FANTASIA FEST 2022: ‘Shin Ultraman’ Delivers The Year’s Best Superhero Film

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Shin Ultraman

Shin Ultraman is directed by Shinji Higuchi and written by Hideaki Anno, based on the original Ultraman TV series. When mysterious monsters known as Kaiju begin to lay waste to Japan, a secret wing of the government known as the S-Class Species Suppression Protocol is created to battle the alien beasts. The SSSP soon witnesses the arrival of a giant silver being who defeats a Kaiju in battle, and refers to it as “Ultraman”. As more and more alien threats began to attack the Earth, SSSP officer Hiroko Asami (Masami Nagasawa) learns that her colleague Shinji Kaminaga (Takumi Saitoh) has a surprising connection to Ultraman.

The past few years have seen the Ultraman franchise increasing its presence in pop culture, thanks to home company Tsuburaya Productions. The Tokusatsu legend recently headlined an anime series on Netflix, a line of miniseries for Marvel Comics, and even had a stage show at this year’s Anime Expo. And now he’s gotten his own modern reboot! What makes this project special is that it’s from the same team that gave the world Shin Godzilla. And similar to how they reinterpreted the King of the Monsters as a nightmarish, ever-evolving creature Higuchi and Anno take a more grounded look at the superhero genre – specifically how the world would realistically react to a giant red and silver being who punches monsters in the face. Ultraman is often regarded as a pariah among humanity, and when alien technology is presented to the Japanese government they’re more than happy to take it – even though the risks are astronomical.

What also makes Shin Ultraman stand out is the fact that Anno is a major Ultraman fan. He crafted an Ultraman fan film while he was in film school – which served as the basis for this film and two planned sequels. And his script pays homage to multiple elements of the original Ultraman series. Classic Ultraman foes including Zarab and Mefilas are reimagined as Machevillian schemers aiming to use humanity for their own ends, and the concept of Ultraman fusing with a human being is revealed to have dire consequences for humanity. Though it may not be as mind-melting as his work on the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise, Anno proves he can still use genre to tackle big themes.

Higuchi leans into the vibe of the Ultraman franchise, crafting fights that wouldn’t be out of place in the original series. A key example is Ultraman’s fight against the massive Kaiju Gabora; the red and silver hero uses a combination of kicks and punches as well as his trademark Spacium Ray to do battle with the drill-headed monster. Even though there are obvious CGI elements at play, it has all of the charm and passion of an Ultraman episode. Part of that comes down to who’s doing motion capture for Ultraman. Anno steps in to portray the red and silver hero alongside Bin Furuya; Furuya portrayed Ultraman in the original series. And there’s a moment where Higuchi perfectly replicates Ultraman’s transformation sequence – which brought a tear to my eye.

The final piece of the puzzle is the cast, who each brings something unique to the table. Saitoh portrays Kaminaga as a rather aloof being who slowly warms up to humanity and grows into the Ultraman fans know and love over the course of the film. Nagasawa has some of the funniest moments of the film, including a moment where Asami is launched into the air during an Ultraman battle. And the rest of the cast is filled with anime veterans: Kenjiro Tsuda, who voices Seto Kaiba in Yu-Gi-Oh!, plays Zarab. And Koichi Yamadera, who voices Spike in Cowboy Bebop has a major role in the final act.

Shin Ultraman reimagines the Tokusatsu legend for the modern day, courtesy of a creative team that has a deep love for the Ultraman mythos. Whether you’re a longtime Ultraman fan or not, Shin Ultraman is a great introduction to the character  It’s also the best superhero film of 2022, and I hope it receives a theatrical release in the states so that others can see it.

Shin Ultraman had its North American premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival 2022 and has had a theatrical run in the United States.


Shin Ultraman
  • 9.5/10
    Rating - 9.5/10
9.5/10

TL;DR

Shin Ultraman reimagines the Tokusatsu legend for the modern day, courtesy of a creative team that has a deep love for the Ultraman mythos. Whether you’re a longtime Ultraman fan or not, Shin Ultraman is a great introduction to the character  It’s also the best superhero film of 2022, and I hope it receives a theatrical release in the states so that others can see it.

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