The Tokusatsu Network attended Viz Media’s Ultraman panel at San Diego Comic-Con. Featuring the creators of the best-selling reimagined Ultraman manga, Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi, the panel discussed the effect of kaiju and the Ultra Series on pop culture and the soon-to-be-released manga.
Viz Media’s Ultraman panel began with the moderator asking the audience’s knowledge of Ultraman, to which the room collectively made it clear they were well aware.
After which, he moved to ask the creators of the manga of their earliest memories of Ultraman. Eiichi Shimizu recollected summer vacations with re-runs of the original series, while Tomohiro Shimoguchi mentioned vague memories of having an Ultraseven figure in house as a child. Around both their childhoods, both Shimizu and Shimoguchi recollected how they were in a time period where they had stopped producing new Ultraman and Kamen Rider series, with most of the kids in their classes being more pre-occupied with Gundam.
Another panelist brought up memories of Bob Wilkins’ Bay-area Captain Cosmic television show. The show featured several Asian TV shows like The Space Giants (the English-dubbed version of Ambassador Magma) in addition to the United Artists dub of Ultraman.
When asked about the origins of the series, Shimizu and Shimoguchi recalled how when initially asked to do the project by Heroes, they initially turned it down. But later, Shimizu had a change of heart and the pair agreed to take it on.
Among all the challenges involved with the creating of the story, Shimizu shared that amongst the original notes from the editor, the two biggest elements were that the manga should be a sequel to the original Ultraman series, and that no actual kaiju were supposed to appear. The last one posed an interesting task to both Shimizu and Shimoguchi, “How are we supposed to make it a sequel to the original,” Shimizu recalled, “if there aren’t supposed to be any kaiju?” It was through this that the decision was made to make the characters human-sized instead of gigantic. Because it was something that hadn’t been done before, and it was something they both knew they could pull off.
In speaking of the rewarding parts of making the now-successful manga, Shimizu told the audience he was glad that the project got him out to San Diego Comic-Con. Shimoguchi added to this saying how proud he felt of the American fans who came up to the pair at their autograph sessions to tell them how much they liked the manga.
Regarding the Japanese side of the fandom, Shimoguchi mentioned how, as one would expect, there are some fans who are split down the middle about the manga. “There are hardcore Ultraman fans,” he told the audience, “who will say ‘This is wrong, we don’t like it!’, and fans who are like ‘Wow, this is interesting!'” At the same time, there is also a good portion of the readers who were never fans of the Ultra Series who appreciate it purely as a manga, and a good portion of Kamen Rider fans brought in by the suit-based action, and general tokusatsu fans.
After a trivia contest, there was a brief Q and A session. Among the questions asked, the creators were asked about how hard it was to keep creating new characters. Tomohiro replied, “For me, as the artist, I have to see Shimizu is really good is coming up with the story, and then coming up with the story to the characters…so I can just sit back and draw and not have to worry about anything.”
The panel then concluded with a heartfelt thanks from the moderator for attending and an encouragement to pre-order the first volume of the manga.
Volume 1 of Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi’s Ultraman manga will be released by Viz Media on August 18th.
At the panelists’ request, no video or photos were allowed to be recorded or taken at the event.