Rising Review – Japanese Superhero Is Focused On Family Over Heroics & That’s Perfectly Fine


  • Ultraman: Rising’s heartwarming family story is the highlight, making for a satisfying watch.
  • Excellent voice cast brings characters to life in vibrant animation style.
  • Weakness lies in rushed ending and underdeveloped superhero storyline.

The famous Japanese superhero has produced a number of movies, comics, manga, and more over the years, to the point where there are several iterations of the character to explore. Luckily, Netflix’s new anime movie Ultraman: Rising provides the perfect entry point for newcomers to this franchise, which has been ongoing since 1966. It centers on an original story from Shannon Tindle (who directed alongside co-director John Aoshima) and Marc Haimes, and its central hero is someone who is very new to the position.

Ken Sato (Christopher Sean) is first shown as a bright-eyed young boy who looks up to his father (Gedde Watanabe), a professor who also happens to be Ultraman. Even from a young age, Ken seems to understand the weight of what it means to be Ultraman, and he seems to have aspirations of taking over the position someday. However, as Ultraman: Rising flashes forward 20 years later, a very different reality takes shape, and it sets the stage for a familiar, yet satisfying tale.

Ultraman: Rising’s Plot Is A Well-Known Trope

But that doesn’t make it less enjoyable

Now an adult and a cocky professional baseball player, Ken returns to Japan to play for a new team, while secretly moonlighting as the new Ultraman. Though he had the utmost respect for the Ultraman mantle — and his father — when he was a kid, the years have changed Ken’s opinion considerably. He sees the job less as a noble calling and more as another way to earn the adoration of a crowd. However, when it comes to fighting kaiju on the streets of Tokyo, Ken is far from a pro.

Ken’s life takes a drastic turn when, after a battle with a dragon-like monster draws the attention of the Kaiju Defense Force, he becomes the reluctant protector of the creature’s newly hatched baby. This is where Ultraman: Rising truly takes off, as Ken settles into the role of unprepared parent to a 20-foot lizard-bird hybrid while juggling his responsibilities as Ultraman and a celebrity athlete. The filmmakers cover his growing pains through efficient, smartly animated montages that give way to genuine moments of heartfelt bonding.

Ken is aided by Mina (Tamlyn Tomita), the AI that acts as Ultraman’s J.A.R.V.I.S. and just so happens to have the voice of his missing mother. The true heart of Ultraman: Rising isn’t the action-packed heroics of the titular character, but the odd family that springs up between Ken, Mina, Professor Sato, and the kaiju baby they’ve adopted. Though plenty of genre tales in recent years have grown from variations of this trope (The Mandalorian, The Witcher, Logan), it still seems like a somewhat surprising direction for an Ultraman movie. Nevertheless, it proves to be a fulfilling and heartwarming journey.


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Some Parts Of Ultraman: Rising Are Underdeveloped

The animation and voice performances smooth over the flaws

Beyond the domestic throughline of Ultraman: Rising is a less-compelling thread involving the KDF and its ruthless leader, Dr. Onda (Keone Young). Driven by a desire to eradicate all kaiju, Onda has multiple shady plots in the works involving the baby and her mother. Tindle and Haimes attempt to give him some depth through a tragic backstory, but it’s clear the movie is more preoccupied with what’s going on with Ken and his family to really dig into the KDF’s plans. Most of the beats in this storyline are perfunctory, even when it comes to the explosive final battle.

As someone new to the Ultraman franchise, I’d happily return to this world and these characters again, if only to see more of how they fit together as an unconventional family.

Thankfully, Ultraman: Rising has plenty of other elements working in its favor, including a solid and vibrant animation style and a strong voice cast. Sean makes for a well-developed hero who starts out as incredibly flawed, only to grow into someone brand new. He plays well off of Tomita and Watanabe, both of whom give warm, well-rounded vocal performances. There is also Julia Harriman as Ami Wakita, a journalist who challenges and teaches Ken in equal measure, leading to a dynamic that’s refreshingly sweet, if a touch underused, since Ami isn’t as present in the back half of Ultraman: Rising.

The ending comes suddenly and leaves us wondering what comes next. It seems like the creative team has aspirations of continuing this story, since a mid-credits scene sets up the next chapter, but it’ll be up to Netflix as to whether Ken will return for another adventure. As someone new to the Ultraman franchise, I’d happily return to this world and these characters again, if only to see more of how they fit together as an unconventional family. If a sequel upped the ante with its action and villains, it could become something truly out-of-this-world.

Ultraman: Rising is now streaming on Netflix and playing in select theaters. It is rated PG for sequences of violence/action, some language, rude humor and thematic elements.

Ultraman Rising Poster Showing Ultraman flying through the sky with a small creature on his back

Ultraman: Rising is an action-adventure film and is a new entry in the Ultraman franchise. Directed by Shinji Higuchi, this film returns to the series roots and centers on a new hero, Ken Sato, who takes on the mantle of Ultraman to protect Earth from monstrous threats.


  • Ultraman: Rising is at is best and most satisfying when focused on its heartwarming family story
  • The voice cast is excellent, and mesh well together
  • The film’s animation style is wonderful

  • Ultraman: Rising’s superhero story is its weakest point
  • The film’s ending is too rushed

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