I’ve recently been reading the Shounen Jump classic Kinnikuman (literally “Muscleman”) by the creative duo known as Yudetamago. If I had to describe it in one word, it would be “transparent.” A transparent work, as I’m using the term, describes something where you, as a reader, are able to see the creative process used in creating the series, and in that sense Kinnikuman is the most transparent manga I have ever seen. Plot points and important climaxes are revealed with little prior warning, and the reader isn’t given much time to parse any logic, which is good because there never is any.
The basic premise of Kinnikuman is that it’s about a bumbling oaf named Kinniku Suguru trying to be a superhero. It starts off as an Ultraman parody, but as the comic progressed the creators got into pro wrestling so, “Hey why not!” they said. “Let’s turn the whole comic into a wild and crazy version of pro wrestling where people wear hats on their feet and hamburgers eat people!”
One of the later villains in the series is named Sneagator. His name is a portmanteau of the words “sneaker” and “alligator,” and that’s exactly what he looks like. But he also reveals that he has the ability to shed his skin and turn into different reptiles, such as snakes and lizards, and according to Sneagator he can turn into the most terrifying reptile of all, a frilled-neck lizard! Except this frilled-neck lizard can SPIN ITS FRILLS LIKE A BUZZSAW.
But that’s not even Sneagator’s true form! In fact, I think I’ll let the images do the talking.
Yes, his true form is THE FOOT OF A TYRANNOSAURUS REX. Now consider that the whole series is like this. You can pretty much tell that every single moment in Kinnikuman had its creation preceded by at least one of its authors saying, “Wouldn’t it be cool if _________.” Repeat this for 36 volumes.
You might think I’m complaining about its lack of structure but I’m really doing quite the opposite. This transparency is the charm and primary strength of Kinnikuman. Oda (One Piece) and Toriyama (Dragon Ball) have both been lauded for understanding what boys like and want, and appealing to their senses, but they both have a level of self-control and an idea of what would happen at least as far as the current arc. Series such as Pyuu! to Fuku Jaguar are crazy and frenetic, but you can tell that the jokes are planned out well, that there’s a method to the madness. Kinnikuman has none of that sophistication and doesn’t really need it. On top of that, it’s about as extreme as a series like Violence Hero Riki-Oh but unlike Riki-Oh it’s still definitely meant for children. Kinnikuman is unique among its peers.
Seriously, check it out if you want to see the kind of wonderful Shounen comic that just can’t survive these days.