Ultimate Muscle (aka: Kinnikuman 2nd Generation) Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Monday, August 16, 2004
Release Date: Thursday, July 01, 2004

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Nakai Yoshinori/Shimada Takashi (Yudetamago)
Translated by:oe Yamazaki
Adapted by:

What They Say
What do you do when a team of evil superpowered wrestlers threatens the health and safety of the Earth? Organize a team of GOOD superpowered wrestlers, of course! Kid Muscle, the son of the legendary wrestler King Muscle, rockets to Earth and finds an evil wrestling gang called the DMP tearing the place apart. The punks in the DMP are the weirdest, nastiest, most outlandishly powerful musclebound freaks the galaxy has ever known. Kid Muscle's only hope: form a team that's even wilder. Lazy and cowardly, the Kid sure doesn't look like the universe's last great hope, but when something upsets him - like, say, EVIL - he busts out in muscles like his old man! The only possible result is earthshaking, bodyslamming, ultimate-powered action that sends our entire planet over the top rope!

The Review
For the most part Viz does a solid job with the packaging. Presented in a tall B6, the GN is slightly taller than the one printed by Shueisha. Viz keeps the original cover art which feature two latest generations of Kinnikumen, Mantaro Muscle (front) and Suguru Muscle. The opposite cover features Mantaro Muscle, AKA Kid Muscle, next to his former instructor Ramen-man to the right of the long volume description. While the front cover looks great, I cannot say the same about the reverse cover. With the large blurb, the character art, bar-codes, large logo, Shonen Jump Advanced logo and a dialogue bubble stating that SJA is "the World's Most Cutting Edge Manga" their is too much too see on a bright yellow background. Ouch! Viz also uses the logo previously established for the anime series which is running on FOX's Saturday morning line-up. There is nothing wrong with the logo, it does the job, and while it might not look as classy as Super Playboy Comic's bubble font it does get a thumbs up for acknowledging the original title.

The printing is pretty good; there are some issues as there were pages in red/black-tone that look a little off. As Viz printed this volume entirely in black and white, readers miss out on seeing the volume header in color and the first chapter in red/black-tone. Readers also miss out on items Viz edited. All of them are related to nudity - bare butts (pgs. 11, 65), full female nudity (pg. 57), and ripped briefs (pg. 171) - have been covered up despite the older teen rating. Finally, Viz also ignored the art that was printed underneath the dust jacket of the Shueisha printing (I wish more studios kept that art. ADV's FMP! is another title that does not.) Fortunately, Viz keeps the original volume header and chapter headers. They have also included a short introduction to the manga team Yudetamago (the picture provided was originally inside the dust jacket for Shueisha's print). They also include a short preview of volume two and ads for: Naruto, Bleach, Prince of Tennis and One Piece.

Having worked on this franchise since the late 70's Yudetamago have a solid grasp on comedic effects and wrestling action. While the character designs are pretty interesting, characters are big and beefy often appearing to be to scale, it is the costume designs that are really impressive. A wrestler is only as flamboyant as his/her costume. Masks, tights and robes are all done with varied looks and style tailored to the individual stereotypical personalities of each character. Even within the Muscle clan there are different designs, showing the change between generations.

Backgrounds are solid when they are there. It is definitely had an upgrade in the past two decades. The layout is subtle but good. Panels are not very fancy, but perspective is what really looks good as readers are treated to some interesting angles and points of view (if televised wrestling was filmed this way. Wow!).

For the most part the adaptation has left me wishing for more. The translation itself is not bad. It loses some of the mature feeling that Japanese version has, with some pointless accents, but it does not lose too much in context. Though, there were a few lines that were completely off. What was frustrating was the changing of names. I believe this was done to keep in line with the anime. Names that have been changed are: Kinnikuman/Kinnikuman II (King Muscle/Kid Muscle which is funny because they keep their real names Suguru Muscle and Mantaro Muscle), Bone Killer (Addversarius), Chairman Muscle (Mr. McMadd), Terry the Kid (Terry Kenyon), GI Adams (Ski Adams), Canadian Boy (the Canuckler), Canadianman (the Manitoban), the Budoukan (Muscle League Headquarters), Gazelle Man (Dik Dik van Dik), Anaconda (Boaconda), Kid Style Triangle Submission Hold (Kenyon Style Figure Four Headlock), Muscle Buster (Butt Buster), Neptune Man (King Neptune), Seiuchin (Wally Tusket), and Boneman (Skullduggery).

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It has been 28 years since the Earth has seen a true champion. In that time society has become weak with the conveniences of technology and the hopes for continual inter-galactic peace.

Unfortunately, 28 years is plenty of time to create a new force of evil with abilities beyond those seen in the previous generation. 28 years would not only guarantee that the heroes of the past have long gone beyond their prime, but would likely close the gap that was there between the superhuman forces of evil and superhuman forces of justice.

When the superhuman forces of evil returned to Earth they were not faced by the power that trained to defeat. Instead, all that was there to defend the Earth were those same legends from 28 years ago. With the current tranquility on Earth, no one took the initiative to continue the training and teaching of the skills that once saved the Earth from evil. With only the previous generation available, the Earth quickly falls to an evil force calling themselves the Demon Making Plant. These intergalactic wrestlers have come for revenge and will stop at nothing to prove that they are truly the strongest in the universe.

The DMP may have planned well for most possible outcomes, but they were not prepared for one thing - Mantaro Muscle. Crown Prince of Planet Muscle, Mantaro Muscle is a fourteen-year-old out of shape nerd with a passion for studies, Playmuscle magazine and beef bowl! On the surface he does not look like someone capable of taking on a superhuman wrestler, but in his body flows the blood of generations of Kinnikumen. When the time comes for him to confront evil, his body and his spirit react to the burning fire that has made Kinnikumen legends throughout the galaxy. Beware DMP for this is one man you have no answer for... Actually, even his friends and instructors do not know how to control a little freak like Mantaro (AKA Kid Muscle).

Looking back at the Ultimate Muscle franchise, I might be able to put up an argument to say that this is the standard for wrestling manga. The series originally started in 1979 and since then there have been dozens upon dozens of titles using the same formula. Where this series makes its mark is with the fantastic characters. A mix of stereotypes from every genre: the American cowboy-type, the foreigner named after cuisine, the fantasy based character, the sci-fi character, the mythological based character... The ideas could be taken out of context by some, but in general they basically do not offend or aim to hurt anyone, instead they make for interesting situational comedy with a variety of possible individual results. Other wrestling manga have tried to do the same but few have been able to keep the level of creativity, comedy and good wrestling action.

On the surface there might not be much more to this sequel series, but the main difference is the level of writing. Those who remember the original Kinnikuman will remember the fun but simple writing aimed for shonen readers. The story moved quickly, focusing on situational comedy and wrestling action. This "Second Generation" was written for adults, readers of Playboy Japan to be exact. As soon as you start reading the writing feels a little more mature. If you were reading the Japanese, you would not find furigana and the kanji used can be pretty tough at times. At the same time, Yudetamago has matured so much they know what types of comedy works (they interview comedians in the first volume of the Japanese version as an extra). They work on the physical aspects of wrestling, making it look real but fantastic at the same time. Overall, a good title was made better through experience and it shows.

As the first Shonen Jump Advanced title, I thought this series would be untouched and as crude and rude as it was made to be. Originally printed in Playboy Magazine starting in 1998, this title took a few steps beyond its shonen roots by adding complex dialogue, nudity, and more stereotypical (almost racist) characters. When the Kinnikuman franchise started in 1979, the series relied on its comedy and action to bring in an audience. Now with a new audience and 19 years of experience Yudetamago is keeping some of the old silliness and but adding some depth through a mature writing style and better action scenes. Unfortunately, Viz, despite rating this for older teens, has edited the art and changed the names to comply with the Saturday morning anime. These two facts are not tolerable especially when this series was never intended to be for a Shonen Jump audience. It is like saying Ikki-Tossen, a seinen title, with the nudity covered up could be another shonen martial arts manga. It is hard to recommend a title like this especially when it is rated for older teens, yet still edited. If you can, pick this up raw, instead. It's cheaper and as it is full of barebreasted and bare-assed muscle-bound freaks as it was initially intended to be.

Mania Grade: B-
Art Rating: B/D
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: B/C-
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 7.95
Pages: 228
ISBN: 1-59116-258-0
Size: Tall B6
Orientation: Right to Left