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

Manga of the Month: Snow White with the Red Hair

Snow White with the Red Hair by Sorata Akiduki

Over the last year or so, I’ve been rediscovering my passion for Snow White with the Red Hair. Some of you may recall that I absolutely loved the anime and its cast. The manga extends far beyond the anime (and that’s saying something when, as of this writing, the English release is still about 10 books behind the Japanese).

Shirayuki is a self-possessed young woman who made a life for herself as a herbalist in the kingdom of Tanbarun. When she is ordered to become the concubine of the prince, Shirayuki instead decides to leave her home for the neighboring country of Clarines. In no time at all, she is working in the castle of Clarines as a court herbalist swiftly taking on new challenges, and falling in love with a very different prince than the one she left behind.

Despite the title, Snow with the Red Hair is not really a fairy-tale retelling, and the title is only vaguely related to the series’ initial meeting between the main cast. Beyond that, Snow White with the Red Hair becomes about the intertwined lives of Shirayuki and Prince Zen as they pursue their goals, grow as people and a couple, and the people, politics, and machinations of the kingdom around them.

Prince Zen is the second prince of Clarines and ripe to start taking on real responsibilities in the vast kingdom. Zen is down-to-earth, enjoys a little mischief, and chafes at the royal title but also wants to do what is right for the people of Clarines. In the mix is a lovable cast of side characters including the unflappable swordswoman Kiki, the earnest aide Mitsuhide, the aloof messenger Obi, the enigmatic first prince Izana, and the list goes on and on.

The love story at the center of Snow White with the Red Hair is incredibly satisfying and stands up to being a long series without adding in too much overwrought drama. Firstly, Shirayuki and Zen are quick to say they have feelings for the other and want to figure out what that means for them. Second, manga-ka Sorata Akiduki is masterful at creating swoony moments and slow builds. Third, Shirayuki and Zen have major stories outside of their romance that are just as interesting. (Fourth, possibly for me only, is that I am somehow able to 100% believe in Shirayuki and Zen’s love while simultaneously rooting for Obi.)

The story of Clarines goes further and becomes more grandiose than I would have imagined. Two years have passed in the series as of vol. 16 and so much has happened. Shirayuki and Zen have experienced adventures, setbacks, balls, political manipulation, victories, loss, friendship, separation, joy, doubt, love, and so much growth in their lives. Those around them have had similar trajectories and the world just keeps opening up further.

Snow White with the Red Hair boasts strong characters, heartfelt romance, a balance of drama and humor, and a well-crafted world to set it all in. Picking up the manga a few years after the anime has made me even more of a fan of Shirayuki, Zen, Obi and the rest of the gang, and I look forward to every volume to see where the story takes them next.

-Kate

Ask Hisui: Should I Watch Fate/Grand Order Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia?

hisui_icon_4040_round I admit this seems like a very simple question but for some reason, I have not only seen this question being asked multiple places but I have personally been asked it multiple times. The question usually is, “I have not played Grand/Order but can I still watch this new Grand Order anime?” The snarky answer is, ” You are your own boss so I cannot and should not force you to do anything.” But that sort of answer rightfully gets you marked as a snarky bastard. The actual answer to the actual question asked is most probably no.  If you are asking the question then you probably won’t get the most you could out of watching Babylonia.

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