With "all of Evangelion" behind him, director Hideaki Anno is on on to his next big project: Shin Ultraman. Anno is writing and producing the reimagining of the tokusatsu classic, with fellow Gainax member Shinji Higuchi directing. It looks like it's going to be extremely cool.
What you may or may not know is that this is basically Anno's dream project. He's been an Ultraman fan pretty much all his life, and that's shown in his work in all sorts of ways. More ways than we can track in one article, but we're hitting the high points — so that next time you sit down to something he's made, maybe you can see the influence lurking!
Anno's Already Made an Ultraman Movie
Well, sort of.
Back in 1983, Anno and the team that would go on to form Gainax made the film Return of Ultraman: MAT Arrow 1 Takeoff Order. The 28-minute fan film was made to celebrate the sci-fi convention DAICON IV in 1983 — the same one for which Anno headed up that beautiful animation set to ELO's "Twilight."
Not only did Anno direct, he also played Ultraman... albeit without a mask. While there's currently no official way to get hold of the short, you can find it floating around online to satisfy your curiosity.
Return of Ultraman Immortalized
Alternatively, you can check out key scenes from Return of Ultraman, recreated for the 2014 drama Blue Blazes. Based on the semiautobiographical manga by Kazuhiko Shimamoto, the series shows us what it may have been like to go to art school with the people who would go on to become Gainax.
Ken Yasuda (who was also Yu Nanba in Yakuza: Like a Dragon) plays Anno in the series, almost always wearing an Ultraman shirt complete with Color Timer. Not only do you get to see some moments from Return of Ultraman remade, you also get an idea of just how much Ultraman (and tokusatsu in general) influenced his life and work.
Evangelion's Tokusatsu Action
Neon Genesis Evangelion pulls from a lot of different sources to tell its story. Giant robot anime is a major influence, of course. But as you watch the fights between the EVA units and the Angels, you've probably noticed the scenes look an awful lot like tokusatsu fights.
Even when Anno wasn't actually making Ultraman, he was working the look and feel of it into his series. A giant armored person (look, we all know what's under there by now) fighting an equally giant alien monster? We know where that comes from, even if Anno did put a dark spin on it.
The People on the Ground
Anno once said that, were he ever to make work on Ultraman, he'd want to toy with the Earth Defense Force — that is, the people on the ground supporting our hero. In particular, he wanted to give them their own, closer to home problems to deal with in the midst of combat. And that sounds a lot like NERV.
While the heroes of Evangelion were out re-enacting Ultraman-esque fights, NERV was serving as a parallel to the EDF — though with a lot more pressure on them. (We're pretty sure the EDF never got infiltrated by hundreds of exploding Rei Ayanamis, for example.)
A New Ultraman
So, after all these years, Hideaki Anno gets to write for the real Ultraman. What will he make of it? We have at least one clue already.
The design for this film's Ultraman comes straight from a famous painting by Tohl Narita: 1983's "Incarnation of Truth, Justice, and Beauty."
The painting simplifies the look of Ultraman down to his most basic, and the title of the painting (according to Narita) embodies the core of the Japanese spirit. This Ultraman looks to be simple, straightforward, and symbolic of all the best things he can be.
Considering Anno's been a fan for literal decades, it makes sense that he'd want to make a tribute of this sort. Other than that, we don't actually know much about the movie at all... except that it looks to be in really good hands.