Fist of the North Star - Reviews

Alt title: Hokuto no Ken

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ThatAnimeSnob's avatar
Jun 5, 2012

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.

5/10 story
7/10 animation
7/10 sound
7/10 characters
6.5/10 overall
reinanto's avatar
Aug 31, 2019

What can be said of Fist of the North Star that hasn't been said already? It's so iconic in shaping the shounen genre as we know it today, though I'd argue it's a little more than your typical shounen, with the amount of over the top violence making it somewhere between a shounen and a seinen. All the characters are very stylistically drawn, looking as if they were carved out of stone. The music is absolutely outstanding, ranging from orchestral to rock tunes, and really sets the mood. I seriously can't recommend it enough. 

?/10 story
?/10 animation
?/10 sound
?/10 characters
10/10 overall
Varagauzer's avatar
Apr 28, 2012

Story

Fist of the north star is one of my all time favourite animes it has probaly the most manliest of all anime chracters and filled with violence.Its story itself is built for violence the earth devasted by a nuclear war and now its all chaos and fight for power, can peace be truly found in this era that heralds utter chaos?Out of the sunset the savior arrives.Well the story of Fist of the north star starts out kinda lame, Kenshiro's fiance is kidnapped by Shin and Kenshiro keeps pursuing Shin for getting Yuria back.This is the first arc and pretty much not the best in fact out of the 4 arcs this 109 episode series had the first was the worst.The story was very much predictible except mabe the last episode of this arc where something happens to Yuria, wondering why i gave the story a 9?Well after Shin dies the story immieadetely becomes really interesting with the coming of one badass person Raoh and well lets just say the story really picks up.Unfortunately there are a few fillers which are mainly flashbacks.One thing that I didnt really like about the story was the fact that most of the chracters are so damm badass, they are so cool but they always die except Kenshiro.Well above all the first twenty something episodes of this anime are not that great after that it gets really epic with its plot amazingly developing.

Animation

Its this really from the 80's?Because the animation is just WOW!!!!Kenshiro just goes ATATATATATATATATATATATATATATA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and heads just explode all the way theres just a little problem here most of the blood is shadowed and i am a fan of gore so this kinda set me back a bit but there were some really fast movements that keeps youre head spinning.There were some really cool martial arts styles apart from Kenshio's Hokto shin ken style I liked Rei's, Shuu's and Ruyga's styles the most because they just run through the enemies and just slice them apart its a shame they died too :(. It looks great but at times it can seem a bit disjointed.

Sound

I like this 80's style music most people would probaly say its quite outdated but i like it especially the opening theme you wa shock.The vioce acting was pretty well done too i dont know if there is a dub to it but the Japanese did a ery well job at thye vioces.

Characters

Well these chracters were probaly given the most emotions of all they all develop even the side chacters to develop a lot Kenshiro develops the most and gets stronger as the series progresssed on.But one thing to note though there are some instances where you will hate some of the characters when they soon come in such as Rei, Souther, Raoh and so on but eventually you might find yourself shedding tears for them because their pastes are revealed and you see some of the tragic stories that their past had I mean I really did cry at some points.Another thing to is that everyone displays the emotion towards this era that is that almost everyone are ruled by fear or it has those that conquer this anime really shows just exactely how greedy we humans can truly become the characterization was perfect in this anime.

Overall

Like I said before this is one of my favourite anime I really enjoyed this anime it was a well worth 109 episodes watch and I must say now Japanese anime now needs more manly men like those from this anime now i mean these people in Fist of the north star actually look like martial artists not some kinda skinny guy who call himself a martial artist .Well enough said this was one of the best animes I've ever seen.    

7/10 story
7/10 animation
9/10 sound
10/10 characters
8/10 overall
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halfdan's avatar
Mar 31, 2010

There is one word to describe Fist of the North Star(Hokuto No Ken)- EPIC.

STORY- Pretty standard "invinceable hero must save girl from evil villian" for the most part. However, even though it is somewhat of a cliche, it is done so well it doesn't matter. The post-apocalyptic setting is perfect, the ultra-violence is always satisfying, the martial arts styles are interesting. Unfortunately a lot of episodes are identical and redundant tales of Ken annihilating interchangeable gangs and minor villians. The overall story arc is interesting though.

ANIMATION- This anime is from the 80s and it shows. Not very impressive by today's standards, but you got to cut it slack because of it's age.

SOUND- See animation. Oddly, the dub is so good that I actually prefer it to the original japanese track which is rare for me. Unfortunately the dub is incomplete and absurdly difficult/expensive to find. The dub would get a higher score on sound, it is impeccable.

CHARACTERS- Kenshiro is a great anime hero. Stoic, full of integrity, sorrowful, and of course ruthlessly violent towards the bad guys. I haven't seen enough to comment on the main villians yet, but Shin seems like a worthy bad guy.

OVERALL- Epic anime, any fan of martial arts or post apocalyptic stories has to see this. Some may find the series dated, but if you can look past that you will find a great old school anime.

6/10 story
5/10 animation
5/10 sound
9/10 characters
8/10 overall
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apoc9's avatar
Feb 20, 2013

Another anime I've watched a lot of times over and over again. I stumbled upon this anime by accident and at first I expected some boring post-apocalyptic story
like Mad Max or other classic cold war era cinematography story. But I've been proven wrong.

Story 8/10
Could you imagine a world devastated by a nuclear war. Cities in ruins, dry oceans, green plains turned into desert. Civilized society destroyed, people struggling for survival. Strong preying on weak. Now imagine you put there a single man. He is really pissed off, because his supposed friend kidnapped his love Julia. His name is Kenshiro and he is the only successor of the most deadly material art in the history.
The first part of description makes Hokuto no Ken hardly original or even interesting, but the second part added to the mix changes everything. The story starts slowly and so does action. Watching all those scum praying on weak crushed by Kenshiro like little insects, I've to admit, it brings feeling of satisfaction.
The story is slaughter of bandits and gangs by single man Kenshiro. Yes, slaughter, because no matter how many attacks him he kills them easily. At first only small groups then bigger and bigger, whole army. I think the whole absurdity of some scenes and techniques made me literally ROFL. There are of course few enemies on equal power level, but honestly I find this boring. It's more fun to watch hordes of minions to be killed in gruesome way rather than fancy touki techniques. Except the fight between Kenshiro and Shin.

In summary the story is great. However after 42 episode it gets gradually dull, except some few episodes now and then. It looks like scenarist or should I say mangaka was slowly dying in the deserts of Hokuto no Ken. Before the end of the first season there are 3 episodes solely for the purpose of recapitulation. The second season is just stupid. It's just prolonging of already exhausted story. It doesn't have the greatness of the first season. My rating would be much better if story were shorter.

Animation 5/10
Hokuto no ken is 80's anime so it has this nasty habits of those time cinematography especially reuse of previous shots. Therefore I give only 5/10 for animation.
You would not watch this anime because of its awesome animation, but because of its hilarious action. I think action would be much better if there were less repeating and static shots. I've seen some attempts to completely remake animation in some movies, but I didn't like them at all. Just by replacing repeating scenes and, static shots, I would be perfectly happy.

Music 10/10
Music is excellent. It gives you this immerse feeling of brute force. Music makes action much better. "Now, he is going to kick your ...!"

Characters 7/10
Main hero is without the doubt the best character. Kenshiro is inspired by Bruce Lee. And there is his famous 
"Atatatatatata wachaa ... You are already dead" (あたたたたたた わちゃあ… お前はもう死んでいる )
There are many famous badass lines that leave happy smile on your face.
Other characters are simply pale and meaningless. I probably wouldn't care if side kicks were a pair of chimpanzees.

Overall 7.5/10
I definitely recommend to watch. Even if just only to see the famous Kenshiro against tank scene in episode 18. When I've seen Hokuto no Ken for the first time I laughed a lot. There aren't any other action anime that made me laugh (in a good way - not because it's pathetic). Hokuto no ken is old anime, but still beats many of new 21th century anime in fun.

8/10 story
5/10 animation
10/10 sound
7/10 characters
7.5/10 overall
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