This is Dodgy86 in the mix, brining you the manga Ultraman Volume 1 Viz Signature Edition, story and art by Eiichi Shimizu Tomohiro Shimoguchi. Proudly published by Shogakukan and fn translated in English by Viz Media.
In the 1990s we were all introduced to the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, as most kids I would watch it after school. We marveled at the fight scenes, especially when the Power Rangers would form their Morphed mode and fight their villainous monster – we would see building miniatures in the background. Unlike the Western world, the Japanese saw this long before with Ultraman who was created in 1966 by Eiji Tsuburaya for Toho Co. LTD – a over the last 50 years it has spun off into a series of movies and TV shows. Ultraman for the people of Japanese is seen as a pop icon, children would flock to watch what monster Ultraman would fight next which is the same way we felt when watching the Power Rangers.
Having visited Japan numerous times and one thing I noticed was that bookstores and toy stores were filled with Ultraman merchandise. I knew little of Ultraman, I grew curious and receive a history lesson courtesy of my wife who is Japanese. Which is why I know a bit about the legacy of the show and he fought the universal pop icon Godzilla! When I picked up a new modern take of Ultraman, Then one day I saw in the newsstands, a Ultraman manga which gives the character a new modern, fresh look. I was lured!!
The story begins many years after Ultraman was around saving the world from extraterrestrial visitors, we then meet Shin Hayata the Minister of Defense and his son Shinjiro. Shin has a meeting with an old friend Ide Mitsuhiro who used to work together. Whilst the two adults are talking as a yound child does Shinjiro gets into mischief, he climbs a rail and falls several meters to the floor. Shin is surprised to find his son is unharmed and only feeling shocked!
The secret comes out that Shin Hayata is actually the retired Ultraman, and it appears his son Shinjiro has inherited the Ultraman Factor giving him superhero strength. Twelve years later, we discover Shin’s friend Ide Mitsuhiro was the brain behind Ultraman and tries to recruit Shin to wear the costume, as Ide is aware aliens have returned to earth, we also discover that although years had passed Ide continued to run a top-secret Science Special Search Party.
The scene skips to where we see Shin’s son Shinjiro is in his senior year in high school. Whether it be girl problems or bullies, at school and as an angst teenager does – he’s causing trouble. All Shinjiro wants is just to fit in, he is aware he’s not like other people and does his best to keep his powers a secret. He gets into one fight in school and it turns out horrible to the other guy – Shinjiro runs away to clear his mind until his path crosses that of an alien and then Shin arrives in his Ultraman costume and orders his son to safety to Ide’s helicopter. As both Shinjiro and Ide witness that Shin is not fairing well against the monster; Shinjiro is aware that he has the Ultraman Factor and that he can aid his father, Ide agrees to allow Shinjiro to wear the Ultraman and he resues his father. A new Ultrman is born!
To be honest, I was very concerned whether I’d have to catch up on 50 years of binge watching to get an understanding of the character and the story. That is not the case; you don’t have to know anything prior to picking up this book. You will be guided with subtle visual references throughout the book. Being a 229-page read, I dreaded it at first and to my surprised I cleaned it up in an hour. This book does not have a lot of text, the creative team relies heavily on imagery to tell their story as well as it paced out into 6 chapters, this could be why it didn’t feel as long as first thought. I connected with the characters as they are developed well and begin to know them, which is great; the downside is the lack of female characters in this book. Both Shinjiro’s mother as well as his potential girlfriend have very little to say, I hope they appear more in the next chapter.
The art is beautiful to look at and is fresh – some moments there are the typical manga look and feel with heavy western influences. The shading used in fail expressions remind me of known artists such as Marc Silvestri, David Finch and the late Michael Turner. The action scenes are well paced making it easy to follow which would make a great anime series.
It would’ve given this a perfect score if there were more emphasis on female characters, not the cheerleader who welcomes the returning hero with a massive hug or the housewife whose always in the kitchen wearing an apron.
If you enjoy the action of One Punch Man (minus the humor), you will love this! Do ya’self a favor and check it out!