Pretty Strong: Ultimo, Shonen Heroes, and Gender Roles in the Early 2010s

Recently I finished Ultimo, a manga which history will remember only as a footnote in Hiroyuki Takei’s career that weirdly has Stan Lee’s name on it. While I didn’t finish it back in the day (when, after many delays, it petered out into a ‘meh’ conclusion), I was always captivated by its high ambition, its sleek art style, and its sheer charm. Take Ultimo himself: his design strikes me as effortlessly cute, cool, and beautiful at the same time.

Cuteness and coolness. Beauty and strength. Today I notice that for Ultimo’s character, these are not contradictions. If anything, his beauty is implied to be the reason he embodies ultimate power and goodness.

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