Anime 101: Fist of the North Star

We've been quite remiss in our coverage of anime and manga on this site. Ben redresses the balance by introducing us to the things we really should know about...

Fist of the North Star

Don’t you realise you’re already dead?


I just poked your pressure points using my Hokuto Shinken fighting style – you’ve got approximately 45 seconds (or 500 words) until your head inflates and explodes. Think acupuncture with repercussions.

That’s not really on, you know.

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Context is everything darling – what if you were in a post-apocalyptic world where there was nothing but barren wasteland and marauding mutant bikers killing people for fun and hogging all the dwindling resources? Wouldn’t it be OK to use such a lethal art against those nasty men?

I guess. What the hell are you talking about?

Fist Of The North Star – the goriest anime since, well, sliced bread. In a nutshell, Hero = Kenshiro. He’s the nice fella who can touch hidden powerpoints in people and make them blow up. He got stabbed and thrown off a cliff by his arch nemesis Shin, who then stole his girlfriend, Julia, to rub salt in the wound.


He’s a bit peeved, as you might imagine, and ignoring the whole question of how exactly he comes back from the dead, he does so, and goes off on a revenge mission. It’s all very biblical, only instead of coming back and just politely letting people know he’s risen, Ken goes off on a killing spree. It’s what Mad Max should have been.

This Ken bloke sounds a lot more violent than Mel Gibson though.

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He really is. I can’t stress enough just how bloody the series is: being a master of Hokuto Shinken, he can control and destroy any part of the human body. In other words, he can chop people’s heads off with his fingers (Ken enjoys screaming like a girl when doing this, of course). Despite the global famine, there seem to be plenty of 20 feet high, hugely built bandits – they’ve clearly been getting a regular diet of protein and carbohydrates, though from where is any one’s guess – for him to turn the tables on after they threaten to kill him etc etc. There’s lashings of bludgeoning with steel pipes, monsters munching people whole and people severing limbs without the victim noticing, then handing them (oh, the irony) back to them. But mainly, heads explode.

This all sounds rather one sided…

Ken’s a bit of a spoil sport: everyone knows that a good narrative structure involves disruption then restoration of equilibrium or something (“I get knocked down, but I get up again…”). But like a kid in the playground hogging ALL the best super powers, he’s not having any of it. Ken walks up to a problem, pokes it with his finger and then it explodes ten seconds later. It doesn’t stop it being funny though.

Why haven’t I heard of this before?

Are you sure you haven’t? It was made into a very successful Hollywood movie of the same name, starring, er, Chris Penn and Malcolm McDowell. I say “very successful”, I don’t mean it.

Quickly, where can I find it?

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You can buy it on DVD over here – there’s a new series buried in the racks at HMV but get the box set for your money’s worth. The original anime movie does a fantastic job of condensing the entire series into 80 minute jobs, and keeps the brutal nonsense at bursting point, if you can find it. I wouldn’t dream of looking for it on the Internet anywhere, mind. No.

This doesn’t really solve my problem though does i-

That does.