Manga of the Month: Fist of the North Star

Front cover of volume 1 of Fist of the North Star. It is a pearlescent drawing of a frowning, muscled man with his shirt open. On his chest you can see four round scars. The FOTNS logo is red.

Fist of the North Star by Buronson and Tetsuo Hara

After nuclear disaster strikes, the world is recast as a place where water is a highly sought resource controlled by would-be rulers who use brutality and violence to reign over small oases and enslave those who can’t fight back. Across the devastated landscape, survival is uncertain, betrayal is routine, and the creed of the land is might makes right.

Kenshiro is justice in this savage, unjust world.

Kenshiro is the inheritor of the assassination martial art known as Hokuto Shinken and he unleashes its pressure points-based technique to swiftly kill those who prey on the innocent. Kenshiro is grieving the loss of his abducted fiance Yuria; he sees her in the many people trying to simply live their lives in the barren wasteland. Despite his often stoic nature, his tears flow and his anger flares often in service to those he protects. And as Kenshiro learns where his “brothers” of the Hokuto Shinken school reside, he follows a blood-soaked path to set the world right.

At this point, most fans of anime and manga have probably heard of Fist of the North Star through its killer opening or the various memes even if they haven’t actually watched or read the real thing. So why talk about it now? The editions VIZ is currently releasing—hardcover (physical release, I’m getting it digitally), gorgeous full-color and 2-color art pages included—are something I couldn’t have imagined licensed for U.S. release even five years ago. So this makes it a great time to read this classic to see how much influence it had on shonen and seinen manga like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Berserk, from the incredibly detailed art style to the fight sequences to the special techniques.

(Kate’s special disclaimer: Is Fist of the North Star for everyone? No. It is brutal, gory, glorifies killing, and depicts all woman as childlike and naive no matter their age. Clearly, I recognize these things about Fist of the North Star but I also find its pulpy, absurd story and characters compelling and compulsively readable.)

-Kate

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