Benimaru Nikaido (二階堂 紅丸, Nikaidō Benimaru) is a The King of Fighters character and one of Kyo Kusanagi's friends. His straight hair stays up during fights due to a rather exaggerated case of electrostatics. His official nickname is The Shooting Star.
Benimaru's appearance was loosely based on Jean Pierre Polnareff from the manga series JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, right down to his outfit in The King of Fighters '94 and The King of Fighters '95. Even after Benimaru's name was decided, the game developers continued to refer to him as Polnareff. Additionally, his taunt in The King of Fighters XI mirrors Polnareff's stature from the manga. His vocal performance was initially deemed by his original designer to have nothing to do with the character's original image.
The idea for his electric powers -as well as the other elemental powers for the rest of the Japan team- was derived from the anime Getter Robo. In the show, there were three featured heroes who served as the inspiration for the KOF trio: the protagonist had a "fiery" persona, his friend was "edgy and daring", and the third hero was the "down-to-earth giant". It is also a homage to a Japanese phrase of giving birth to fire (roughly translated: lightning strikes the earth which sparks the flame).
Due to the particular pitch in his voice, some fans have voiced question to Benimaru's sexuality to developers, to which they respond, "It's not what you think. (Not that there's anything wrong with that)."  A developer also responds that he’s a man’s man who loves women. In Gamest's 1997 Heroes Collection, Benimaru was voted as the staff's thirteenth favorite character. He tied the spot with Samurai Shodown character, Shizumaru Hisame. In the character popularity poll on Neo Geo Freak's website, he was voted as the sixth favorite character with a total of 1,269 votes.
Benimaru is a young son of a multi-millionaire family. He is a professional fighter and part-time professional modeler who is very confident in his abilities. When Japan held a tournament for their country's representative team in the King of Fighters, Benimaru entered and made it to the finals. Despite his experience, he lost to newcomer Kyo Kusanagi and earned second place. He and Kyo enter the 1994 KoF tournament with the third place contestant, Goro Daimon. Eventually, he befriends his teammates and joins them for the rest of the saga.
After the climax of The King of Fighters '97, Benimaru resumed his modeling career and went on a world tour. He returns to Japan before the 1999 tournament due to an invitation he seemingly received from Kyo's pupil, Shingo. In reality, both Shingo and him were actually set up to join the "special team" with K' and Maxima. During the tournament finals, he learns about NESTS, a syndicate that is responsible for Kyo's disappearance. After he helps Shingo escape from the crumbling base, Benimaru continues to track NESTS to try and find Kyo.
In the following year, Benimaru forms his own team with Shingo and his old friend, Seth. The agent also brings their final teammate, Lin. Benimaru hopes to use Lin's abilities to help his search for Kyo. In his team's ending, he saves Lin from Ron. After this encounter, Benimaru loosely trusts members from the Hizoku.Regardless of his search's results, he meets Kyo again in 2001. Looking to relive their glory days once more, he teams up with the old Japan Team and Shingo. Each member goes their separate ways after the tournament's climax.
After he bails Shingo from a false arsonist accusation, he teams with him and Goro in the 2003 tournament. In KoF XI, him and Duo Lon are invited to Elisabeth Blanctorche's mansion. There, they discuss Ash Crimson's thievery of Chizuru's powers, the existence of Those From the Past, and their experiences during the 2003 tournament. The trio forms the Rival team and track down Ash. They find him after he steals Iori's powers. Benimaru sees Shingo and Kyo's beaten states and threatens Ash for an explanation. Before either members can interrogate him further, Ash teleports away and warns that Kyo will be next.
Deciding to let Duo Lon do as he please, Benimaru returns from overseas to Japan. He first visits Chizuru to tell her about what happened in the last tournament, both aware of the dangers that come with Ash's new abilities. Excusing himself to meet with his teammates, he visits Shingo to learn the details of what caused Kyo's hospitalization. Goro arrives and they catch up during the meeting. With the current state of affairs and the invitations from "R" passed out, he and Goro decide to reunite the old team for the tournament.In the KOF XIII ending, he and Daimon both watch Kyo as he fights once again with Iori to an unknown result.
When the tournament was announced, Saisyu summons the team into the Kusanagi residence, then informs them about a new threat which will cause untold chaos. He and Tung Fu Rue also requests the team to help his new students. Benimaru mentions the 'first generation' KOF champion that appeared while they were away and asks Kyo what he'll do about it. At Saisyu's request, the team enter the tournament once again. After the tournaments conclusion, Benimaru asks Kyo about the new threat and agrees that if it comes back they'll just have to beat it again. He heads back to Japan with Daimon shortly after.
Benimaru, while sometimes outspoken and flamboyant, means business in battle as he's very proud of his skills and doesn't want anyone to look down on him for his good looks. He also respects ladies though he tends to be more than a flighty flirt. Although he seems to have an indecisive mind, Benimaru has a heart of gold. His loyalty and respect can go a long way.
Despite his American heritage, he carries many Japanese mannerisms. Though he would never openly admit it aloud, his pride as a professional fighter was shaken when Kyo beat him before 1994 and he secretly trains for a rematch.
- Electrokinesis - Benimaru can control electricity.
- Static - Benimaru can create static around his body. This is what makes his hair upwards.
- Electric Fist - Benimaru can create an electric ball around his fist.
- Thunder - Benimaru can summon lightning from the sky. Benimaru can also form sparks on the ground and move them upwards.
- Discharge - Benimaru can release an electric discharge by touching his enemy.
- Electric Attacks - Benimaru can fuel his attacks with electric energy, especially from lightning he summons.
- Super-Speed - Benimaru can move himself so quickly that he leaves several images of himself when he moves.
- Cooking - Benimaru is an accomplished cook.
- Modeling - Benimaru is a professional model by occupation.
- Shooting - Benimaru has interests and has practiced shooting with rifles.
Benimaru specializes in shooting techniques and electricity, though his fighting style is more focused on agility and less on actual submission and raw power, focusing on agile kicks and decent range.
His character also pays homage to the Tatsunoko character, Hurricane Polymar. The attacks Shinkuu Katategoma (Vacuum One-Handed Top), Handou Sandan Geri (Recoiling Three-Stage Kick) and Gen'ei Hurricane (Phantom Hurricane) take their names and functions directly from the aforementioned character.
Several other of his moves also take their namesakes from various anime and manga, including:
- Benimaru Coleda/Benimaru Collider; from Gunbuster
- Elec-Trigger; from Super Robot Red Baron
- Flying Drill, Raijiken (Thunder Quiver Fist) and Raikouken (Lightning Fist); from Casshern, original move name is Denkou Punch (Voltaic Punch).
- Iai Geri (Re-sheath Kick); from Kako Teito: Ore wa Shubei!.
Despite all of these anime-based references, Benimaru ironically dislikes otaku.
- Monster Maezuka - since his debut
- Genki Okawa - The King of Fighters for Girls
- Hikaru Midorikawa - The King of Fighters '94 Dengeki Bunko drama CD
- Esaka - The King of Fighters '94
- Funky Esaka - The King of Fighters '95, '98: UM (with Daimon and EX Kyo)
- Esaka? - The King of Fighters '96, '98
- KD-0079 - The King of Fighters '99
- Inner Shade - The King of Fighters 2000, EX
- Flame of Invincibility - The King of Fighters 2001
- J - The King of Fighters 2002
- Joyrider - The King of Fighters 2003
- Queen - The King of Fighters XI
- Esaka Continues... - The King of Fighters XIII
- Esaka ~Acid Remix~ - The King of Fighters XIII (when the music is set to "Type B", console version only, shared with Kyo Kusanagi and Goro Daimon)
- Yappari ESAKA - The King of Fighters XIV
- Under the Control of... - The King of Fighters XV
- ESAKA!! - The King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match
- Show Time! - 1999 image song
- The Song of Fighters II - Shared image song with other King of Fighters characters
- The King of Fighters '94
- The King of Fighters '95
- The King of Fighters '96
- The King of Fighters '97
- The King of Fighters '98
- The King of Fighters '99
- Capcom vs SNK
- The King of Fighters 2000
- The King of Fighters EX
- Capcom vs SNK 2
- The King of Fighters 2001
- The King of Fighters 2002
- The King of Fighters Neowave
- The King of Fighters 2003
- The King of Fighters XI
- The King of Fighters '98: Ultimate Match
- The King of Fighters XII
- The King of Fighters XIII
- The King of Fighters 2002: Unlimited Match
- Xuan Dou Zhi Wang
- CR The King of Fighters
- The King of Fighters XIV
- The King of Fighters XV
- The King of Fighters Mobile
- SNK Dream Battle
- Metal Slug Defense (unlockable)
- The King of Fighters '98 Ultimate Match Online
- Brave Frontier
- Crash Fever
- Puzzle & Dragons
- Kimi wa Hero
- The King of Fighters Destiny (Game)
- The King of Fighters: World
- The King of Fighters All Star
- The King of Fighters: Orochi Go
- The King of Fighters M: Fighting Stars Assembly
- The King of Fighters for Girls
- SNK Fighting Age
- Days of Memories (second and fourth titles) - in-text cameos
- The King of Fighters (pachinko)
- The King of Fighters 2
- KOF: Maximum Impact 2 - background cameo
- Garou: Mark of the Wolves - background cameo in Hokutomaru's stage
- SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy - in Miss X's ending
- When Daimon uses Jirai Shin in KOF '95-'98, Benimaru and Kyo are the only background characters who'll jump.
- Canonically Benimaru has won the most KOF tournaments. Kyo, Benimaru and Daimon are the winners of all The King of Fighters tournaments hosted in Orochi Saga. He also won The King of Fighters '99 alongside K', Maxima and Shingo. And wins The King of Fighters XI alongside Elisabeth and Duo Lon. And the most recent ones in XIII and XIV. These victories are confirmed in Team Stories, Light Novels and cutscenes.
- In his interview for KOF '98, he responded that he would like to fight Kyo Kusanagi as they only fought once and it was his loss. Here are the rest of his answers in the interview
- What is your aspiration in this competition? - "To stand out more than anyone. That is all."
- Who would you like to fight the most? - "Kyo Kusanagi. I've only had one fight with him. Although it was my loss."
- Who would you like to team up with? / Who would you not like to team up with? - "I want to fight alone if I can. The rest of the guys don't feel comfortable with just being companions?"
- What is "KOF" for you? - "Something like a stage for actors...Huh?"
- Finally, please give a word to your fans. - "I LOVE YOU!"
- It's been mentioned in an interview that Benimaru has many girlfriends.
- Benimaru's design is based on Jean Pierre Polnareff from the manga JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, most notably with his clothing colors and vertical hairstyle. SNK developers continue referring to Benimaru as Polnareff even to this day. It can be noted Benimaru and Polnareff does share elements more than the hairstyle: Being a gentleman, and their sense of justice.
- In The King of Fighters '99 when Benimaru taunts, he says, “Yare, Yare.” Possibly another reference to Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.
- Official character profile from KOF XII
- - "The King of Fighters ’94 – Developer Interview" Archived from The original'
- Official character profile from KOF anniversary website.
- Akihiko Ureshino, ed. (2005). The King of Fighters Perfect Reader (in Japanese). Nikkei Business Publications, Inc. pp. 136~139.
- The King of Fighters '94: Hero Team Story from KOF anniversary website.
- The King of Fighters '99: Hero Team Story from KOF anniversary website.
- The King of Fighters 2000: Benimaru Team Story from KOF anniversary website.
- The King of Fighters 2001: Japan Team Story from KOF anniversary website.
- The King of Fighters 2003: Benimaru Team Story from KOF anniversary website.
- The King of Fighters XI: Rival Team Story from KOF anniversary website.
- The King of Fighters XIII: Ash Archived from Atlus.com
- Japan Team Prologue from THE KING OF FIGHTERS XIV website.
- The King of Fighters XII for novices from Kotaku.
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