In a distant, apocalyptic future, the world has been torn asunder. It is a dark future where men travel from town to town pillaging and murdering for fun and the necessity of gaining supplies. Into this post-apocalyptic world setting steps Kenshiro, a master of an ancient martial art style known as Hokuto Shinken or “The Divine Fist of the North Star.”
Kenshiro follows a code of conduct by which he protects others with his skills. He generally only attacks when provoked and mostly only goes after those who have shown true evil in their hearts.
The first volume of the manga follows Kenshiro as he travels this lonely world and helps people in need along the way. It also introduces teenage followers Bat and Lin who will accompany Kenshiro on this journey.
Additionally, volume one covers the story of Kenshiro and his old nemesis, Shin, who is a practitioner of the South Star style of combat. It reveals their back story together, Kenshiro’s lost love, and the battles that ensue between them (and Shin’s men), as well as revealing Kenshiro’s true nature as one of the few relatively good men in this dark world. For those who have already watched the anime, volume covers the first 22 episodes.
Fist Of The North Star was one of the first anime I’d ever watched, many years ago on VHS. I clearly remember going to my friend’s house in New York City, where his older brother had brought some anime VHS tapes that were clearly not “officially” subtitled. I had no idea what I was watching; all I remember is Ken blowing people up with one punch and blood splattering everywhere. I didn’t know that anime, or animation in general, had these kinds of scenes and it left an impression on me.
I didn’t watch very much so when I had the chance to review volume one, I wanted to see what I missed and give this series a proper evaluation. Now that I have decades of experience watching anime, I can properly enjoy it, and I do like the story so far. I want to see what adventures lie in wait for Kenshiro and if he can be beaten. He is a very powerful character from the moment he arrives, so I’m not sure if he will find any worthy challenges or it will be just him taking down every enemy with ease.
About three years ago I told myself, “I am going to watch all of Fist of the North Star.” Well, it’s been 3 years and I haven’t finished, but I blame that on my lack of free time more than anything else. When I heard that Viz had secured the rights for the manga, I was so hyped. The first volume did not disappoint.
Volume one covers my favorite parts of the early anime. It covers Shin. It covers Kenshiro’s backstory. It covers the God Army. It hooked me quickly and it kept me invested with it’s breakneck pace—at least compared to the anime, which actually drags this entire volume out into over 20 episodes.
I was expecting violence, but I expected it to look a little more cartoonish. The anime makes the violence so unrealistic looking that it comes off as silly at times. The manga is grittier and the violence feels more real. A lot more real. That’s not necessarily a complaint. Honestly, it raises the stakes for the world setting they are building. Overall, I’m glad I read it and look forward to when Viz drops the next volume.
Overall Rating: 7 (Samuru); 8.5 (MDMRN)
Art: 6 (Samuru); 8 (MDMRN) — Unlike anime, manga for me can be challenging to enjoy sometimes. Art styles can be very different, and Fist Of The North Star definitely takes getting used to. It’s not my favorite and looks dated, with similar backgrounds throughout so I wasn’t very impressed by it. (Samuru)
I love manga and I love Hara’s art style. I knew what I was getting into going in from the anime and this did not disappoint. Each battle panel is so dynamic and while over the top, the violence is gritty and realistic. While I recognize Samuru’s complaint about some similarity in a lot of the backgrounds, I was okay with it. The anime is very similar in that regard. We’re in a Mad Max-esque world setting with a lot of desert and run down buildings. I was expecting it and I was fine with it. (MDMRN)
Characters: 6 (Samuru); 8 (MDMRN) — Ken is the main character and is very OP! I think he might have paved the way for anime like One Punch, but that isn’t why I’m not a big fan of his personality. I understand his goal is to rescue Julia and stop King, but he is very arrogant about it. I would have liked there to be more depth to him, but so far volume one hasn’t provided that for me (Samuru).
Maybe because this was fresher for me, but I really liked the characters. Shin was perfectly full of himself exactly as I wanted him to be. Kenshiro was genuine and unforgiving, which is what you need him to be in this portion of the plot. Also, the backstory moments where you see Kenshiro’s heart ripped away as Julia is captured is heartbreaking. In this cold world, Kenshiro turned into quiet, unforgiving justice against evil and it makes him an interesting character to me (MDMRN).
Story: 8 (Samuru); 9 (MDMRN) — This is what I am enjoying so far the most. I like anime that sort of place you in the middle of a plot and they share details little by little. This approach to a story always intrigues me, so I want to know what else is going to happen. Who is Ken? Why is he so powerful? Is there any hope for the Earth after this apocalypse? Who is the strongest fighter in this anime? It is an intense ride, and I am glad to be on it. I hope it continues to shed light on the events to come and what happened in the past, as this dark and painful world opens itself more in the coming volumes (Samuru).
This is, again, one of my favorite arcs of the anime. I loved Shin as a character and seeing the rise and fall of Shin on the page was fantastic. The world setting is great and the world building Buronson gave us in this first volume is amazing. Looking forward to seeing where Kenshiro ends up next as the volume turns to introduce more of the great characters from this series (MDMRN).
Story by Buronson
Art by Tetsuo Hara
Translation by Joe Yamazaki
Touch-up Art and Lettering by John Hunt
Design by Adam Grano
Editing by Mike Montesa
Fist of the North Star, Volume 1 is published by Viz Media.