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Few anime truly deserve the title of classic. Fist of the North Star does.
Review by Matthew Anderson
109 Episode TV series
Company: Manga Entertainment
Running Time: 210 Min (7 Episodes)
Rating: R (Language, Violence, gore, subject mater)
In the near future, the entire world has been devastated by nuclear war. Water is at a premium, and human life is measured in blood. Gangs rule the wastelands, and kill whom ever they want for fun. Their supreme leader is the human personification of Satan, the incredibly evil Shin.
Yet in this lawless land, there is a hero ready to stop this evil. His name is Ken, the last surviving master of an ancient Chinese Martial art called Hokuto Shinken. Along with his friends Bart and Lynn, he will fight wave after wave of evil in order to stop Shin's subjugation of the world.
DVD VISION TEST
VIDEO: Decent, better than the video release. The colors
are clearer and the image sharper although, there are some light moments. While there
is film grain and specks, these are from the source material.
AUDIO: The Japanese 2.0 is the original audio track, with the exception of the opening theme. There is a lot of mono hiss, and little to no directionality. While you purists may be happy, those who want some pumping audio will be unhappy.
The English 2.0 is
pretty crisp and clean. There is some directionality, but not enough
to satisfy the audiophiles. It sounds a lot better than the
EDITS: To the actual episodes (believe me when I say this) there is no editing. Everything is there, in all it's visceral glory. The opening is another matter. The original opening animation has been edited to accommodate the "new" opening theme by Mike Egan. It's awful. Fortunately, the clean ending animation was used.
The episode titles have also been altered. The back ground music is different on the English dub as well.
EXTRAS: More than Manga Entertainment's usual practice of the Manga's KMFDM music video and a fan club catalogue. A fairly large collection of images, along with character bios, which help explain some of the finer details of the characters. There is also a "Prologue" which is actually the original promo for the VHS release, and the clean ending animation with the Japanese cast.
buy this series for an in-depth story.
Like "JoJo's Bizarre Adventure" this is pretty much a typical
"Bad Ass vs. Bad Ass" anime. The screenplay by the Toei writing
staff is pretty straight forward, much like the source manga by
Bronson/Tetsuo Hara. If you were a fan of the "Mad Max" movies, then
you are going to love this.
ACTING: The Japanese is superb. Full of dynamic range and emotion. Everyone is superb, and are a perfect match to the characters. Akira Kamiya's deep voice is perfectly suited for ultimate bad ass Ken. His "Bruce Lee" yell is also perfection! Japanese is truly the only way to enjoy the series.
As you may
guess, I was not that thrilled with the English voice cast. The voices
were not very good
matches, and they didn't have much of an emotional range. It felt
like they were
trying too hard to act as cool as the Japanese voice cast.
FAN SERVICE: Nothing in the nudity department, which is a surprise, considering the setting. There is tons of ass kicking, which will make you gore hounds squeal in glee.
Few anime truly deserve the title of classic. Fist of the North Star does. Here it is, 20 years after the TV series concluded, and it's still elicits a positive response in the heart of anime fans. It's the high action quotient and interesting characters that keep people coming back.
It's certainly not the plot. Basically, it's like this; Ken arrives in a town terrorized by strong and evil men. He kicks ass, then leaves in search of his long lost love Julia. In spite this simple plot, you won't find yourself getting bored or wondering if things are going to change. You just sit back and see how many different ways it takes for Ken to kill someone.
You can really see the influence from the "Mad Max" movie series in "Fist of the North Star". The character designs for the bikers look a lot like the crew from "Mad Max 2". Thanks to the setting, the story could very easily fit into that continuity. You even have Ken, dress in a similar outfit to the one Mel wore, with the shoulder pad on one side.
Ken is like "The Incredible Hulk" of Japanese animation. Like his distant cousin, Ken helps those in trouble, gets really powerful when he is pissed off, and his shirt gets ripped off, then reappears after he is done. Unlike The Hulk, his brain doesn't go by the way side. He also has "fist of fury" and the Bruce Lee yell. All the Hulk does is clobber someone, while yelling "HULK SMASH!". Boring!
Still, you need to be a beast in this lawless land. The survivors and mutants that have risen up in this cursed land are pretty nasty. Like Ken they all have some sort of super ability. From being able to fly to absorb punches and even wepons, these fiends have no equal. My personal favorite is God's Army. Made up of former special forces members, these "followers" are the most organized, and the best designed of the villains. Naturally, the bosses are totally cool, with the appropriately named Sgt. Madd and the "psychic" Colonel both very imposing.
Interesting thing is that while there is a lot of violence, there isn't necessarily a lot of blood. Usually, when Ken takes down an opponent, the energy released from his use of Hokuto Shinken is what spills out. Now, I'm not saying that there isn't blood, just not as much as say, "Ninja Scroll".
This is not, I repeat, not a series to let any kid watch. In two of the seven episodes, two young girls witness the death of their parents. Innocent people get stabbed, sliced, and beaten to an inch of their lives. The scene when you learn how Ken got the seven scars is not for the squeamish. Fortunately, there are not any rape scenes, but you never know about the other four volumes. With the absence of graphic sex and nudity, that is why Fist of the North Star gets an R rating. Still, I don't think anyone under 17 should watch this.
As much as I enjoy "Fist of the North Star", I am not very impressed with the English dub. Frankly, it's terrible, even for an early dub. The acting is flat and uneven. I find this amazing considering that many of these voice actors are ones that we have come to know and love. David Lucas is a great Spike in "Cowboy Bebop", but he makes an awful Shin. Combined with the mediocre music by Mike Egan, this dub is a prime example of why the "Sub or Die" debate continues.
I'm am totally hooked on "Fist of the North Star". I love the action, the character designs, the ass kicking, the simple story, and the old school animation. I totally dig the "Bruce Lee" yell, or Ken yelling out the name of the attack he just used. This anime is so addictive, I spent an entire afternoon watching it instead of working on some other reviews. Now that's the true power of Hokuto Shinken!
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