“You wa shock!”
“You are already dead"
These are just a couple of phenomena that have come from Fist of the North Star, the legendary series from Weekly Shonen Jump. A giant from the 1980s, it has sold over 100 million manga volumes, and it’s anime adaptation has long-lasting popularity. Now, after years of stop-and-go publication history in North America, the whole series is getting hardcover editions. “You are already dead,” shows up in this volume, as well as some color pages. But outside of the memes, how has this nearly 40 year old series aged over the decades?
After a great nuclear war, the world of Fist of the North Star has become a wasteland, abandoned skyscrapers acting as reminders of a world long gone. As for the remaining humans, they face a desperate life. If you aren’t a member of a gang who dresses like they’re in a punk band, you’re one of their innocent victims. That is, until a shadowy figure enters the picture…
That figure is none other than Ken, the hero of this manga. A mix between Mad Max and Bruce Lee, he wanders the lands to help people in need. Having learned the ancient martial art of Fist of the North Star, he uses the body’s pressure points to defeat his opponents. One small poke is all it takes for Ken to split enemies' heads open. That’s the setup, and the manga doesn’t deviate much from that. But the focus is not really on the characters or plot, but how they facilitate the manga’s action and spectacle. That is where the series’s true strength lies.
The true north star of the manga is the art. The attention to detail is way above what I was expecting. The artist, Tetsuo Hara, adds lots of touches that make his drawings a grade above. Hara uses black and white to show off wrinkles on the clothes to create dynamic action. The same can be said for how he lights characters to accentuate their muscles and the huge strength they possess. The settings, while simple in comparison, are given small details to show the desolate world the characters live and die in. Of course, there’s the gruesome deaths themselves. There’s no holding back here just because it was targeted at teens; guts and bone spill out like waterfalls. Sometimes the bodies explode, other times split in half, it’s all bloody and should satisfy any person who is into that. That this was all done on a weekly schedule is absolutely insane.
As for the characters, their personalities are often turned up to 11. Ken is the mostly-silent type, focusing on serving out justice rather than having philosophical talks about the villain’s morality. Ken has a companion named Bat, a plucky youngster who acts as the voice of the audience. Sadly, he is mostly in the background as Ken fights his foes. The villain of the week format means not many villains get development beyond “Argh, I do evil!” Except for Shin. He’s the light-haired-friend-now-enemy adversary of Ken. The rivalry and hate runs deep, and the reasons behind it are equal parts emotional and ridiculous. It’s all done in a fun way, like a good pro-wrestling storyline.
(Wait a minute: light-haired antagonist? Punch-first protagonist? Plucky companion? Excellent art? This is Berserk! Kentaro Miura was a fan of Fist of the North Star, and has said the series had the biggest impact on his work. Just goes to show the far-reaching influence of the series).
Fist of the North Star is about enjoying the simple pleasures. Ken pulling off a special technique after he went, “ATTATATATATATATATATATA!” on an opponent, the suspense as we wait for his inevitable demise, and the ensuing explosion of blood, intestines, and rib cage. All just another day for a hero wandering in a post-apocalyptic world.
Fist of the North Star Manga Volume 1 Features story by Buronson and art by Tetsuo Hara.
In a post-apocalyptic world, humanity has risen from the ashes of nuclear war, but only to a nightmare of endless suffering. It is a time of chaos. Gangs of savage marauders and warlords rule the broken ruins of civilization, terrorizing and enslaving the survivors. Life has become a brutal struggle for existence and death the only release.
One day, a wanderer appears out of the wasteland to bring justice to the guilty and hope for the people—a warrior named Ken who bears seven scars upon his chest and holds the deadly secrets of a mysterious martial art known as Hokuto Shinken—the Divine Fist of the North Star!Add to CartLearn More