Ultraman Vol. 3 - Manga Review

Ultraman3Header.png

Shinjiro’s doubts continue to grow as he deals with the responsibility of being a new Ultraman for a new age.

The Lowdown

Shinjiro Hayata might be only 17-years old, but he’s now tasked with becoming the hero the world needs in the face of a new alien threat. After bumbling his way through his early missions because of his overconfidence, Shinjiro’s first experience taking an alien life leaves him shaken. Nonetheless, the Science Special Search Party has high expectations of Shinjiro as the son of the original Ultraman, Shin Hayata, and tasks agent Dan Moroboshi with taking Shinjiro to a hidden alien city. Meanwhile, detectives continue to track down the serial killer targeting idol Rena Sayama, but the alien they encounter might not be the one they were counting on...

How Was It?

After the bombastic previous volume which saw Shinjiro battling it out with some threatening aliens, this volume is a comparatively quieter affair that sees the story continue to develop in an interesting way. A alien serial killer with some connection to idol Rena Sayama is still on the loose, and the members of the Science Special Search Party, including Shinjiro, are on the hunt. However, the most interesting progress in the investigation comes thanks to detective Endo and his partner as they work independently from the SSSP to track down the killer. Making this storyline more interesting is the fact that Endo is quietly Rena’s father, giving an extra bit of meaning to the storyline. I appreciated the way that this series gives attention to its secondary characters, with a short conversation between Rena and her father being an example of this because of the extra depth it provided to their characters. While Ultramanis still undoubtedly Shinjiro’s story, the background characters never feel lost in the shuffle, and I felt that this volume did very well in this regard.

Shinjiro’s own character arc is intertwined with this story, and this comes through as he grapples with his own doubts resulting from being thrust so rapidly into being Ultraman. This line of doubt ran all the way throughout the volume, and I thought this was done quite well as a logical mirror of his arc in the previous volume. We saw Shinjiro suffer the the consequences of getting a little too cocky, and now we see the other side as he is tentative and really grapples with the weight of his powers moving forward. This leads to a wonderful scene later between him and his dad which evokes a strongly nostalgic image connecting this series with its lineage, and I absolutely loved the imagery involved. More than that, the conversations that Shinjiro continues to have with his various mentors feel remarkably more textured than the type of single-minded “you can do it!” motivation usually seen in these types of stories, and I really enjoyed the way the series continues to portray Shinjiro’s growth by showing the layers his doubts have.

Shinjiro’s own struggles are also brought out in his relationship with fellow SSSP mentor/rival Dan Moroboshi, who gets significantly more focus in this volume as a foil for Shinjiro as the two head into a hidden alien city before going on a few more missions. This leads to some more of the enjoyably cinematic action that made the first two volumes so great, but what I really enjoyed about this dynamic was the way we got to see its effect on both Shinjiro and Moroboshi this early on in their time together. Moroboshi gets significant attention in this volume independent from Shinjiro, and it was nice to see different angles of Moroboshi’s personality explored in his interactions with other characters. I liked the way his demeanor and reactions to certain situations also advanced the story in an unspoken way, and the volume ends on a thoroughly satisfying note that made me extremely eager to see the continuation of this budding partnership/rivalry.

For all the doubt Shinjiro experiences in this volume, as noted before,Ultraman is a superhero series through and through that takes clear inspiration from American superhero storylines. This especially clear when Rena herself gets on TV to proclaim her support for the new Ultraman to complete the set-up for the “celebrity in love with masked hero dynamic” between her, her father, and Shinjiro. Yes it’s cliche, but instead of being the main plot of this volume this aspect is more of a background story that provided a nostalgic and comfortable aside to main story of Shinjiro’s own internal struggle. I enjoyed the foreshadowing this created for future volumes, and I’m interested to see where this particular plotline will go. It all feels very familiar in a sense, but at the same time the attention given to building up each of these characters has created a story with enough depth to make these cliches work very well in adding another layer to this story.

Ultraman’s art continues to be extremely strong, creating a heavily stylized look that feels like it could be taken straight out from a summer blockbuster. I particularly loved the use of ben-day dots to complement the heavily stylized line work in creating a detailed look. The action scenes are very clearly drawn, and the panels flow nicely from one to the next in portraying a wide variety of different angles. I never felt that the scenes were cluttered in the least, and even though the action scenes were not quite as prevalent in this volume the art still rose to the occasion when necessary. Another highlight of this volume was the way the art was able to beautifully portray the background during Shinjio and Moroboshi’s trip to the alien city, and it was really cool how the sharp lines gave the city a detailed yet hyper-modern look that was quite striking.

Final Thoughts

Ultraman Vol. 3 continues Shinjiro’s story by exploring his inner doubts as he goes on more missions with the SSSP, creating a textured image of a young man struggling with his new found responsibilities. I also enjoyed the way that this volume built up a number of the secondary characters, making their development meaningful within the context of the storyline as well as Shinjiro’s own development. The result is a series which has perfectly mixed nostalgia for its lineage with the bombast and thematic elements of American superhero comics to create a personal yet action-packed story which continues to impress me so far.


Ultraman, Vol. 3
By Tomohiro Shimoguchi, Eiichi Shimizu

Ultraman Vol. 3 was published by Viz Media on February 16th, 2016. Authored and illustrated a team of Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi, the series is currently ongoing and published by Shogakukna’s Heros magazine. Volume 4 will be published in English on May 17th, 2016.

Verdict:

A

Date of Publication: February 16th, 2016

Translator: Joe Yamazaki

Author: Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi

Publisher: Viz Media



Matt

Matt is a broke law student by day, broke law student by night, and one of the co-founders of Taykobon in his dwindling spare time. Although his favourite series tend to be shonen adventure series, he also has a soft spot for slice-of-life shojo romances. He enjoys following the manga industry, and is a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Blue Jays in other nonexistent spare time. 

Favourite series: Bakuman

Favourite author: Io Sakisaka