Is the new film something only for fans, or can anyone enjoy it?

Ultraman is a tokusatsu franchise that has been around for almost sixty years now. Ranking among the likes of GodzillaSuper Sentai (also known as Power Rangers abroad), and Kamen Rider in terms of popularity in the genre, this “giant superhero” has won the hearts of children and adults alike for generations. So of course, that means the franchise continues to this day!

The newest addition to the Ultraman universe is Shin Ultraman, which just hit theaters on May 13. Directed by Shinji Higuchi and written and planned by Hideaki Anno, this film is intended to be in the same spirit as the latest Godzilla movie, Shin Godzilla, which was also created by the same duo. Two of our Japanese language reporters went to see it: K. Masami, a huge Ultraman fan, and P.K. Sanjun, who has no attachment to the franchise whatsoever. Both came back with the same reaction: the Shin Ultraman movie is awesome.

This film is a reboot of the original series, which aired from 1966 to 1974. At this point, the show has undergone 56 years’ worth of reboots and remakes, probably leaving fans and non-fans alike with reboot exhaustion, but Shin Ultraman has its own twist on the franchise that makes it worth watching. We won’t specify how it set itself apart, as then we’d be spoiling the movie, but suffice it to say it does so in a sufficiently entertaining way.

Initially, Ultraman fan Masami worried that Hideaki Anno, whose work on Evangelion has been so iconic that expectations for his other productions have been high, was not actually directing Shin Ultraman but merely planning and writing the script, but the more of the film Masami saw, the more she agreed that it was the right choice. Anno was clearly able to do exactly what he wanted with the film through his role, and what’s more, the love he has for Ultraman was completely evident in its production. When the film ended and the credits rolled, Masami couldn’t help but think, “Mr. Anno, you really love Ultraman, don’t you?”

That love for the iconic franchise wasn’t limited to Anno, either. You can tell that director Higuchi and the cast all put this film together with the utmost respect. They worked hard to bring the intentions of the original creators into a modern context and execute it in a film that’s full of passion as well as entertainment. The film is neither too old-fashioned nor too new, and Masami can’t say enough praise about the way the crew as a whole brought this film together.

Since it’s a full reboot that starts from the beginning, you don’t have to have any knowledge of Ultraman to enjoy it, and that, Masami says, is a core part of the film’s charm. Fans who have seen every episode of every series and each movie will obviously have a greater appreciation and understanding of the story, but there’s plenty to enjoy about the film even if you’re not a fan. Her enthusiastic praise is actually what encouraged P.K. Sanjun, a member of the “Ultraman lost generation”, as he puts it, who grew up in an era devoid of new Ultraman series, to see the film.

Despite his lack of attachment to the franchise, P.K. does not regret seeing it one bit. He came back from the theater marveling about how incredible it was. “I’d give it a 110-percent satisfaction rate,” he said. “I really enjoyed it.” He enjoyed it both as a film and for its comedic moments, which actually had him bursting out laughing in the theater.

But what he might have liked most about it was the sense it provided of grasping a whole new worldview. The acting somehow maintained the old-school style of the original and the production didn’t feel like it was on the brink of new technology, despite being a modern movie. And even P.K., with his lack of knowledge or previous interest in Ultraman, could feel the love imbued into the film. All those factors combined made this film possibly one of the best Japanese films P.K. has ever seen.

So if you’re someone who doesn’t know much about Ultraman and has been wondering if it’s worth seeing the new film, don’t hesitate. Just go! Both P.K. and Masami guarantee you won’t regret it. And while you’re getting into the Ultraman spirit, don’t forget to pick up an Ultraman chicken burger before visiting the 1:1 scale Ultraman building art in Tokyo!

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[ Read in Japanese ]