Fist of the North Star Anime Movie Review: Done by Rancel
Fist of the North Star is a 1986 Japanese Anime movie by Toei Animation. It is based on the animated Japanese Hokuto No Ken TV series, known here in the States as Fist of the North Star. It is directed by Toyoo Ashida who also directed the TV series and Vampire Hunter D. It was also a Manga/Japanese comic book series of the same name.
The film adapts the storyline of the manga from the beginning of the series up until Kenshiro’s first match with his rival and elder brother Raoh. Many alterations were done with the order of events and how the story unfolds (including the roles of several characters). I first saw this anime when I owned it on VHS Video back in the early 90’s. It was released in the U.S. by Streamline Pictures in Dubbed format.
The story begins after a global-scale nuclear war. The majority of the earth has been destroyed with the remaining humans fighting over the few uncontaminated food and water that is left. Kenshiro, the master of the deadly martial art Hokuto Shinken, is traveling with his fiancée Yuria (known as Julia in the U.S.) and is quickly defeated by former friend Shin (a Nanto Seiken practicer), who wanted Yuria for himself. All the while this fight was going on, his older brothers, Raoh and Jagi were looking on without intervening. After Kenshiro is defeated and Raoh leaves, Jagi throws Kenshiro into the canyon below hoping it would kill him. Raoh seizes the opportunity with Kenshiro out of the picture. He confronts and kills their master, Ryuken in their Dojo. Raoh declares himself the successor while proclaiming he will become ruler of the new world. Raoh dubs himself Ken-Oh (The End of the Century Conqueror), and sets forth with brute force to conquer the earth.
A year passes and Ken is found wandering in the desert. He rescues two young kids named Bat and Lin from bandits. After allying himself with Rei (a Nanto Seiken fighter), he learns that his brother Jagi has been impersonating him to tarnish his image and also kidnapped Rei’s sister Airi. Kenshiro defeats Jagi in his lair. Before Jagi dies, he tells Kenshiro that he is the one that persuaded Shin to turn against him and to make Yuria his. Yuria is now living reluctantly with Shin in his stronghold at Southern Cross. In other parts of the world, Raoh has amassed a huge army, expanding his control over territories by defeating rival warlords and heads toward Southern Cross. Yuria overhears that Kenshiro is still alive after arguing with Shin and refusing his gifts.
Yuria attempts to sneak out of the castle only to be captured by Raoh after he badly wounds Shin in battle. Kenshiro arrives at Southern Cross to defeat Shin in battle and take Yuria back. The battle does not last long. Kenshiro mortally wounds Shin. With his dying words, Shin tells Kenshiro that Raoh has taken Yuria to Cassandra, the City of Wailing Demons. Kenshiro forgives the remorseful Shin. Kenshiro departs to Cassandra. Rei, Lin, and Bat, who are already there watch in awe as Raoh and his army march through the streets. Lin breaks into Raoh’s dungeon with Bat later that night after seeing that Yuria is being held captive. They meet Yuria in her cell and give her the plant that grew from a seed she gave to Kenshiro before being abducted by Shin.
As they try to escape, Raoh spots them, notices the plant, and sentences Yuria to public execution the next morning. Raoh is very upset about seeing this plant because plants aren’t supposed to be able to grow after a nuclear holocaust and he doesn’t want the people to have hope for the future. Rei challenges Raoh, after defeating his second-in-command but is no match for Raoh and is killed in battle after a heroic effort. This outcome is different from the Anime TV series which I have seen in its entirety. In the movie, Rei dies right away while in the TV series Rei is fatally wounded by Raoh in a way that he will suffer a while before he dies. He appears in a few more episodes before finally succumbing to his injuries. Kenshiro arrives at Cassandra and holds the dying Rei in his arms. Kenshiro challenges Raoh to a fight the death. Kenshiro and Raoh unleash their full fighting aura. Their epic struggle lays waste to the surrounding parts of the city. They exhaust all their power and strength before Raoh gets up one more time to deliver a death blow to a unconscious Kenshiro. Kenshiro is saved by Lin when she interrupts Raoh. The entire fight is ridiculously over the top with the chi aura stuff, the amount of blood loss, and neither one of them dying. There are two endings to this battle that were filmed. The movie version differentiates from the anime series. In the theatrical release, Raoh had plenty of time to finish Kenshiro off before being interrupted by Lin. While in the revised version, that is included on the DVD they both fight to a standstill. They are interrupted by Lin who tells them to stop because they are both to the world and mustn’t die yet.
This anime series and movie are my favorite of all the anime I have seen over the years. I have the most respect for the character Kenshiro and the concept the story represents of never quitting. It is very much like the Mad Max movies with the similar theme of after a nuclear holocaust with bandits raping and pillaging. The characters in the story even dress a lot like the Mad Max movie characters. Kenshiro is a mixture of Bruce Lee and Mad Max. He is a great martial artist with heroic qualities and seemingly limitless chi power. The other side, teaching good values to people he helps such as never giving up. No matter the tragedy/trauma, just keep going forward and see hope. Fist of the North Star is very enjoyable to watch although some might find the amounts of gore and blood a bit too much and hilarious.
It features lots of fighting and plenty of people getting punched, smashed, or exploding into pieces. The film is not for little. Fist of the North Star is very unrealistic. One thing that never gets explained is, why are Kenshiro’s brothers, bandits, and villains giants. They all seem to be like 8 to 9ft tall. When you first see Raoh (Ken-Oh), you’ll be shocked that he is a monster. Raoh is a mountain of muscle. Something you will learn real quick from watching this movie and series, is if you are a bad guy and Kenshiro touches you it means, “You are already dead”, as he says throughout the anime.
Fist of the North Star is considered by some to be a linear and cheesy. It obviously is one of the most anime’s ever. The music in the film is done by Komodo Band, a Japanese (J-Rock band). They contribute the loud Hair Metal type song, “Heart of Madness” during the Rei vs. Raoh fight scene. Anime fans should definitely pick up the DVD and get the TV series box set. The 1986 Fist of the North Star movie is a good introduction to the franchise, but you’re missing out if you don’t get the TV series. It is highly addictive. The story doesn’t end with the first Kenshiro vs. Raoh fight. Kenshiro comes back for round two and delivers the knockout blow to Raoh. You will also learn from the Anime Series that Raoh is not really a bad guy or a villain. You can’t classify him as one. There is also some new OVA’s (Original Video Animation) DVD’s of Fist of the North Star being released from time to time that continues Kenshiro’s story. The Xbox 360 game, Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage is pretty fun to play.
Rei vs Raoh scene from Fist of the North Star Anime Movie 1986 (With cool song “Heart of Madness” by Kodomo Band)
Filed Under: Animation
About the Author: Hello and welcome to The Eradicator/Kal-EL's Movie, TV Show, Animated Films, and Japanese Anime Review Website. I enjoy writing, watching films (especially foreign cinema and horror), playing video games, listening to music, repairing computers, and spending time with people I love. I have always been into the world of cinema, animated films, and TV series.