Ultimo 5

Stan Lee / Hiroyuki Takei – Viz – 2011 – 5+ volumes

After being disappointed by by foray back into Nabari no Ou, I thought I would try another shounen series that I’d taken a break from. I’d read the first volume of Ultimo, but unlike Nabari no Ou, I don’t remember liking it as much. The good vs evil through dolls is an interesting concept for a shounen manga, sorta, and I thought it might be easier to jump back into since the gap was smaller.

Hmm. There were definitely less characters than Nabari no Ou (I really shouldn’t compare the two, they’re nothing alike, but both are shounen action and I read them back to back, so I can’t help it). I liked that the action mostly stuck to the main character, Agari, and his doll Ultimo. He had a couple different opponents, but luckily this series is only interested in the good guys/bad guys dynamic, so why they were being evil wasn’t very important.

I liked the idea that Agari was time-traveling to fight evil with Ultimo, and that his goal is ultimately to beat what appears to be a really laid-back old man who is nonetheless some sort of god. But he had three fights in this volume: one in the past, one in the dimension with the old man, and one in the present. It was a little too much jumping around for my taste, but I do like it in theory.

And other than that… admittedly, the plot is very shallow and I couldn’t really get into the characters in this volume. But maybe reading Nabari no Ou and Ultimo back-to-back wasn’t a good idea. Perhaps my heart just wasn’t in it. I do have the next volume of this, so I’m going to give it another try to see if it grows on me. As it stands, I like the concept still, but it struck me as good only for a quick shounen fix, nothing really to sink your teeth into.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Ultimo 1

Stan Lee / Hiroyuki Takei – Viz – 2010 – 2+ volumes

So.  Stan Lee.  I know a lot about comics, and have a substantial collection of stuff that is not manga, but there is a gaping Silver Surfer-shaped hole in my reading habits.  I have never touched a Marvel comic in my life.  It’s not even that they’re superhero comics, because I’m secretly a DC crossover masochist.  It just amuses me to know nothing about Marvel comics.  So I’m not familiar with the work of Stan Lee.

Having said that, I suspect his touch is rather obvious, and is reflected especially in the first chapter, where we are introduced to a battle between good and evil on its most literal level: a bored man making robots that fight that are named for which side they represent.  Also, the gigantic buff old dude does look like something you’d find in a Marvel comic.  Or Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.

In theory, the story is interesting.  I like the normal shounen manga storyline being boiled down to its essence like this.  I also tend to like stories that jump around in time, which this also does (the robots take their fight through time and dimensions).  But other than that, it hasn’t really fleshed itself out into anything interesting yet.  The good robot, Ultimo, has chosen a master who has been reincarnated and is currently a high school student.  He is reluctant to go along with the enthusiastic Ultimo’s insistence that their mission is to stop evil.  There are robot fights with transformations and claws that stab and secret power levels and whatnot.  New characters are introduced at the end that represent new “sides” to the battle and promise that things will get more exciting in the future.

Basically, all the pieces are there.  They are well-polished.  But they just aren’t interesting at all.  They are simply the necessary pieces to make a shounen manga.  There is potential to be interesting in the future, but a lot of plot and character development will have to take place first, and I find the trend in shounen series is that the most interesting volumes are usually the first several, and then they degenerate into something bland. On the plus side, there are only a couple characters representing a “good guy” posse, which means that my “too many characters” pet peeve might not rear its ugly head, or will take longer to do so than usual.

I haven’t read Shaman King, but I think that Takei’s art style adds a level of fun to the reading experience, as his character designs are just quirky enough to be interesting.

Well, it’s not boring, and it’s not bad. There are good things about it, and it does have an unusual beginning.  But it’s more of the same so far.  I’ll keep reading to see if it goes anywhere from here.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


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