My overall thoughts on this anime: amazing ideas that were poorly executed. Having already watched the original 80's anime Hokuto no Ken, I thought I'd give this one a try. This anime had a lot of potential, as the interaction with the gang wars and the destiny of Hokuto make room for an intricate storyline with complex characterization. However, the anime suffered from a rather sluggish storyline and inconsistent animation quality. I've never read the manga for this series, so perhaps it was better able to achieve what was intended.
There were a lot of parts where the anime didn't need to dwell
as long as it did. There were a lot of fights which would make up an entire episode without driving the storyline. Furthermore, plot holes, inconsistencies (with the original Hokuto no Ken), and a lot of plot threads that weren't adequately resolved. For me, its one saving grace was setting the anime in 1930's Shanghai. Again, just poor execution.
Besides an inconsistent plot, the art quality was also inconsistent, ranging from quite beautiful to abhorrent. When the art was good, it felt very much like Tetsuo Hara's style had been faithfully translated into the anime. Characters' outfits were nice and I especially enjoyed seeing Kasumi Kenshiro in a suit. Otherwise, perhaps due to lack of budget, there were too many parts that I could barely watch due to how poor the animation was (and don't get me started on the extra 4 episodes). Overall? I quite liked the animation style, and I wish the animators had the time and resources to fix a lot of it.
Sometimes, the sound quality was palpably poor, and a lot of soundbytes were re-used throughout. Otherwise, it didn't really take away from the series.
I'm not too sure how to judge this aspect of the anime. There were some scenes in which the way the writers intended to portray Kasumi Kenshiro came out quite beautifully and the distinction between him and his namesake was clear. However, this was too often poorly executed, and Kenshiro was too similar to Kenshiro II. As well, several of the characters feel as though they were rehashed from the original Hokuto no Ken series. Other characters are unclear in what their motivations are and why they're acting as they do. However, a lot of this is at least forgiven through Kenshiro's character growth and Yu-Ling's fine characterization. So overall, characterization largely suffered from poor execution.
This was definitely not the best series I've ever watched. There were some parts at which I was only watching for the sake of completing the series. Otherwise, there were other parts I genuinely enjoyed. I think my favourite thing about Kasumi Kenshiro is that his weaknesses are made clear, and he's made out to be a very human character. So overall, my enjoyment ranged between genuine love for this series and wishing to bang my head against a wall.
I gave this series an 8/10. Reason being, the worst parts of Souten no Ken were in the 4 unaired episodes. Thus, I'm trying to make a distinction between those and the series that actually aired. With that, I plan to read the manga when I have the opportunity, as there's likely a lot of story that the anime never managed to cover.