Mania Grade: B
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: B-
- Packaging Rating: B
- Menus Rating: C
- Extras Rating: B-
- Age Rating: 17 and Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Sentai Filmworks
- MSRP: 49.98
- Running time: 325
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Legends of the Dark Kings: A Fist of the North Star Story
Legends of the Dark King Complete Collection
Legends of the Dark King Complete Collection Anime DVD Review
By Mark Thomas
September 22, 2010
Release Date: July 20, 2010
Legends of the Dark King Complete Collection
© Sentai Filmworks
A series starring one of my all-time favorite anime villains? Where do I sign up?
What They Say
A nuclear holocaust has robbed the world of its order, and now warring factions fight for every square inch of desert, spilling buckets of blood to gain control. But legends tell of one great warrior who will become King, using his powerful fists and an awesome rage to rise to his rightful place. That warrior is Raoh, a giant hulking fighter with the ability to vanquish his enemies in the bloodiest way possible. But other warriors will not relinquish their kingdoms so easily. Because in this world, no one gives up without a fight!
For this viewing, I checked out the English dub, which is new for this (and the BD) release. Previously, this title was only available as a sub. I enjoyed the voice acting, though I was sometimes distracted by Greg Ayers work at Gioh, as he did a more nasally version of Negi from Negima. That being one of my favorite titles, I kept wanting Gioh to start casting random spells and getting in wacky shenanigans with 14-year-old girls. That aside, all the voice work was solid. The mix was given the 5.1 treatment, and shows some decent left/right directionality, though not as much front/back; dialogue stayed centered. There was no instances of dropout among the the different tracks. I would have liked a little more complexity in the mix, but no biggie.
The video is a mixed bag. The animation was obviously done on budget, as there is some noticeable jerky animation. That really did not bother me too much, as it was often reminiscent of the original Fist of the North Star anime (which itself had some shoddy animation). But there were also some noticeable instances of noise and blocking in the transfer. Nothing major, but added to the less-than-stellar animation, it can be distracting to some people.
This collection gets a pretty basic casing. The two discs are stored in a standard, double sided amaray case. I do really like the image on the front cover, which is a closeup of Raoh in his helmet as seen through a red filter. The back of the case has some more pictures, screen shots, summary, and the technical details. It is not bad packaging, but it is pretty basic.
Speaking of basic, the menu is a static image of Raoh with a listing of the episodes. There is no play all button, but selecting an episode will lead right into the next without going back to the menu. Options for languages and special features are offered on the bottom, and a hard rock theme plays while the menu sits. However, it is only on a 30 second loop, so it can get old in a hurry. Though I generally do not mind basic menus, especially if they function well as this one does, I just was not a fan of the design. I have seen better.
There are not a ton of extras on this set, and what is here is all on the second disc. The only special feature is a “Behind the Scenes” mini-documentary, which is neat, though not really any different than any other similar featurette. Other than that, there is only the standard clean opening and closing. It is more than I was expecting for this release but nothing earth shattering, either.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The original Fist of the North Star movie from 1986 was one of three anime titles that introduced me to the world of Japanese animation, and I loved its manly manliness, from the wonderfully goretastic exploding heads all the way to the, um, exploding heads. From the first viewing, Raoh the Conqueror has been one of my favorite movie villains, animated or not, mostly due to his unrelenting power and the underlying sense that there were reasons for his conquest aside from a desire for absolute rule. But while I still watch it on a fairly regular basis, I have never actually seen or read any of the other Fist of the North Star properties, so when I was given the opportunity to check out a series where Raoh is the protagonist, I jumped at it.
In a world that has been devastated by nuclear war, all order has broken down and the only rule is “Might makes Right.” Roving gangs prey on the weakness of others, and nobody is willing to step up and protect them. Among the strongest in the world are fighters who have inherited the power of the stars, the most dangerous of which is the legendary Fist of the North Star. Unlike other stars, which might grant their powers to multiple individuals, there is only one Fist of the North Star at any given time.
Enter Raoh, one of several students attempting to become the current Fist of the North Star. In his heart, he believes in the philosophy that the strong are destined to rule, and as he considers himself the strongest, he believes that means he is meant to rule. But this feeling is tinged with compassion, as he believes that by subjugating the entire world under his fist, he can end war and make the world a better place to live for everybody.
Helping him in his quest are his two closest friends: Souga and his sister, Reina. Souga the Swift is Raoh’s master strategist and chief adviser; Reina of the Twin Blades is a master swordswoman and later the Captain of Raoh’s royal guards. Though they are both feared fighters in their own right, they devote their lives to helping Raoh achieve his goals. With their help, Raoh is able to sneak into the Demon Castle and defeat the Demon King, Goram. That victory gives Raoh his first conquered land and base of operations, and from there he calls himself the King of Fists.
Also in Raoh’s employ is the prophet Sakuya, who proves her worth by helping kill Gaoh and topple the previously impregnable fortress, Black Steel Castle. However, her motives are unclear, and Souga and Reina refuse to fully trust her. Her friendship with Toki, another disciple of the North Star, does not help matters. However, Raoh is so confident of his destiny, he is willing to allow her to work freely, sure that he can counter any plan she might come up with against him.
Also in Raoh’s way are all of the other fighters around the world who style themselves as kings. However, the only one that is considered a true rival is the mysterious Holy Emperor; the rest fall under Raoh’s conquest fairly easily. Some put up a fight, but whenever Raoh enters battle himself, he ends the fights quickly. However, while Raoh is at first seen as a benevolent conqueror, far more palatable as a ruler as many of the kings he kills, the constant murmuring among those in the know that his younger brother Kenshiro is more suited to be the Fist of the North Star leads Raoh down a dark path. So convinced he is in his strength and the necessity of his rule, he begins to lead by fear and intimidation. And the further he proceeds down this path, the more the people around him begin to question his methods.
As mentioned above, thanks to the original Fist of the North Star movie, Raoh is one of my favorite villains ever, and this series does little to change that. He is still completely dominant, but now we get the opportunity to see what it is that drives him to be the king of the world. He really believes that his path of dominance will ultimately bring peace to the world. Now, I’m not saying he is not a bit misguided, but he does have decent motives, and it adds a bit of humanity to him.
The thing I really liked about this series is that it mirrors the time frame that the original movie does. But where the movie depicts Kenshiro’s defeat at the hands of Shin of the South Star and subsequent rise to prominence on his way to the eventual conflict with Raoh, this series shows what Raoh was doing during that time. While some of the details do not quite match up between the two titles, the overall idea is the same; so it was pretty cool to see the flipside of the plot.
Of course, what this means is that Legends of the Dark King makes a good companion piece to the Fist of the North Star universe, but does not sit well on its own. If you have not seen any of the other Fist of the North Star properties, then this is certainly not the place to start. IT probably makes sense in a basic sense, but a lot of subtext would be missed.
The other problem with Legends of the Dark King is that while I might really like Raoh as a villain, and it might be interesting to see the story told from his perspective, it does not change the fact that he does not make a particularly good protagonist. Raoh is likeable in that way that you want an antagonist to be a foil for the protagonist, which Raoh is for Kenshiro; but Raoh is not likable in the way that you want to see him succeed in his goals. And that is the ultimate problem here—as a protagonist, we are supposed to want to see Raoh come out on top; but as the antagonist to the Fist of the North Star series, we also want to ultimately see him fall. So, it is hard to actually root for Raoh and his followers at any point in this series, especially as he proceeds farther down the dark path. And without a true rooting interest, it was hard to really get behind the series.
Legends of the Dark King was a bit of a mixed bag for me. Thanks to the original Fist of the North Star movie, I love Raoh, and it was great to see more of the badassery that made me like him as a villain. But he does not work as a protagonist, so sometimes it was tough to care when he overcame obstacles. Taken purely as an alternate telling of Fist of the North Star, it is interesting to watch. But as a standalone piece, it does not work very well. Mildly recommended, but only for Fist fans.
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Behind the Scenes, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Review Equipment: Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony BDP-S360 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection upconverted to 1080p, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System