Kinnikuman (a.k.a. Kinniku Suguru) is a cowardly, clumsy, moronic, gyuudon-devouring excuse for a superhero (or Choujin)... who just happens to be the prince of an alien planet. But despite his pathetic appearance, he is very honorable and can become quite powerful when he needs to be. With his sidekick Meat-kun and fellow Choujin's Terryman and Ramenman there to help him, Suguru quests to become the greatest Choujin on the planet. Whether with a combination of tremendous heart and stamina (The Burning Inner Strength) or the "Power of Friendship," Kinnikuman frequently defeats villians 10 times more powerful than him and often causes his enemies to have a change of heart and join him. Though he seems destined to be an idiot forever, slowly but surely Kinnikuman becomes worthy of the title "Hero."
Note: Between volumes 36 and 37 publication there's 22 years gap. From volume 38 onwards starts restarted in 2011 version.
Kinnikuman won the 30th Shogakukan Manga Award for best children's manga in 1984. The manga was originally published in Weekly Shounen Jump from 1979 to 1987, and it restarted publication in 2011 in Shuu Play News.
In Spain, it was published in Catalan as Musculman by Glénat from November 2006 to June 2008.
Kinnikuman is possibly the most outrageous shonen series you'll ever come across with its wacky character designs and ludicrous battles but contains a burning inner strength of heroism whose characters can overshadow its shaky writing.
For starters, Kinnikuman is a very long series which is often compared to Dragon Ball due to multiple similarities such as tournaments and having a diverse selection of ethical characters of both heroes and villains. Much of the highlight of Kinnikuman are the characters but the series is a bit notorious for being very over-the-top which might prevent people from truly enjoying the series.
Initially, Kinnikuman was a super hero gag
manga following the misadventures of Kinnikuman; a pathetic super hero representing Japan. Much of the beginning is centered on comedy with the occasional giant monster of the week. Not to say that it's a bad start, but certainly doesn't represent what Kinnikuman truly is. As the chapters go on, the series eventually heads into its more iconic super hero wrestling , thus Kinnikuman gets to prove himself as a worthy hero of justice. Most of these wrestling matches are centered on tournaments where our villains will occasionally battle our heroes.
What surprised me about Kinnikuman (well I'm sure it surprised everyone) that a bunch of the characters were submitted by readers of the manga and these characters would often result in very unbelievable creations such as Urinalman; a wrestler who is walking urinal. Everyone must be prepared for some very outrageous concepts for characters as the series can take itself seriously when it needs to, but often pokes fun at itself as a bunch of characters are quite humorous such as Teapackman who is killed getting his tea drank by an opposing wrestler. The list goes even with their names alone such as Ramenman, Buffaloman, Snegator, Sunshine, Planetman, Bikeman, Motor Man, Junk Man and so on and so on. The point of this little ramble is to express why someone would either hate or love the series because a good fun factor of Kinnikuman are its unbelievable characters and their bizarre fighting styles. I adore the creativity of this series for it can rival any over-the-top series today, despite its old age.
Putting the quirky character designs aside, a bunch of the main characters are honestly very cool and incredibly likeable. Heroes such as Robin Mask, Terry Man, Ramenman and such are all worthy of being the main lead of the series but the manga instead offers equal screen time to each hero. This often leads for fans to have their own personal favorite wrestler ranging from the main hero Kinnikuman to the more minor roles such as Warsman and Brocken Jr. and others. Despite using the "minor role" description, I do not mean to disrespect any of the justice chojin as each one of them have their scenes of valor, sacrifice and manly tears. You may find yourself liking almost every single character of the cast as they are that likeable.
As said earlier, Kinnikuman shares many things with Dragon Ball with one good example are the villains as they are surprisingly violent and evil. With a series with people like Urinalman its quite shocking how genuinely threatening the main villains can be as characters such as Ashuraman and Sunshine who are basically devils or better referred to as Devil Chojin/Devil Supermen. Much of the wrestling matches are filled with very gruesome violence often depicting dead characters and an odd satanic undertone. As the series heads deeper into its longer story arcs, you'll notice most of the villains may range from animals, cyborgs, and such but all serve demonic entities to the point where it's clearly addressed that Satan is their leader. The series can get grim at times with the Dream Tag arc being the best representative of its more "serious" moments. In other words, the villains are very threatening but some may be more shallow than others in terms of characterization and overall goals.
While I have praised Kinnikuman there are some very obvious problems in its writing and any Kinnikuman fan knows what I'm talking about. Again comparing it to Dragon Ball, Kinnikuman does have this habit of reviving characters which are often solved by Deus Ex Machina. Other problems are various inconsistencies in continuity which is noticeable in its final arc as multiple characters receive back story retcons during the middle of the story which leads to some very odd and puzzling experiences. The point is Kinnikuman can throw logic out the window as there are times where it views itself as a cartoon rather than a somewhat realistic setting such as people popping out of tvs. In a way this makes part of the fun that is Kinnikuman as this is the only series that can almost get away with anything ridiculous.
Getting back on character deaths, while most heroes do get revived their death scenes are still worthy of a couple of manly tears as the series strong suit are its themes mainly being friendship. This is going to sound a bit stupid but Kinnikuman heavily relies on the concept of "Friendship Power" which also encourages world peace among its multi-ethnic cast of characters. Part of the reason for this sort of mindset comes from two things being its time period of the 1980's and the collaboration of the author and artist as they have been friends since childhood and still are today.
Kinnikuman isn't perfect in writing structure but its emotional scenes really impacted me as a reader into turning me into a great fan of the series. Personally, I really appreciate is simple theme of friendship as while it does seem as laughable and silly I'm certain the authors really take this concept to heart. I feel their intention in Kinnikuman is to express world peace as people of different countries unite together to overcome their struggles. Much of the series enforces that friendship can achieve miraculous feats as the biggest proof of this is are the artist and writer Yudetamago as they've been friends since childhood and through their love of wrestling and team work have managed to keep this series running for over 30 years and it is still being published with new material. Kinnikuman even managed to have its own holiday being every Friday 29 celebrating Kinnikuman Day. Kinnikuman is a legendary battle shonen which helped paved the way for almost every battle shonen as even today series such as One Piece and Toriko do contain some Kinnikuman influence. Hopefully in the future Kinnikuman can get the respect it deserves.
The early feel of the manga has a Rocky kind of story a loser who proves himself to the world, although the later chapters did drag on alot. Not to mention plotholes mania.
Kinnikuman at it's early chapters seems like a kid's comedy but later when the tournament arc starts it's like the story got another creator, two words; Blood Baths. Although this is where the art peaks, and the story starts hitting speed,and we get some good fight scenes.
Not for everybody but a good manga if you wana see good fight scenes and colorful characters check it out.
An underrated work. Not the best, but something that really needs more attention.
Kinnikuman is a Shonen series focusing on multiple superheroes, namely Kinnikuman, fighting against evil in battles to decide Earth's fate. At first, it starts off as a gag manga, before becoming a comedic wrestling manga and finally, a more serious battle Shonen. It could be said that it was "The Dragon Ball before Dragon Ball", with both series having made similar transitions from gag manga to serious battles, enemies becoming allies after their defeat, multiple tournament arcs in each series and even both having a power level concept. Needless to say, a DB
fan shouldn't be
disappointed by Kinnikuman.
That little comparison out of the way, the plot of Kinnikuman is flip-floppy in writing. For the most part, many of it's arcs contain either a lot of deus ex machina or plot holes. The way in which some characters join the Seigi Chojin after their defeat is also a problem when some members were incredibly obstinate in doing so at first, yet completely comply after their defeat. This can be accounted for by the author stating it to be primarily due to the manga's main theme being world peace, but if you're looking for a masterpiece of writing, this may not be the series for you. In the story department, I'd rate this as 5/10.
Fortunately, the problems in writing can be made up for by the creativity produced with many of the designs and character inspirations, featuring what're easily some of the most bizarre creations you'll find. Amongst some of the most well-known examples of the series' abstract designs are Benkiman, a humanoid urinal who finishes off his enemies by flushing them down his body, Planetman who's body is comprised of miniature versions of our solar system's planets and Sneagator, an anthropomorphic alligator who can transform into a Sneaker. The weird character designs of the series and their abilities should be enough to give you a laugh and keep you entertained.
Another key feature of the series' entertainment is the battles. Once the series gets into it's battle Shonen route, the battles within it become very well thought out technical wrestling bouts, in which the holds and strategies presented by each character more than make up for the series' flaws in writing. I'd go as far to say that this series has some of the best thought out fights in any manga I've seen. In the entertainment category, these two main features are enough to give it a 7/10 for me.
I didn't include the designs under the character category as I want to point out more things to do with a character's actual character than their design. With this series, as expected from my previous points, the development of most of it's most famous characters can seem sudden or not well-panned for some until they became more fleshed out in the series' later spinoffs. However, a few characters did get enough exposure to gain well done development. The protagonist Suguru can be seen as a far different person by the end of the manga's original run to how he was first presented. Terryman, Ramenman and Robin Mask also gained fair enough development as well (though Robin's change of heart in the Akuma Chojin Arc was poorly written). What was probably the best example of how characters were presented in the series is Brocken Jr, as the series was perhaps the first to ever present the idea of a "Good Nazi" in manga.
For those who enjoy viewing series with manly or badass characters, you won't be disappointed either. About part way through the Akuma Knights Arc, you'll see many of the main cast risk fatal injuries as certain death to defeat their enemies, sacrificing their lives in a heroic and noble fashion. My two favourite examples of this would be Geronimo VS Sunshine and Robin Mask VS Mammothman. Even during the gag stages, we were presented at how badass characters could be with Ramenman ripping Brockenman in half, and such brutal fighting isn't a one time thing, with many of the villains also performing bloody finishers worthy of one word; fatality. All that said and done, it's a 6 for characters.
Finally, there's the art. The series art for the first dozen or so volumes is of very poor quality, but gradually gets better. The aforementioned character designs are one thing the series does well at in the art department, but not until about halfway through the series. By the time the series enters it's Dream Tag Arc, you should see a good boost in art with the backgrounds, as well as even background characters not looking too bad. Overall, it's a 4 for art.
So with all those categories looked over, this series is about a 6/10. To conclude, Kinnikuman isn't a well written series, nor is it's art top quality, but it's creativity, unique characters and amazing fights easily make up for it, especially when inspiration from it can be found in a lot of modern series such as One Piece, Naruto and Toriko (eg. Ay and Bee's Double Lariat = Hell's Missionaries' Cross Bomber). If you're looking less for fantastic writing and more for something that's simply entertaining from even it's early stages and continues to be enjoyable, then look no further than Kinnikuman.
Extra Note: The manga is still ongoing after it's return in 2011, but nothing of it's reboot can be found translated other than volume 37.