Tokusatu is a wonderful genre. It’s filled with so much creativity, genuineness, and pure, entertaining stupidity. But every now and then you get an animated adaption of one of these series and they can always be a mixed bag. Some carryon the spirit of the original and really resonate with fans (GARO: The Animation) or they can be flat, boring retellings with lazy added dark themes (Godzilla anime trilogy). Where does Ultraman 2019 fall under? Definitely on the positive spectrum.
Ultraman is an adaption of the 2011 manga of the same name and is a sequel/reboot to the original 1966 series…….neither of which I have watched or read, always more of a Karen Rider fan, though I’ve wanted to. Even though I’m not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to this series, Ultraman does a great job of getting people up to speed on who this character is and it never feels like you NEED to have seen any of the countless Ultraman shows to fully enjoy it. It also pays a lot of respect to the older series and preserves as much of the spirit of Ultraman as it can, at least from what I could see. I can certainly say that I enjoyed my time with this series but something always felt off about it. For every good thing the show does there’s always something holding it back from being something greater, and no where is that more evident than with the shows own main character.
The story focuses on high schooler Shinjiro Hayata, the son of the original Ultraman Shin Hayata, and his struggles with his developing powers and coming to terms with what it means to be Ultraman. The basic premise is fine Shinjiro is a decent enough character but the show REALLY takes its sweet time developing him and has a bad habit of making him appear weak and whiny. There are several instances of Shinjiro getting saved by other characters while getting belittled by them and he very rarely gets a chance to come into his own and take charge. Don’t get me wrong I was rooting for the guy and couldn’t wait until he became a true hero, but having it take the entire season to do it was a bit frustrating. The other Ultramen, Seven and Ace, came off as more effective fighters and heroes, which I understand is the point like you NEED that contrast but to never have Shinjiro fully prove them wrong and overcome them just makes him look weak. I’m hoping that when/if there’s a second season they let Shinjiro take charge more.
Another thing that came off as bothersome to me was the animation. While it can look really nice at times and the action is wonderfully shot and edited, the show can never decide whether or not it wants to run on 30 frames or 60 frames. Ultraman constantly shifts between the two and after a while it starts to get really distracting, especially since it looks less and less polished the smoother the frame rate gets. The shading as well can look really odd at points because certain camera angles make the characters look untextured and somewhat dated. The larger monsters especially suffer from this as they can look out of place in many scenes.
Even with these issues I can’t say I wouldn’t recommend Ultraman to someone, especially to fans of the series. The show is filled to the brim with fan service that even an uneducated watcher like me can recognize. Several other Legacy Ultraman characters and monsters appear throughout the series and with the exhilarating fight scenes and character designs, it’s hard not to find something to appreciate here. It’s a decent enough action series with fun enough characters but in my opinion it does fall a bit short in terms of building its hero up and presenting a compelling story.
This young hero still has a long way to go before he can live up to the legacy of his predecessors.