“We must keep hope alive. It is the one thing we can never let ourselves lose.”
– Henshin John
This week’s fan spotlight celebrates Henshin John, a YouTube creator and artist whose work centers all things Ultraman and tokusatsu. Henshin John’s channel, of the same name, features a variety of videos that analyze, review, and discuss the Ultraman series in all their glory. With videos like ‘Ultraman Leo is the Prototype for Neon Genesis Evangelion’, ‘Top 5 Ultraman Openings’ ‘A Brief History on Ultraman and Christmas,’ and ‘Ultra Q: Enter the Unbalance’ Henshin John has a wide variety of content ranging from list videos to full-on productions. The fan art you see throughout this post is all by Henshin John.
Henshin John’s name alludes to the henshin hero, AKA characters whose special powers are only available some of the time (i.e., Ultras and their human counterparts), usually tapped by a type of ritualized transformation. The name suits John, as his online persona serves as a second life of sorts, one in which he can delve deep into the world of Ultraman and bring along anyone who’s ready for the ride. His work strives to entertain, incite discussion, and express his appreciation for the tokusatsu genre and he delivers on those intentions beautifully.
“I created the Henshin John channel because I was passionate about tokusatsu. I felt like there was a saturation in video essays about other tokusatsu franchises, but there weren’t as many video essays as possible about Ultraman. I wanted to shed more light on Ultraman to an American audience.”
John’s analysis doesn’t stop at plot dissection, even his list videos feature deep justification and opinions that are backed by a clear appreciation for the Ultraman series. He explores themes, symbols, and character dynamics in a way that honors the subtext that can oftentimes go overlooked.
“I love classic Ultraman because it embodies hope and whimsy and I love Ultraseven because it isn’t afraid to delve into social commentary and hold a mirror up to human nature.’
The question of “what is the Ultras’ role in humanity” is something he loves to explore and track through series like Ultraseven, Ultraman Tiga, and most recently in Shin Ultraman, a film John praised heavily throughout our interview.
Not only does John appreciate Ultraman from a philosophical perspective, but he also identified a personal bond with the series.
“I relate heavily to Ultraseven’s struggle of feeling like an alien amongst human society. As someone on the autism spectrum, I often feel like an outsider looking in. Because I related to him, I looked to him as a sort of guide. When I was faced with problems, I would ask myself ‘what would Ultraseven do right now?’ He definitely helped ingrain in me the values of showing kindness and empathy, always striving to do my best, and not being afraid of asking for help when I need it.”
There’s a sense of self-assuredness and patience that the Ultras hold that serve as a great model for people like John who are oftentimes exposed to the less tolerant side of humanity. John speaks to the idea of using Ultraman as a beacon of hope: proof that it is possible to be understood and protected unconditionally.
Having a role model like Ultraman has enabled John to pursue his creative interests and branch out in ways he might not have thought possible.
John’s creativity doesn’t just stop at his video essays, he is also an artist, responsible for beautiful work both original and Ultraman-inspired. He posts his work on his social media and even makes captivating speed-drawing videos in which he offers insight on Ultraman scenes and characters while paying homage to them with his fan art.
“As an artist I am constantly in a position of self-criticism. Whenever I find myself thinking my art is not good enough and I consider quitting, I visualize Ultraman and I remind myself that no matter how defeated he feels, he would never give up so neither should I. Ultraman serves as a reminder that even though I can’t be my best self in every moment, I should still strive to be.”
A prime example of John’s insights can be found in a recent video called ‘The Most Important Scene in All of Ultraman - One Monstrous Moment: Star of Ultra Edition’. In it, he cites a scene from the original Ultraman, which he believes is foundational to the ethos of the Ultraman franchise. The scene is from Episode 37 entitled “The Little Hero,” which he believes is a must-watch. In it, Science Patrol member Ide laments that there is little use for the SSSP when Ultraman will always arrive to save the day.
In response, Shin Hayata refuses to turn into Ultraman even in response to a Kaiju attack. Ide does not understand why he is not coming to save the day. The answer is that it is not Ultraman’s job to protect humanity entirely. Instead, he waits for the last possible minute to intervene in the hopes that humans will learn the nature of these creatures and why they are attacking, so that the reasons they are here (often our fault: pollution, war, deceit) can be addressed. Ultraman wants us to elevate ourselves so that one day he will not have to intervene at all. A superb observation on John’s part!
John’s effort and introspection shines through in his interactions with fellow Ultra-fans. Whether he’s lurking in the Ultraman subreddit, engaging with the community on Twitter, or responding to his own eager fans in his comment section on YouTube, Henshin John meets everyone with respect.
“My goal with these videos is to share my own perspective without gatekeeping or overstepping. I try to stay away from spoiling too much in my videos so newcomers feel welcome. I try to pose questions to the viewers and engage in discussion, replying to questions whenever I get them. I get a lot of positive feedback even though my channel is still growing and I appreciate that a lot.”
While you might come across John’s Ultraman fan comics, his artwork, or his thoughts in the Ultraman Twitter or subreddit, I highly suggest you seek out his videos and join his community of Ultrafans who care to delve into the heart of Ultraman and actively practice the principles that the series advocates.
Make sure to give Henshin John’s content some love on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/@henshinjohn, Twitter https://twitter.com/HenshinJohn, and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/henshinjohn/ and check out his Ultra Q: Enter the Unbalance video, which is one of my personal favorites. Stay tuned for more here at UltramanConnection.com!