Fist of the North Star

Alt title: Hokuto no Ken

TV (109 eps)
1984 - 1987
3.706 out of 5 from 4,099 votes
Rank #2,986

Imagine a world devastated by nuclear war, where the strong oppress the weak and strength is the one thing that will ensure survival. A world where even close friends can betray you for power, a lesson that Ken, the Fist of The North Star, learns when he is nearly killed by his closest friend and left for dead. He's not an easy man to get rid of, and he returns - very angry.

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Notice: This review covers the whole franchise and not just the main series. Fist of the North Star is historically the first fighting shonen. There were shonen before it and there was fighting in a lot of them, but the formula was different as they were focused on mecha or sports. This one here was the first anime that was about fighting between humans without the use of robots or spaceships and without having to follow the rules of a game. This was achieved by having a post apocalyptic setting where technology and laws do not matter and it’s the strong who can do whatever they like. This very simple concept was excusing a lot of things that wouldn’t make much sense in an advanced and civilized society. Unlike most following shonen which are trying to be relatable by taking place in our society, Fist of the North Star keeps things simple and doesn’t constantly break your immersion by making you wonder what the hell is the police doing, or why isn’t the society reacting to these really horrible things that keep happening? The answer is simple. There is no police, there is no society, or high schools, or parents who are mysteriously missing all the time.And this here is also the major issue most newer fans have when trying to watch it. It’s simple and it’s not relatable. By being a product of its time it doesn’t have a power system that feels like a videogame, it doesn’t have high schools and it doesn’t have retarded teenagers constantly yelling how they want to be the best in the world. Because it was made in the 80s, when all that stuff weren’t trending as much as Mad Max or Bruce Lee movies, or muscular action heroes, or the fear of a nuclear holocaust caused by the Cold War. That’s what was relatable to me when I was a kid, and that’s why I like all that so much. Younger people wouldn’t get it because they didn’t live it. Anyways, the main appeal of the show is muscular men fighting each other to the death with some really violent martial arts that would make the Mortal Kombat characters to feel right at home. If the series wasn’t so violent, it wouldn’t be the same. Saint Seiya that came out a few years later was very tame in its violence and once you get used to what is going on here, you are not going to be easily impressed thereafter by anime which refuse to show some gore despite having powers that can blow up mountains. Fist of the North Star doesn’t rely on constantly blowing up the backgrounds for making you think the characters are strong. It shows it with gore. Also there are no aliens or monsters or robots. There is more gravity when a character kills a human being than a demon or a cyborg. Death is not an afterthought as it is in most shonen. When you die, you are already dead and there are no magical resurrections or instant healing as is the case in most shonen for making injuries and death to mean absolutely nothing. By the way, injuries are still healed after a battle and Kenshiro apparently has an infinite amount of identical clothes with him, since he somehow finds a new shirt after shredding the previous one in a battle. But we don’t see all that and the show never addresses how they happen, so it’s easier to ignore them compared to when they openly show you there is this granny that kisses you and everything is back to normal. There is none of that shit here. There are no high schools, there are no first world problems, and there are no beta loser crybaby teenagers. It’s mankind fighting itself for survival and for finding an alpha male leader who can unite it once again. A very noble and manly objective for noble and manly viewers such as myself. But I will also be critical about it and admit the pacing is not the best and there are a lot of filler episodes. And the artwork, as detailed as it was for a hand drawn long running series, is now dated as shit. Those who got spoiled by Demon Slayer are not going to be motivated to watch a show that is 50% choppy animation and skipable content. But then again I would gladly watch 5 filler episodes that are full of action than 5 canon episodes that are just the characters fooling around in a school festival. Also, there is censorship. They don’t show the blood most of the times and they instead show sparkly water. They are still not hiding the gore, everything is still on screen, they just downplay it. The depiction of human bodies blowing up usually looks more like balloons popping, fireworks firing off or cardboards getting cut to pieces. It might look silly now, but back then we boomers were watching nothing more than mecha that blow up when you defeat them. Seeing the same happening to human bodies was like low tier body horror for its time. But yeah, once you watch enough ultra violent OVAs, the movie version of the series, or any violent live action series of recent times, it’s not shocking anymore. Now it’s more like a silly spectacle where you wait to see what someone does before he cuts people to pieces.Another plus I like about the show is the plot, which once you get past the filler is actually pretty great. Although a done to death cliché nowadays, the amount of interconnecting plots amongst the various Hokuto and Nanto warriors is amazing. I mean, it’s mostly based on constantly retconing more events into Kenshiro’s past, but up to a point they are not contradicting anything, and they are making the show far more than a linear plot about muscular dudes punching each other. With that said, the show is simple, which can make a lot of spoiled youngsters to get bored very fast. There aren’t hundreds of secondary characters, each one with his own super complex special ability that needs 10 pages to explain. There are no tensionless tournament arcs for videogame match ups where everyone has to play fair and wait for his turn. Even the setting is very simple. It’s just an endless wasteland with identical looking peasants who wear nothing but rags, and your occasional local warlord who wears a lot of spiky leather and usually looks like a gay clown. In this regard, I can say that the show is not meant to be binged and it doesn’t become bloated with needless characters that do nothing. It is simple, focused, and doesn’t waste its few elements. With that said, yes the plot is simple and repetitive. It’s always about a cruel local warlord who is tormenting the local population and it’s always Kenshiro appearing to save the day by blowing the bad guys to bits with his hax skills. But, the Hokuto and Nanto warriors break this monotony because they are equally hax as Kenshiro, do things differently, and flesh out the backdrop stories with a lot of interconnected events. It’s where all the fun lies. It might be straightforward, but it works pretty damn well. By the way, don’t watch anything besides the original series and its movie version. Despite having several sequels and prequels and reimaginings, none of them are as good. The animation and artwork might be better, but they are lifeless in terms of memorable events or worthwhile characters. Just like any other franchise that tries to continue past its perfectly fine ending, all following works feel like slapped on cashgrabs that fail to capture what was making the original that good. The notorious sequel is no exception. You can’t keep retconing shit without eventually making it hard to believe things were always supposed to be like that. The new characters who were introduced and which were always supposed to be there, don’t have the charm of the previous ones, and their storylines lead nowhere thus becoming needless. You also can’t maintain an interesting story when you kill all the cool characters and there is no way to bring them back. At the end of the day Hokuto no Ken was never good as a perpetually ongoing shonen. It was a rule of cool series that was meant to be watched a couple of episodes at a time. It lacks the bullshit of later fighting shonen that make them addictive junk food. It’s also a show that belongs in an era that kids of today won’t find very appealing. It captured the things that were cool when I was a kid, but that’s as far as it goes. There is not much appreciation for muscular alpha males in today’s soyboy crybaby generation. But at least it is an undeniable classic and not some ephemeral fad that gets hyped while it airs and is then instantly discarded. And for that reason alone retro always wins. SUGGESTION LIST The movies starring Bruce Lee, the character Kenshiro was based upon. The four Mad Max movies.The first three arcs of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, which are a tribute to Jojo.


First of all, let's talk about the repetitive nature of the show. It seems like every other episode features the same formula: some evil guys do some evil things, Kenshiro shows up and beats them up, the evil guys inform their boss, the boss becomes enraged and sends his minions after Kenshiro, Kenshiro beats them up, then Kenshiro beats their boss, and the episode ends. Rinse and repeat. This formula is so predictable that it becomes tedious after a while, and you can easily predict what's going to happen next.The repetition doesn't stop there, though. The show also reuses a lot of animations, which is a common practice in anime but can get annoying when it's overdone. You'll see Kenshiro using the same moves over and over again, ripping his shirt(s) again and again, and the show will often reuse the same stock footage of characters screaming and punching the air. This just adds to the overall feeling of sameness that permeates the show.Now, let's move on to the supporting characters. Bart is supposed to be the comic relief, but he's just not that funny. He's a one-dimensional character with no depth or development. Lin, on the other hand, is just a damsel in distress to be rescued by Kenshiro. She's merely a helpless girl who constantly puts herself in danger, and it gets old after a while. Mamiya is a bit better, as she's initially presented as a strong and independent woman, but her character development is stunted and she eventually becomes more of a love interest for Kenshiro. And Toki was just a Jesus ChristRei is probably the most interesting supporting character, but after his story ended, he was reduced to being a sidekick to Kenshiro. His initial storyline about searching for his sister's kidnapper and avenging his parents was intriguing, but then I guess the writer ran out of ideas for him.As for the villains, there are a lot of them, but most of them are forgettable. They're just there to be beaten up by Kenshiro and move the plot along. The three main villains who are actually related to the main plot are Shin, Souther, and Raoh. Shin is the best of the bunch, with a tragic backstory and a personal connection to Kenshiro that makes their fights more meaningful. Souther is an interesting character as well, but his motivations are a bit muddy, and he doesn't get as much screen time as he deserves. Raoh is a 'big bad' dark messiah dictator who is there to be defeated by Kenshiro in the end.In terms of animation and music, the 1984 Fist of the North Star TV anime is acceptable but not exceptional. The animation was decent for its time, but it doesn't hold up well compared to modern anime. The music is forgettable, with a lot of generic rock tracks that don't add much to the show.Overall, the Fist of the North Star TV anime from 1984 is badly written, with retcons and plot rehashes that make it hard to watch after King arc (the first arc). It has some interesting ideas and characters, but it's hampered by its repetitive formula and lack of depth. If you're a fan of classic anime or martial arts stories, you might enjoy it. However, if you're looking for something with more substance and originality, you might want to look elsewhere. I would recommend the more recent pentalogy (3 movies + 2 OVAs) if you want to explore the main plot with a more streamlined presentation and the retcons were fixed by adding foreshadowings.

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