Shin Ultraman Review

shin ultraman
shin ultraman
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In the Shin Ultraman, you have Shinji Higuchi and Hideaki Anno reimagining a beloved Japanese tokusatsu franchise from the 60s. This one feels more like a spiritual successor to DAICON Film’s Return of Ultraman than any other series that has come after it, getting right what makes this franchise special and endearing while also remixing lore and characters from across generations. Whether you’ve been an Ultraman fan for years, want to find out where Anno got all his ideas for Evangelion or the follow-up to Shin Godzilla was good, or just wanna see some monster fights with a silver giant man, then this is one hell of a superhero motion picture.

For those new to the scene, the story of Ultraman follows an alien being who comes to planet Earth in order to protect it against cosmic menaces via his special energy ray that he shoots using his crossed hands. Therefore, what Shin Ultraman does is act as an entry point for fans who have been there since day one as well as first timers much like how Shin Godzilla tapped every facet of Godzilla while still keeping the original concept up-to-date with today’s audience. Basically playing out like four episodes of a television show each building on top of the next, the total run time for The 112-minute Shin Ultraman even has its own climatic fight scene before we go back to square one with introducing kaiju in Japan – which seems to be their favorite place on earth.

Just like in Shin Godzilla and indeed its predecessor Ultra Man itself which were more focused on human perspective rather than these stoic silver giants. It is SSSP (S-Class Species Suppression Protocol) agents making plans about how they will defeat kaiju and once ultramarine appears how they can help him if at all there should be any. Although different from what Higuchi and Anno did in their last Shin film, where the general government reaction was the main issue at hand, Shin Ultraman has well-defined and clear-cut characters. One of these figures is analyst Hiroko Asami (Masami Nagasawa) who becomes an important player as she connects with this silver champion.

Shin Ultraman can be a rather talky film if you expect it to be that way, for Anno replaces Godzilla’s rapid-fire governmental titles and committee names with equally fast-paced discussions about kaiju physiology, rare science fiction elements, and some philosophical chats about humanity. However, Hugichi keeps the pace brisk and visuals engaging by using Anno’s love for obtuse angles here making some scenes feel like we are watching found-footage movies made up of surveillance cameras rather than conventional narrative films.

But enough about the human stuff; we’re here to see a tokusatsu movie about a giant silver man shooting beams out of his hands, dammit! In delivering on that front, it does so with flying colors for Shin Ultraman. Admittedly, when it comes to describing this movie in one word, it would have to be “silly.” Not silly in the sense of goofy or campy though but silly in the way something like SSSS.Gridman (itself a reinterpretation of another Ultraman-adjacent franchise), or even Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim is silly. What results is a film that is bright and sweet-natured; one that knows what it wants to tell its audience without any pretense of hiding anything from them, capturing the sheer delight of witnessing massive anthropomorphic superhuman punching an intergalactic behemoth.

One can undoubtedly see Higuchi’s work as a storyboard artist and special effects genius here, which makes the computer-animation look real even though most of the action occurs in daylight. The computer-generated motion capture is most impressive at how much it looks like actual people in practical suits, especially Ultraman himself (which is sometimes played by Anno himself in a full-circle moment), while all monster designs are based on Tohl Narita’s original concept art from the shows giving it a sense of both familiarity and newness. That said, this film also has some practical effects such as miniatures or a few shots that actually look like they just moved an action figure around with wires. Shin Ultraman seems to be the perfect mix of a colossal blockbuster spectacle and a DIY fan movie only two ardent fans like Higuchi and Anno could give this series.

In retrospect, creating another Godzilla movie that speaks to Japan’s government response to the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami 2011 appears now as something very obvious; however, updating relentless the 1960s’ optimism of Ultraman for 2022 is not easy. Thankfully, Anno’s script manages to keep the sense of optimism and heroics of the original shows while interrogating their space in modern times. Shin Ultraman tackles how quickly we turn against our heroes, our reliance on gods or mythical beings to save us among other issues but still steers its attention towards human resourcefulness and expectation. For instance when Ultraman does his Rise pose; aside from being fan service; it is equally an emotional climax for him.

Perhaps one of Anno’s most important projects in years for fans may be Shin Ultraman (at least until next year’s release of Shin Kamen Rider). Everything about what he did on Neon Genesis Evangelion shows how much this franchise and character had influenced him; visual clues/plot points/themes/tone etc., thus making his use of Shin Ultraman as a character very meaningful. Shirō Sagisu comes back to score this movie having done so in both Shin Godzilla and Evangelion, thus completing the circle.

Shin Ultraman might not be that international hit which revamps a franchise like Shin Godzilla was since globally Ultraman never became as big as the king of monsters did. For this movie, which is what makes this project so special; there’s so much love for the character on screen. Even if you know nothing about Ultraman, every frame oozes joy and reverence. It is an energetic and uplifting superhero film but as an Ultraman movie it somehow manages to breathe new life into a franchise over half-a-century old.


As they did with Godzilla before now, Shinji Higuchi and Hideaki Anno’s Shin Ultraman does exactly that for the tokusatsu superhero, giving him a contemporary makeover with a new origin story and perspective while still retaining some aspects of its original series’ sensibilities and inspiring themes. This joyful celebration of tokusatsu and superhero stories is worth watching whether or not one has any familiarity with the character at all.

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