Nov 25, 2014
Ultimate Muscle aka Kinnikuman Nisei is the sequel to the older Shonen Jump series Kinnikuman which is required to be read first. Once completing the original series, Ultimate Muscle pays huge homages to the original series along bringing some familiar faces and a few retcons, but the sequel takes a violent, darker tone in its conclusion.
The series begin a bit oddly as there's multiple chapters each playing as a different origin story for Ultimate Muscle but once those chapters are out the way we discover that there has been a time skip of 28 years. Our former heroes have now become too old to
keep fighting against villainy, thus they create the Hercules Factory to train their children into the new Justice Chojin aka Muscle League. Following in their father's footsteps, this New Generation will protect earth from the murderous attacks of the Demon Plant aka DMP and The Devil Chojin.
Right off the bat, we meet our protagonist Kinniku Mantaro aka Kid Muscle being the son of Kinnikuman. In our first impression Mantaro begins as an intelligent individual but is a cowardly douche. Already this is a huge contrast to our previous hero Kinnikuman who may have been cowardly at times but eventually overcame his fears and became a proud hero of justice. His son on the other hands takes a while for his manliness to sprout (after all he's only 14 years old.) While it's certainly different that our hero Kid Muscle is more selfish than his father he eventually develops an appeal, especially as the story progresses as he develops some maturity.
Very much like our first series, we are given a huge cast of characters labeled as the New Generation consisting of Terryman's son Terry the Kid and Brocken Jr. disciple Jade and that's about it. The problem Ultimate Muscle has are the lack of a successor to our previous cast of heroes. Much of the new characters sadly don't amount to much of the story, especially characters such as Gazelleman and Seiuchin who're initially introduced as power houses along with other New Generation characters. Even though Robin Mask had a son named Kevin Mask, he doesn't play a role until halfway through the series. To my surprise, Ultimate Muscle is more focused on a singular character being Kid Muscle which isn't a bad thing but I certainly wished that the New Generation characters had some part to play in the story. There are various other characters introduced later that take part of a main cast but for the most part the series is about Kid Muscle.
Interestingly, certain characters from the original series obtain more development being Sunshine, Brocken Jr, The Ninja, Kinkotsuman, Warsman, Ashuraman and Akuma Shogun. It was quite a treat to see these characters obtain a lot depth into their character, especially how all these characters were once villains. This is definitely one of the highlights of the Ultimate Muscle series as the writing was way more consistent compared to its prequel and it definitely shows during the last arc of the series.
Speaking of arcs, now seems a good time to sum up the overall journey of Kid Muscle. The first major arc consist of the New Generation training at the Hercules Factory and their battle against the Demon Plant. This arc introduces our temporary main cast but highlights Kid Muscle first steps of being a hero and his friendship with Terry the Kid. This is quickly followed by the HF Replacement Matches where the New Generation battle against Generation X of the Hercules Factory. Again, this arc establishes Kid Muscle's resolve to fight along with developing his courage, thus reinforcing his friendship with his buddies. The series then proceeds to arc dedicated solely to Kid Muscle being the Latern Challenge in which Mantaro faces against 3 convicts as a test to develop his power up, The Burning Inner Strength aka The Fire. Next the story proceeds to Chojin Olympics Resurrection where the series goes back to its roots in creating tournament arcs. Sadly, this is where it becomes obvious that the main cast becomes neglected and another con is that this arc repeats some events from HF Replacement Matches making Kid Muscle's matches a bit irrelevant. Thankfully, Kevin Mask now makes his debut with his second Kuroe delivering on some needed diversity. I'm also glad that this arc took a drastic decision in which adds further to Kid Muscle's character which will prepare him for the horror in final arc titled as The Demon Seed. Again, paying tribute to Kinnikuman, this arc combines the 7 Devil Chojin with the Golden Mask arc with a little bit of Scramble for the Throne as this plot is about the resurrection of the satanic chojin Akuma Shogun. During this retcon, Meat is required to be used as a sacrifice to revive Akuma Shogun, thus our heroes must defeat new Devil Chojin along with the return of Ashuraman. The series then concludes with a final tag match and makes a well deserved grand finale.
While these arcs bear similar content as Kinnikuman, there are a few things that make them very different. The first thing is the violence as the series become much more gritty and sometimes a bit too dark as the Demon Seed involved very gruesome and satanic subject matter. Another key difference is the writing as most of the characters felt a bit more 3 dimensional outside of their wrestling gimmick. Much of this is shown through the series antagonists as it displays a vengeful grudge that's lasted decades and how the events of the past changed the future. A good example is the comedic villain Kinkotsuman whose life off screen was one involving of physically abusing his son so he could fulfill his grudge. Many of the characters seem to go through hardships due the the times changing like Brocken Jr who briefly became an alcoholic or the villain Sunshine who reeks of nostalgia. It's quite a sudden turn to see Kinnikuman characters have a more tragic side to them, especially towards it villains specifically Ashuraman who possibly has the saddest life in the series. In other words, this series has somehow developed more sorrow in its writing but still carries the same heroic spirit as its predecessor. The goal of the story is to establish friendship among different countries and characters of different ethnics and Ultimate Muscle certainly follows the belief. While the series does have a few minor cons and drastic turn for mature content the story has those same wacky chojins, over-the-top wrestling matches and those manly moments that makes you support these characters. It's a shame that the next installment of Kinnikuman is nowhere to be found online as the series just keeps getting better with each decade. While the new characters may not be as epic as the original Kinnikuman characters, there's no denying that the story of Ultimate Muscle is on par with Kinnikuman.
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