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Oct 22

Manga Review – Karakuridôji Ultimo

Excelsior!

The blog is alive and kicking once more! So to kick us off, what with it being Marvel week here and since I imagine (read – hope) the committee will be talking about comics, I’m gonna instead recommend a manga. How could I possibly tie one into Marvel? Well, this one’s written by Stan Lee, arguably the most iconic figure in comic book history. Got your attention now? Then hit the link to learn all about Karukuridôji Ultimo.

Written by Stan Lee and with artwork by Hiroyuki Takei (creator of Shaman King), Ultimo fuses elements of both western comic stories with eastern manga ones to create an interesting combination. The plot is a fairly simple good vs evil one, with mechanical robots or Dôji used to represent all the various virtues and vices of humanity, such as envy, gluttony and patience. Each Dôji then has a master, a human to direct and guide them on their path of good or evil, with the end goal being to convert the others to the other stance, while inevitably clashing with each other along the way.

Vice and Ultimo, the embodiments of perfect evil and perfect good

Each side also has a leader, representing perfect good (Ultimo) or evil (Vice). There’s numerous other quirks to the story, such as the current masters being modern day reincarnations of themselves from nine centuries ago, and each Dôji having a “Noh” power including space-time manipulation or reading people’s innermost feelings.

The end result does feel a little cluttered and overwhelming at times, with the jumps between the two time periods often jarring to the overall flow and the running sideplot of all of them wanting to take down their creator and master (I’ll get back to him in a bit) often seems to distract and confuse what the main plot of the story is.

The artwork is great though. Takei certainly does a better job here than what I’ve read of Shaman King, with the Doji in particular looknig styilised and visually impressive. Heck, the cover art for each volume, thanks to the additional work of Hiro and Bob, looks gorgeous.

Overall, while some elements of the series are as cliché as it gets (good must triumph over evil in the most happy-go-lucky way possible), it still does a solid job of immersing you in its world and questioning what good and evil truly mean. There’s only 7 volumes out thus far anyway, so catching up won’t break the bank. Just don’t expect hugely regular updates, there was a good year between the 6th and 7th volumes.

Oh yeah, I forgot the other selling point.

Stan Lee is the main antagonist of the series. Hell. Yes.