Fist of the North Star | Varied Celluloid

Fist of the North Star

Posted by Josh Samford On September - 10 - 2008
Plot Outline: In the future, the earth as we know it has become desolate after a nuclear holocaust. The earth is so ravished that plants and other life forms can no longer grow on it’s surface. The remaining inhabitants of the earth have spread out into scavengers and violent gangs, some creating villages and some destroying them. Ken along with his girlfriend Julia, who has the power to give life into the barren soil of the earth, set out to fill the earth with life once again, but they run into trouble when Ken’s best friend Shin has a change of heart and decides that he wants Julia to be his wife. Shin much more powerful than Ken at the time, tortures Ken and leaves him for dead. After being thrown from a cliff in his weak state by his evil brothers, Ken awakens from his coma and sets out for revenge. Along the way he meets up with Rei (a powerful warrior who can cut people into pieces just by swiping his hands at them), and two children Bat and Lynn. With his friends along side him, ken sets out to find Julia…


  

The Review: First, to truly understand how larger than life Fist of the North Star really is, you’ll have to do some comparison work. Imagine someone taking Ricky-Oh: The Story of Ricky, then adding the immense gore of Peter Jackson’s Braindead/Dead-Alive with an additional bit of spurting arterial blood ala the Lone Wolf & Cub series, all thrown in a blender with the Mad Max films and every other flick taking place in an apocalyptic wasteland ever made and you’ll have the main ingredients for the film, but you still haven’t even mentioned the fact that all of this is animated. There is truly no accurate way to give you the reader a vision of what exactly Fist of the North Star is unless you’ve actually had the opportunity to sit down with it. Words can never do such a film justice, much like every other film I’ve referenced in this review up until this point, Fist of the North Star is a film every fan of genre cinema should track down. I can hear a certain segment of the audience groaning at the mere mention of Japanese anime, likely you’re either seeing images of tentacle raping animated porn or cutesy big eyed female looking superheroes, or perhaps some of you a bit more knowledgeable in the field are thinking about how much you disliked Akira or Ghost: In the Shell. You’re probably thinking this flick will be another one of those cartoons with a good dose of ultra violence that covers up a weak story that on the surface makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Well, in a way you’re right. Fist of the North Star has only enough plot to actually make it applicable for the title of ‘feature film’, but once you start trying to piece together all the fragments of the puzzle, it becomes painfully clear that there are more than a few pieces missing. Why doesn’t this matter though? Well I’ll tell you why, Fist of the North Star is ultimately too much fun to find fault in. You can of course nit-pick, and you could take hours doing so, but the complete lack of common sense or logical thought put into making the film accessible for western viewers is a huge part of why things get so downright hilarious. The film is equal to an epic, animated b-movie. If you have a weak stomach towards violence without reason, or if you actually demand your cinema intake actually follow a sane rule of thumb, then I’m afraid to say Fist of the North Star may not be the film for you. It’s a blast of unbridled violent energy aimed to destroy it’s audience, and as a viewer I couldn’t be more happy to be pulverized.

I still consider myself to be a novice in the field of anime. I’ve seen somewhere in the area of seventeen films, or at least I imagine so, but there are so many different areas I have yet to explore. For instance, the previously mentioned tentacle raping animated pornographic subgenre, which I’m sort of on the fence about. The problem I guess is that I’ve seen more anime films that I have truly held disdain for than actual films I’ve loved. Vampire Hunter D and Fist are probably the only two animes that I wholeheartedly love without any second guessing. I’ve found that usually if I sit through an animated film and it fails to deliver a cohesive storyline in some form of another I tend to feel a bit ripped off. I don’t know quite how to explain it because I tend to love many films I have watched that make absolutely no sense, but happen to be live action. I would hate to think I hold a view on one field and not the other, but part of my mind says that with an animated film there is so much time and effort put into every single frame it just seems ridiculous that you would start something so large without first having a story to work with. This is probably based upon my own bigotry of the genre, but it really bothers me and rarely do I find a film I enjoy that follows a similar path. Fist and Perfect Blue are probably the only two exceptions. I only bring all of this up because if perhaps I’m not alone in my assessment of the style of cinema, then I can ward away the tears of those who may be worried that Fist of the North Star continues in the tradition of, and pardon me if I offend anime fans, failing scripts with beautiful animation. What sets Fist of the North Star apart from other films, other than the fact that it is completely insane, is that the plot for the film is far from complex. There are no deep ranges of psychological emotions or lengthy discourses of science fiction mumbo jumbo that no one understands. Fist of the North Star just leaves out so many details that actually trying to wrap your head around this mythical world is essentially an impossibility. What is the Fist of the North Star? How did this sect, or whatever it is, come to be? Where did Ken and his brothers come from? What part of the world does the film take place in? Who was involved in the obvious war that destroyed the planet? There are so many questions that you’ll no doubt be left with that never even remotely come close to being answered, but while watching the audience is so focused on the intense ‘here and now’ area of the plot that all of these seemingly needed areas of character development (and explanations of nearly everything else) almost become an afterthought. It goes totally against the basic rules of artistic cinema, but the only thing that matters during the duration of the film is that the audience is having fun.

As I said, Fist of the North Star is a giant b-movie. It has everything you would expect, bad acting (in the dubbed version of course), horrendous dialogue, gleeful amounts of violence and so many continuity errors that you would need a calculator and a week’s worth of free time just to count them. The idea that a hand-drawn film could have so many mistakes in continuity seems a bit ridiculous, but in the end I suppose such things were intended. For some reason during the film the villains change from being about seven foot tall, to twenty or so feet in only one cut. This was probably done to show how powerful Ken is against these mammoth bad guys, but it all comes off as silly in the long run, but that’s precisely why it drops jaws the way that it does. This stuff is so silly that it’s hard for any non respectable (hey, this is a film featuring about fifty head explosions) film fan to look over the buckets of fun being thrown their way. It’s a loony film aimed for those of us easy to please, look down upon us if you must, but try your best to understand. There’s just something inherently entertaining about watching a group of punks have their bodies explode like sacks of blood and guts, then again maybe that’s just me. As I have no doubt made the case thus far, Fist of the North Star is bloody. I mean, really bloody. It’s probably the goriest anime I have seen from the few I have taken an interest in. After I had seen Ninja Scroll I thought I had seen it all, how wrong I was. Fist of the North Star makes Ninja Scroll look like a kindergarten production of Annie. It doesn’t have the explicit sexuality of Ninja Scroll, but it more than trumps just about any film on the block in terms of extreme bloodletting. Throughout the film hundreds are maimed and slaughter in nearly every other frame, and no one dies a nice off-screen death. It’s all presented in your face with buckets of gore. Characters have their stomachs slit open, heads lopped off, bodies exploded or completely eviscerated. This most certainly isn’t a family film. The most devastating character of the film might be Rei, he slices through hordes of guards at a time, doing more chopping than Ginsu. Any time he actually runs his fingers over the face of any enemy it tends to be the most graphic of deaths through the film. There’s no denying the splatter of Ken’s punching someone in the head and having their skull explode in a bloody mess, but Rei definitely deserves special mention because he’s the one you’ll likely be pretending to be when you’re by yourself with your action figures. The film, as fun as it is, can never be perfect. I’ve already mentioned the problem numerous times so far, but the fact that nearly every little odd facet of this imaginary world goes completely without explanation. This, coupled with what can only be described as the oddest anti-climax I have ever bore witness to, can only damage the film. Thankfully it doesn’t hurt it all that much though, the story isn’t all that important and by the end of the film you’ve seen so much you can’t help but be partly fulfilled. This is the reason it can’t be given the Stubbing Award though, but perhaps some day I’ll feel differently.

There’s really not a whole lot left to go over really, the film is the sort that is only going to fit for that special targeted audience, but if you can handle it and you haven’t seen it so far then you’re truly missing out on one of life’s great gifts. Fist of the North Star will only grow in cult appeal over time, it’s just the sort of film people feel called upon to share with friends. The fact that it makes perfect party material doesn’t hurt things either.



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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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