Shin Ultraman had its United States theatrical premiere in the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center on Saturday, July 23, 2022, as one of the most anticipated movies of the New York Asian Film Festival. The showing drew a standing room only crowd, a mix of ardent Ultraman and tokusatsu fans as well as cinephiles who have heard that the film is an artistic accomplishment worthy of serious consideration.
Director Shinji Higuchi was present for the screening, choosing to remain in the auditorium to watch the reaction of the crowd to the film. He got more than he bargained for as American audiences can be quite effusive!
Naturally, the crowd roared with every familiar character’s appearance, inclusive of several Shin-ified Kaiju, as well as Ultraman himself. But what was unexpected was the crowd’s laughter at the witty dialog and chemistry between the members of the SSSP. A certain villain’s penchant for human aphorisms was also well received. Many appreciated the excellent script translation for the subtitles.
After the film, Higuchi took questions from the audience, where we learned that the extra production time afforded by pandemic delays for the film’s release allowed the director to refine the special effects and become quite satisfied with the film’s final cut.
When asked about the fact that the Ultraman of the film’s universe has an actual formal name, Lipia, Higuchi said that it was only reasonable that the character would have a name, as do all others from his world. The name Lipia was chosen because it has no clear roots in any Earth language, and “didn’t show up in Google.”
Though Higuchi warned that the film continued in the Shin Godzilla tradition of needling America, most audience members felt the film was more than fair to Americans.
After the film and Q&A, the real fun began for Ultraman Connection as a total of nearly 30 members convened in the audience to share their reactions to the film and meet UC producer Jeff Gomez. They noted the powerful support of Tsuburaya Productions for Ultraman Connection since everyone in attendance was given an oversized card promoting the site with a QR code to become a free member.
Speaking purely personally, I can clearly remember walking the streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side singing to myself the lyrics to Ultraseven, “Far among the galaxyyyy!” Not another living soul knew what an Ultraman was, and most people I knew looked down on the tokusatsu that I so dearly loved. I felt alone in the world.
Now, I was at Lincoln Center, in a movie theater that screened the great cinematic works of the world, the capital of New York culture—and Ultraman was flying across the screen in all his cinematic glory! What was once considered kitsch is now seen to be a global treasure. We are alone no longer.