Ultraman first aired in 1966 on TBS as a sequel of sorts to the successful Ultra series of the time. Capturing the imagination of a generation, Ultraman became a staple of Japanese culture, instantly recongnisable outside of his native Japan - chances are, even if you haven't seen any media starring Ultraman (like me) you're aware of the character.
So what to do if you want a jumping on point? Not to worry, as Viz Media has your back - Ultraman is back in a new manga that passes the mantle to a new kind of hero, one with ties to the past, even if he doesn't know it yet.
Because I'm only vaguely aware of the Ultraman legacy (shameful I know) I was a bit worried that I'd be left behind, but actually the book manages to give enough detail (via a clever museum mechanic) about the Science Patrol of the original series that I caught up in no time. The original Ultraman, now Defense Minister Hayata, has no memory of his time as Ultraman, but his son Shinjiro exhibits amazing durability and strength, what the Science Patrol calls the Ultraman-factor.
As Shinjiro enters his teens, keenly aware of his enhanced abilities, a number of mysterious events indicate that the Earth is once again in danger from galactic foes, and now the world needs Ultraman once more.
One of the nice touches of the new series is the way in which they approach Ultraman himself - less of a galactic being and more of a talented individual in a powered suit, the new Ultraman is both grounded and fantastic.
The artwork is stunning; sharp and dynamic, the suit looks fantastic and the backgrounds are detailed and provide a sense of scale and realism that gives the action plenty of crunch. One particular shot of Shnijiro jumping across the rooftops is a prime example - every building is beautifully detailed and the angle gives the artwork some joyous flair.
If I have any criticism of the book, and this is a nit-pick, once the action starts with a long-running fight scene, the lack of dialogue makes the final chapters of the book a very quick read. There really needed to be more to go at here - for my tastes it runs a little too long, especially given the likely outcome of the battle is realised with no surprises. I enjoyed the setup more than the payoff, though your mileage may vary of course.
Overall however, I certainly felt the book offered good value. As a more mature reader I appreciate the grittier and more adult-oriented artwork. It's certainly a book I'd be happy to show anyone, and I can't say that about Monster Musume!