Ultraman Vol. 3
Art: Tomohiro Shimoguchi
Ultraman created by Eiji Tsuburaya & Tsuburaya Productions.
This was an appreciated change of pace. Unlike the previous two volumes, Ultraman Vol. 3 doesn’t feature an extended battle sequence between the titular protagonist and a rogue alien. The book engages in more fan service and some much needed world-building. This results in a somewhat disjointed narrative. The first half of the volume fleshes out the relationships between Shinjiro Hayata and the members of the Special Science Search Party (SSSP), particularly taciturn agent Dan Moroboshi. The second half shifts its attention to detective Endo and his unsanctioned investigation into the serial homicides he correctly deduced were committed by aliens. This further deepens the impression that Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi are reimagining Ultraman as some kind of Men-in-Black inspired conspiracy story about extraterrestrials infiltrating human society.
The first thing Moroboshi does when throwing Shinjiro into the deep end is introduce him to a city populated by aliens, hidden somewhere on Earth. The SSSP supposably controls access to the city’s entrance. But that’s probably not true. Alien's might be getting out without their knowledge. And the city has at least one human resident, who goes by the alias Jack. Fans might recognize that the names Moroboshi and Jack refer to other bearers of the Ultraman mantle, so expect the SSSP to assemble an Ultraman squad in the near future.
Despite the euphoria from his successful battle in vol. 2, Shinjiro has reverted back to vacillating about whether he wants to be Ultraman. Moroboshi continues to give him a hard time while his dad Shin Hayata not so subtly pressures him into continuing his legacy. Meanwhile, colleagues Edo and Mitsuhiro Ide mysteriously plot his possible future. Shinjiro has no peers he feels comfortable enough to confide in and process the mixed signals coming from his various authority figures. His character arc is starting to contain shades of Neon Genesis Evangelion.
And what about Endo and his famous teenage daughter Rena, who were introduced last volume? Their one face-to-face interaction involves a short argument over whether Shinjiro’s Ultraman, who saved Rena’s life, is the real deal. I wouldn’t be surprised if their relative positions reflected a real-world generation gap among fans about this manga, back in Japan. It’s also obvious that Shinjiro and Rena are being set up to be romantically linked, over Endo’s initial objections. But for now, Shimizu and Shimoguchi are taking more time advancing the plot than I would have preferred when getting their “New Age” off the ground.