Ultraman was one of the first things from Japan I was ever exposed to. I had a plastic Ultraman figure growing up, it didn’t have any articulation, but I loved the hell out of that figure. From that point on I tried to find and digest as much of the franchise as I could and until the arrival of the internet, that was pretty difficult. Since the internet, I’ve become lazy in my hunt for all things Ultraman. When I saw that there was a new Ultraman I got excited because just look at that art… no seriously look at that art… drool. That’s right I was sold on this just from the cover art because that was the sickest looking Ultraman I had ever seen!
As for the story it’s been kind of billed as a reboot of sorts and I guess that’s fair, but in a way it’s not. It acknowledges the past, in fact the story beings by explaining the past and it feeds heavily into the new story. Without spoiling it, I’m going to say it’s pretty brilliant how they do it.
Now as I said, the story begins by explaining a bit of the past. That Ultraman the alien, finished his mission and returned to space and his human host lost all memory of the event and returned to a normal life.
We pick up with that normal life as our former Ultraman Shin Hayata, now the Defense Minister, as he takes his son Shinjiro to visit the Giant of Light Memorial Museum aka the Ultraman Museum. Shin runs into a former SSSP (Science Special Search Party) team member and while they’re chatting Shinjiro falls over the ledge and lands three stories below. Rather than freak out that, Shin wants to take his son home because he knows that he’s okay. Soon it’s reveals that Shin and Shinjiro are both have residual effects from Ultraman’s visit. Shin goes back to talk to his former teammate and he reveals that he thinks he might have been Ultraman, to which his teammate assures him that he was and that the SSSP is still functioning.
The story jumps further in the timeline as we follow Shinjiro who is now in high school. He has a tight group of friends, but love alludes him because he’s begun to figure out he’s different. We find him testing his powers and you begin to wonder if his dad ever told him about them before. Eventually father and son come face to face as a new threat attacks Shinjiro trying to destroy him because of the power he contains.
The action in this story is great. Aside from just being wonderfully illustrated, the scenes are very kinetic and alive. There’s a real sense of motion to the movement. When the fighting expands and begins taking down structures it’s an impressive scene of damage that thankfully doesn’t have any civilian casualties.
Overall the story is pretty damn great. Again, I don’t want to spoil what happens at the end. While its nothing huge and kind of obvious, it’s still a pleasant surprise. The writing is spot on with the characters and the pacing is very tight. Each scene lasts as long as it needs to without it being too long or too short. The balance for the writing is perfect from beginning to end.
Obviously what helps this story a lot is the artwork. Even though we spend a lot of the story with Shin and Shinjiro in civilian clothing, the Ultraman moments are eye catching and worth the wait. It’s that special treat that has always made Ultraman great. If you spent all the time with Ultraman, the novelty would wear out.
The linework is very detailed and there’s not a single panel that I would describe as lazy or rushed. This story is detailed and cared for from beginning to end. The collected volume has some colored pages at the beginning and let me tell you… it’s gorgeous! If those became a poster I would buy them. Hell if it was a blanket pattern I would buy it.
I wasn’t surprised by how good Ultraman Vol. 1 is; if anything I was just surprised by what they chose to do with the story and the direction of the universe. Ultraman has always been good and this new series has pushed it to a new level making for a great new story to enjoy whether you’re a new or old fan of the franchise. Personally I’ll be waiting patiently for the second volume and look forward to following the new Ultraman for years to come.
Ultraman - Vol. 1: This Is the Beginning of a New Age Story & Art: Eiichi Shimizu, Tomohiro Shimoguchi Publisher: Viz Media/Viz Signature Price: $12.99 Release Date: 8/18/15 Format: Trade Paperback; Print