In the first completed arc of Fist of the North Star, Kenshiro’s primary enemy is Shin. Shin was a former friend of Kenshiro’s who, due to his obsession with Yuria, the latter’s fiance, turned on Kenshiro and gave him the seven scars upon his chest. Shin then used the power of the South Star style to conquer huge regions. He established himself as king and ruled as a despot. He gained what he wanted for himself and in an attempt to woo Yuria. His obsession with for and continued hatred for Kenshiro were the central focus of this character.
As a leader, he was brutal and cruel. He rewarded those who completely followed and worshiped him. Yes, worship. Some sects of his kingdom worshiped him as a god. Toward the end of this first arc, we saw rebellion among his people. His most trusted military leaders abandoned him at his palace at Southern Cross and turned significant segments of his army against him. He furiously murdered the leaders of the rebellion, but the damage had been done. Shin’s kingship was faltering.
As I already stated above, Kenshiro and Shin were rivals, so their fated meeting was intended to be the penultimate battle between two powerful rivals. The moment where they finally meet again was the culmination of the entire first season of Fist of the North Star. As they battled, it quickly became clear that Kenshiro had gotten the edge on his rival. Shin was going to lose. As he laid on the ground on the top floor of his castle surrounded by his crumbling kingdom, he turned to Kenshiro and jumped out the window, plummeting to his death. With suicide, Shin denied Kenshiro an ending where he was able to defeat him. Instead, Shin defeated himself.
An inglorious death of a king where he denied his enemy the satisfaction of true victory after a kingdom standing at the brink of rebellion…where have I heard this tale before? In the Bible, of course, specifically in the book of 1 Samuel.
Bear with me, I know it was not that long ago that I compared an anime character to Saul. This one will be a lot easier to follow. Trust me.
Saul was the first anointed King of the biblical nation of Israel. Anointed by Samuel, Saul was exactly what you would expect out of a king. He was big, he was strong, he was an incredible warrior. After his anointment, Saul brutally attacked the neighboring nations with force of strength to dominate his enemies. In the Bible, Saul is eventually rejected by the Lord for his disobedience. Instead of reliance upon the God who had placed him on the throne, he began to rely upon himself and view himself as the center of the Kingdom. Saul accepted and embraced his role as the symbol of hope for the Kingdom of Israel; he made himself the center of it all. Saul’s self-reliance mirrored, to a lesser degree, Shin, who also made himself the central point of the kingdom. In both of their minds, it was not a kingship for the people—it was a kingship for them, by them, and about them. They were at the center; those who disobeyed or threatened that power were to be destroyed.
For Saul, this mindset eventually led to David. David was anointed to be the next King of Israel. He never attacked Saul even when provided opportunities. Saul, however, tried to kill David on numerous occasions. He kidnapped one of David’s wives and forced her to marry another man. He threatened to kill his own son (Jonathan) for befriending David. Toward the end of his reign, Saul became singularly obsessed with David and the threat he felt the young man held to his throne.
When Saul lost a battle and was fatally wounded, he did not want his enemies to kill him. He tried to get one of his own soldiers to do the deed. However, when he refused, Saul committed suicide. He, too, would not allow his enemies the satisfaction of killing the king.
Shin murdered all who stood against him as he brutally rose to power. When his inner circle decided that his obsession with Yuria was softening him, he killed all who tried to overthrow him. Shin, like Saul, became singularly obsessed. His obsession was Yuria and his desire for her to love him. In Yuria’s heart, her only true love was Kenshiro; her love of Kenshiro contributed to a growing rage within Shin. His rage fueled his actions throughout the series. He tried to hunt down Kenshiro anywhere he went and willingly sacrificed his men as pawns in a metaphorical game of chess with Kenshiro. Except Kenshiro was a killing machine unable to be beaten by mere soldiers.
What is interesting is even how the ending of these two kings mirror. After Saul died, David led the people to reclaim the body of the King and provide it with a proper burial. In the end, Kenshiro did the same for Shin. In the end, both Kenshiro and David prove they were the bigger men. They were hunted down by these kings, yet their respect and compassion remained. But, I digress.
Shin was never going to be a good king. Neither was Saul. Their hearts were never focused with the humility a good ruler needs. As a leader, one has to recognize that their authority and power does not come from themselves. When you believe in your own strength above all and that nothing can stop you, you will inevitably be proven wrong. We are all fleeting shells that are fading by the day. Our bodies and our strength of will, will inevitably fail you.
Shin and Saul failed to learn that lesson.
All screen shots from Fist of the North Star, which can be streamed at Crunchyroll.
Interested in watching Fist of the North Star? Me too. I started not too long ago and you can too! It may have a lot of episodes which makes it daunting, but join me anyway and participate in the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #mdmrnfotns