The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Fist of the North Star (1986)

Title: Fist of the North Star (1986) aka Hokuto no Ken (1986)
Genre: Action
Company: Toei Animation
Format: Movie; 110 minutes
Dates: 8 Mar 1986

Synopsis: Earth is a wasteland. Shattered by a nuclear holocaust, only the strongest have survived and anarchy rules. When his girlfriend Julia is kidnapped and he is left for dead, martial artist Kenshiro embarks on a bloody journey of retribution, meeting a formidable crowd of friends and foes along the way.

The Highlights
Storyline: Blink and you’ll miss it.
Artwork: Showing its age.
Characters: Shallow and monosyllabic.
Exploding body-parts: Plenty.

Over two decades after its initial release, Fist of the North Star still proudly wears its crown as one of the most violent pieces of anime ever created. Let’s put this into perspective: the content was originally so extreme that even the Japanese release was eventually censored with cuts and distortion.

So is there more here than blood and gore? Unfortunately, the answer is “not much”. With a plot haphazardly butchered from the first two television series, the movie quickly degenerates into a series of gruesome videogame-style fight sequences – each more bloody than the last – of questionable morality.

The legion of main and minor characters have little to distinguish them apart – though they rarely last long enough for us to notice before they explode and/or are dismembered. We are treated to an identity parade of progressively more ridiculous hair-styles and hammy voice-acting, making it increasingly hard work to keep a straight face through the thankfully sparse dialogue.

That said, Fist of the North Star was never intended to appeal to the deep thinkers, and does manage to capture a nostalgic, epic feel – and unlike the artwork, at least that is timeless. If you don’t mind your anime violent, gory, and light on the cerebral side, spend a little time with one of the founding fathers of this genre.

The Rating: 4

Reviewed by: Scoot

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