Karakuridōji Ultimo (機巧童子ULTIMO Karakuri Dōji Urutimo?, literally, "Mechanical Boy: Ultimo") (commonly referred to as Ultimo) is a manga series created by Hiroyuki Takei and Stan Lee (and his production company Pow Entertainment). The plot depicts a conflict between good and evil, implicated through the Karakuri Dōji created by scientist Dr. Dunstan.
The pilot chapter Karakuridōji Ultimo Chapter: 0 (機巧童子 ウルティモ: ゼロ?) was published in a special issue of Jump Square magazine, called Jump SQ. II (Second), on April 18, 2008. The series Karakuridōji Ultimo was first published in Jump Square, starting in March 2009.
The manga was later liscensed by Viz Media, and Chapter: 0 was published in English in the September 2008 issue of Shonen Jump. Karakuridōji Ultimo began serialization in North America in the July 2009 issue. 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 havok 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' fight ends with them 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 Dōji," mechanical boys, that transform his otherwise normal life into a battle of good vs. evil. Immediately after Yamato meets the Dōji Ultimo, another one called Vice appears and he barely escapes from their fight. Now acquainted with Ultimo, Yamato is confronted by many Dōji, both evil and good.
Yamato's fights become increasingly dangerous as the fifteen prominent Dōji meet on the day of the Hundred Machine Funeral, the last day of the world as we know it. With imminent destruction at hand present-day Yamato, with Ultimo's ability, rewinds the world to the day he first met the Dōji. In order to avoid the catastrophy from repeating itself, Yamato plans to learn for himself the meanings of "good and evil" by meeting each of the Dōji himself.
Karakuridōji 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 told that they wanted him to create a manga with them, and 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 Karakuridōji 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 Karakuridōji Ultimo Chapter: 0 premiered in the first issue of Jump SQ. II 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 Karakuridōji 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.
Chapters and volumes
- "Nanban-Okina Misty Pass"
- "Kurenai Dōji"
- "A Blaze Surrounds Yamato"
- "Raseimon Dream"
- "Violence at Moonlight Tower"
- "Masters Meeting in Sick Ward"
- "Mr. Blown-to-Bits"
- "A Master on the Edge"
- "The Pledge Ritual"
- "Perilous Pact"
- "The Beginning of the End"
- "World Annihilation"
- "Karakuri New Dawn"
- "Love Wasabi"
- "Decisive Battle at the Antique Store"
- 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 opposes the corrupt nobility, whom he considers evil, and Yamato 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-themed Karakuri Dōji 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 regarding his safety, becoming a deadly threat to his enemies. As a Dōji, Ultimo has oversized, transforming gauntlets, mediums for his Karakuri Henge powers. Ultimo's transformations are modeled after cranes or lions, and he has the power to control time and space.
- K (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 Dōji 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 by 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 Dōji 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 Dōji 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?), and is also a member of the Club of Good Dōji, led by Yamato. Eco reads Weekly Shōnen Jump comics as his "scriptures," a trait from being a monk in his past life. His Dōji Regula (レグラ Regura?) represents discipline of the Six Perfections. Regula has the power to alter memories to keep the Karakuri Dōji 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 Dōji 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 Dōji, and representative of envy of the Seven Deadly Sins. He is rather stoical compared to the other Dōji. 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.
Script error The English adaptation of the Karakuridōji 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 Karakuridōji 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 Stan Lee), so I’m curious to see what this combo of Lee and a manga-ka like Takei can do."
- ↑ Script error