ULTRAMAN WATCH CLUB: ANIME ULTRAMAN S1E1

ULTRAMAN WATCH CLUB: ANIME ULTRAMAN S1E1

“A Power That Does Not Belong On Earth”

EJ Couloucoundis (EJ)

Hey all, welcome to the first entry in Ultraman Connection's Ultraman Watch Club!

What we’re doing here is that each of us watches a single episode, movie—any chunk of Ultraman content, and then we come back here and talk about what happened, and what we think about it. Sort of like a book club, but for the Ultraman Series.

For our first entry, we decided to look at the first episode of Netflix's Anime ULTRAMAN series, in honor of the upcoming Season 2. In the coming weeks, we'll go through every episode one by one, and post our thoughts on the site!

Before we get started, however, why don’t we introduce ourselves?

I'm EJ, and I'm the Creative Director of UltramanConnection.com. I’m an old-school Ultraman-iac (bad pun!) and act as a resource to Iceberg Theory, the producers of all Ultraman Connection content.

Kyle Yamagishi-Rodstein (KYR)

Hi all, I’m Kyle, and I’m a writer on UltramanConnection.com! I grew up with Ultraman, and I’ve returned to see how my favorite show has changed, and to see what impression my generation of the series has left on the greater Ultraman landscape.

Evangelia Artemis-Gomez (EAG)

I’m Evangelia, writer for UltramanConnection.com. I’m an Ultraman noob and I often write about what it’s like to experience Ultraman content for the first time.

EJ

With introductions out of the way, let’s start the watch!

EAG

The first thing I noticed as the show started was that it’s definitely not classic anime style, but that doesn’t stop it from being visually charming, in that 3D way.

EJ

That's Production IG at work. They're responsible for stuff like Ghost in the Shell, and other well-known anime. They also worked with Sola Digital Arts, one of their frequent 3D collaborators, whose work you may have seen on TV last year in Blade Runner: Black Lotus.

Anyway, the first shot of the series is a flashback within another flashback. We look at the back of this series' Ultraman, but then we flash into what's got to be Shin Hayata at the end of the original 1966 series. Then we flash-forward years later, where a much older Shin, now a defense minister, is touring the old SSSP building with his son Shinjiro. It’s there that he meets his old friend from the Science Patrol, Ide—and then things go wrong.

KYR

What I think is really cool about the series is how it connects to the original ‘66 Ultraman but gives us a completely fresh take on the world by making it a direct sequel to the original rather than starting from zero, or tying into the greater continuity of the many series and movies in the franchise.

EJ

Right, and it starts answering some open-ended questions from the show itself, right? The biggest reveal being that Hayata has no memories from his time as Ultraman…

KYR

It's crazy, right? Honestly, the implications that segment raises are really unsettling. The idea that Hayata just lost a huge chunk of his life like that adds a kind of upsetting dimension to the original show… And then Shinjiro takes that fall too!

EAG

It was pretty jarring to see the fall Shinjiro took, but it was important to set the tone of the show. Just because it’s animated doesn’t mean it isn’t willing to tackle some heavy matters.

EJ

It’d have been a bit more harrowing if Shinjiro had been hurt at all, but the kid is fine after taking a hundred-foot fall. Looks like things are a little more complicated than they seem, and later that night, Shin decides to come clean to Ide—only for Ide to come clean about some secrets of his own!

KYR

I love that everyone in the SSSP had already figured out Shin’s identity as Ultraman before.

EAG

Yeah, seeing how the SSSP protected him and Shinjiro was sweet, and it implied that they’re as tight knit as other defense programs we’ve seen in previous Ultraman series and films.

EJ

They're definitely tight knit, but I understand why Hayata is reticent about Shinjiro's own capabilities. Ide may be his friend, but the SSSP has changed. After all, considering Hayata powders a stairwell with a single blow…

And then, of course, Ide decides to reveal that the SSSP isn’t what Shin remembers it being either, having changed into a massive clandestine organization!

KYR

I think it’s a lot of fun how the base has been turned into a museum as a cover while the real stuff happens underneath. Gives it an old school spy agency kind of vibe.

EAG

Yeah, the whole setup of the museum was awesome. The defense teams have always kind of operated in plain sight, right? The contrast is interesting.

EJ

Now, from here, we’re set to move forward ten years, to the “present day.” Before we do, let’s take a quick look at the themes the show is already presenting to us. There’s a lot we’re already seeing about immigration and globalization, blown up to a global scale.

EAG

Between the violence, language, and serious undertones, it’s clear that this show isn’t targeted at all ages the way other Ultraman content is. I think it’s a fresh take on the franchise and gives them room to explore relevant themes and push the boundaries of the story world.

KYR

Not only is it darker, but the rules of the world and the relationships between Aliens and humans is completely different too, tying into what you were saying about immigration, EJ.

EAG

Yeah, Ultraman has always had underlying themes of immigration, right? In Ultraman Taiga, monsters and aliens assimilated to life alongside humans, which I think promoted a lot of thought about the preconceived notions a lot of us had about the nature of Kaiju. In this series, I hope to see some of those topics revisited.

EJ

Considering one of the first things we’re shown during Shin’s briefing is a terrorist attack on a plane, connected to the state of human-alien relations? Yeah, darker is right.

Anyway, on that cheery note, let’s jump forward a decade, and meet the now-teenaged Shinjiro.

And man, I like this kid, but he’s a bit of a dork, huh?

EAG

Haha, he definitely doesn’t have a grip on how to use his powers in his day-to-day life, so I get it. When he tried to protect his crush from the predatory boys from the other school, he ended up scaring the girls off with his behavior, too.

EJ

Well yeah, he broke a guy’s ankle with barely a touch! Even if he’s a good guy, man oh man, is that shocking!

KYR

I’m interested in seeing him try to jibe his powers with regular old growing up if this is what he’s doing.

EAG

I think a lot of kids see superheroes and think “Man, if I had powers like that I could get tons of play,” but Shinjiro’s struggle with taming his powers makes for a much more relatable character.

EJ

Speaking of teens with superpowers, anybody else get Spider-Man vibes when Shinjiro was leaping from roof to roof?

EAG

Yes! That was the first thing I thought of, actually.

KYR

I definitely felt a strong mix of the traditional Ultraman stuff with modern comic-booky influences here, yeah.

EJ

He's probably going to have to learn some of those same hard lessons about great power coming with great responsibility, but that's on-brand for any Ultraman series.

Now, whether that had anything to do with the Chad Kroeger I put on during those jumps, who can say.

EAG

Naturally. Everyone wants a place to clear their minds. Growing up in the city, I’ve definitely had some defining moments on skyscraper rooftops. Spider-Man and now Shinjiro take that a bit past my experience though.

EJ

And just like Spider-Man, Shinjiro may be powerful, but that does nothing to help with his family situation, eh? His relationship with his dad has certainly become a little strained…

KYR

Yeah, mostly because Shinjiro can throw a car one-handed, and doesn’t think his dad would understand. Shinjiro is obviously struggling with his secret, and as we learn at the very end of the episode, his dad has been shouldering responsibility of his own as Earth’s Ultraman.

EJ

Especially because he's Shin Hayata, this famous hero from the past who's now a defense minister. And yes, also Ultraman, as we find out. Or at least, he's trying to be Ultraman again. He's got one major issue in the way, though, right? Bemular. Who, pound for pound in a series of cool armor designs, may have the coolest design.

KYR

That’s a good point EJ. This Shin’s Ultraman is very different from the Ultraman we see in the dioramas of the past. Bemular being the first villain here is a really fun callback to the first episode of the original show.

EJ

I’d say this isn’t your daddy’s Ultraman, but no, it quite literally is.

EAG

The practical effects of the classic Ultraman were very charming and impressive, but this new style allows for a more modern and delicate aesthetic, as we see in this fight.

EJ

At the same time, the combat floats in a way the original show couldn't, due to being restricted by, well, gravity. Or reality.

KYR

Yeah, there are definitely action beats that can be done with animation, which bring the ideas to life on an entirely new level.

Anyway, as our characters mention a few times, one disconcerting thing about this Bemular is he looks quite a bit like a silver Ultraman. Wonder what that’s about…

EJ

So, with Shin's arrival in the black, prototype armor, the episode ends on a cliffhanger. Where do you guys think the show will go next?

KYR

Is the armor Black or Gray/Silver?

EJ

It’s gunmetal, don’t be pedantic!

EAG

I think conflict will arise between Shinjiro and Hayata when it comes to the use of Shinjiro’s power. I think Shinjiro will defy his father and continue navigating his capabilities and that will in turn draw more attention from other Kaiju.

KYR

I think this episode sets up an intriguing mystery with Bemular and starts to give us some clues as to what his identity may be. His armor’s resemblance to Ultraman’s design, and his strange infatuation with Shinjiro and/or Shin come to mind as potentially important.

EJ

With that, we'll see you guys in the coming weeks with our look at episode 2 of Season 1 of Netflix's Anime ULTRAMAN. To see what we think then, stay close to UltramanConnection.com!