Shin Ultraman and Shin Godzilla's Connections
How are Shin Ultraman and Shin Godzilla connected? This episode of Kaiju Facts explores the links between the worlds of the two films.
Hey kaiju fans, I'm Michael Callari, and last month I spent many uncomfortable hours on a Greyhound bus so I could attend the U.S. premiere of Shinji Higuchi's "Shin Ultraman." This has never been much of a review channel, so I'll spare you my opinion except to say that I really enjoyed it—definitely a highlight of the Kaiju Renaissance era and one to see with a crowd if you can. No, this video is about a matter more in Wikizilla's wheelhouse: continuity!
As soon as Tsuburaya Productions announced "Shin Ultraman" back in the summer of 2019, speculation began that it was a sequel to "Shin Godzilla". Between the title, Toho's involvement as a co-producer, and the number of returning staff members, it was unavoidable. The book "Shin Ultraman Design Works" states that while the "worldviews" of the two films “may be somehow connected," copyright considerations prevented anything too obvious. That said, there are still a few winks at the audience which this video will chronicle. I've kept it as free of plot spoilers as possible, but if you're trying to avoid all information about "Shin Ultraman" before you see it, here's your warning. Let's begin …
THE TITLE CARD
Once the company logos are out of the way, a swirl of colors coalesces to form the title card… wait a minute, that says "Shin Godzilla"! Where's the real… ah, there we go. This is a nod to the title sequence in the original 1966 "Ultraman" show, which exploded out of the "Ultra Q" logo as a way of linking it to that earlier show in viewers' minds. Aside from their names and a few returning creatures, there wasn't much continuity between them otherwise, although Tsuburaya started treating "Ultraman" as a sequel to "Ultra Q" as early as the 1984 "Ultraman Zoffy" movie.
Tsuburaya Productions was founded by the same Eiji Tsuburaya whose special effects direction made Toho famous for science fiction films in the 50s and 60s. As a result, his new company enjoyed tremendous freedom in repurposing old Toho props and costumes for "Ultra Q" and "Ultraman." Gomess, the very first monster to appear in "Ultra Q," was derived from the MosuGoji Godzilla suit. Gomess is also the first monster shown in "Shin Ultraman," and in a nod to the monster's real-world origins, he is now portrayed by a modified ShinGoji model. However, he's a mere shadow of the God of Destruction, dispatched by the JSDF's Type 10 Tanks.
The prospect of Gomess being related to Godzilla—perhaps growing from a piece of him that was blasted off by the B-2 Spirits—is quickly closed off by the second monster, Mammoth Flower, which is designated Giant Unidentified Lifeform No. 2. This is a nod to the terminology used in "Shin Godzilla," but all but precludes Godzilla's existence in the universe of "Shin Ultraman." I mean, what would they have called him, Monster Zero? That's just wrong. By the way, the digital Tokyo Station set seen here is the same one from the climax of "Shin Godzilla."
Speaking of the B-2 Spirits in "Shin Godzilla," did you know that the MOPII bombs they drop don't really exist? The Massive Ordnance Penetrators they're based on are real, but there's never been a sequel. In "Shin Ultraman," the Americans use the same MOPIIs for a bombing run against Gabora. We don't have footage from that scene yet… so here, have a picture of the notes I took during the premiere. I promise my handwriting is a lot better when I'm actually looking at the page. Anyway, this isn't exactly the most iconic superweapon from the "Godzilla" series to cross over with Ultraman, but an interesting choice nonetheless.
With the staggering number of actors in "Shin Godzilla," it would have been bizarre if some of them didn't come back for "Shin Ultraman." Takumi Saito went from playing a tank commander to an SSSP member and Ultraman's host, while Kyusaku Shimada received a cross-universe promotion from Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs to Prime Minister. Their characters clearly aren't meant to be the same people, since they have different names, but with one returning actor, it was left ambiguous. In "Shin Godzilla," Yutaka Takanouchi played Hideki Akasaka, the Prime Minister's national security advisor and Rando Yaguchi's mentor. In "Shin Ultraman," he appeared in several scenes as an unnamed government official… wearing a nearly-identical pin on his lapel. I guess we might need to keep an eye out for him in Shin Kamen Rider too!
Even if you don't know Shinji Higuchi from Shinji Ikari, stylistically it's very apparent that "Shin Ultraman" was made by the same people behind "Shin Godzilla." As usual, screenwriter Hideaki Anno's dialogue is information-dense and delivered at a rapid-fire pace—though the amount of on-screen text is pared back a bit. Characters are shot from all sorts of unusual angles, which this time doubles as a salute to elite Ultra Series director Akio Jissoji. Showa-era sound effects and music abound, with the late composer Kunio Miyauchi even credited before living composer Shiro Sagisu. Speaking of Sagisu, keep your ears open for an alternate version of his "Early Morning in Tokyo" piece from "Shin Godzilla." There's even a bit of "Shin Godzilla" stock footage early in the film—now that's some real Showa ambition. Finally, and most fundamentally, it's another reboot of a classic tokusatsu character which places him in a more realistic setting than he usually inhabits.
It's understandable, really, that Godzilla never appears in "Shin Ultraman." Even if there were just a few shots of his frozen form, now an accepted part of the Tokyo skyline, the shocking sight of Godzilla and Ultraman officially crossing over in a movie might overshadow the exploits of Ultraman himself. Remember the fate of "Kong: Skull Island"—half the online chatter during its opening weekend was about the cave paintings at the end.
Toho and Tsuburaya have also been more willing to let these versions of Godzilla and Ultraman meet in non-film media. They've started to appear together in art for the Shin Japan Heroes Universe project, and as of last month, you can make them fight in "Godzilla Battle Line." Toho has also finally become more open to crossovers outside mobile games, as exemplified by "Godzilla vs. The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers." Still, I think if this Godzilla and Ultraman end up clashing on the big screen, it's most likely to be something like the "Godzilla vs. Evangelion" Universal Studios Japan attraction.
So far, the Shin series has been a sort of anti-cinematic universe. Its future after next year's "Shin Kamen Rider" is a mystery, but if Anno and Higuchi are still interested, my money's on "Shin Gorenger" for the next one. We'll have more "Shin Ultraman" videos for you once we get our mitts on a copy of the movie, but until then, thanks for watching!