SHIN ULTRAMAN – JEFF GOMEZ’S FIRST IMPRESSIONS

SHIN ULTRAMAN – JEFF GOMEZ’S FIRST IMPRESSIONS

By special arrangement with Tsuburaya Productions, several Ultraman Connection team members got to see Shin Ultraman, the new theatrical feature recently released in Japan, directed by Shinji Higuchi. Although we don’t want to get into spoilers, we did want to share our impressions of the film with you and proudly assure all fans of Ultraman that it is indeed a special experience.

One of the meanings of the term “shin” in Japanese is “essence” and the filmmakers have truly captured both the fundamental meaning and narrative of the original Ultraman series. There are cosmetic differences, of course, and the film very much takes place in its own universe, but the very elements that first drew me to Ultraman as a hero—his otherness, his stoicism, his nobility—are all here.

A central theme in the film is that we must ask ourselves what a being such as Ultraman sees in us and what we see in ourselves. Despite our selfishness and our predicaments are we worth saving? I am fascinated by the fact that the answers are not easily forthcoming in the film. They are subtle and don’t always turn out as we could have hoped. At the same time Shin Ultraman retains a sense of optimism that distinguishes it from its predecessor Shin Godzilla.

The story is a fascinating, action-packed, and affectionate distillation of Ultraman. But what initially appears episodic does get sewn together in an exciting and novel way by screenwriter Hideaki Anno. To this end, the movie is more expansive than the trailers let on, giving the scenario an epic scope.

Finally, Shin Ultraman is elevated by a warm and subtle cast, as well as a dry wit that cocks its head at some of the series’ stranger and more fantastical tropes. Higuchi’s stylish eye, aided by cinematographers Osamu Ichikawa and Keizō Suzuki, hearkens to the best of Japanese and European cinema of the late-1960s and early ‘70s.

So, the concepts and action (and Kaiju!) are allowed to be way out there, but the filmmakers are taking the story and story world quite seriously. To me, this elevates the film to be worthy of serious consideration not just in Japan or to the core fan base, but to the entire world. Shin Ultraman is undoubtedly a work of art.

In an interview in Japan, Shinji Higuchi said, “I think the original Ultraman had a world where a wonderful future awaited. Of course, people had their problems and troubles, but they faced them with a carefree spirit that surpassed their worries and problems. When I decided to make Shin Ultraman, I wanted to create a story about such people and a wonderful team…and depict the intelligence, courage, and ability to solve problems that are necessary to depict such a future.

“In this day and age, we don’t need the darkness of the heart, at least not in this Ultraman. The Ultraman of the past was a shining jewel without price, and I wonder how much of that can be achieved with today’s cast. I want to do my best to make it all the way through to the end."

I couldn’t agree more, and with Shin Ultraman, achievement unlocked.

Jeff Gomez is the key creative Producer behind Ultraman Connection. Editor-in-Chief EJ Couloucoundis and the Noob, Evangelia Artemis, will file their own impressions shortly.