You are already dead. WHAT?!
I love Fist of the North Star. I love it with every genuine fiber of my being. Its violence is insanely over-the-top and the story is iffy at best, but damn do I love it. I’d call it a “guilty pleasure” if I felt any guilt for loving it so much. It’s an old series and an even older manga, and my history with it runs throughout much of my childhood.
I was first exposed to Fist of the North Star through early video games. Box art for Nintendo releases initially caught my attention. Then I scored a version for the original GameBoy, which I played endlessly without knowing anything about the characters save for the write-ups in the instruction manual. For whatever reason, I was hooked by these strange fighters despite knowing next-to-nothing about the setting or the story.
I was an early teenager when anime began growing in popularity here in the U.S., albeit on VHS. I managed to get my hands on the Fist of the North Star movie, which had violence so intensely gory it had to be censored. This was a shock to me, but it was awesome. Kenshiro punched people and they exploded in a gory mess seconds later. There was no explanation for this in the English dubbed VHS of the movie, but I didn’t care. I watched it endlessly and showed all my friends. We were confused, but we loved watching bad guys explode.
A few months later I found a translated version of the manga. I was floored. Not only did it answer a lot of the questions I had from the movie (“So that’s why they explode when he punches them!”) but the artwork changed my life. Tetsuo Hara’s style may not have been perfect, but it made me love black-and-white comics. The details in every pen stroke. The action and speed of movement conveyed in little more than a series of lines. Hara’s style taught me you didn’t need a lot of fancy tools to make a good looking comic book. You only needed a pen. And maybe a lot of bad guys exploding in a gory, gory mess. Oh god. So many exploding bodies. It was marvelous.
But the graphic novels were only translated up to a certain point. So as the years went on, I had to scrounge around online for information about how the rest of the story went. I eventually pieced it all together, and for some time I put Fist of the North Star behind me. I loved it and it influenced my love of comics, as well as my love of ridiculous gore.
So why am I talking about Fist of the North Star again? Because this past Christmas my family was nice enough to get me the complete TV series on Blu-Ray. I had never seen the television series from start to finish, only snippets of “the best scenes” online. Every night, if I can manage it, I watch two or three episodes at a time. I’m slowly making my way through the story, reliving the parts I loved from the movie and the manga, and seeing other parts of the story I’d only previously pieced together in action for the first time. It’s wonderful to revisit this apocalyptic martial arts fest and remember everything I loved about it, even with all its flaws. No, especially because of its flaws, and it shouldn’t apologize for them. Fist of the North Star is practically its own genre.
With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, I have this special message from Fist of the North Star for you.
“Roses are red. Violets are blue. OMAE WA MO SHINDEIRU.”