Aliens are still a threat in this new season of Ultraman, coming three years after the first season. The show’s production and release were, of course, affected by the global pandemic, and so it feels like this new season comes a bit late. And it might be, as audiences might have the need for a rewatch of the first season in order to remember characters and plot lines. However, the production issues have also been beneficial, in the most unexpected of ways.
Ultraman, is an original anime series, distributed by Netflix and co-produced by Production I.G and Sola Digital Arts. The series is based on the manga written by Eiichi Shimizu and drawn by Tomohiro Shimoguchi and stars a number of voice actors such as Ryohei Kimura, and Hideyuki Tanaka.
The series continues the story of Shinjiro, the son of Shin Hayata, the original Ultraman, as he defends the planet Earth from a continuous alien threat. This time, Shinjiro will be fully accompanied by a team of other Ultramen who are ready to risk their lives to save everyone they love.
The first season of Ultraman was a fun ride. It was pretty to look at, and if anything, it was entertaining in the simple way that the Ultraman franchise has always been, superheroes fighting monsters and upholding moral values such as friendship, honor, and loyalty. This second season follows that same path, but does it in a more focused way.
The first season contained 13 episodes, and more than half were structured in a “monster of the week” type of format, jumping from story to story in each episode, only towards the end focusing on a more serialized kind of storytelling.
This second season doesn’t have the time to follow that kind of structure again, as this season contains only six episodes. Right from the start, the show feels a lot more focused on the overall narrative of the story and starts to build up the battle that culminates the season in spectacular fashion.
Fewer episodes also mean less filler, but also less development, as most of the time is used to move the story forward. The character work feels left on the side, but it is an understandable sacrifice in order to get the show in a release state.
This second season, while more focused, also feels like a season of pure transition between the innocence of the first season and the incoming war that will be presented in the next part of the story. Things are only going to get harder from here on out.
Thankfully, the show manages to finally build a unit around the Ultramen that have been revealed so far during the show. All six of them are very different characters, but when they get together, they really feel like a group. There have been Ultramen groups before, but this one really feels more in line with what a Super Sentai group would be.
The female presence on the team is still missed, and characters like Rena are still left out as just the romantic interest of the protagonist. It feels like a waste of a character.
From the main team, it is Taro who goes through the most drastic changes. The whole character’s existence is just a huge Easter egg for the most hardcore fans of the franchise, but still feels like a meaningful addition and not just fan service.
So, in terms of plot, there are some cool developments here and there, maybe one or two big revelations, but nothing really spectacular. The storyline for this season is only there to serve what will come later in the promised season 3.
Visually, the show feels and looks just the same. There hasn’t been any jump in quality, and sadly, the limitation of this type of animation becomes more and more apparent. Right now, the story asks for bigger and more spectacular set pieces and the animation just can’t deliver that level of epicness.
At moments, you can almost see the actors doing the motion capture inside the hangar, imagining they are fighting the monster. This isn’t to say the choreography is bad, but it is very clear that this type of animation cannot convey the impact, and the emotion that this type of story needs.
Also, while it is cool to see all six of the Ultramen working and fighting side by side, the few power ups that the characters receive during the season feel a bit underwhelming. The show still refuses to give Ultraman his biggest upgrade, that of becoming a giant, and even when the season basically delivers the perfect excuse to give this power to our hero, it holds back. The creators are definitely saving it for a moment later on, but it cannot be stated how hard it is to wait until it finally happens.
Ultraman Season 2 delivers a good transition story that will hopefully develop into a more epic confrontation with the forces of evil in season 3. The animation cannot overcome its limitations, but we can only hope that the next season can do it better. The story is not only asking for it, it needs it.