‘Ultraman: Rising’ Movie Review: One of the Strongest Netflix Films of the Year

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Ultraman Rising Netflix Movie Review

Cr: Netflix © 2024

From Netflix Animation & Tsuburaya Productions in conjunction with Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Ultraman: Rising is the latest in a long line of Ultraman projects dating back to the 1960s TV Show Ultra Q, which pioneered the Kyodai Hero or Giant Hero subgenre and helped bring the kaiju genre to audiences all over the world.

After bringing Ultraman to its platform with an anime-style TV series that ran for three seasons starting in 2019, Netflix has now made the franchise into an English-language computer-animated film with a new set of characters.

Co-directed by Lost Ollie creator Shannon Tindle & veteran animator John Aoshima (Maya and the Three, Kubo and the Two Strings), Ultraman: Rising focuses on the Sato family: Professor Sato, his wife Emiko, & their son Ken.

After Emiko has gone missing and Professor Sato can no longer perform his duties as Ultraman in his elder state, Ken moves his all-star baseball career from Los Angeles back to his native Japan in order to take over the family business while still playing for the Giants.

During a battle with the kaiju Gigatron, Ken as Ultraman recovers a package that the monster was trying to retrieve from the Kaiju Defense Force. To his surprise, Ken finds the package to contain the newborn kaiju offspring of Gigatron.

Compelled to raise the young monster in the absence of her presumed dead parent, Ken has to find the right balance between his baseball career, his role as Ultraman, & his new parental responsibilities. However, he will be put to the ultimate test as outside forces will stop at nothing to obtain the Kaiju child and eliminate Ultraman.

The film premiered at the Annecy Festival in France to a largely positive reception, and I can definitely see why. Its unique story, which focuses on life balance and family, elevates the traditional Kaiju and Kyodai hero form while still appealing to more traditional fans of the franchise.

Ultraman Rising Release Date Netflix

Cr: Netflix © 2024

While maybe not the best film for very young kids (Y7 or younger crowd need not apply), the film suits most audiences and surprisingly gives parents young and old a more emotional ride than they may have expected. The story develops well over its longer than most animated films’ runtime of a bit over 2 hours, mostly due to the father-son reunion between young Ken and his estranged father. More often than not, we see an elder having to be removed from the hero’s life in order for them to ascend; this film decides to work within the family dynamic and utilize the missing element for Ken’s growth to enhance everything the final act has to offer, including the final fight with a villain bent more on revenge at the father than the current iteration of Ultraman.

At its heart, Ultraman: Rising is about growing up and giving yourself over to something bigger than your own ambitions; a strong, relatable message blended in well with a backdrop of modern Japanese cultural touchstones like baseball (shoutout to Godzilla himself, Hideki Matsui), technology, & family traditions. Some might struggle to engage with raising a Kaiju monster and dealing with the everyday challenges of parenting a baby if they came for a non-stop action story, but the film pays off in a big way with a more emotionally motivated final act that brings all of main characters together to duke it out and protect what matters most.

Ultraman Rising Battle

Picture: Netflix

Though this is technically a film directorial debut for the team of Tindle & Aoshima, you don’t feel it. With beautiful animation from longtime veterans of the craft and the artists at ILM, alongside a talented writing duo in Tindle & Marc Haimes (Kubo and the Two Strings), the film feels well-designed & well cared for from the page to the screen. Strong voice work from its main cast – Christopher Sean as Ken, Gedde Wantanabe as Professor Sato, Keone Young as the villain Dr. Onda, & Tamlyn Tomita pulling double duty as the mother Emiko and the dutiful & loyal robot Mina – bolsters & puncuates every emotion this story has to offer.

Overall, Ultraman: Rising is a surprising animated hit for Netflix, Tsuburaya, & its talented creators. A family film that tugs at the heartstrings while serving its intended audience with beautiful optics and impactful fight theatrics. One of the strongest Netflix films of the year, animated or otherwise.


Watch Ultraman: Rising If You Like

  • Ultraman (2019 Netflix series)
  • Godzilla Minus One
  • Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla
  • Lost Ollie
  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
  • Ant-Man

MVP of Ultraman: Rising

Shannon Tindle

Bringing his award-nominated talents as a character designer & writer to the table for his directorial debut, Shannon Tindle has finally brought a singular vision to a larger film project and knocked it out of the park (baseball reference!).

With a screenplay originally conceived many years ago during his days at Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and brought to Sony Animation, Tindle modified the original story of “a billionaire forced to grow up when he takes on the orphaned children of his former foe” to fit the Ultraman IP, using the hero’s journey & Kaiju genre to enhance the already established writing.

With a stylish & emotional one-two punch right out of the gate for a “novice” director after a strong critical response to Lost Ollie, Tindle seems poised to bring his unique skill set to any new project he desires.

4/5Good

★★★★☆

Alongside the creative Orion and the Dark, Netflix is starting to build its award-contender resume for Best Animated Feature with Ultraman: Rising, a surprise hit to audiences familiar and unfamiliar with the long-running franchise.

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