The following may contain spoilers for ULTRAMAN Season 2.
Director / Kenji Kamiyama, Shinji Aramaki
Original Work / Eiichi Shimizu, Tomohiro Shimoguchi
Production / Tsuburaya Production, Production I.G., Sola Digital Arts
Release Date / April 2022
As of this review, it’s been three years since the first season of ULTRAMAN, the Netflix Original anime adaptation of Eiichi Shimizu and Tomoshiro Shimoguchi’s modern take of the tokusatsu classic, was released. While not a 100% adaptation of the source manga, it did stick to a considerable extent and was able to tell a good story that left audiences wanting more. Months leading up to its release, we were given multiple teases of how our new team of six Ultraman Suit-donning warriors would assemble in the same vein as the original Showa-era Ultra Brothers. And that really did the job as I was excited for this season. Though I admit to having reservations going in as we are only getting half the number of episodes when compared to the first season. Not to mention significant changes from the plot of the original manga, that it effectively makes this adaptation lighter in tone, and removes a good deal of character development to several characters. That said, I will do my best to dish out my unsolicited thoughts based on this adaptation alone as we take a look at the sophomore season of ULTRAMAN.
While Season 1 ended with some unresolved mysteries, it was a relatively closed story. Both Shinjiro Hayata and Dan Moroboshi continued their work for S.S.S.P., Hokuto Seiji went with Bemular after the battle with Ace Killer, and Jack headed to America with Yapool (i.e. the alien who made the Ace Suit for Hokuto). Season 2 opens with a mysterious disappearance incident in New York which brings journalist Kotaro Igashi to Japan. As if a magnet to these incidents, another mass disappearance happens in Tokyo, which unfortunately includes Shinjiro. Investigating this mystery and finding out the mastermind behind leads to our heroes joining together to save those who disappeared.
As I mentioned earlier, I won’t be comparing this season to the volumes of the manga it loosely adapted. But the changes they made did affect how the story turned out overall. First, the plot felt a little shallow. Don’t get me wrong, a good chunk of people disappearing without a trace shouldn’t be taken lightly. But it came across as more of a generic plot you’d often see in live action tokusatsu shows, and pales in comparison to the deeper themes of season 1. Then we get to the characters, where they were clearly building up Kotaro as the newest hero to join the team. Most of the episodes are focused on fleshing out his motivations for fighting, mainly how everything led to the loss of his girlfriend, Izumi. Though he didn’t really have a tough time finding resolve since he’s already the ‘I am a true believer of justice’ kind of character. On that note, I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I didn’t fully understand how his power was activated. He was supposedly shot with the same malfunctioning quantum transportation beam that ultimately killed Izumi, but instead activated his latent powers, I guess.
Unfortunately, this meant Kotaro got most of the character development ‘allocation’ for the season, especially with the shorter 6-episode run. Jack did get some development as he is, sort of, the mentor of Kotaro, and he did show legitimate concern when Kotaro was seemingly killed in the climactic battle. Both Shinjiro and Dan were basically the same throughout the season. Heck, Shinjiro was virtually out of the action for the first half thanks to being captured. Oh, he did have some character growth, well mostly with his relationship with Rena, which I hope would have some significance in the final season. And don’t ask me about the villains, particularly how Alien Pedan of the alien terrorist organization Star of Darkness is clearly a setup for the big evil bad guy for the next season. We do get to sympathize with Maaya and how the Star of Darkness is using her nearly extinct species.
They also seemed to be rushing to give everyone an Ultraman Suit. All of the marketing leading up to the season was basically everyone fighting in shiny new Ultraman Suits, to which they did around episode 3. Though I have to admit, it was a treat seeing Shin Hayata’s Prototype Suit transform into the Zoffy Suit, then fight together with Shinjiro. On that note, the visuals are still great, and this comes from a person who didn’t have a problem with the whole cell-shaded 3D approach. But if you have, then I doubt you’d even stick through with the first season. I also had a chuckle with the ending credits where everyone’s silhouettes, whether friend or foe, were dancing to the ending theme. It’s a cool concept and reminded me of how Super Sentai shows often have the main team also dance during the ending credits.
In a nutshell, season 2 of ULTRAMAN pales in comparison to season 1. From the shorter length to the seemingly toned-down story, I was somewhat disappointed. But you do see all six of our heroes in their Ultraman Suits fighting monsters and giant robots. The season ends on a cliffhanger when Bemular states they’re now at the “beginning of the end.” Fortunately for us, we won’t have to wait long as they’ve announced the third and final season which will drop next year. I’d recommend watching season 2 to see it leads to the final season, but it’s definitely weaker compared to the first.
Seasons 1 and 2 of ULTRAMAN are now available for streaming on Netflix. Season 3 is slated for a 2023 release.