Back in July, it was softly announced that most of Hiroyuki Takei’s manga series were leaving Shueisha as the publisher on July 31st, 2017. These titles included Shaman King, Jumbor, and Butsu Zone. However at the time, Takei’s longest running series, Karakuridôji Ultimo (機巧童子ULTIMO) was not included in that list and was still being published in print and digital by Shueisha. These manga series was a collaboration between Hiroyuki Takei and Stan Lee with his production company POW! Entertainment. The collaboration was originally setup through Shueisha, and was on the initial production committee. Because of these partnerships between Shueisha and POW! Entertainment, it was possible that Hiroyuki Takei did not maintain enough of the rights to fully break away with his other manga series in July.
However, several digital manga distributors (example: Honto) are now listing a digital sale end date of September 30th, 2017 at 23:59. This is following the exact same scenario as what occurred in July. The same day that the digital manga was removed, Shueisha also removed most of the references from it’s distribution sites for the print volumes. This was then later confirmed by other international publishers that the manga series (specifically Shaman King) was changing publishers. With a digital manga release end date also occurring, it’s extremely likely that Hiroyuki Takei’s Ultimo series will follow the same path.
It’s also worth noting that earlier this year, the POW! Entertainment company was purchased from Stan Lee by the Hong Kong based Camsing International Holding company. Though unlikely that this had an impact on Hiroyuki Takei moving away from Shueisha, it may have helped free up the license from some control of who is publishing it.
Similar to the shake-up in July, this potentially can have an impact on international licensors of the Ultimo manga. Based on the examples from Shaman King over the last few months, it appears that companies who have already had previous approvals may be able to continue releasing the manga for the time being. Some companies may still push out some reprints of the volumes in order to get some final sales before the license shifts to a different Japanese licensor (and may be subject to different licensing fees and terms, which may require renegotiation). Based on our recently released Manga License Status chart, there are currently 8 international editions in which the manga was published.
Though the sales numbers weren’t great, most publishers were able to release all 12 volumes. Siam Inter Comics in Thailand still missing the final 2 volumes (with volume 10 being published in 2015). Similar to Shaman King, they have held off on releasing additional volumes until the license status has been clarified and will most likely be the case for the Ultimo series as well. The English releases by Viz Media (which is partially owned by Shueisha) are still available in print and digitally for both the Shaman King and Ultimo series.
If you do choose to purchase the Ultimo manga digitally before the end of the month in Japanese, do note that some services may not allow you to re-download the volume after the end of the month (including if you lost/changed you device or deleted the data).