Karakuridôji Ultimo (機巧童子ULTIMO Karakuri Dōji Urutimo?, literally, "Mechanical Boy Ultimo") referred to as Ultimo is a Japanese manga series created by Hiroyuki Takei and Stan Lee (and his production company Pow Entertainment). The plot of the story depicts a conflict between good and evil, implicated through the Karakuri Dôji created by the character Dr. Dunstan.
The pilot chapter "Karakuridôji Ultimo Chapter: 0" (機巧童子 ウルティモ: ゼロ "Karakuri Dōji Urutimo: Zero"?) was originally published in a special issue of Jump Square, called Jump SQ. II (Second), on April 18, 2008. The series Ultimo was first published in Jump Square in March 2009 and continues publication.
Viz Media later licensed the manga for an English language adaptation in North America and published "Chapter: 0" in the September 2008 issue of Shonen Jump. The series Ultimo began monthly serialization in the July 2009 issue of Shonen Jump. In promotion of the English adaptation, a press conference was held at the 2008 New York Comic Con with promotional artwork.
Ultimo and Vice were created in feudal Japan to be "perfect good" and "perfect evil" as Dr. Dunstan's "last curse upon this world." A thousand years later, a monster wearing a Noh mask wreaks havoc in Farmless City of West Tokyo, while the S.K.A.T. Police unit cannot stop it. Ultimo plunges in to destroy the monster, explaining that the creature is about to show its true form, Vice, Ultimo's evil counterpart. The mechanical boys end their fight both badly damaged, and the movement of select groups around Japan begins.
Yamato Agari is a twenty-first century reincarnation of a bandit from the Heian period. As in the past, Yamato meets the "Karakuri Dôji," mechanical boys, that transform his otherwise normal life into a battle of good versus evil. Immediately after Yamato meets the dôji Ultimo, another one called Vice appears, and he barely escapes from their fight. Now acquainted with Ultimo, Yamato is confronted by many other dôji, both evil and good.
Yamato's fights become increasingly dangerous as the fifteen prominent dôji meet on the day of the "Hundred Machine Funeral," the last day of the world as we know it. With imminent destruction at hand, Yamato uses Ultimo's ability to bring the world back to the day he first meets the dôji. In order to avoid the catastrophe from repeating itself, Yamato plans to learn for himself the meanings of "good and evil" by meeting each of the dôji himself.
Karakuridôji Ultimo was first announced as an unnamed work between Stan Lee, the co-creator of iconic superhero titles such as Spider-Man and X-Men, and Hiroyuki Takei, the creator of Shaman King. According to Stan Lee in an audio interview, he was called by Dream Ranch and JEA who said that they wanted him to create a manga with them, and that it was to be published by Shueisha. Stan Lee stated that he has never made a comic about two robots of the same level of power, with one not being as heroic as the other. In conceptualizing Ultimo, Stan Lee wanted to create something that both Japanese and American readers would enjoy. The first fully colorized picture of Vice and Ultimo was released on the Jump Square website on April 4, 2008. The pilot chapter was finally finished and published in Jump SQ. II.
I am deeply honored for this great opportunity to collaborate with an award-winning artist/writer of the stature of Hiroyuki Takei. I enthusiastically expect that the combination of an American story-telling style merged with Takei-san's acclaimed Japanese style will result in our joint creation Ultimo presenting an original, exciting type of manga that will appeal to comic book fans around the world.
On the same day as the release, Viz hosted a press event in the Shonen Jump panel, attended by Stan Lee, Takanori Asada (Jump Square editor), and Marc Weidenbaum (Shonen Jump editor-in-chief) at the 2008 New York Comic Con. Two promotional art pieces by Hiroyuki Takei were created, one with Ultimo and the other with Dr. Dunstan both including the manga's logo. "I'm so happy that we can work with such a great creator as Stan Lee. I am so happy that two great actors are working together, and I know that Ultimo will be a great work," said Takanori Asada at the press event.
The 32-page pilot chapter "Karakuridôji Ultimo Chapter: 0" premiered in the first issue of Jump SQ. II (Second) on April 18, 2008, with the first three pages in full color. The first three pages were earlier revealed as part of a preview for Jump SQ. II on Shueisha's S-Manga.Net. "Chapter: 0" was later adapted into English by Viz Media, and published in the September 2008 issue of their Shonen Jump manga anthology, which went on sale on August 5, 2008.
The main series Karakuridôji Ultimo continues publication in the main Jump Square anthology, beginning serialization in its March 2009 issue. Viz Media has licensed the series for North American distribution in Shonen Jump, and has been serialized since its July 2009 issue.
- Yamato Agari (東 大和 Agari Yamato?)
- Yamato Agari is the main protagonist of the series along side Ultimo. Yamato has the same name and appearance as a bandit from the Heian period, whom he is reincarnated from. In the twelfth century, he considers the corrupt nobility evil and opposes them. He first meets Ultimo and Dunstan in this past life. The twenty-first century Yamato does not appear to be very bright, as his friends often joke about him. He is impulsive, and tends to yell when he speaks.
- Ultimo (ウルティモ Urutimo?)
- Ultimo is a scarlet-colored Karakuri Dôji who personifies ultimate good. Ultimo first meets Yamato in twelfth century Japan (though he is created in the thirtieth century from which Dr. Dunstan travels). He cares deeply for his master Yamato and tends to react emotionally over his safety, becoming a deadly threat to his enemies. As a dôji, Ultimo has oversized, transforming gauntlets, mediums for his Noh powers. Ultimo's transformations are modeled after cranes or lions, and he has the power to control time and space.
- K (ケー Kē?)
- K is one of main antagonists and a former member of the S.K.A.T. Police, then called "Agent K." K quits his job once becoming the Vice Master, and relies solely on Vice to steal for his living. He usually has a creepy demeanor, but sometimes bursts into pitiful rages. K is admittedly weak, and could faint quickly in a direct fight.
- Vice (バイス Baisu?)
- Vice is the greenly clothed Evil Dôji Socho, representing ultimate evil, and as such shares the main antagonist role with K. Vice carries much disdain for Ultimo and his actions, since they interfere with his violent intentions. His clawed, green gauntlets become weapons through his Karakuri Henge, usually resembling a turtle, and always with bladed edges.
- Roger Dunstan (ロジャー ダンスタン Rojā Dansutan?)
- Dr. Roger Dunstan is the Stan Lee-esque creator of Ultimo and Vice who time travelled from the year 2888. Including them, he creates the one hundred Karakuri Dôji to find out whether ultimate good or ultimate evil is stronger, ending with the "Hundred Machine Funeral." From his experiments, Dunstan can control all dimensions, and theoretically do anything imaginable. He also has the dôji Milieu (ミリュー Miryū?), the embodiment of moderation, who can choose the time periods people are reincarnated into.
- Shin Ekoda (江古田 新 Ekoda Shin?)
- Shin "Eco" Ekoda is a 38-year old sushi chef at his restaurant Eco Sushi (エコ寿司 Eko Sushi?), and is also a member of the Club of Good Dôji, led by Yamato. Eco reads Weekly Shōnen Jump comics as his "scriptures," a trait from being a monk in his past life. His dôji Regula (レグラ Regura?) represents discipline of the Six Perfections. Regula has the power to alter memories to keep the Karakuri Dôji secret from the world.
- Musashi Murayama (村山 武蔵 Murayama Musashi?)
- Murayama is a police officer from the future that followed Dunstan into the twenty-first century. His goal is to capture the criminalized Dunstan for illegal dimensional studies. His Karakuri Dôji is Sophia (ソピア Sopia?), who represents wisdom of the Six Perfections.
- Rune Kodaira (小平 ルネ Kodaira Rune?)
- Rune is Yamato's friend and classmate. He acts collectedly, and often shows concern for Yamato. He is a woman of the nobility in a past life, with romantic feelings toward the bandit Yamato. However, in the present, he is reborn as a boy and does not seem to remember this. Rune becomes the Jealousy Master, opposing Yamato, in Part I of the series.
- Jealousy (ジェラス Jerasu?)
- Jealousy is a blue-themed Karakuri Dôji, and representative of envy of the Seven Deadly Sins. He is rather stoical compared to the other dôji. He views Ultimo as a hypocrite for representing good, yet being so violent. Jealousy sees no issues with killing, and consistently does so to Tomomitsu Iruma (入間 智光 Iruma Tomomitsu?), his master from the twelfth century into the twenty-first, for his shallow ideas of evil. His Karakuri Henge resemble spiders, and he has the power of telepathy.
- Makoto Sayama (狭山 真琴 Sayama Makoto?)
- Makoto is a girl who goes to the same high school as Yamato Agari. She is the target of Yamato's affections through the series.
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The English adaptation of the Karakuridôji Ultimo pilot chapter was reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux of Comic Book Bin. "This prologue of Ultimo doesn’t really offer enough to evaluate it, except to say that the dialogue and exposition are awkward and clunky enough to seem like the work of an amateur rather than a seasoned veteran" said Leroy Douresseaux. Leroy referred to Ultimo as a blend of mecha manga, Dragon Ball, and Green Lantern. "I’m too intrigued to be disappointed by what I read. Stan Lee’s best work was created when he riffed off unique and powerfully imaginative creators (Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko), so I’m curious to see what this combo of Lee and a manga-ka like Takei can do."
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- Douresseaux, Leroy (2008-11-12). "Shonen Jump #69". Comic Book Bin. Retrieved 2008-12-02.
Script error: No such module "Portal".
- S-Manga.Net Jump SQ. II (Second) page (Japanese)
- Ultimo website (Japanese)
- Yokoku Ultimo page (Japanese)
- Ultimo page (English)