Ultimate Muscle (or Kinnikuman Nisei in Japan) aired during the early 2000’s. The show was one part brilliant wrestler-parody, one part action super-hero spoof, and was gorgeously animated by the great artists of the Toei company. Long story short, it was something of an underrated gem.
Despite its short stint in the west, Ultimate Muscle provided hours of odd entertainment with peculiar songs about rice and beef, classic anime love arcs, and entertainingly sophisticated characters. While the actual manga it comes from had a Dragonball-esque roster of hundreds of wrestlers, the anime in America had a more modest number. Here are 10 of the best characters from the anime, ranked accordingly.
10 Terry The Kid
Terry the Kid was a mesh of Dory Funk Jr. of ECW fame and a rodeo cowboy. Terry provided a no-nonsense southern wit and was often too proud in stark contrast to the often shameless Kid Muscle. However, when it came to a fight Terry was always ready to deliver a condor kick leading to his famous move, the spinning toe hold.
While Terry provided a confident and headstrong character, he was often defeated by opponents bigger and stronger than him. His small stature provided a chip on his shoulder, but in the anime it never seemed to amount to much, especially when he would face defeat to enemies like a T-Rex mutant man, or a certain chess-themed villain.
9 King Muscle
King Muscle is a classic story of hero saves world, has child, then proceeds to let go. Going from an ultimate muscle-bound hero to ultimate saggy skinny guy is definitely the anime-way of showing the transformation of hero to zero.
Despite his saggy look, he still provided comedic relief and an aura of invincibility that was quickly squashed by his dimwitted buffoon of a son, Kid Muscle.
8 Kid Muscle
Kid Muscle is everything his father was and more. Starting the show off as a total coward, it was only when he suddenly tapped into his legendary Kinniku power that he became the Ultimate Muscle superstar and main protagonist of the show.
Despite his status as the main hero, Kid falls dreadfully short of any true heroic nature. He often sings about his love of beef on rice and proving to be a lazy girl-chasing moron instead of, well, a hero. Still, he offered a different character that hadn’t been seen in Western cartoons full of serious super-heroes so that should count for something.
7 Dik Dik Van Dik
Dik Dik Van Dik had the most ridiculous name for what seemed to be a Dutch wrestler. Despite his odd name, he was firmly a play on an African Savannah antelope. Being one of the many characters in the show to use weapons in his matches, Dik Dik started the show off as the serious try-hard of the Hercules Factory rookies and the top wrestler in his training class that also included Terry the Kid, Wally Tusket, and Kid Muscle himself.
Unfortunately, he must have spent too much time with Kid Muscle, and he ended up being squashed in pretty much every match.
6 Road Rage
Road Rage was one of the members of the new rookie class known as Generation EX. He was basically a robot with multiple signs, and his special moves all featured traffic signs in some form or another. In the show he inexplicably used his traffic signs like magic, having a left turn only sign force Kid Muscle’s running dropkick to suddenly fling to a turnbuckle.
He even used his head sign as a chainsaw, and used lights and simulation to pretend that a train was coming. Eventually Kid used paint to create signs that Road Rage had to follow, and finished him off with a Kinniku Buster.
Hydrazoa was some kind of jellyfish/hydro-man. He could change his body like a slime monster, and was able to defeat Wally Tusket by encasing him in his own body and then punching himself. He was nearly defeated by a fish that impaled him, but he went on to push past his weakness and finish Wally off with his finished the XYZ crash.
Unfortunately, when he fought Kid Muscle the power of Ultimate Muscle had him tear through Hydrazoa’s odd jelly body, finishing him off with a Kinniku Buster.
4 Wally Tusket
Wally Tusket was a walrus wrestler. Yes, really. To be more specific, he wasn’t an actual walrus but an anthropomorphic one. Often accompanied to the ring by his tiny walrus sister and mother, Wally provided comedic relief and a good nature. He was also the most amiable character of the four friends and would also be one of the most cooperative too.
While Terry and Dik Dik would insult Kid Muscle, Wally was jovial and often laughed with Kid. Considering how many times Kid and the powers of ultimate muscle bailed the gang out, Wally was the only one who was actually genuinely grateful.
Checkmate has a fun story of a villain trained from birth who has a wonderful change of heart. Ever the chivalrous wrestler, he was essentially a chess-themed fighter with three modes: the human king, the stallion knight, and the tower rook. He would use these modes interchangeably like some kind of shape-shifting chess mutant.
However, despite his awesome finisher, Piledriver Stallion Style (which features him leaping on top of his falling opponent and slamming him down as a giant rock/horse man), he had a unique change of heart and became a good guy after his defeat to Kid Muscle and his – you guessed it – Kinniku Buster.
Jaeger was a German body builder with a bike helmet on. No, seriously. He was trained by Brocken Jr. who by all accounts looked like a German Air Force Commander, and was billed as the next great wrestler for Generation EX. Jaeger started off as a super-serious German dude, but ended up being really a fun partying German dude. This is in stark contrast to the ever-serious Terry the Kid.
What made Jaeger super cool though was his unique ability to fire-slash a person with his special move the Red Rain of Pain. Not only is it a cool thing to say while running at somebody in full speed, it even had a cool throwback to old samurai films with an epic freeze after the slash and an explosion of fire coming from the cut. Jaeger ended up becoming the only member from Generation EX that wasn’t actually a jerk, and joined Kid Muscle and the gang as an ally.
1 Kevin Mask
Kevin Mask was by far the coolest character in the entire series. A lone-wolf anti-hero, Kevin Mask was the Wolverine of the Ultimate Muscle universe: he was gruff, rough, and not American. Trained to an extremity by his British wrestler father Robin Mask, Kevin ended up rebelling and joined the evil DMP in their invasion of the wrestling world. While he ended up breaking Daddy’s heart he also ended up improving all of his moves and even creating his own special move, the Big Ben Bash.
What is most interesting is that despite being introduced in the first episode, he didn’t fight Kid Muscle until the penultimate championship episode, showcasing his immense powers in an ultimate duel for the Chojin Belt.
Ultimate Muscle is one of those underrated anime from the early 2000s that has a roster of amazing characters who need more love