I’ll rip off your head and s**t down your neck

Hey, it’s still Wednesday in my part of the world.

***

Ultimate Muscle, Vols 14 & 15, Yudetamago. Viz, 2006. Each $7.95, 232 pages.

…and then there’s the really weird contest manga, like Ultimate Muscle. Addicts of Death Note may recognise the title as another part of Viz’ Shonen Jump imprint. That was, frankly, all I knew of it until leafing through these two volumes in a used bookstore. What convinced me to buy them was a scene two-thirds into Volume 15, where, well, I’ll just show you the scene:

hollywood-bowl2.jpg

(Click to embiggen; apologies for my crappy scanning un-skills)

That’s Hollywood Bowl, toilet-themed superhuman, making his grand entrance on the (literal and figurative) throne. Ultimate Muscle protagonist Kid Muscle is in the bottom right corner, freaking out at the Bowl’s bling. The two proceed to have a very silly wrestling match, all part of the “Superhuman Olympics” which are evidently the plot engine for the series right now. These Olympics involve outlandish characters competing with one another to become the “superhuman champion of the world”, sometimes through wrestling matches, and sometimes through three-legged races or giant pachinko machines. These two volumes take us through several of these unlikely qualifying rounds.

Yudetamago is a joint pseudonym for writer Takashi Shimada and artist Yoshinori Nakai. Nakai’s art is nothing to write home about, but its light, cartoonish feel carries Shimada’s goofy scripts. Between them they simultaneously parody and indulge in the conventions of contest manga, such as over-the-top contests, unfair judges with a grudge against the hero, and so on. The result works perfectly well as light, semi-surreal action comedy, with an emphasis on the comedy.

And in grand comedic tradition, most of the laughs come at the expense of the nominal hero. Kid Muscle is the son of former superhuman champion King Muscle (who was himself the hero of a similar series by the same creators in the 80s). Not unusually for a comedic hero, Kid Muscle is sleazy, lazy, cowardly, clumsy and not too bright. On the other hand, he’s got a good heart (or so we’re told), so we’re inclined to root for him. More importantly, he takes a good pratfall.

Kid Muscle’s plain design also makes him an effective straight man against his bizarro competitors, many of whom are based on ideas submitted by readers. Kid Muscle is basically a buff guy in a luchador mask. But his opponents include Hollywood Bowl; Sly Scraper, who is half-man half-skyscraper; and Bobby Wasabi, whose special move is “Sensational Sushi Paper!” It’s the rogue’s gallery from Dick Tracy on LSD.

Ultimate Muscle is much like what you might expect if Garth Ennis wrote manga. Gruesome, bloody violence alternates with occasionally very funny toilet humour, characters who are walking punchlines, and comical nudity (we see Kid Muscle’s pixellated member several times), all of it wrapped up with a general disrespect for guys in silly costumes. If Hitman had been called Wrestler instead, we might have got something like Ultimate Muscle.

Although I doubt even Ennis could have come up with Hollywood Bowl.

Recommended? If you’re in the right sort of mood, it’s a fun diversion (albeit nothing spectacular). Well, it made me laugh, anyway.

IYL: Iron Wok Jan!, Hitman, wrestling

PC Alert: On the one hand: (1) All the superhumans are men, and women appear to be sex objects/love interests, at best; (2) there are several crude or tasteless gags; and (3) there are more than a few gratuitous panty and bent-over shots. On the other hand, (4) most of those shots are of Kid Muscle’s apparent main squeeze Roxanne, who is spunky, tough, independent and doesn’t swoon over “her man”. Above all, she’s drawn realistically. She’s not quite a Crumb girl (or a Little or Hernandez girl, either) but she’s definitely not anorexic. Also, (5) despite the setting of the superhuman olympics, international fans aren’t depicted as stereotypes. On the whole: PC approved.

Advertisements

5 Responses to “I’ll rip off your head and s**t down your neck”

  1. MangaBlog » Blog Archive » Thursday morning links Says:

    […] discovers Ultimate Muscle. It’s worth a click just to take a look at Hollywood Bowl, and no, I’m not talking about […]

  2. Matt Brady Says:

    Heh heh, I’ve never read the manga, but this used to be a cartoon series that played on Fox Kids on Saturday mornings. I used to watch and just laugh and laugh because it was so stupid and over the top. Who knows, maybe it’s still playing in Japan. But yeah, lots of classic comedy tropes, especially the way Kid Muscle would start bawling his head off and trying to run away from every opponent. And the ridiculous wrestlers would always crack me up, like Dik-dik von Dick, themed after the small deer-like African(?) animal. Funny stuff; maybe I’ll check out the manga sometime.

  3. Ted Allen Says:

    “These Olympics involve outlandish characters competing with one another to become the “superhuman champion of the world”, sometimes through wrestling matches, and sometimes through three-legged races or giant pachinko machines.” Oh yeah!! Just trawling for pachinko stuff and came across your review. Sounds very cool!

    Ted The Pachinko Guide.

  4. Acting Tips Says:

    Acting Tips

    Interesting article, Thanks for sharing.

  5. The Orgg Says:

    Ultimate Muscle (and its parent, Kinnikuman– avaible at toriyama’s world in scanslation) is awesome! I wish anime aired somewhere.

    You did get one thing somewhat wrong, though– most of the cast of characters is a complete and utter stereotype. Just looking through the wikipedia pages for Kinnikuman, you find the ex-nazi, the jungle native with a bone through his nose, and a frenchman who smells like ass– because he IS A GIANT ASS FACE.

    If you want to hang around some fanatics for the series, try out http://www.littlerubberguys.com for the Ultimate Muscle/Battle Beasts forum.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: