The year is 199X. The Earth has been devastated by nuclear war. The seas have dried up and the land is cracked and desolate. Most living things on the planet have become extinct apart from the human race. In this new age violence rules as civilization is lost and the strong rule the weak in a world where food and water are the only thing with value. At this time a mysterious man named Kenshirou appears with his deadly martial art, the 2000 years old Hokuto Shinken. With his deadly style eliminating the evil is he the savior of the new era?
Hokuto no Ken was published in English as Fist of the North Star by VIZ Media for 44 chapters from 1989 to 1997 in monthly comic book format, later collected into 4 graphic novels. After gaining rights to the series, Gutsoon! Entertainment later republished the series under the Raijin Comics imprint in full-color, original right-to-left format as Fist of the North Star: Master Edition from January 28, 2003 to May 19, 2004; only covering the first 9 volumes due to Gutsoon! becoming defunct in North America.
To witness such influential work after so much time is a truly wondrous experience. Hokuto no Ken has set many standards -- as formulaic as they may be -- that are still used today. One would believe that it will be a vichyssoise of platitudes, but instead it presents itself in a more qualitative fashion than works of today which are based on same formula.
Hokuto no Ken tells story about ambitious and brave men in a world where compassion and love would seem pointless. It subtly indicates on necessary human values, which are easily missed underneath its excessive violence. There isn't one main plot which
extends throughout the entire manga, but more like series of episodes which are all loosely tied together. Often will you feel that content was abruptly thrown in, rather than initially planned. This was due to obvious money milking reasons, which prevented possibility for fluid progression.
Artistic impression will remain memorable, especially in the later chapters when Tetsuo improves his meticulousness and utilizes wide panels as best as possible. From the very start and onward there's a steady improvement in his art, be it the post-apocalyptic scenery, facial expressions or motion from panel to panel. However, his sense for proportions is a bit distorted, maybe those grandiose anatomical features were done with goal of portraying magnificence or rather sheer force of certain characters, but even as such they remain off-putting at first and require getting used to them.
Side characters received excellent characterization and are easily relatable to. Even villains have more profound reasons behind their atrocious actions and leave you with bitter taste in your mouth after they are killed. However, some of revelations (motives) felt quite asinine, far fetched, and should have been avoided completely.
Kenshiro serves his purpose as allegory for God. Be it certain situations in which he's depicted, how other characters perceive him, or his very personality. You could say that he merely serves to keep things in motion, for it is very difficult to feel attached to his character. He is how he is throughout the entire manga, there are no surprises regarding him, and emotional response is mostly drawn from the way he affects other characters, never from him directly. This weird approach makes him devoid of usual -- intelligence insulting -- typicalities that main characters have, but in no way does it make him an ideal one.
Hokuto no Ken could easily be classed as masterpiece, but, I personally like to consider it as a far from perfect -- enveloped in a peculiar charm -- timeless classic.
Do you like manly men ?
Do you like manly quotes ?
Do you like manly tears ?
Do you like manly deaths ?
Well you're in luck because this manga is the manliest one around (yes I've read Berserk) .It's the epitome of manliness .The 'man' in 'manga' has never been so fitting .
Plot - 8
Well I obviously wasn't reading this for fan service so I can say that the story was pretty good .There's a difference between this and Berserk though .This story as a whole isn't as good because the story telling isn't as smooth .There are some cases of the notorious Deus Ex Machina
moments which come up in this manga .Obviously the MCs abilities can cover many areas in an understandable fashion but when you somehow have the ability to make someone tell the truth in one chapter but for the rest of the manga that power isn't called upon again the reader might feel slightly put-off .The last parts of it also felt a bit dragged out and unnecessary .The first part of it however was extremely...........manly .
Art - 8
This art is sort of weird for me to judge .Sometimes its downright awesome but some other times (especially in the some fight scenes) it felt sort of lacking .The characters' martial arts also felt a bit bland to watch (head splitting aside) .I liked the art a lot but I'll cut down a mark since it's a bit inconsistent .The drawings of horses and machines are especially glorious if you ask me .The characters' design are also very...err........manly .
Characters - 6
Ah yes ,this is the weakest point .No I didn't dislike them at all .It's just that some of them were so (and I hate to use the term) one-dimensional .Some villains were practically just badly written .Backstories for some of them also pop up out of nowhere sometimes as though it's just a convenient plot device .I feel like they could have been handled better to be honest .I also didn't really feel anything when some of them died apart from a loss of some.........manliness
Enjoyment - 8.6
Not quite at Berserk's level if you ask me but great nonetheless .I can't give it a 9 on my list but I can say that it's a pretty strong 8 .More people should read this because it's pretty damn good .Manly deaths ,lines and characters were a great plus if you ask me and I could mostly ignore the things I didn't like because each time I was about to feel like it was dropping in quality Kenshiro just had to say "Omae wa mou shindeiru" .
Was one of the defining battle manga along with Dragon Ball and I sometimes wish this one had turned out to be the most popular because it has a lot going for it. Great apocalyptic setting with the gore and violence, characters actually die and don't have that Dragon Ball problem of coming back to life and had amazing art for a weekly series.
Takes a few chapters to find itself, Ken is overpowered and obliterates everything until he encounters his first major antagonist which takes 30+ chapters. The second half of the manga was weaker and only existed because of pressure on the mangaka
to make more money.
Overall though a very competent shounen that does most things right.
Hidden meanings in works of fiction are only apparent if you look hard enough within stories. Amongst manga series, Fist of the North Star is a prime example. What appears to be a shonen battle series is actually less of a mindless slugfest than you think. Upon inspection, a deep examination of the human condition can be found.
Why do we live, and what do we live for? The various characters of Fist of the North Star have different answers to these questions.
Kenshiro has become an icon of Japanese pop culture, and is responsible for most if not all shonen protagonists who followed him, being not
just a fighter, but the best fighter around. Before Dragon Ball invented the tropes of shonen series, Kenshiro was around, ending evil wherever he found it.
He is not, as many say, an antihero, as that becomes apparent when other members of the cast appear.
The art is simply sublime from start to finish. There isn't a gradual rise in quality, it starts the way it means to go on. I don't think any other shonen series matches the quality of its artwork.
If you want a shonen series with less focus on teenage protagonists are more focus on blood-and-guts (if you're squeamish, don't even go near this series) combat, this
iis the one for you.
Martial arts are an expression of power, showcasing the potential of the human body when pushed to its physical limit. It also makes for exciting anime, and allows animators and directors to showcase their prowess as things get heated.