet as Ultraman exerts himself, the Color Timer changes to red, then blinks-—slowly at first, then with increasing rapidity—-as his energy reserves get closer to exhaustion. As the voice-over narration reminds the viewer—beginning with episode 2 and for each episode thereafter—-if Ultraman ever reaches the point of total energy depletion, he "will never rise again."
In episode 39, "Farewell Ultraman", Ultraman fights an enemy called Zetton, who employs an unexpected weapon-—one which damages his Color Timer and disables his ability to measure his power supply. As a result, Ultraman stays in his form too long and collapses into a dormant state. Fortunately, despite this loss, the Science Patrol's members are able to defeat Zetton on their own. When Zoffy, Ultraman's superior, comes to retrieve the fallen hero, Ultraman pleads for Hayata's life and offers his life completely, so that Hayata may live as a normal man. Zoffy then says he has brought two lives and that he will give one to Hayata. He then separates them, giving Hayata new life, but Hayata seems to have no memory between the time he first collides with Ultraman's ship (in the first episode), and his standing outside Patrol Headquarters as he watches Zoffy take Ultraman home. This is a rather different finish to the series than stated in the English dub, which states both that Ultraman will return and that Hayata retains his beta capsule as he awaits Ultraman's return.
- Home Planet: "The Land Of Light," Nebula M78
- Height: 40 meters (131 feet)
- Weight: 35,000 tons (Earth gravitation)
- Age: 20,000 Earth years old
- Flight Speed: Mach 5
- Jump Ceiling: 800 meters (2,600 feet)
- Running Speed: 450 kilometers per hour (280 miles per hour)
- Swimming Speed: 200 knots (230 miles per hour)
- Physical Strength: Though never precisely measured in the stories, it is presumed to be enough for him to be able to lift (press) over 100,000 tons. He can lift a 100,000-ton tanker; Skydon was twice as heavy.
- Occupations: Teacher at Space University ; Chief of Space Garrison Milky Way Office
- Family Structure
- Father: Director of Space Security Board
- Mother: Teacher at Ultra School
- Human Form: Shin Hayata (host)
- Transformation Item: Beta Capsule
Ultraman's special powers
This list covers powers used in and outside the series.
- Spacium Ray : Ultraman crouches slightly forward and crosses his wrists together, with his right forearm vertical and left forearm horizontal in front of it, and the thumb edge of his hands facing his body, to shoot from the outer edge of his right hand a particle/light-ray that kills most opponents. The effect is either an explosion or a fatal burn. The ray can be reflected (see Alien Baltan II) but loses intensity once reflected. The ray can also be negated by similar energy (see Alien Mephilas). Spacium is actually a substance found on Mars that itself is deadly to at least one monster species (the Baltans), as established in Episode 2 ("Shoot the Invader"). The Spacium Ray—indeed all of Ultraman's Spacium-type energy attacks—may be based on that substance, but this is never stated as the case in the series. Regardless, the Spacium Ray is perhaps Ultraman's most powerful single weapon, and very few creatures are immune to it, such as Antlar, Keronia and Zetton. In Ultraman vs. Kamen Rider, Ultraman uses it in conjunction with a giant Kamen Rider 1's Rider Kick to destroy Sasori-Gadoras, who had managed to absorb the ray earlier. (This weapon was used on nearly all opponents.) In Ultraman Mebius, he used this to destroy Mephilas' blasts. In the movie, he used this on Ukillersaurus, and combined it with Ultra Seven's Wide Shot in an attempt to defeat alien Guts.
- Ultra Slash : Ultraman fires a saw-like Spacium-energy ring (a Cutting Halo) from his hand. This Halo can slice his opponent in half. The Cutting Halo does have drawbacks however: a Baltan alien was able to deflect a Halo with his barrier, Gubira was lucky enough to catch a second Halo on his nose, rather than be sliced by it, and Keelar was just as lucky to catch a third Halo with his tail. Alien Mephilas destroyed a fourth Halo with his Bare Hand Beam, and a fifth Halo shattered after striking Zetton's barrier. In Ultraman vs. Kamen Rider, Ultraman used this to sever Sasori-Gadoras' tail after Kamen Rider 1 had been struck. (This was used against Redking and Alien Baltan II, among other opponents.) In the Mebius movie, he used it cut Ukillersaurs' tentacles during the final battle. In Episode 47 of Ultraman Mebius (Urutoraman Mebiusu, 2006), Alien Mephilas was able to evade a pair of the halos Ultraman sent at him for a while, before shattering them with his bare hands.
- Electrical Immunity: When attacked by Neronga in Episode 3 of the series, and by Alien Mephilas in Episode 47 of Ultraman Mebius, Ultraman evidences immunity to electrical or lightning attacks. Not all Ultra-beings have this immunity.
- Ultra Attack Beam: By focusing energy from his left hand into a spiral energy beam around his right arm, then directing the energy at a target creature, Ultraman can induce a temporal stasis, in effect paralyzing the target. This is a rare power, and was only used once, against Keronia in Episode 31, when the Spacium Ray had failed him. Resembles a Karate "Seiken-zuki".
- High Spin: Ultraman can counter temporal/spatial attacks or can damage opponents by spinning rapidly in an upright position. The attack is remote, and does not involve beams, but it can rip space on a local level, cause remote explosions, or create immobilizing rings of force. He used it against Bullton successfully; he also used it against Zetton, who interfered with the attack.
- Ultra Air Catch Version I: Using narrow beams from his index fingers, Ultraman can paralyze objects suspended in mid-air. This is followed by a Cutting Halo that divides in two to cut the suspended object into thirds. (He used this power against the second Redking, who had swallowed a quantity of bombs, so that he could carry the top third, containing the missing bombs, into outer space where they could explode harmlessly.) It is also called Ultra Anti-Gravity Beam (Urutora Han Jūryoku Kōsen?)
- Ultra Air Catch Version II: With considerable concentration, Ultraman can converge two parallel swirls of energy originating from his palms to lift an opponent off the ground and repel it. This power also may involve a remote attack, as it was followed by explosive destruction of the target. It was used against Keelar.
- Ultra Psychokinesis: Ultraman's telekinetic power. Used before the Ultra Air Catch Version I. It is also called Ultra Willpower .
- Flight: Ultraman can propel himself in a controlled manner through the air. Apparently it takes little energy to do this, as he almost always is able to launch at the conclusion of a fight and get out of sight to change back into his human host. Book sources indicate this is possibly due to special jet boots, but that effect is never in evidence on the television programs.
- Teleportation: In dire emergencies when flying to a location would be too slow, Ultraman can teleport to it instead. Ultraman used this power to return to Earth from Planet R, in order to combat an invading Baltan force in Episode 16. However, this power has a high energy demand and his warning light will usually turn red and/or begin to blink as soon as he arrives at his destination. In the English-language dubbed version only, a peculiar symptom of Ultraman's preparation to teleport is manic laughter. When Ultraman teleports, he leaves behind Hayata's body in its comatose state, and the two cannot re-merge until they are in sufficient proximity. Note: despite the statement in the show that teleportation is a major drain of his energy, when Ultraman teleported from Planet R to Earth his warning light was still blue, and this was also after having destroyed Baltans on Planet R.
- Ultra Current: Ultraman can direct a high-pressure stream of water from his fingertips by touching his hands together. This may not actually be water from Ultraman's body, but rather a forced condensation of water in the atmosphere channeled into a stream. It was used to kill Jamilar, whose body was water-soluble, and to extinguish the fires caused by Pestar.
- Dynamic Size Change: Ultraman can control his molecular structure, phasing from human-size to giant-size. He places his hands in front of his chest at 45 degree angles, thumb edge facing inward, and then sharply gestures outward. This is not the same as his transformation from human form as Hayata. It was used only once, to counteract Dada's micronizer ray.
- Clairvoyance Beam: Ultraman's vision extends into a wider range of the electromagnetic spectrum than that of humans, at least into infra-red and ultraviolet, and probably further to include gamma rays and X-rays. One manifestation of this power is a beam of energy, resembling a spotlight, that is emitted from Ultraman's eyes and which renders electromagnetic cloaks used by shielded objects and beings inoperative. (Used to spot the Baltan spaceship in Earth's atmosphere at night, and the Dada when it attempted to remain invisible.)
- Ultra Chop: A standard karate chop, though a more powerful version is accompanied by a flash of energy on impact. Ultraman used an example of the latter to defeat the monster Jirass/Keyra. It is also called Ultra Mist Cut (Urutora Kasumi Kiri?).
- Ultra Punch: It has the power of 50 Indian elephants.
- Ultra Kick: Ultraman has a shoe size of 320 mon and Three-Fold Joints (Sanjū Kansetsu?).
- Ultra Swing: Ultraman swings an opponent around several times before letting go. It was used against Keronia and defeated the first Redking and Terresdon.
- Ultra Eye Spot: When Alien Baltan II's barrier deflected Ultraman's Cutting Halo, Ultraman used this eye beam to neutralize the barrier. It is also called Ultra Discernment.
- Slash Beam: In his battle against Alien Mephilas, Ultraman used this line of chevron-like bolts fire from his fingertips while the two where in flight, and Mephilas countered with his Bare Hand Beam, which resulted in Ultraman being temporarily blinded.
- Catch Rings: Ultraman, spinning at high speeds, can produce three yellow energy rings to bind an opponent. It was used on Z-Ton, who managed to break free. It is also called Paralysis Beams.
- Operation: Star of Ultra: In Return of Ultraman Episode 38, Ultraman and Ultra Seven used this tactic to free Ultraman Jack.
- Ultra Separation: In the 1996 movie Revive! Ultraman, Ultraman created four duplicates of himself to fight various monsters simultaneously.
- Marine Spacium Beam: A rainbow-colored Spacium Ray used to defeat Zeton in Revive! Ultraman.
- Energy Transfer Beam:In Ultraman Tiga Episode 49, Ultraman used this to replenish Ultraman Tiga's stamina.
- Final Cross Shield: In the prologue of Ultraman Mebius & Ultraman Brothers, Ultraman, Ultra Seven, Ultraman Jack, and Ultraman Ace used this to imprison U-Killersaurs and Yapool in the sea at the cost of their ability to transform.
- Energy Exposure: In Ultraman Mebius and Ultraman Brothers, Ultraman, Ultra Seven, Ultraman Jack, and Ultraman Ace gave energy from four directions to Ultraman Mebius, who had been imprisoned by Alien Guts.
- Giga Spacium Beam: In the PlayStation 2 video game Ultraman: Fighting Evolution Rebirth (released in 2005), Ultraman, who had been pummeled by the Chaos Spacium Beam of Chaosroid U (but survived) and empowered by the light of the Plasma Spark, used this extremely powerful version of the Spacium Ray to destroy Chaosroid U and save the Land of Ultra from Alien Mephilas' invasion.
- Beta Capsule Transformation: Ultraman's cohabitation within Hayata's body is not entirely unlike the religious or spiritual concept of possession. However, Ultraman does not attempt to control Hayata's decision-making. Hayata's mind and spirit control his body under ordinary circumstances. Yet it is possible, as evidenced by the many close calls to Hayata's life, that Ultraman can intercede in some way to protect Hayata's body, presumably in the form of accelerated healing of injuries as Hayata would be injured in some episodes. However any injury that Hayata receives is not transferred to Ultraman when Hayata triggers the Beta Capsule, and Hayata can still be shown as wounded when Ultraman reverses the change. Also when Hayata was hypnotized by underground aliens in an effort to control Ultraman, the plan failed since they didn't count on the fact that Ultraman would be immune to mind control by them. Only the Beta Capsule can trigger the physical transformation from Hayata to Ultraman. Where the Beta Capsule goes when Ultraman is active is not known, but during his first battle with Gomora (Gohora in US version) the Beta Capsule was somehow separated from him by a strong attack from the monster. This also revealed that the Beta Capsule only works for Hayata, as the child who retrieved the capsule tripped its igniter switch and nothing happened to either the child or Hayata. When Hayata ignites the capsule, Ultraman does not have to appear precisely where Hayata was standing, but he usually does appear very close to that location, and often, but not always, in a similar pose. Should Hayata use the Beta Capsule inside a building, Ultraman can choose to appear from within it or outside of it, even projecting himself during transformation through the specially-reinforced walls of Science Patrol Headquarters. One occasion demonstrates the variability: Hayata was atop a building during a mission where Alien Baltan was attacking, and the Beta Capsule fell out of his reach and landed on a ledge below. With Hayata needing to transform immediately and having no way to reach the device safely, he took an extraordinary gamble and threw himself head first off the building and managed to grab the capsule and ignite it as he fell. Ultraman then appeared on the ground, safely standing on his feet. Ultraman changes back to human form by beaming a spiral of energy from his hands to a point on the ground. Hayata's body materializes within this spiral, and Ultraman's body vanishes. The only episode that showed Hayata split from Ultraman and laying in a coma was when Ultraman teleported from a planet he had destroyed some Baltans on back to Earth so that he could finish off the rest off them. For unknown reasons, Hayata's body was left behind in a deep coma state, possibly in stasis, until Ultraman returned. Either the teleportation power somehow split them apart or else Ultraman left Hayata's body behind to maintain the secret identity.
Despite all these amazing powers, Ultraman has one main weakness: Since Earth's atmosphere leeches away his solar energy, Ultraman can only physically exist on Earth for approximately three to five minutes of Earth time. To signal this, a warning light in Ultraman's chest (called the Color Timer in the Japanese-language version) starts out at blue. At the 1 minute mark it starts to blink, and then turns red and blinks faster at the two minute mark. Some sources have given 2:10 as the mark where the timer begins to blink. If the Color Timer/warning light stops, Ultraman will "never rise again." Obviously, at whatever point the blinking begins, Ultraman typically has only a short amount of time left to defeat his foe and return to his human host. However, Ultraman has occasionally been able to extend his operating time by flying towards the Sun and "recharging." In the 2006 movie, Ultraman Mebius and the Ultra Brothers, it was stated that Ultraman, Ultraseven, Ultraman Jack and Ultraman Ace had sealed the monster Yapool behind a barrier at the cost of being unable to transform again due to the constant energy drain needed to maintain the barrier. They told Mebius that if they transformed again while the barrier was up that they risked permanent death. Despite this, and the fact that their color timers began flashing soon into the battle, any time limits or risk of actual death were not in evidence. With the destruction of the barrier and Zoffy and Taro reenergizing the four of them they were restored to their full power. This would seem to support the idea that the Color Timer acts more as a Fuel Gauge and that the three minute time limit that Ultra beings operate under on Earth is more of an average time limit, rather than an absolute. When Zetton defeated Ultraman, his timer was still faintly flashing but he was too drained to fight and collapsed and would have had his timer go out completely if Zoffy hadn't arrived to recharge him. Subsequent Ultra series have had other Ultramen experience total energy loss and their timer and eyes going dark, yet still being revived by an infusion of energy. It's likely that once the timer goes out that the time needed to infuse new energy into the dying Ultrabeing is short and that permanent death is still possible.
Ultraman rarely engages in conversation, and when he does it seems to be in a telepathic manner. In Episode 1, as he reveals who he is and what he must do to keep Hayata alive, his discussion with the clearly unconscious Hayata in the damaged TravelSphere can only be explained via telepathy. His conversation with the monster Mephilas does not follow this pattern. Zoffy also speaks to Ultraman in the final episode while the two are in Zoffy's TravelSphere, though it is not clear if this is via telepathy. Otherwise, Ultraman does engage in vocalizations, specifically the shouts and barks he makes in reverberating human-like cries while fighting a monster. Although these sounds and other grunts of exertion are most common, Ultraman also has one oft-repeated, and now extremely iconic phrase that he clearly utters: "Shuwatch", which he shouts when jumping into the air to fly. In Japanese pop-culture, "Shuwatch" or 'Shoowatch' has been the phrase most associated with Ultraman.
Ultraman is one of the few Ultras who remains connected with his human host; in this case, Shin Hayata still serves as a vessel for the mighty alien warrior, as seen in the Ultraman Mebius series and movies.