The fourteenth Ultra series, Ultraman Gaia ran from September 5, 1998 until August 28, 1999, with a total of 51 episodes. It doesn’t take place in the same continuity* as the Showa era Ultramen (Ultraman to Ultraman 80), the animated world of The Ultraman or Ultraman Tiga and Ultraman Dyna. There are also two Ultraman characters and neither can agree how exactly to defend the Earth.
Ultraman Gaia and Ultraman Agul have so many issues that by the middle point of the series they end up battling one another, eventually reconciling so that they can do what they’re here to do: save the Earth. Those same issues extend to the humans that control these Ultras, as Gamu Takayama (Ultraman Gaia) believes that he is here to save Earth and humanity. Fujimiya Hiroya (Ultraman Agul) thinks that he is Earth’s natural defence mechanism and protects the planet itself, even at the expense of humanity.
They’re brought together by Chrisis, a supercomputer developed by a group of science student geniuses named the Alchemy Stars, which has predicted that by 1997 Earth will be destroyed by the Radical Destruction Bringer. To stop this, the Stars have created a secret defense known as GUARD (Geocentric Universal Alliance against the Radical Destruction) that stands ready to save the world.
I really liked how Gama found his Ultra while doing a virtual reality experiment to discover the will of the Earth, which showed him a vision of Ultraman Gaia battling monsters non-stop. This series looks like it has some level of budget behind it — it looks like a higher end sentai show — and it’s interesting that it puts science at odds with the magic of the Earth. I’m kind of wondering if Agul is right and that our planet is better off without humans sometimes.
You can find out for yourself by grabbing the Ultraman Gaia box set from Mill Creek, which has all 51 episodes, plus Ultraman Tiga & Ultraman Dyna & Ultraman Gaia: Battle in Hyperspace and Ultraman Gaia: Gaia Once Again. There’s also a colorful guide that shows the different Ultra forms in this series and the team logos and vehicles of GUARD and the eXpanded Interceptive Guardians, their top elite defense squad.
*Gaia does appear in Ultraman Tiga & Ultraman Dyna & Ultraman Gaia: Battle in Hyperspace, alongside Tiga, Dyna, Mebius and the Showa-era Ultras in Superior Ultraman 8 Brothers, teams up with the Heisei-era Ultras in Ultraman Ginga S: Showdown! Ultra 10 Warriors!! and brings along Agul to save an Earth that is not their own in Ultraman Orb: The Origin Saga.