Mania Grade: A-
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- Audio Rating: A-
- Video Rating: B-
- Packaging Rating: B
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: C+
- Age Rating: 16 and Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Discotek
- MSRP: 59.95
- Running time: 1800
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Fist of the North Star
Fist of the North Star: The TV Series Complete Series Collection 1
Fist of the North Star: The TV Series Complete Series Collection 1 DVD Review
By John Rose
August 02, 2010
Release Date: July 27, 2010
Fist of the North Star: The TV Series Complete Series Collection 1
© Discotek Media
A man who has been through hell and seeks revenge and the love taken from him may turn out to be the only protector of the weak in a brutal age of predators.
What They Say
It's fast and furious deadly martial arts action pushed to the limits and beyond. Never before have so many been killed by just one man. Ken's quest to save the post-nuclear world from his arch-rival Shin will have you on the edge of your seat. Enter the deadly world of Hokuto No Ken and witness a place where violence isn't the problem, it's the solution!
For the viewing of the feature the Japanese 2.0 track was selected. The track is clear with no dropouts or distortions and while the dialogue is primarily center speaker driven special care seems to have been taken to make sure the voices are very clear and resonant. It is a fabulous 2.0 track. While writing the review the English track was sampled and not as much care was used there. The sound quality is noticeably lower and lacking in the same clarity as the Japanese track. Also of note for English fans Manga produced the dub originally and they didn’t dub either the prologue that starts each episode explaining the set up or the next episode trailers. One further note is that it is typical of older Manga dubs in that the dialogue is often “spiced up” with vulgarity.
The series originally started airing in 1984 and is presented in 4:3. Having caught a few episodes streaming on Crunchyroll I feared this release would mirror the stream video but few of the video problems there are present here. The disc contains only one of the video tape tracking distortions and almost none of the blocking issues of the streams. The worst part of the video is actually Toei’s logo as that made me fear what the series would look like-thankfully it is not representative. The colors are also much better on the disc than the stream, but the majority of colors used are more of the washed out look to reflect the wasteland that exists in the piece. The only two noticed problems with the disc are some color blurring with the red effects and a lot of noise. It is a distracting amount actually as it manages to overpower the grain that the series was made with. Using the PS3’s noise reduction reduced the noise quite a bit but it could still be seen if one looked closely for it. (Editors note: This set uses the remastered footage from the Japanese release and not any materials used in a previous US/UK release).
The packaging is a mustard yellow background with Kenshiro standing prominently in the center and the series title right above him. A blurb at the top states the number of episodes as does a banner at the bottom. The back is the same color carried over with five shots from the series. The side has the same shot of Kenshiro resized as well as the series title and info on the episodes contained. The discs come in an M lock case with two “flippers” in the middle so no disc overlaps any other.
The menus are fairly basic set ups with a picture of Kenshiro (though they do change the picture for each disc) and the selections that are available. The menu is quick in its response.
The extras are eight character bios and a number of still from the feature.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The prologue to every episode introduces us into the bleak “future” of 199X (the show was made in 1984) where nuclear war has ravaged the land. Mankind has managed to cling to existence but is largely living an existence where water and food are hard to come by and every day is a struggle to survive. As many of the average people cling to the decaying corpses of the previous civilization’s former structures many others have allied themselves with some of the strongest men of the age to form gangs and terrorize the average population. In this hell where the strong prey on the weak the almost vanquished emotion of hope rises as a lone man claws his way out of his own personal hell and stands with the oppressed as he continues down his path bent on revenge against the man who took the most important person in his life.
The first arc of the set introduces the audience to the bleak times that the story takes place in. The opening scene is of a gang slaughtering and taking the possessions of a group trying to traverse the wasteland. The gang all have the letter “Z” tattooed on them. The scene shifts to a shot of a lone man walking in the barren expanse. He drops to his knees and starts digging in the sand apparently searching for water before collapsing. In his fatigue the image of a blonde man rising from the sand appears to him and mocks him, causing him to get to his feet. He then sees a vision on the horizon of a woman he calls Yuria as he finds the strength to continue his endeavor. He walks into town only to be accosted by members of the gang with the letter “Z” on them.
A shift has a gang member running to report to their leader Zeed that their scouts have been wiped out. As Zeed and his followers arrive they find a ghastly sight of exploded bodies and that only one man is still alive and he survives just long enough to cryptically say “Hokuto” (The Japanese name for the Big Dipper constellation) before his skull distends and explodes. As Zeed is left to ponder what that means the audience is taken to a different part of the town. As a young girl (Lin) manages to get some water for her puppy and crops despite its scarcity she hears a commotion a little way away. A young boy (Bat) was caught stealing food from the a field and just as he seems to be about to talk his way out of it the mystery man gets caught trying to get water from the town well and both are thrown in jail. While in jail Bat attempts to talk the man first into joining him as a team and then he attempts to break out by grabbing Lin but the man stops him. He introduces himself as Kenshiro but finds out from Bat that Lin can’t talk since she saw her family killed in front of her. The sight of the tears rolling down her cheeks at the memory moves Kenshiro to reach out to her and as he is holding her head some energy passes between them and he says she will be able to talk again if her heart moves her. Kenshiro is then brought before the village chief and as his shirt is torn while they look for a sign he is part of Zeed’s gang but discover that he has a series of scars on his chest that resemble the Big Dipper constellation (Hokuto). The chief recognizes it as a symbol that portends death and chaos. They are interrupted as Zeed’s gang attacks the small community and Kenshiro is escorted back to his cell. There the men who brought Kenshiro in tell Lin she has to join them in fighting the gang. Lin leaves the keys in front of the jail which Bat says is a sign she knows she is going to die. At this statement Kenshiro rises, grasps the bars and bends them out of his way showing he was being held because he allowed it. As
Kenshiro leaves the jail he sees that Lin has been taken hostage by Zeed who is threatening to kill her if the citizens don’t acquiesce to his demands. Zeed refuses and Kenshiro displays on both some of Zeed’s men and Zeed himself his ability to easily dispatch his opponents in with extreme easy in a horrific manner that the martial art he practices- Hokuto Shinken enables. With the village saved Kenshiro makes to leave despite Lin’s pleas and Bat decides that he will follow Kenshiro since it is his best chance to never have to worry about food again.
With the cast now established the arc proceeds to first get Lin returned as a traveling member with Kenshiro and Bat and then peeling back the layers on Kenshiro’s reasons for revenge. It turns out that Kenshiro once trained with Shin, a practitioner of Nanto Koshuken (South Star Lone Eagle Fist). After the death of their master Shin attacked Kenshiro resulting in the scars on Kenshiro’s chest and Shin taking Yuria for himself. As Kenshiro travels the barren wasteland looking for clues to the whereabouts of Shin he encounters a number of gangs who all work for someone they call “King” and Kenshiro begins to suspect this may be the man he is looking for. As Kenshiro is searching the audience also gets to see Shin and his attempts to win Yuria’s heart but his complete inability to figure out his methods drive her further away. The pressure starts to mount on him as Kenshiro cuts a swath through his armies proving himself to be more than what he was when Shin beat him. With the seemingly unstoppable path Kenshiro is on it starts to look inevitable that the two will have to settle their issues against each other-but what will be the toll on each of their lives and those around them in the process.
The second arc begins with a dispirited Kenshiro who has just won a Pyrrhic victory reflecting on all he has lost. With his goals taken from him he is now losing himself in his thoughts and regrets. The world he lives in won’t let him rest as a vehicle is attacked near where he is lost in his grief. A group calling themselves the Fang Clan is responsible and to their short lived regret encounter a Kenshiro who is even less forgiving than usual. Kenshiro and company return the two men from the vehicle to the walled city that they come from to find an encampment that has turned the corner and is close to self sufficient except they have been under assault by the Fang clan of late. Lin meets the leader of the group whose name is Mamiya and who also bears a striking resemblance to Yuria much to Kenshiro’s surprise. The Fang Clan decides to launch an attack just before the city completes its wall to discover that Kenshiro is not in the mood to tolerate those who just prey on others. After seeing Kenshiro in action he is hired as the protector of the village as the Fang Clan is certain to try to avenge their lose. Elsewhere a man who was disguised as a woman is attacked by some would be villains as he turns out to be a practitioner of the Nanto Suichoken School by the name of Rei. He revels that he harbors a deep antipathy toward a man with seven scars on his chest. As Rei approaches the city he is first beset by members of the Fang Clan who decide to try to hire him to face Kenshiro instead. Rei enters the city as a wolf in sheep’s clothing bringing the body of a Fang Clan and pretending he will work with the residents. Rei meets and is taken with Mamiya and it is revealed that Mamiya reminds him of his sister Airi but he is called to battle as the Fang Clan launches their attack. With his meeting of Mamiya and seeing Kenshiro fight Rei decides to switch sides as he needs to survive and find the man with seven scars. As tragedy befalls Mamiya Kenshiro and Rei set out to dispatch the nearby Fang Clan. After finishing off the members Rei reveals to Kenshiro when he asks that his parents were killed and his sister abducted by a man with seven scars according to his father’s dying words. Rei decided he would seek out and avenge his family on the man with seven scars who is shown as having the same scars as Kenshiro but wearing a mask in a flashback.
The Fang Clan decides to make Kenshiro and Rei share their pain at losing family members and set out to discover their family members and share the pain. While they are unable to find any relative of Kenshiro the trio of Kenshiro, Rei and Mamiya are stunned when they try to launch an offensive to find that the Fang Clan now has a trump card to try to use to control Rei. Kenshiro and Rei then have to overcome the odds stacked against them as well as mitigate the power the Fang Clan now holds over them. And if they manage to do that what awaits them is the leader of Fang Clan who can make his skin as hard as steel-how will Kenshiro overcome this obstacle? And if he does what will happen if Rei discovers Kenshiro possesses the seven scar mark Rei has been searching for? The part with the Fang turns out to be a warm up as Kenshiro learns that Rei isn’t the only person who found himself at the mercy of a Kenshiro imposter. It is revealed that there is a man who bears the same seven scar mark and is hell bent on tarnishing Kenshiro’s name-and it turns out he also can use Hokuto Shinken. As Kenshiro sets out to stop the imposter he may discover that this enemy is someone far closer to him then he has ever faced before and that the source of all his woes may stem from his former soft and forgiving nature. What effect will the revelation of his opponent and their scheming have on a man who has returned from hell? And what will be the result of discovering some other practitioners of Hokuto Shinken still exist?
Fist of the North Star is a great example how storytelling and characters can carry a show. While many of the visuals are no longer impressive by today’s standards and even odd do to the amount of blood they had to get around by using either black or white sprays it still can be an enthralling watch. The main character is set up in such a way that his pain is actually palpable in his movements and care is taken with many of the supporting characters to develop them as more than just stereotypical throwaways. Some of the dialogue is cheesy in nature but it can be delivered in such a way and at the right time that it doesn’t feel as bad. The incredible depictions of the wasteland that the world has become are particularly powerful in setting the hopeless feel that exists for many of its inhabitants. The series also manages to time things almost perfectly as few scenes for too long and the pace keeps the story flowing. The downside is that a number of the stories are a tad melodramatic with events that might have been prevented but seem to happen to enrage the main character. There is also the problem that when a character is set up as super human it is really difficult to put them in any real danger and so supporting characters often get over used in this role and the number of new moves just created in any given situation can seem to be a cop out.
Fist of the North Star is a blast of an action title that mixes action with some great storytelling. Its mix of characters and the world they inhabit is great for setting up the protagonist in the role of savior for a population that is at its limit confronting the world around them without the additional baggage of the predators that thrive in a survival of the fittest holocaust. The series manages to take the impossible and even cliché and make it into a fast paced and emotion laden journey. Recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Character Bios, Still Gallery
Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.