REVIEW: ‘Ultraman’ Season One

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Ultraman Season 1 - But Why Tho

Ultraman has always been a huge part of my life. My Dad showed me the original series when I was a kid, and growing up, I watched several spinoffs including Gridman – or as I knew it, Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad. Naturally, when I learned that there was a manga that continued the story of the original series, I ended up reading it and loving it. Now, Ultraman makes his anime debut in the new Netflix Original series of the same name.

Ultraman, based on the aforementioned manga by Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi, begins with Shinjiro Hayata, voiced by Josh Hutcherson in the English dub, juggling high school and his growing superhuman powers. When a sinister alien named Bemular attacks him, Shinjiro learns that his father Shin (DC Douglas) was the original Ultraman. Eventually, Shinjiro takes up the same mantle to defend the Earth from hostile invaders, with the help of the Scientific Special Search Party, or SSSP.

Shinjiro is assisted by two other Ultramen. The first is Dan Moroboshi (Liam O’Brien), a no-nonsense tactician who often clashes with Shinjiro on how to handle alien threats, and the second is Seiji Hokuto (Gunnar Sizemore), a young man whose limbs were damaged in a horrible accident and were replaced with alien cybernetics.

Ultraman’s main strength is that it manages to mix both classic shonen themes with standard superhero tropes. Shinjiro, much like Peter Parker, struggles with the responsibility of protecting the Earth, particularly when it comes to using lethal force against his enemies, but like Clark Kent is a mild-mannered person gifted with alien abilities. As the series progresses, he manages to grow into his role as Ultraman, with help from Moroboshi, Seiji, and his father.

There is a scene between Shin and Shinjiro where the former tells his son that he never wanted this life for him, as being Ultraman meant carrying the fate of the world on his shoulders and that is too much for a teenager to handle. However, he says that he will do everything he can to help his son. As someone who’s close to his own dad, this struck a chord with me.

The series also excels in its action sequences, where Shinjiro dons his armored Ultraman suit to deal with alien invaders. The results are frantic battles where opponents dash at each other, countering blows and firing energy beams. The animation shines here, especially during Shinjiro’s transformation into Ultraman. Trust me, you’ll definitely want to act it out.

Sadly, the animation is less stellar when characters are talking to each other. The entire series is a blend of motion capture performances and 3D cel animation, and I have the feeling that some fine tuning was needed, since some of the characters feel rather stiff when talking or moving. Also, the series takes a while to get going-the first three episodes, in particular, have to do a lot of heavy lifting to set up the premise. Shinjiro’s romance with pop star Rena Sayama (Tara Sands) also feels like it comes out of nowhere, and doesn’t really go anywhere.

Despite these hiccups, Ultraman is a solid, action-packed reinvention of a classic hero. Both longtime Ultraman fans and newcomers to the franchise will love it.

The first season of Ultraman is currently streaming on Netflix.

Ultraman
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    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Despite these hiccups, Ultraman is a solid, action-packed reinvention of a classic hero. Both longtime Ultraman fans and newcomers to the franchise will love it.