Ultraman Trigger: New Generation Tiga Review
Ultraman Trigger: New Generation Tiga was meant to be an anniversary celebration of both the franchise and the fan-favorite Ultraman Tiga, instead it ended up being a mixed-bag series that left a lot to be desired.
2021 marked both the 55th anniversary of Tsuburaya Productions’ long-running tokusatsu (Japanese special effects) franchise Ultraman and the fan-favorite 1995 revival Ultraman Tiga. As such on July 10th, 2021 Tsuburaya debuted the 33rd entry of the Ultra franchise with Ultraman Trigger: New Generation Tiga. And with the series now concluded on January 21st, 2022, what was meant to be a major celebration of the history of the franchise sadly ended being a letdown.
The tokusatsu genre is no stranger to anniversary seasons. Some are great like Super Sentai’s Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger and some are terrible, like Power Rangers’ Super Megaforce. Even the Ultra franchise is no stranger to anniversary seasons, with one of my favorite seasons being Ultraman X which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Ultra series.
What makes an anniversary season special is it showcases the rich history of these shows while giving us a fresh direction for the franchise. Plus the show just has to be good, if not great as this kind of occasion shouldn’t be squandered by the bare minimum effort. Unfortunately, Ultraman Trigger feels slightly above the bare minimum, and for an anniversary, that is a tremendous disappointment.
Pulled The Trigger, Missed The Mark
The basic plot of Ultraman Trigger is that of a loose retelling of Ultraman Tiga. Our main protagonist is Kengo Manaka (played by Raiga Terasaka), a botanist who encounters ancient ruins on Mars (which in this setting is a futuristic society) and bonds with this season Ultra Trigger as three ancient “Giants of Darkness” are set loose to cause havoc. Kengo then joins this season’s defense force team of GUTS-Select to continue battling against the Giants of Darkness along with other kaiju and aliens that threaten humanity on Earth.
This season started off with a lot of promise as the overall cast was enjoyable mostly. Raiga Terasaka gave a pretty solid performance as the protagonist Kengo with him being a beacon of optimism that fit with the plot point of this incarnation of Ultraman being “a giant of Light”, similar to Ultraman Tiga’s protagonist Daigo Madoka. The supporting cast was also enjoyable with noteworthy performances including Runa Toyoda as the major member of GUTS-Select Yuna Shizuma and the anti-hero Ignis (who later becomes the dark counterpart to Trigger appropriately named Trigger Dark) played by the very charismatic Kei Hosogai (ironically played a similar character in Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger).
Despite having a solid foundation for another great season of Ultraman, the biggest issue of Ultraman Trigger is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. Does it want to be an anniversary season? Well, if that’s the case it’s a lackluster anniversary as aside from some callbacks to Tiga and guest appearances of other Ultras it doesn’t really celebrate the Ultra series. So is it a spiritual remake/sequel of Ultraman Tiga? Again no it fails on both fronts as it has little plot to be a sequel to Tiga nor does anything interesting aside from referencing the series a few times and Tiga himself appearing one time (though admittedly his appearance was very cool).
RELATED: How We Almost Lost Ultraman
Because of this identity crisis, Ultraman Trigger is filled with half-baked ideas that, while could’ve made the series great ended up feeling half-assed and shallow. We don’t get full moments with the cast aside from our protagonist and Ignis so we don’t have a full investment with them. As such, the series very much felt like it was spinning its wheels most of the time aside from some decent episodes and even a great crossover two-parter with the much better previous season Ultraman Z.
Even still, the crossover shows the faults of Ultraman Trigger as the appearance of Ultraman Z’s protagonist Haruki Natsukawa (played by the very talented Kohshu Hirano) gave so much energy and charm to the cast while everyone else is doing the bare minimum. And that is the root of Ultraman Trigger’s issues: it does the bare minimum to what was meant to be an important occasion.
This was meant to show why this franchise continues to be one of the most popular media franchises in Japan and is arguably the face of the tokusatsu genre. 55 years and strong is an accomplishment that is worthy of going above and beyond to celebrate, especially with Tsuburaya who now has totally freedom of the Ultra series internationally after going through nearly two decades of legal hell. And with the success of Ultraman Z’s international release, the fact Ultraman Trigger pales in comparison is even more disappointing. It truly felt like a fall backward after very strong steps forwards.
Despite its lack of identity and the bare minimum effort of being an anniversary season, there are still some significant aspects of Ultraman Trigger. The tokusatsu work of modern Ultraman continues to become more ambitious and impressive, with veteran director Koichi Sakamoto as one of the series’ directors. We get so many cool shots, such as a lot of scenes from the perspective of inside a building as a fight occurs, as well as very inventive use of low angel shots.
The kaiju variety is also very good with some fresh faces and even returning kaiju from Ultraman Tiga such as the fan-favorite Gazort and Kyleroid who haven’t been seen since Tiga. But what is probably the very best aspect of Ultraman Trigger are the villains.
The Giants of Darkness are some of the most engaging characters of the entire season, each with their own drives and motivations. You have the leader Carmeara who has an extreme love/hatred for Ultraman Trigger and we see her downfall into pure madness and evil as the series progresses towards its finale. There is the intelligent yet sadistic Hudram who just oozes with raw malice that makes him a joy to watch. But the single best-written charter in Ultraman Trigger is the brutish Darrgon.
Darrgon’s entire motivation is becoming strong and finding a worthy opponent and the series takes the cliches seen in many tokusatsu shows and spins something interesting as Darrgon learns the whole “power of friendship” philosophy and over the course of the series becomes a much more complex character. In fact, we can argue that his last episode “My Friend” is perhaps the best episode in the entire series.
The Light at the End
Ultraman Trigger: New Generation Tiga is an incredibly frustrating entry into the Ultra franchise as while there is good stuff to be seen, for a major milestone for this franchise what Tsuburaya gave us felt like a hollower version of what they wanted us to remember. What made Ultraman Tiga work so well is that it was divorced from most of the Ultra franchise, as it was meant to be a fresh start to a then dormant franchise.
Ultraman Trigger, on the other hand, wanted to do so much and it couldn’t commit to its many desires. Despite that, it’s clear Tsuburaya is going on a warpath to bring Ultraman internationally and who knows, maybe the future is still bright for Ultraman. After all, he is the giant of light.
Have You Watched Ultraman Trigger: New Generation Tiga Season One?
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