Takanori Asada: At the time when Takei-sensei was growing up, that was a time when manga in Japan was huge. So at that time, everyone who liked to draw wanted to be a manga artist.
Q: You've worked on other series before Ultimo, specifically Shaman King, which is also being published in the U.S. What inspired you to create a story about a boy who is a shaman? That seems like an atypical subject for a shonen manga series.
Hiroyuki Takei: It's probably because I wanted to choose a topic that has never been done before by other creators. I'm interested in the spiritual aspect of the story, so as an expression of my interest in this subject, choosing shamanism as the subject of this story seemed like a natural extension of that.
UNDER PRESSURE: TAKEI TAKES ON THE 'ULTIMO' CHALLENGE
Q: Your current project is Ultimo, your collaboration with Stan Lee. What was your reaction when you were first asked to take on this project?
Hiroyuki Takei: Stan Lee is basically the number one comics creator in America, and possibly in the world too, so I felt like "Wow, you're asking me?" And I felt a lot of pressure on myself.
Q: Did you ever consider turning it down? Or did you consider it to be an exciting challenge?
Hiroyuki Takei: I had no choice but to take on the challenge! I don't know what's going to happen later. Maybe if I screw up...?
Q: How did you feel when Stan Lee saw your initial sketches?
Hiroyuki Takei: Stan Lee seemed to be very, very happy, so I was really glad, and felt really, really relieved.
Q: What would you like to say to your fans to encourage them to pick up Ultimo?
Hiroyuki Takei: Like American comics, Ultimo is about ultimate good and ultimate evil, but what I want to portray in Ultimo is something slightly more ambiguous, something that's not so clear-cut. So I really want the American readers to really focus on that, and try to read between the lines. I really tried to do my best to portray what is my understanding, my belief of what good and evil is in this series. So please keep reading.
Many thanks to Evelyn Duboq, Misaki Kido, Kara Brodsky, Joel Enos, Grant Lowrey and Lex Scheuble for their assistance with this interview.