In mid-1998, following a 5-part "Legendary Prologue" from mid-1997 to the start of 1998, the mangaka duo called Yudetamago debuted Kinnikuman II-Sei (a.k.a. "Nisei/Second Generation") in the pages of Shueisha's Weekly Playboy magazine for adults. Despite becoming a notable hit for its specific age range, other companies obviously felt that there was potential for this next generation sequel to be marketable to younger audiences, much like the original Kinnikuman had been during the late 70s & the majority of the 80s. Naturally, this resulted in the anime studio behind the prior Kinnikuman anime productions, Toei Animation, getting involved to adapt this new manga, and after a mid-2001 theatrical short to help get people ready, the Kinnikuman franchise returned to Japanese TV screens in early 2002, roughly 10 years since Kinnikuman: Kinniku-sei Oui Sodatsu-hen/Scramble for the Throne finished airing back in late 1992.
However, unlike all of the prior anime productions for this beloved franchise, this new one would get an official English release...
Debuting on January 9, 2002 on TV Tokyo at 18:00 (a.k.a. 6:00 PM), the Kinnikuman II-Sei TV anime would replace s-CRY-ed (yes, that show was actually family programming in Japan!) & run for pretty much all of 2002, ending after 51 episodes on Christmas Day that same year; it would then be replaced with Shutsugeki! Machine Robo Rescue. Unlike the original Kinnikuman though, which only ever saw localization in North America by way of the Kinkeshi collectible mini-figures under the name M.U.S.C.L.E. (& a sole NES game to tie in with that), the Kinnikuman II-Sei anime did catch the interest of English localizers, specifically those at 4Kids Entertainment, then known most for its edited dubs of Pokémon & Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters that aired in North America as Saturday morning cartoons on Kids' WB. 4Kids would quickly license Kinnikuman II-Sei & debut it on September 14, 2002 (while the original Japanese version was still airing!) as part of the launch line-up for the new FoxBox block that replaced Fox Kids, alongside Fighting Foodons, Kirby: Right Back at Ya!, & a dubbed version of Ultraman Tiga. Now renamed Ultimate Muscle: The Kinnikuman Legacy, this dub would go on to be a surprise hit for 4Kids, so much so that the company even commissioned Toei to produce another 26 episodes, bringing the total up to 77, so that the story arc that the original TV series had just barely started before ending could actually be fully adapted. We'll get to those bonus 26 episodes in a later review to finish out this 20th Anniversary retrospective, and I should point out that I will NOT be covering Ultimate Muscle in any of these reviews in any real detail, because in some ways it's kind of its own show. That said, I will reference characters' UM names when I first mention them from here on out, for clarity, & there will be a minor comparison here & there, for effect.
Instead, we'll be starting with the first 26 episodes of the original Japanese version of the Kinnikuman II-Sei TV anime, which were the only episodes that actually did see release unofficially via bootleg DVD boxsets one could find in various Chinatown districts (like the one in New York City, for me). Shockingly enough, the English subtitles for these bootlegs are actually pretty good, all things considered (though they still have tons of the usual awkward translation, as expected), and the bootleg DVDs for Kinnikuman II-Sei are the only ones left that I still own & have not used to review an anime on this blog. So are you ready to "Do the Muscle"?