Before there was Vampire Hunter D, before the Dragon Ball series, before Akira, there was….Fist of the North Star! This Legendary anime takes place in an apocalyptic, dystopian wasteland. After a nuclear war that humanity survived there was nothing but chaos and disorder. Many people try to live peacefully in any way they can, but others try to take advantage and rule all who cannot withstand their armies. Out of the horizon comes a lone man in search of water. Later in the episode we find out that the lone man is the hero of the story, Kenshiro, who also befriends two children who become his cohorts in the series. We also learn that Kenshiro is the successor to the terrifyingly deadly art of Hokuto Shinken. A martial art based on the acupressure points and the devastating damage caused but striking them the correct way. Fist of the North Star follows the adventures of Kenshiro and his friends as they battle evil villains, right wrongs and try to help the innocent in this dystopian setting. Sure it seems like a basic enough plot but what really stands out is the action.
The action in Fist of the North Star is nothing less than amazing. Every single battle that takes place is awe inspiring. Watching Kenshiro destroy his enemies with an almost seemingly countless number of attacks never gets tiring. You want to watch the next episode just to see what new tricks he can muster up. At the end of each major battle Kenshiro or one of his allies uses an attack that is reminiscent of a fatality in Mortal Kombat. Kenshiro or the like will perform some crazy move and right before(or after in some cases) the enemy dies in a quite unusual way…whether it be exploding, killing each other, or being maimed beyond recognition…Kenshiro will disclaim what special attack he used and then the enemy will die immediately after. One of the best things about the action in “Fist” is that it can be very gruesome and disturbing. Watching someone’s body parts explode in a flagrant manner or watching the internal strife on ones face as their organs deteriorate and/or exit their own body can be quite extreme.
Which brings me to my next point…Fist of the North Star should probably only be watched by a mature audience. This is kind of ironic since in 1984 it was shown for the entertainment of smaller kids at about the age of 8-10. But when I first watched it at the age of 19 I was still shocked at the type of violence displayed and couldn’t keep myself from watching it again and again. Another interesting difference in watching the anime as opposed to the manga on which it is based on, is the fact that the anime actually has more moves and techniques that Kenshiro has that the manga does not. Let me just say, the anime has quite a bit more special attacks and finishing moves than the manga gives its readers. So technically you get more bang for your buck by watching the anime than reading the manga. If I had to give Fist of the North Star a rating just based on its action alone I would give it 5 out of 5 stars. But action alone does not an anime make.
The setting in “Fist” has a very Mad Max-ish feel to it. The scenery, the enemy’s hair styles, their helmets, even the motorcycles and vehicles they ride in scream of Mad Max. The awesome thing is that this type of style works for this anime. For a dystopian setting I can definitely understand how many of the villains and enemies look the way they do.
The storyline in “Fist” is actually rather good too. I realize I only gave a very brief synopsis of the story but its more than just Kenshiro and friends stopping the evil trying to conquer the land. There are many twists and turns that make the story more complicated and intricate than I’ve let on. The main villain in the first season is Kenshiros arch rival Shin, the master of the South Star technique. The story goes on to show why Ken is also called the man with seven scars (coincidentally they are in the shape of the big dipper) and how Shin’s involvement with Ken caused such a disfigurement. But the story doesn’t stop there. Right when you think the series or certain episodes will end a certain way, the writers change things to give a surprise effect, making you want to keep watching to find out what happens in the story as well as the next action packed scene. Throughout the 150 episodes the story gets better and more detailed.
For the 1980’s and a kid show, the artwork used in “Fist” is pretty good. Sure the side characters like Bat(Bart) and Lin are drawn typically for a child’s show but all the adult martial artist characters are actually really well drawn for the time period in which it was made. You can tell the characters were primarily taken straight from the manga and placed in motion. Another obvious sign is that the artists actually waited to use all their talent for the big fights and dramatic scenes. The big fight scenes are really well drawn as compared to when Ken and his allies are just sitting around and chewing the fat. The scenery at certain dramatic points is also well drawn and more emphasis is placed on them at crucial points in the story. For instance, when a certain character falls to his doom after making a dramatic speech to tell Ken an important point in the story, you can see the details of the buildings and the landscape in which he is falling in to give a more dramatic effect to the plotline.
Finally, a fantastic anime of this caliber is not without its faults. First, the music in the anime sucks. I mean granted, it was made in the mid-80s and they didn’t really have very many good songs made for anime back then but still. I think the music could have been better especially for an action behemoth like this one. Secondly there are filler episodes. It’s not even the type of filler that Bleach has. You know where they just randomly make Ichigo and crew fight other monsters to make a new story so they can work on the manga? Instead the filler for “Fist” just recaps previous episodes and previous seasons. It does this in such a way where it’s almost like they are just replaying entire episodes you have already seen. I mean really!? You couldn’t have just come up with some cool bad guy for Kenshiro to fight? You just had to recap some previous episodes and make us dredge through them? Uuugghhhh the humanity!! Aside from that though there isn’t too much not to like about this anime.
The Good: Cool setting, good storyline development, tons and tons of action…my god the action!! There are awesome finishing fatality techniques, more techniques in the anime than the manga, good graphic artwork (specifically in the battle scenes). Best of all this anime is pretty cool regardless of your age.
The Bad: Lame 80s style music, not all artwork is done at its peak performance and horrible filler episodes that just re-show past episodes when more could have been done.
I finally came to the conclusion that I have to give Fist of the North Star 4 out of 5 stars. If you’re into an awesome action packed anime than Fist of the North Star is for you. Now go watch it…wait *Pokes your neck* NORTH STAR ANIME WATCHING STRIKE!!! Now you have 5 years to watch this anime and if you don’t, you will die! Well….maybe not since I don’t know Hokuto Shinken…..but you really won’t know what you’re missing out on if you don’t watch it.
- Ryan S.