Fist of the North Star
Kenshiro is the sole successor to the Fist of the North Star fighting style; a devastating technique that exploits pressure points on the human body to heal, hurt, or blow people up. Using these skills, Ken carves a path across a post-apocalyptic landscape, in a quest to free the weak and innocent from the tyranny of the strong.
Fist of the North Star is basically the archetypal ‘shonen’ series (shonen means ‘boys,’ as in, a show made for boys). It’s an endless series of escalating challenges; a new villain appears, Kenshiro tracks him down (fighting his minions along the way) and eventually comes to face the villain himself, in a battle which lasts several episodes.
The series takes place several years after a nuclear war. Humans survived, but in diminished numbers and without high technology or formal government. In this world, the strong lead with brutality. Ken uses violence as well, but always in the interest of freedom. What’s interesting is that he’s seldom on time, it’s rare that he ever actually saves a person that’s being threatened. In fact, sometimes he seems to just stand around until after they’re dead. He’s not so much a defender as he his an avenger.
There’s an odd sense of morality in the series. There’s clearly a right and wrong, and evil is punished; but it is emphasized throughout the series that Ken’s power comes from rage. He also makes a point of never forgiving anyone. Villains beg for mercy and he just kills them anyways, then he tracks down their families and kills them too. It’s an interesting contrast to western shows, which which treat mercy as a virtue for a hero, think of Doctor Who, who always offers the invading aliens a chance to stop and leave before he destroys them. Of course, Ken is more akin to what people are like in real life, than the idealized people we want our fictional heroes to be. People are, by nature, in favor of the eye for an eye approach to justice.
Kenshiro isn’t really challenged most of the time, his fighting style being so superior to everyone else’s; and yet, it’s still rather compelling to watch. The series keeps introducing lists of villains, the six South Star masters, the four North Star brothers, the five Chariot Stars, etc. Aside from endlessly extending the length of the series, they also give the viewer something to look forward to. You find yourself counting off the enemies on the list, and looking forward to seeing who the next one will be.
It’s strange that the series doesn’t feel more repetitive, but the mini-story arcs inside of larger ones give the show short and long-term goals, so that it always feels like it’s moving forward, even as the goal post is moving farther away.
It’d probably get boring if you tried to marathon it, but taken in small, steady doses, Fist of the North Star makes for some addicting viewing.
Eastern Star’s DVDs present the entire series on four volumes (the first three being Fist of the North Star, and the last being Fist of the North Star 2, a sequel series which aired immediately following the first). Each set has five discs (with 6 in volume four), and includes the remastered video (with all the original credits and titles) from the Japanese release (which looks quite good) and Japanese audio with English subtitles. There are no extras.