Fist of the North Star is a animated film from Japan that was released in 1986. It’s the story of a man named Ken (Kenshiro) who, after a betrayal from his friend some time before, wanders the post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Ken saves a small settlement from bandits and reveals his skill in the martial art style, Hokuto Shinken, which basically lets him punch people and they explode from the inside out.
In his travels he encounters Rei, a practitioner of Nanto Seiken, which allows him to cut through things with his hands. Rei is looking for his sister who has been kidnapped. Ken and Rei team-up and they learn that the man responsible has ties to Ken’s past.
Along the way, Ken learns the truth behind his betrayal, kills a lot of people and eventually has to face his elder brother Raoh, who rules over his own kingdom.
This is a very simplified rundown of the movie’s plot and the abilities that the characters possess. I just wanted to give a quick overview and not spoil too much of the film. Just know it is more than a straight action movie. There is a real story here, it’s just buried underneath all the exploding heads and neon lighting effects.
I first saw this movie sometime in the early ’90s. It was a bootleg copy that was in Japanese with no subs. I couldn’t understand the plot, but the movie still blew me away. The Mad Max-esque setting and hyper-violence was like nothing I had seen as kid. The characters were larger than life and all had distinct personalities. The art style is very unique and I feel that helps make the movie stand out.
The movie is adaptation of the manga series Hokuto No Ken by Buronson and Tetsuo Hara. The film only covers a portion of the manga and condenses some events to fit them into a feature film. There is also an animated series that aired in Japan. It more closely follows the manga.
If you’re an action or a martial arts fan, give this movie a chance even if you are not an anime fan. It’s insane, bloody and a lot of fun. There is also a live-action version starring Gary Daniels as Ken. It’s…well it’s a movie. Grab some beers and watch it out some time. You’ll be entertained watching it.
Check out the original Japanese trailer here: