The Entrance to Planet Kinniku
An inside look into Studio Egg is extremely rare, and the entire experience was surreal to say the least. I was lucky to be accompanied by two super Japanese Yudekkii, Duke and Kinoshita-san. These guys both worked extensively on the last Kinnikuman Day Muscle Museum, and were responsible for the event's amazing Kinnikuman Day posters and Kinnikuman Kimono. It was an honor to be able to share this visit with fellow fans who have been actively engaged in promoting Kinnikuman.
Now for the juicy stuff!
We were greeted at the door by Nakai-sensei, and a giant painting of Mick Jagger. He is a huge Rolling Stones fan, and I knew right off the bat that I scored with the Stones 1981 American tour t-shirt I got him.
I was taken back at how neat and organized everything was, and overcome with a sense of Kinnikuman history. I was also awestruck at the sheer volume of meticulously displayed Kinnikuman collectibles.
Nakai-sensei is an avid Kinnikuman toy collector and has been known to peruse the halls of many toy shops selling Kinnikuman goods in Akihabara. Apparently they do not always get product samples for their merchandise, so he goes out himself to buy figures missing from his collection. How crazy is that!?
We chatted about the launch of Ultimate Muscle and their visit to the New York Toy Fair. Our discussion turned from toys to the English version of the Nisei anime and manga and we laughed about the difference in names, character voices, and censorship that took place. We also discussed the phenomenon of characters popular with overseas fans that are not necessarily big in Japan. They now know probably more than they ever wanted to about the mania surrounding the Sunigator claw and Satan Cross.
They were very interested in the discussions that place on boards like Little Rubber Guys, and were hungry for information on the various overseas Kinnikuman scenes. The Kinnikuman series is still going strong and I can say with confidence that there is plenty more in-store for all of us!
They also expressed appreciation and surprise with my knowledge of the original series and were amazed to hear about the dedication of many of their biggest fans. While there are no definitive plans at this point, there is talk of making a US appearance and doing a signing event with fans.
Around this time, I was given the green light to tour the studio and take pictures of anything I wanted. My head was swimming with excitement, and I was super glad my wife was there to step in and take over the camera!
It was also around this time, that I was presented with what is now the single greatest item in my Kinnikuman collection.
Words cannot express the joy and excitement I felt upon viewing this original piece of art. Nakai-sensei indicated that it has been well over 25 years since he had drawn King the 100 Ton. To get a piece of art with my five favorite choujin was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I cannot thank Yudetamago enough for their kindness towards me, and their support of Nama Niku!
Adding the finishing touches
I was almost on the brink of tears receiving this gift, but was suddenly saved by the giddiness of my fellow Yudekkii as they broke out their childhood copies of Kinnikuman to be signed by Yudetamago.
Watching their faces and sheer excitement was something I will never forget. Grown men starry eyed and overjoyed by this interaction with their true living heroes was something I could completely relate with. It was very special to say the least.
Our energy and jubilation reached new heights as we were then invited to Nakai-sensei's personal workspace. On display were the current scripts and rough art storyboards for the new Kinnikuman series. That's right folks, it is not over yet...
Handling Shimada-sensei's hand written scripts, and flipping through the unpublished art work was almost too much to process. We were also allowed to tour the back room where a staff of six full time apprentices complete background work and other necessary tasks to make Kinnikuman come to life.
Nakai-sensei explaining what we were looking at ~ wow!
Nakai-sensei says it takes about an entire week of eight people working long hours to complete approximately 20 pages of Kinnikuman...
View of the back office
Individual artists' desks
My favorite artifact in the studio
Our visit went on to last late into the evening covering topics from old school wrestling, MMA, Kurosawa films, Bruce Lee, and Kinnikuman topics galore. I asked them a few burning questions like what Kinnikuman's mask was made of, and they said that they had never even thought about the answer before. It seems like a lot of the questions that fans come up with actually have no answers. They did say however, that they will get around to answering the great Kinnikuman mysteries someday...
After my visit, I can say that with out a doubt that Shimada-sensei and Nakai-sensei are truly invested in their fans, and care a great deal about your support. I will honor and cherish the memories of this day for the rest of my life. I still have goosebumps and chills just thinking about it.
Long live Kinnikuman ~ 肉