I'm watching Max for the second time, and working on the pages for this wiki, and reliving my impressions of the series.
Ultraman Max isn't very appreciated, it's sandwitched between Nexus and Mebius, which fans love. It also has a reputation for being wierd, but that didn't keep people from liking Kamen Rider Double. (Double had some really wierd story arcs, but it's still a big fan favorite.)
To be fair, Max is surpassed by its sucessor. The characters aren't as strong, the fight scenes, despite modern technology, are still surpassed by Leo's. Scarcely an episode goes by without the environmental message being dropped as an anvil. Sure, it's a good message, but Max goes overboard.
And yet, I can't dislike this series. Perhaps Elly, the Data-like android with a sadly underused fight mode, helps save it for me. Perhaps it's the ridiculous concepts such as giant memory-blanking monster cats that lend it some appeal. The series is often childish and simple--what kind of defense organization opens itself up to kids? But there are the (somewhat) darker and even philosphical story arcs: the butterfly dream which affects reality (you need to see the episode to know what I'm talking about) and the monster that buries a city. Most people aren't killed onscreen, but the deaths are there, unlike certain Sentai. (*cough* Hurricanger *cough*) (Sentai has its darker moments as well, but....)
Some episodes are really weak, almost painful to watch. But goodness is there, in Pigmons and Baltans. (OK, that battle took ridiculous beyond Gatakiriba standards, but the arc itself is good.) And there's all the random cameos, even the Leo Ring gets one. There's all sorts of little easter eggs (Godzilla is strong! Gamera is too!), and there has never been a more epic specium ray. The OP is incredibly catchy and arguably the opening footage is some of the best in the series. (Max! Max! Max!)
While the effects and fights aren't the best in the franchise, they hold up. Overall, despite its quirks and weaknesses, Max is still a special series to me. But before you take my word, remember that Kamen Rider Hibiki also aired that year and I love it as well. And that I think Magiranger is incredibly overrated.
Max, Max, Max!