M.U.S.C.L.E., (standing for Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere), was the name of the toy line of Kinkeshi figures sold in North America. None of the Kinnikuman story or characters were used to promote the series. Instead there was simply a token story of intergalactic wrestlers Muscleman (Kinnikuman) and his Thug Busters battling Terri-Bull (Buffaloman) and his Cosmic Crunchers fighting for supremacy of the universe. The toyline consisted of two-inch tall monochromatic PVC gum wrestling figures from 1985 to 1988. The toy line itself was straight forward and collectors continue to make the line a viable hobby. The US line included 236 official figures, a boardgame, an NES game entitled M.U.S.C.L.E., a championship belt figure holder, and a wrestling ring playset. The figures were distributed in clear, blister-packed random four-packs, semiopaque garbage can 10-packs, and boxed fixed sculpt 28 packs. For a short time, the figures were also distributed as a bonus in Nestlé Quik (now known as Nesquik) cans.
The M.U.S.C.L.E. figures were based on the Japanese toyline called kinkeshi. Kinkeshi were based on a manga and anime called Kinnikuman, and some figures were based on anime-only characters. The main hero was Kinnikuman, who, in the US, was "Muscleman" and was the leader of the "Thug Busters". He was described as the "greatest wrestling champion". The only other named figure in the US line was Buffaloman, who was renamed "Terri-Bull," and was said to be the leader of the "Cosmic Crunchers".
Some of the figures were sculpted to resemble popular wrestlers who had competed in Japan such as Terry Funk, Dusty Rhodes, Abdullah The Butcher, and Jushin "Thunder" Liger.
The first shipment of figures were all a "bubble-gum" pink color that the collecting community calls "flesh". The second shipment was a half-and-half mixture of flesh and either dark blue, red, or purple figures. The third shipment contained no flesh figures, only dark blue, red, purple, magenta, salmon, lime green, neon orange, and light blue. Five figures came with the boardgame in an exclusive grape or light purple color.
In addition to packs containing only figures, there was a mail-away poster, a "Battlin' Belt" display case, and two games released that made use of the M.U.S.C.L.E. figures.
The "Hard Knockin' Rockin' Ring" game was a plastic wrestling ring with two small clamps for figures and that played much like Rock'em Sock'em Robots. The M.U.S.C.L.E. board game was a unique battle-royal style game where teams of five figures of two different colors fought.
The Hard Knockin' Rockin' Ring came with two exclusive flesh figures not released in the regular line of toys, a slightly smaller version of #141 (Muscleman) and a Terri-Bull. The board game also included the same sculpt of Terri-Bull in lime green.
The Kinnikuman toy line in Japan was not limited to small PVC figures as it was in the United States. It also included many other sizes and styles of figures and toys.
Although the toy line lasted for only two years in the US, the Kinnikuman toy line is still in production in Japan. New toys, comics and TV shows are released regularly.
In the United States, the sequel to Kinnikuman, Kinnikuman Nisei was translated by 4Kids Entertainment in 2002 and aired from 2002-2004 on Saturday mornings. It was re-aired in 2006 as summer filler. It enjoys a dedicated following in the 14-30 year age group. Figures, both 6.5" articulated and 1.5" M.U.S.C.L.E.-sized, based on the Ultimate Muscle storyline were released sporadically in 2003, as well as a collectible card game entitled Ultimate Muscle Battle Card Game. Viz Media currently publishes the translated Ultimate Muscle manga.