Review: Ultraman vol. 5

Big Ultraman is coming. I know that I should be excited by that. I’m sure that most people reading this new Ultraman series from Viz are probably excited, but I am not. What’s worked incredibly well for this series has been the fact that it hasn’t needed giant monsters and battles that destroy the city. Sure there’s been destruction and some giantness, but it is, and excuse the pun, far more grounded this time around. Which is why this volume is still an incredible read as the battle that was set up at the end of the fourth issue plays out here. It does not go the way you think it does. If anything it will completely blindside you with what’s to come because much like Shinjiro we have walked blindly into the world with more depth than ever realized before. There are plenty of plot reveals early on in this volume making it pretty difficult to go any further without spoilers.

Ultraman vol 5That said, the SSSP is not the only thing back and that this new element is a bit like finding out that there’s an alien city on earth that you can only reach through a portal. It’s that kind of an event in which your perception of this world is entirely changed. The way this story is layered and developed is incredibly smart. Lesser storytellers would have run to these events to show them to the audience, but the team of Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi have instead paced these events in such a way that a metaphor for an onion is needed. No, perhaps a staircase would be a better example as each arc of the story continues to take another step higher thus changing the view of the world. Since not much has been said about this volume, there is one review which is a bit spoilery, but not entirely since it should be expected, but there is a third Ultraman in the mix of things.

The artwork continues to be some of the best I have seen in a manga. The biggest reason being that both creators understand the medium and use the art to tell the story rather than just accompany the dialog. That is a problem that plagues much manga, and it is frankly very off putting when you go from something of such great quality like Ultraman to something that has pretty pictures, but shallow visual storytelling. It is enough to send you running back to Ultraman to re-read it.

While this review ended up shorter than I was expecting, hopefully, you will check out the volume. It has a couple of stumbles and even though it teases “Big Ultraman” for the future of the story, it has been one of my favorites thus far. Don’t let it be the first volume you read, though; you will be very lost, but it is worth catching up on this series as it is hands down one of the best manga out there both regarding art and visuals.

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Ultraman vol. 5 Creators: Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi Publisher: Viz/Viz Signature Price: $12.99 Format: TPB; Print/Digital


Review: Ultraman vol. 4

If you read the previous volume of Ultraman, then you already know that Moroboshi is a dick. Shinjiro didn’t know that, but after Moroboshi arrives wearing his version of the Ultraman suit and tells him to “Deal with it,” I’m pretty sure he knows now. This volume of Ultraman continues with Shinjiro dealing with the notion that he must kill some of the aliens he encounters. It doesn’t sit well with him, but after seeing Moroboshi and helping a little girl with a balloon, he sees how many people he’d put at risk. He’s then tested by Red and Jack and pushed to the point of unlocking a new power. The rest of the volume deals with Rena, the serial killer and a pissing contest between Moroboshi and Shinjiro.

ultraman-vol-4The story for this new Ultraman continues to be tightly woven. There’s clearly an over-arcing storyline that’s in play, but what has made these first four volumes particularly tight is that all of the subplots have been connected and are now coming funneling together for a resolution. In a way, the A, B, and C storylines have all focused on different characters or aspects of the story, and now they’re heading to a collision. It’s too soon to say how it will change the landscape of the world.

It’s easy to be fooled by this trade because compared to the previous installments there’s no big reveals or action sequences. There’s a little bit with Red, but there aren’t any consequences outside of unlocking Shinjiro’s potential. Yet with seemingly so little going on, it’s easy to miss the character development and the footwork that’s done to move the story along. And it could have all ended up being very boring, but it’s anything but. The aspect that stands out the most ends up being Shinjiro’s character development as he deals with the notion of taking a life, learning he’s not the only Ultraman and unlocking a new skill. It’s a lot for him to take in and it’s a testament to the quality of the story that it doesn’t forget to show this struggle. It would be very easy to show Shinjiro accepting everything and just moving on, but instead the story allows you time to get to know the lead character.

The art on this book is stunning. I won’t rank or compare it to other series because that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t take away from how impressive the details are from start to finish. The world of Ultraman feels alive because of the art. It’s easy to get lost in the clean linework, the black and white pages and a style that is easily recognized for being from Japan. The real challenge is not being blind to the details and raw emotion that the artwork has. The battles never seem laidback, but rather a fight with real consequences and damage. You can dislike the style (I don’t know why you ever would), but you can still appreciate the skill that goes into this series.

With as many Western/American style comics that I read, I don’t keep up with too many Manga series. I would love to, but the reality is that I have more to read than I do time to read. The ones I do continue to follow, like Ultraman or One-Punch Man, have such talent and quality of stories that I do keep up with them. With that said, if you’re not caught up on Ultraman you need to do yourself a favor and get caught up.

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Ultraman Creators: Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi Publisher: Viz Media Price: $12.99 Format: TPB; Print/Digital