As soon as SeaWorld Orlando announced Manta last winter coaster enthusiasts began comparing it to Six Flags Magic Mountain’s Tatsu. The two B&M flying roller coasters have interesting custom layouts and their the largest flying roller coasters in the World. So, let’s pit the flying dragon against the flying manta ray and see who comes out on top.
Manta’s theming is on another level. The station was integrated with a really cool manta ray exhibit. The exhibit was accessible to guests without having to enter the ride’s queue. If you’ve never seen a manta or sting ray in person, they’re quite unforgettable. They look like they’re flying as they swim hence the tag line for the coaster, “Ride the Flying Ray”. Tatsu has some light Asian theming that goes well with the flying dragon theme. It’s decent for a Six Flags park, but doesn’t begin to compare to Manta’s theming. There’s a clear winner on theming. Edge: Manta
For some reason I have always thought of Tatsu as a much larger flying coaster than Manta, but their nearly the same length. Manta is 3,359 feet long and Tatsu 3,602 feet long. Tatsu is taller at 170′ with Manta at only 140′. But, the drops are nearly the same with Manta edging out Tatsu by 2′, with a 113′ drop. While the stats are surprisingly similar, I’ll give the win to Tatsu. Even thought its track is only 9% longer it feels a good bit more than that. Slight Edge: Tatsu
Layouts – Sky vs Water
Tatsu boasts a terrain layout that spends much of its time skyward. While in a superman-like position, the climb to the top of the lofty lift feels like it takes forever. The view at the top is one of the most unnerving things I’ve ever experienced. There you are, looking at the tall trees far down below and the only thing between you and a 17-story plunge are the ride’s trusty harnesses. With Tatsu being situated on top of the large hill at the center of Magic Moutain, it flies above the treeline twisting and turning its riders some hundred feet in the air for the majority of the ride. Tatsu features a corkscrew, zero-g roll, pretzel loop, and an in-line twist.
Manta, on the other hand, flies much closer to the ground. In fact, Manta’s coup de grâce is a short dive to a pond that puts riders only a few feet from the water below. Manta gains a lot of points for the innovative dive. As the train passes over the water a fountain-like splash is triggered which sprays the riders a little. After Manta’s signature move the ride has one more trick up it’s wing. The train swoops right past a rocky wall with a water fall. If you sit on the far left side of the train you feel as if you’ll certainly hit the wall. I have no idea how close the train actually is, but it was very surprising and my favorite part of the ride. Manta also features a pretzel loop, in-line twist, and two corkscrews.
While I generally like flying high through the air (hence my preference to Alpengeist over Montu), I’d have to say Manta’s layout is more interesting. The dive to the water is unique and passing by the rock wall is awesome. Edge: Manta
Battle of the Pretzel Loops As I wrote in my Tatsu review, Tatsu’s pretzel loop may be one of the most intense inversions on the planet. During the pretzel loop the train dives into an upside down vertical loop. The train dives until the riders backs are on the ground. The g-forces on the bottom of the loop are very intense. Tatsu’s pretzel loop is massive, as pretzel loops go, at 124′ tall. In contrast, the pretzel loops found on the Superman – Ultimate Flight coasters (found at Six Flags Great Adventure, Six Flags Great America,& Six Flags Over Georgia,) is only 78′ tall.
Meanwhile, Manta’s pretzel loop falls in between at 98′ tall in terms of size. But, Manta stands out by offering a surprising moment of airtime. Where other B&M flyers flatten out or gradually climb before entering this inside-downward loop, Manta makes a pretty sharp climb up into it. This causes what may possibly be the World’s first moment of airtime on a flying roller coaster. It’s brief, but noticeable and it’s the reason why I prefer Manta in the front more than in the back. For me, airtime wins over intensity. Besides, Manta’s loop is still pretty intense. Edge: Manta
I thought this roller coaster showdown would be much closer, but I picked Manta in 3 out of the 4 categories. Manta wins easily. For the record, I rated them both as 9’s (Excellent) so you really can’t go wrong with either roller coaster.