It’s been a while since the last volume, so let’s check in and see how things are going in the ninth book of Ultraman. Is it good?
The best way to describe Vol. 9 of Ultraman is that it’s a story taking place in between two much larger storylines. There are fewer huge story moments or big leaps in progression (and even action for that matter), but more character building and setup. It’s all about building up our brand new character, Kotaro Higashi, who recently gained superpowers, while also setting up where everyone is after the chaos of the past couple of months. How are they coping, what are they planning, and what is their focus for right now? The volume is primarily that, though it kicks it up a notch when the Star of Darkness gets involved toward the end, revealing their master plan and striking out viciously. That’s when the book gets exciting. Now, the character focus and break from the insanity of the past volume is not a bad thing. It just may be a bit disappointing since the story hits the brakes abruptly here and got real slow in comparison.
Character-wise, most of the cast is relegated to the background. Our protagonist Shinjira, his dad, Jack, Red, Rena, Adad, and others are barely in the book. We do catch up with almost everyone and see what they’re doing, which is nice and clarifies what they’ll be doing going forward. However, this is all done in very brief scenes before they are gone again. Instead, most characterization and development falls square onto the shoulders of the chipper new superpowered man on the block, Kotaro. He’s a very upbeat, happy-go-lucky guy who, when getting his superpowers, is determined to use them for good. In a story filled with cynical characters, ones thrusted into a heavy positions that have gotten to them at times, and others jaded by everything, this character feels like a breath of fresh air in his optimism and desire for justice. Even when a tragic, horrible moment does happen and he loses it, he regrets his actions and is determined not to let revenge and anger consume him. He’s very inspiring and a good addition to the cast, though I do wish we got much more time with the other characters.
The rest of the writing for the volume is pretty good. Decent dialogue, the pacing is very fast, and solid characterization to help build everyone’s arc going forward. The thing that stood out a lot to me was how…stretched out the book could be in several chapters. The creators seem to be big fans of decompression and taking their time to showcase a scene or moment, like with Kotaro playing with his powers. The result, while giving a good sense of energy and power in these scenes, does make the book feel like it was going by in almost the blink of an eye. It’s just too light.
However, despite that, the art is still great on this book. It does a phenomenal job when it comes to capturing the power and energy of a scene with its use of large panels, angles, and decompression. The moments of Kotaro figuring out he has powers and using them feel epic and awe-inspiring, capturing that sensation he was probably feeling at the time perfectly. The art is that good. It doesn’t slouch when it comes to depicting the characters either, putting together well constructed layouts that flow nicely and are easy to read and really putting together some intense, brutal moments when needed. Even when it comes to the backgrounds, it doesn’t feel like there are many empty voids around with actual locations drawn.
Is It Good?
Ultraman Vol. 9 is a slow, more introspective outing for the series as we introduce a new character to the cast and steadily build towards a gigantic story that will touch everyone. It’s a good change of pace from the previous book, allowing the audience a break in the action, though at the cost of forward momentum and the cast barely doing much of anything. Still, it’s a good read and worth your time if you’ve made it this far.