In the early 1980s, some of them if not the biggest names in manga history were all distributed under the same Weekly Shonen Jump magazine at the same time from Dr. Slump and Kat’s eye to Dragon Ball and City Hunter to Saint Seiya and Jojo’s Bizarre adventure. Though dominating all of these in savagery was Buronson’s Fist of the North Star set in a post-apocalyptic dystopian world and for the first time stamping hyper-violence to unalloyed pages of Shonen Jump.
It set standards, defined a genre distinctively, gave several unforeseen elements that are still being used in modern media to this day. With its immense popularity, it entered a $10-20 billion grossing franchise in the world with estimated $14.8 billion revenue.
Illustrated by Tetsuo Hara, Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star) started as a manga and inspired two anime series, spin-offs, various video games, and several OVA. The story follows a futuristic sci-fi setting. As a consequence of a nuclear war, civilization got annihilated. In a never-ending wasteland with an endless cycle of brutality, remaining humanity fights for food, water, and shelter daily. Thugs, gangs, and mutants try to rob, steal and kill innocents, this is where our savior Kenshiro and his fist come into the picture. In a world full of tragedies, losses, and betrayals his fist carves its way through corruption and brings backs little hope among oppressed civilians.
This setting might sound stereotypical to any other shonen story but, the monumental experience was the first of this kind that swept the readers off their feet in the early 80s. The manga paved road for almost all anime that comes down the pipe now. This level of brutality, violence, and coercion is part of uncharted territory. The gratuitous people-punishing fist drew inspiration from Bruce Lee, the Mad Max film series, and Violence Jack. It was the first battle manga of such kind that totally shattered insight into the post-apocalyptic dystopian genre in the early days.
Our main Boy Kenshiro, the way he fights, his high-pitched cries when he attacks, and his fighting stances make evident the fact that he is partly inspired by Bruce Lee. Apart from that, he shares similarities with the protagonists of Mad Max movies. He has a typical inwards personality like many heroes of the 1980s despite being the strong and stoic hero he is, Kenshiro is soft and kind-hearted as a character.
Hence, to some extent breaks, some stereotypes such as a strong man can’t be seen crying; he openly expresses his grief and doesn’t hold back his emotions. The battle is something where Kenshiro comes alive, his low-key demeanor is instantly juxtaposed by his battle cries and his deadly Hokuto Shinken.
Kenshiro has been trained in 1800 years old martial art style called Hokuto Shinken. He uses this art of assassination to keep a check on the power of those who are exploiting defenseless and less fortunate people throughout the world. Kenshiro finds himself wandering the world when his fiancée Yuria is taken away, he is left defeated with seven scars on his chest. He spends a year wandering the world in pursuit of the man who kidnapped Yuria during this time he develops his killer instincts and works on his martial arts ability.
In return, he meets his sidekicks Bat and Lin, they follow Kenshiro through every up and down. In his journey he meets new rivals and makes new friends, they help to bring out different sides to Kenshiro. This doesn’t really last long and the story then follows a routine series of villain arcs.
The antagonist Raoh makes for a very intimidating opponent for Kenshiro to overcome. His motivations are well-defined, he is committed to his beliefs, and his actions back this up. He is driven by a burning desire for strength and aims to spread his tyranny across the world. He is one of the greatest antagonists in shonen manga and anime. A lot of depth and back-story helps to make him feel flashed out as a character.
Intrinsic to its existence, its quality that can’t simply be described but instead needs to be witnessed. This is one of those rare series that can be enjoyed on multiple levels, you can watch it for the spectacle or the art or the nostalgia or for the story and of course for revisiting the world-renowned meme.
Fist of the North Star still holds up next to modern shonen greats. You know that Ken is going to be kicking ass but more importantly, he’ll be fighting for the good of the world. It’s an incessant fun activity to watch him conquer rivals especially in a flurry of blood, guts, cartilages, and whatnot.