Movie Theaters and Some Important People
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by no one showing up to this Shin Ultraman screening. Especially since I saw the dub with some people that I wanted to at least show the insanity of Ultraman too. So yeah, it was just the three of us in this pretty big movie theater just watching Ultraman. That hasn’t happened to me in such a long time since maybe that one time I watched The Wolverine? Plenty of space to just say what we wanted to about the film in very specific moments of pure entertainment too. I mean, why not? Who is going to yell at us for the experience we jumped into? No one. Muahaha.
This film was such a cool sort of passion project by some people I really like. Shinji Higuchi and Hideaki Anno were two of a few amazing people behind this film. Both of them have worked together for years. At least since Gunbuster if not beforehand so they know how to just click with each other. Shinji Higuchi is the director behind this very interesting film and he had a very specific vision towards it that I really thought was such an interesting choice. Hideaki Anno is of course a producer of this film and you can tell his fingerprints are all over it if you know the Hideaki Anno-isms to look for.
The Main Story
After multiple kaiju attacks in Japan, as usual, and the Japanese self defense force able to take them down, a new government agent was formed. The S-Class Species Suppression Protocol or the SSSP is a body of the government that takes over control of how to handle each kaiju when they show up. That requires analyzing their traits and finding the best way to destroy them. One day, one of the most powerful kaiju possible shows up and no one can take it down. Of course, one kid did not evacuate. One SSSP member named Shinji Kaminaga goes out to save him, immediately gets crushed by a spaceship, and becomes Ultraman who fights the kaiju.
That is all the beginning of Shin Ultraman. He fights Kaiju to save the entire world from destruction once again. Honestly, that is not all of what Utraman is about. It is also about aliens who want to take over the world which leads to gigantic fights with a more layered perspective than just destroying up the entire world. Zarab, for instance, is a very chaotic evil. He is out there to use Ultraman to get the rest of the world jealous of Ultraman and/or getting a fake Ultraman out there to get the world turned against him. That was such a fun encounter all the way through.
On the other side is the neutral evil and lawful evil showing up for it too. Mefilas is attempting to make business deals with human kind using a similar device as Kaminaga uses to turn into Ultraman for themselves as a deal for him to take over the world and supposedly no one else will notice. You know, not going to happen. Then that encounter leads to the actual lawful evil of Zoffy, even if he doesn’t intend it, because Shinji Kaminaga Ultraman broke some world of light rules of his integration with humanity with the Zeton. Something which Ultraman and the smartest people in humanity worked together to solve showing the brightness of all of it. Even with the darkness of it all in this film, there is a good ray of light in it too.
Some Realism In My Fantasy
I feel like the idea about all of this film didn’t just come from nostalgia. I think all the people behind this film saw the trend of darker and/or more realistic sort of super heroes in the United States. You know, like the Dark Knight Trilogy and whatever the hell the DCEU was. If there was a way to do that with Ultraman by showing how much of a force a powerful alien like him would change the entire world. The original Ultraman was only a guy that showed up to save the planet by fighting the giant monster at the end of the day. In this film, the SSSP are people who wear suits instead of their 60’s orange uniforms ready to save the day. There is something with a bit more realism in the whole affair. Plus, the internet plays a part here.
Which is the major factor here, the governments of the world play more into this series. All of them matter in this. Japan finally having access to a man who is a literal nuclear weapon changes the politics of the entire world. Especially with mentions from these members of the Japanese Parliament who consider themselves a beta company. The United States, which doesn’t show in the film, is at least mentioned in being super curious about Ultraman and them wanting something like it on their own terms. Whether or not people are actually curious or approving of actual power is something to think about even if that is a minor idea.
Especially when Shinji Kaminaga is either on the run based on how the Japanese government and its people think of him considering that he is a larger threat or they try to take him away from the SSSP because of how important he has gotten. Shinji Kaminaga’s secret identity didn’t even last for twenty minutes in this entire film. Not to mention how strange this guy acted the entire film and just continued to act that way with a slight change of getting to know the people he is working with. Shinji was clearly an alien in a human’s body trying to figure out how humans work. That is a small arc of the entire film, when he is on screen. Still, he was a beacon of hope regardless.
Humor, The SSSP, and Humanity
The cast members of the SSSP are the leader Kimio Tamura who is literally the most normal person to help everyone out. Hiroko Asami who is Shinji’s partner and plays into a lot of the strangeness by being a private investigator and analyst who knows everyone’s story besides Shinjis. She and Shinji have a small building sort of friendship in the film that has some hints of romance if the story kept going. Then there are the other two characters Dakai who is the particle physics nerd who loves Star Trek and Akari who is a biologist who really hates bugs and will criticize everything happening around her as being unusual too.
Each of these characters are a part of the humor of the show, you know besides the villains being hilarious when they are presented that way? The humor of Shin Ultraman is very matter of fact in a way that makes sense without it being too jokey. You know, pointing out how strange it is that Kaiju attack Japan or just not liking bugs. Or even some guy doing some sort of video conference with 3D sort of gear and characters would say how strange it is? It kept the show light when the weirdness of what was going on. One moment involved Hiroko becoming a gigantic woman for a part of it and then the internet reacted exactly how you think it would without it getting too far. There is some restraint to this film. Also, only aliens can delete things from the internet.
What brings this film together in its themes and ideas is Shinji getting closer to this team of interesting humanity beings that represent so many parts of it. Especially Shinji and Hiroko gaining some trust in each other or Shinji telling the larger government officials to go away because he was talking to his friends. Maybe he doesn’t know them personally because his alien aspect is there which puts him at a distance, but that does mean something after all. Or him listening to the advice of his friends in order to save the Earth. You know, besides humanity just waiting until they died out. No, people did something and they helped Ultraman achieve everything.
The Great Shots and Conclusion
Every single shot in this film is from some very unique angle that most films wouldn’t ever go for. You know, it’s something that I’ve seen from Eva 3.0 + 1.0 where the shots were so unique from animation too. Just interesting aesthetic shots of choices and framing by placing the camera in one select spot, like Shinji’s empty chair, then showing each of the cast members in their spots. It’s like we are working alongside them. So many shots like that. You add in the CG which is just either bad or good depending on the situation with the Ultraman scenes and you have the visual experience of this entire film. In general, pretty solid. I love when the color timer was changed to Ultraman turning into a different color when his powers started to run out.
So yeah, I just had a blast watching this film. Maybe the empty movie theater experience helped a bit so I can express whatever thought I had with the cool people I brought with me. Plus, it was so strange and wonderful in a way that I haven’t seen in the media these days at all? I think that is part of why it clicked with me so much. Especially since it is old school with a modern twist. Newer Ultraman is a lot different and more conventional, if not just plain good, compared to the Ultraman 1966 and Ultraseven that I have been watching alongside some of the newer Ultraman that is airing right now. So yeah, it hit me in the right place. If you are in the same sort of mindset, then you will enjoy Shin Ultraman a great deal.
Very glad you enjoyed it! (Nothing beats a unique Anno theatrical experience.) Although I have little experience with the classic Ultraman, I do want to try and familiarize myself with it more before seeing it. Looking forward to the Blu-ray release whenever that comes out.
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Yeah, I originally started watching some Ultraman to get to this film and understand it a bit more. Now I am currently stuck in watching more Ultraman….not going to be sad about that though.
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It’s super interesting that you mentioned it not being entirely rooted in nostalgia. I got a lot of this info from my buddy Ebisuno on his blog/review of Shin Ultraman – but the goal was that this Shin Ultraman is for the adults that grew up with the series and for their kids. It’s part of the Shin Godzilla/Shin Ultraman/Shin Kamen Shin trio that Shinji Higuchi and Hideaki Anno have/are working on. Sorry, bit a fun fact info dump I thought you might find interesting lol.
I’ve had a lot of hit or miss impressions with Shinji Higuchi and Hideaki Anno (Shin Godzilla was difficult watch), but it’s nice to see that their skills from the animation sphere are translating into live action. Your comments about the unique angles/shot composition have me curious for sure.
Also having an entire movie theater for just you and two friends? Absolute score! Those are some of my favorite moments when watching a movie like that, glad you got to have that with a fun one!
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Oh, I knew about this being a trio of films for these two and have been looking into more Ultraman and Kamen Rider series because of these films. I wanted to have more of an opinion when watching them.
It feels like you friend and I came to a similar sort of conclusion in a different way. Like the characters in the SSSP are wearing suits with pins that are references to the radios they wore in the 66 series. So they do the same things as the original Ultraman show, just that it’s a new fresh coat of paint. The entire film was like that in a good way.
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Okie dokie, I’m glad that’s more widely known. (A lot of people didn’t hear about it) They’ve got me curious so I might marathon all three when they’re available? Feels like it’ll be an interesting experiance.
Ohh~ That easter egg/homage is really interesting. I love when franchises do that.
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