How many times have we chanted Ultraman Z’s name since 2020? It’s been almost 3 years since Ultraman Z aired in Japan and worldwide, and Zero’s self-titled apprentice has become perhaps the most beloved Ultraman in decades. With that in mind, Tsuburaya elected to do something that they have not pursued in decades — a full English-language dub of an Ultraman Series entry, available worldwide.
Ultraman Connection took a look at the first two episodes of the series — both available now on the Ultraman Official Youtube Channel — and here’s what we have to say!
Something that is often overlooked, especially when it comes to dubbing, is that English is hard. It’s a language without a rhythm, something that romance languages and many other languages rely on. As many an English major will tell you, it’s a terrifying frankenstein of a language. What this means is that dubbing something that isn’t English, into English, is incredibly difficult — especially something in live-action that you can’t simply shave frames from, or clean up with added animation.
With that in mind, we’re still stunned at just how good this dub comes across as. Okratron 5000 and Kocha Sound, two veteran studios with a long history of recording and production respectively, put their absolute best into making Shin Ultraman’s dub a success — and the Z dub might be even better.
Directed again by Rawley Pickens, who worked on Shin Ultraman in the same capacity, and executive produced by legendary voice actor Christopher Sabat, this is hopefully the start of an ongoing relationship between the Ultraman Series, and the English language. The dialogue was tonally consistent with the original work, and perhaps more importantly, culturally consistent. No jelly donuts here.
Because Japanese culture — military culture, work culture, heck, even pop culture — ties into the Ultraman series in so many little ways, it’s easy for a lot of the small moments that make the series so fun to get lost in the transition to international audiences. We’re happy to say, though, that the dub really managed to thread that needle, opening the series up to new fans around the world, and especially in the west, without sacrificing the elements that make Z, and the Ultraman Series in general, a cultural touchstone.
Obviously, that can’t be accomplished without great voice actors, and first on our list of those are the fantastic pair of Zeno Robinson and Matt Shipman as Haruki Natsukawa and Ultraman Z respectively. Robinson and Shipman are old pros in the dubbing scene by now — Robinson is known, among other roles, as the voice of Goh from the last several seasons of the Pokémon anime, as well as the pro hero Hawks in My Hero Academia, making him well-suited for the upbeat, heroic character of Haruki.
Shipman, who also helped adapt the script to English localization, brings a deliberate vibe to the character of Z — known for an intentionally awkward mix of formal and casual Japanese that would have been hard to translate to English for a less skilled performer — that he nevertheless portrayed perfectly. (The initial meeting between Haruki and Z in Episode 1 had us in stitches!)
Perhaps most importantly of all, the strongest element of the performance of the two was their chemistry. Robinson and Shipman have worked together on dubs in the past, like Sk8 the Infinity, where Shipman played lead Reki and Robinson played supporting character Oka, but the Z dub shows, perhaps better than any of their previous shared performances, just how well the two can work off one another. Both characters are fundamentally youthful characters, both in need of support to affirm their choices — and in their performances, Robinson and Shipman are able to find that in one another. Definitely a highlight for sure.
However, Z is much, much more than just two admittedly great characters bouncing off one another — Haruki and Z are surrounded by a whole community of beloved characters, and the cast does a great job at keeping them just as vivacious and fun as their original counterparts.
It’s hard to pick a favorite among this group, but when you have performances like Mick Lauer’s Hebikura, outwardly presenting stern, if caring, maturity, while hiding the hidden depths of his character’s real personality beneath, but never too far away — I mean, how can you not love it? Takaya Aoyagi, Hebikura’s original actor, would be proud.
Another pair that has to be mentioned are the ladies of STORAGE, Yoko Nakashima and Yuka Ohta. Mallorie Rodak is an absolutely perfect Yoko, mixing her admirable perfectionism with her, uh… worrying admiration for the much larger Z. Good luck, Yoko. Knowing the arc that the character will travel on for the rest of the series makes me excited to see how Rodak, known for roles like Raphael in That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, continues to innovate the performance.
Meanwhile, Macy Anne Johnson, who this writer last watched in the dub for the delightful romcom Shikimori’s Not Just A Cutie as the eponymous Shikimori, brings what can only be described as incredible gremlin energy to Yuka, a gleeful chaos to her demeanor that matches and in some ways exceeds the giddiness of Hikari Kuroki’s original performance.
If we keep talking about the cast, we’ll be here for days, but everyone in the series has done a wonderful job, including friend of Ultraman Connection Mike Dent, who you may catch right at the start of episode 1, announcing the arrival of everyone’s favorite robot Sevenger. Roles like Kent Williams’ Bako-san and just the various people running around STORAGE’s headquarters help fill out the world even more, helping to further expand this story in ways that honor the original material wonderfully.
The Ultraman Z dub will be airing two episodes a week, giving watchers plenty of action to fill their weekends. If you’ve been swayed to check it out by this review, make sure to go to the Ultraman Official Youtube Channel and check it out right away — the first two episodes are already out, and the next two come later this week. And for all the news on Ultraman Z and the whole Ultraman Series, both Japanese and international, stay close to Ultraman Connection!