The Ultraman we know and grew up with has hung up his suit for good. However, there is hope yet for the return of the iconic hero.
Ultraman Season 1 premiered on April 1st, 2019, and has left fans on the edge of their seats for the next instalment in the franchise. The anime is the latest instalment in the long-running 50-years-old Japanese science fiction series and has been given a breath of fresh air for the next generation of audiences on the streaming platform Netflix. The series includes 13 episodes that successfully interpret and modernise the series for the next generation.
Growing up on Ultraman and being a fan myself, I am delighted to see the next generation being able to access and enjoy this universe as I did in the early 2000s. Back when Ultraman first debuted in the 1960s, our original protagonist Shin Hayata merged with the Ultraman in order to protect Earth from evil monsters and invaders from distant galaxies, who are committed to annihilating all life on the planet.
In the most recent adaptation in 2019, Shin’s son, Shinjiro, takes up his father’s mantle and legacy as Ultraman to defend Earth from otherworldly threats. He is expected to inherit the responsibility as Earth’s defender full time.
Fans may also expect a certain simplicity that inherently comes with a kaiju action beat-em-up movie. However, in the 2019 adaptation, the relationship between humans and monsters is not so black and white.
Obviously-evil monsters no longer roar directly in your face, but rather lurk in a more nuanced, political world where aliens and government agencies wrestle for order. This creates a more dynamic and exciting world where it becomes hard to distinguish the good guys from the bad.
Shinjiro is just your typical high school boy who struggles to fit in with his peers and fails in his awkward attempts to court the girl next door. Under the guise of all that mediocrity, great power lies dormant within him, inherited from his father, the original Ultraman. Superhuman strength, reflexes, agility, and endurance are some of the typical powers one might expect.
This coming-of-age story begins when Shinjiro’s father is critically injured by an alien invader, Bemular, forcing Shinjiro to don the Ultraman armour, enabling him to experiment with his newfound abilities on a superior foe.
As a huge fan of shonen anime, I love watching beautifully animated and choreographed fight scenes and this series left me more than satisfied. Visually captivating, his first encounter with hostile aliens in combat serves not only as eye candy, but also as an important part of the story as it sets the wheels in motion.
At approximately 23 minutes per episode, the plot moves at a frantic pace and kept me wondering when a kaiju would unexpectedly attack Shinjiro. Combat is where this show truly shines as the 3D animations are masterfully choreographed, rendered and designed. Satisfying explosions and flashy new abilities receive vibrant animations, giving them the top-quality look and feel that the series deserves. Watching Shinjiro discover his own abilities is exhilarating, especially when he is on the brink of defeat, utilising his newfound powers to secure win after win for the boys in red. The action doesn’t draw away from the more relational aspects of the series as I grew to love some of the characters that were given screen time.
One relationship that I would like to see being explored more is the one between Shinjiro and his father. The Ultraman of old speaks to his son about the responsibility of being Ultraman and that he never wanted his son to bear that responsibility; it is an emotional scene that should be given more time to develop. I also thoroughly enjoyed the relational aspects of Renya Sayama and Shinji’s interactions, a constant reminder that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and that there are always innocent casualties involved even if someone has noble motives. Playing devil’s advocate, Rena always challenges Shinji’s naive, idealistic philosophy while managing not to be too whiny.
Netflix’s adaptation of the series is a captivating story about an average high-school boy on a journey of self-discovery and his eventual role as defender of the Earth. The series has non-stop action scenes and even though its supporting casts needed more screen time to develop their relationships with Shinji and each other, Ultraman Season 1 is definitely worth catching up with especially now as Season 2 was released on Netflix on April 14, 2022 .
Ultraman: Season 1
Verdict - 8/10
I loved the many action scenes in the show. However, the side characters could use more time to develop.