• Yuki Yamada Feels 'Fate' in Playing Ken Sato in Ultraman: Rising —Fulfilling Dreams of Being a Baseball Player and Ultraman
Japan Anime News Edit by Satoru Shoji

Yuki Yamada Feels 'Fate' in Playing Ken Sato in Ultraman: Rising —Fulfilling Dreams of Being a Baseball Player and Ultraman

Netflix, Tsuburaya Productions, and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) are co-producing the CGI animated feature film Ultraman: Rising, set for global release on June 14. Actor Yuki Yamada (33) provides the Japanese voice for the protagonist Ken Sato. ORICON NEWS interviewed Yamada to hear his passionate thoughts on the project.

Yuki Yamada, who provides the Japanese voice for Ken Sato in 'Ultraman: Rising' (C) ORICON NewS inc.

Yuki Yamada, who provides the Japanese voice for Ken Sato in 'Ultraman: Rising' (C) ORICON NewS inc.


■Fulfilling Childhood Dreams of Being a Baseball Player and a Superhero

The Netflix film Ultraman: Rising centers around the theme of "parents" and "family." The story features Ken Sato, a star baseball player with a secret identity as Ultraman, a superhero who protects Earth. Ken returns to Japan to join the baseball league but is thrust into action when the formidable kaiju Gigantron suddenly appears, shattering the peaceful daily life.

As Ken takes on the role of Ultraman to fight, the kaiju's attacks intensify. Amidst the chaos, Ken is unexpectedly tasked with taking care of a "baby kaiju," the offspring of his nemesis. Named Emi, this new responsibility leads Ken to grapple with his estranged relationship with his father and the true meaning of being Ultraman.

■Reflecting on the Role of Ken Sato

Yamada: "Within the role, I felt immense joy as two childhood dreams came true—becoming a baseball player and a superhero, which I had written in my kindergarten graduation album. Not many may know, but my father was a japanese professional baseball player (Kazutoshi Yamada, who played for teams like the Chunichi Dragons). Since he was often away from home, I had few chances to talk to him and struggled to express my loneliness. Though I'm not a superstar, being in a public-facing job, I could relate to Ken's feelings. The various points of empathy I felt for the character made it seem like fate."

■Commonalities with Ken Sato

Yamada: "The sense of distance with my father. I started playing baseball because I admired my father, but I quit midway. Even when I had the chance, I felt unworthy of asking professional players anything, thinking it was pointless. It wasn't that we had a bad relationship; it was just me shutting myself off. That distance might be something we share. Ken's line, 'Maybe you wanted attention more than praise or money?' struck a chord with me. It made me reflect on whether my pursuit of acting was a desire for my father to notice and recognize me. Ken chose a profession that draws public attention, perhaps for similar reasons. It's not just about the character's resemblance but a deep inner similarity."

■Easier to Perform?

Yamada: "It wasn't about ease; it was about deeply understanding his feelings."

■Finding Emotional Resonance

Yamada: "I could understand his emotions. However, dubbing in Japanese was different from my previous voice work. They gave me the footage with the original actor's voice to practice at home, but matching the Japanese script to the visuals was challenging. Balancing this with ongoing drama shoots, I had to figure out the original actor's delivery and got advice from my friend, Subaru Kimura. He taught me to note down the seconds and breaths, realizing the immense effort professional voice actors put in."

Yuki Yamada, who provides the Japanese voice for Ken Sato in 'Ultraman: Rising' (C) ORICON NewS inc.

Yuki Yamada, who provides the Japanese voice for Ken Sato in 'Ultraman: Rising' (C) ORICON NewS inc.

■Family Moments

Yamada: "Receiving long LINE messages from my parents, despite being too busy to reply, makes me feel their love. My father, usually reserved, sometimes messages 'I saw your drama,' which touches me."

■Messages from Your Mother?

Yamada: "She often sends messages like, 'I saw your show. My friend's mom also watched it. You were running a lot.' Her messages make me think, 'Can she talk to me like an adult?' But I guess, to parents, we are always their children."

■Perception of Heroes

Yamada: "To me, a true hero understands people's feelings and stands in their shoes. My parents encouraged me to think and act freely, which I believe holds the essence of being a hero."

■Desire to Become Ultraman?

Yamada: "Yes, I loved Ultraman, Super Sentai, Kamen Rider, Godzilla, Gamera, Marvel, and Metal Heroes since childhood."

■Joy of Becoming a Childhood Hero

Yamada: "It's a dream job! I've been in Super Sentai, transformed into Kamen Rider in a movie, fought Godzilla, and now became Ultraman. What's left for me to fight? (laughs)"

■Ultraman: Rising's Premiere

Yamada: "The Gigantron at the TSUBURAYA CONVENTION 2023 opening ceremony was impressive, though not as big as in the film. I was happy to meet directors Shannon Tindle and John Aoshima, who expressed their anticipation. Connecting on X (formerly Twitter), Shannon told me he cried watching the Japanese version, which moved me deeply."

■Visuals of Ultraman

Yamada: "At first, I thought, 'He’s thin!' I like the stylish, simple look of Ultraman. I wish I were as lean and muscular. (laughs)"

■Favorite Ultraman Series

Yamada: "I watched up to 'Ultraman Cosmos,' including 'Ultraman Seven,' 'Ultraman Tiga,' 'Ultraman Dyna,' 'Ultraman Gaia,' and 'Ultraman Zearth.' I even co-starred with Yoshihiko Inohara, and I can sing 'TAKE ME HIGHER,' the theme song for 'Ultraman Tiga' by V6! Sometimes, I almost ended up singing it in front of V6’s Inohara-san. (laughs) I would catch myself and think, 'Oh no, what am I doing?' That’s how strong the impression is."

■Message to Fans

Yamada: "I'm thrilled for everyone to watch it. I poured my soul into this project, which feels destined for me. Understanding Ken Sato deeply, I believe I voiced him with unparalleled connection. I hope families watch together, and parents might find themselves in tears afterward. Even without children, it’s an enjoyable film, showing that it's okay to be imperfect and courageous in facing life. It's a story that resonates with everyone, so please enjoy it."