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July 23, 2010

Bento Bako Bonus: Ultimo vol. 2

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: Karakuridôji Ultimo
Author: Hiroyuki Takei, Stan Lee (original concept)
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Jump) with POW! Entertainment
Volume: Volume 2 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2009 by Shueisha in Japan, July 2010 (out now) by Viz Media
Genre: Action, science fiction, shonen

Yep, that’s right.  Stan Lee himself has crossed the divide and launched his own manga title.  Stan the Man works closely with Hiroyuki Takei on the scripts, so he has a hand beyond creating the concept.  He is also in the manga…sort of.  There’s a character designed to look like him, the original creator of the karakuri dôji dolls, Dunstan.  Karakuri dôji dolls are living dolls that embody emotions and ideals like goodness, evil, patience, justice, envy, etc.  Ultimo, the title character, is the embodiment of goodness.  Dr. Roger Dunstan, a time traveler from the future, created 100 karakuji dôji dolls to war against each other, in order to find out whether ultimate good or ultimate evil is stronger.  Each doll chooses a master to follow, and is bound to that master until their contract is terminated.

The story so far (the summary inside the book is adequate):
“In 12th century Kyoto, a bandit named Yamato encounters a mysterious man named Dunstan and two karakuri dôji dolls who embody ultimate good and evil.  Good…evil…  Which is stronger?  The curtain rises on the ultimate battle!
West Tokyo in the 21st century.  Yamato is reborn as Agari Yamato and reencounters the good dôji Ultimo.  But evil dôji, led by his old nemesis, Vice, have returned as well.  A mysterious man named Iruma, accompanies by an evil dôji named Jealousy, who embodies Envy, pays Yamato a visit.  Iruma urges Yamato to sell him Ultimo for one hundred million yen!!  Will Yamato take the money or will good overcome greed?”

Volume 2 picks up right where the first book left off, with Yamato considering Iruma’s offer.  As a former thief (in his past life), the money being offered him is a pretty big temptation, but he’s already sent an unwanted Ultimo away from him.  Disappointed in his master’s shallow and simplistic ideas of evil, Jealousy kills Iruma.  Ultimo arrives in time to prevent Jealousy from taking out Yamato as well, and shows a scary violent side in the ensuing battle, nearly killing Jealousy.  The battle is stopped by the arrival of another dôji, Regula (Discipline), and his master Ekoda Shin, a sushi chef.  Shin takes Yamato to an abandoned hospital to a meeting of the Club of Good Dôji, the masters of the Six Perfections.  Yamato begins to question what’s really good and what’s really evil, when even evil can wear a face of good.  The club members are all sworn to secrecy, and use Regula’s powers of memory manipulation to keep the existence of the dôji secret.  Yamato, as the master of Ultimo, is ts brought in as their leader.  Yamato returns to school the next day, wondering how he can keep the dôji secret and protect the people he cares for.  But just as he decides to keep everything secret, a pint sized dôji master appears with a giant dôji, Eater, the embodiment of Greed, and attacks Yamato on school grounds.  His secret blown, Yamato decides to go all out and then disappear from his friends’ lives.

The manga was better than I was expecting, but my expectations were really rather low.  There’s nothing that stands out as being particularly bad, though, and I like what the book says about the blur between good and evil.  For example, Jealousy calls Ultimo a hypocrite, for being almost uncontrollably violent when he’s supposed to represent ultimate good.  There’s not a whole lot else to talk about.  The title won’t get your brain cooking much more than that.  What defines good, and what defines evil?  Is it really black and white?  The Six Perfections (Patience, Discipline, etc.) are controlled by the club of good dôji, who mostly bicker amongst themselves and threaten each other with their dôji’s power.  And since it’s the owner’s responsibility to teach the dôji what it means to be good or evil, there are some fairly warped dôji out there.  The goal of the good dôji masters is to track Dunstan down and destroy him, and hope that ends the war between the dôji.  They can’t simply destroy the evil dôji, because that would mean destroying good as well (meaning, one can’t exist without the other).  It says something that the character designs for Ultimo and Vice, ultimate good and ultimate evil, are very similar.

The art is solid enough for a shonen title.  And the designs of the dôji are fitting (for example, Regula, the dôji of Discipline, looks a bit like a monk), though Yamato is pretty generic looking.  There’s nothing really spectacular here, but it fairly simply presents a good vs. evil theme, free of overly complicated plot.  It’s pretty straightforward so far.  But this is a manga.  Even though Stan Lee’s name is on there, it was originally published in Japan, so it reads in the traditional manga format (right to left).

Don’t forget that Stan Lee will be at Comic-Con this weekend, signing select copies of Ultimo!  Get the info on his appearance here.

Some news on next week’s Bento Bako offerings:  Monday I’ll be looking at the breathtaking Children of the Sea volume 3.  Friday will be a review of the newest volume of Crown of Love.  Next week is also July’s Manga Moveable Feast, which is a sort of book of the month club for manga bloggers.  I’m working on a wordy ramble about both the manga and anime versions of Paradise Kiss, so make sure to keep an eye out for that.  Also, don’t forget about the #NotAtComicCon events going on over the weekend.  Check out Dark Horse’s blog for details.


Review copy provided by Viz Media.



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kristin Bomba, Comic Attack. Comic Attack said: Bento Bako Bonus: ULTIMO vol. 2 from @VIZ_Media!! https://comicattack.net/2010/07/bbbultimo2/ #comics #manga […]

  2. […] (also see my review of volume 2): Yamato is the reincarnation of 12th century bandit who fought against evil alongside a futuristic […]

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