Yo! sat down with the cast of "Ultraman: Rising" cast members to talk about the film, what it means to bring the franchise to a new generation, and some of their favorite Japanese American community spots.

Ultraman is a name and phenomenon quite familiar to sci-fi fans, kaiju diehards, and the Japanese American community. In Ultraman’s newest adventure, baseball star Ken Sato (Christopher Sean) returns to his home in monster-riddled Tokyo to take on the duties of the beloved superhero. However, Sato encounters a new challenge in Netflix’s newest animated film: parenting. Unbeknownst to him, he becomes thrust into the role of single dad to a 35-foot-tall, fire-breathing baby kaiju.

Photo Courtesy of Netflix

In partnership with Netflix, Tsuburaya Productions, and Industrial Light & Magic, Ultraman: Rising is written by Shannon Tindle and Marc Haimes, directed by Shannon Tindle, and co-directed by John Aoshima. Whether you're a seasoned Ultraman veteran or new to the fandom, viewers will experience the franchise in a new and refreshing way both visually and thematically. Showcasing many different ways to be a parent and boasting a stellar cast of voice actors, Ultraman: Rising is a film for the whole family: one with heart, humor, and family at its core. 

Yo! sat down with cast members Christopher Sean (You, Hawaii Five-0, Days of Our Lives), Gedde Watanabe (Sixteen Candles, Mulan, Gung Ho), and Tamlyn Tomita (Karate Kid Part II, The Joy Luck Club, Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender) to talk about Ultraman: Rising, what it means to bring the franchise to a new generation, and some of their favorite Japanese American community spots.

Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Yo! Magazine: Congratulations on the upcoming release of the movie! Did you all grow up watching Ultraman? What does it mean to you to be part of this project and bring Ultraman to a new generation? 

Gedde Watanabe: I saw it as a little kid, and probably on PBS—

Tamlyn Tomita: [Laughs] Aren’t you still a little kid? 

GW: [Laughs] Well yeah, yeah [Gives a thumbs up]... But it was the first time I ever saw an Asian face as a hero, so that resonated with me, and it’s incredible to revisit it again. 

TT: I think for me, I’m the same generation as Gedde, we didn't see Ultraman on the regular because it was not broadcast on American television. You had to subscribe to NHK, or TV Japan, or it would be released in the movie theater. But the fact that [Ultraman] was a superhero was the impactful guiding light for a lot of us who are Asian American actors. Knowing that we're a part of this new franchise, and seeing the new generation take grasp of it, really send it off into the universe, and expand it is just really quite joyful for the OGs like Gedde and I.

GW: OGs… Ojisan?

Christopher Sean: For me, to see all the iterations of Ultraman and to just be a part of that, to reinvent, it's such an iconic franchise for the new generations is huge. You got Ultraman, Ultraman Jack, Zoffy, Ultraseven, Ultraman Blazar, Ultraman Agul, Ultraman Hikari, the list goes on, right? But just to be a part of this iconic Japanese franchise is huge. As a kid in Japan when I’d be with my grandparents, I'd see him on TV and I'd freak out and sumo my sister, like, “Come on! Let's wrestle!” At the omatsuris, we'd buy the masks and I'd always want to get the Ultraman or the Ultraseven because he had that green light. I was like “My eyes are green, I want to get that one because that's most like me!” It’s just a beautiful, beautiful franchise, and to be a part of this whole world is so amazing.

Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Yo!: Sports and baseball are a big part of this movie. Tamlyn, I saw you at the unveiling of the Ohtani mural in Little Tokyo and know how much of a Dodgers fan you are—how does it feel for you all to tell a story that highlights the importance of sports and specifically baseball, through the lens of the Japanese and Japanese American community? 

TT: I think serendipitously, we knew this was called Ultraman: Rising, and having befriended Robert Vargas, the muralist who painted the Shohei Ohtani [mural], he named [the mural] LA Rising not having any knowledge about this title of this movie and how this movie really deals with baseball. But baseball is known as America's pastime, and it is the sport that highlights both the achievements of an individual, whether he's batting or pitching; we have that enshrined in Shohei Ohtani and all his achievements that he's already had and will produce for the Dodgers [Does LA hand symbol]. 

It's not one against the other or one against the team, it's both the one and the team and how they fluctuate. The achievements of both the individual on the team and the team itself, can all happen all at once. I think sports is a wonderful, incredible metaphor for not only culture and society as to how we can all behave, interrelate, support and critique one another, but how we can all do better as a world with everybody living amongst each other. That's what I love about sports. There's no right answer and it's not really about really winning the game, because the games will continue on and on and on. 

GW: I just want to add one thing. My parents, my father and my mother would talk about baseball games in the internment camps. [It was the] thing that actually brought the community together, and they could play other teams in camps. [There’s] a great history about baseball in that period of time during the war. That was something that resonated.

Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Yo!: The movie was anchored in Japan, but was also anchored in Los Angeles, specifically Dodger Stadium. Hearing familiar voices like ABC’s Rob Fukuzaki and KTLA’s Frank Buckley made it feel like it was a movie that was made by the community for the community. Do you have a favorite kind of community spot, whether that be in Little Tokyo, LA, or the valley? 

CS: My family would go to the Little Tokyo village, and we’d always go to lunch there. Or we would go to the anime village.

GW: Mine is the manju store. 

TT: Which manju store?

GW: You know, the one on First Street.

GW: Fugetsu-do? Oh, my god, I'm giving them a plug! 

TT: I think for me, and I think Nicole knows pretty much as well is obon anywhere in Southern California.

GW: [Points at Tamlyn] My teacher of dancing, seriously.

TT: It'll be a summer of obon festivals or omatsuris, as Christopher affectionately and correctly calls it. LA is really ground zero for Japanese America, I really do believe that and proudly say that. I could be wrong, absolutely, but knowing that we have such a wonderful, rich and deep Japanese American culture, [my favorite community space] is any obon that happens during the summer months [where] we can all share in the pride of what it means to be Japanese American, but also share it amongst other persons. 

Literally dancing in the circle—the circles of life—honoring those who came before us, and seeing the little children trail behind us trying to do the dances like Gedde does, because he’s us a child at heart. It's just like when Ultraman and Kenji Sato do for Emi, it’s trying to teach all the children the best way they can live.

Thank you Christopher, Tamlyn, Gedde, and Netflix for the opportunity and we hope to see you at many obons this summer! 

Stream Ultraman: Rising now on Netflix.

Christopher Sean, Tamlyn Tomita and Gedde Watanabe bring Ultraman to new generation in Netflix’s “Ultraman: Rising”

Yo! sat down with the cast of "Ultraman: Rising" cast members to talk about the film, what it means to bring the franchise to a new generation, and some of their favorite Japanese American community spots.


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