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, also known as Ken, the Great Bear Fist, is a Japanese manga series illustrated by Tetsuo Hara and written by Buronson that was originally serialized from 1983 to 1988 in Weekly Shōnen Jump. The story was adapted into two animated television series, as well as a few feature films and original video animation.


Plot

Set in a post-apocalyptic version of Earth sometime near the end of the 20th century, a nuclear war has left the world in ruins, causing the oceans to evaporate and destroying most of the world's vegetation. Most of earth's survivors include villagers who try to thrive on what little resources they have and the numerous vicious gangs and tribes who prey on them. A martial artist named Kenshiro, a man with seven scars on his chest and the chosen successor of the legendary assassin's art has sworn to protect the weak and innocent from the malicious gangsters that threaten their survival. Accompanied by two young children named Bat and Lin, Ken confronts numerous violent gangs through his journey. Eventually Ken faces his adoptive brothers who were also trained in the art of Hokuto Shinken, as well as the six top masters of the school. His ultimate adversary is his eldest brother Raoh, a would-be world conqueror who broke the Hokuto Shinken law by refusing to give up the style.

Several years after Ken defeats Raoh, he returns to help his former sidekicks Bat and Lin, now leader of the Hokuto Army, to fight off against the tyranny of the Heavenly Emperor's Army led by the Acting Governor Jakoh. Not long after Jakoh's defeat, Lin is kidnapped and Ken is forced to travel to the to rescue her, a land of Warriors ruled by Kaioh, who uses the style of , a malicious counterpart to Ken's Hokuto Shinken. After defeating Kaioh and rescuing Lin, Ken wanders off into the desert, continuing his journey.

Production

Tetsuo Hara has stated that he came up with the idea of Hokuto no Ken from his editor Nobuhiko Horie. According to Hara, Horie suggested to him that he should draw a manga about "a martial artist who destroys his opponents by striking their acupressure points" based on Hara's aspiration to draw a manga about martial arts and his knowledge of pressure points. At the time, Hara was having trouble breaking into the market, as his first series, the Iron Don Quixote, was canceled ten weeks after its debut. A prototype version of Hokuto no Ken was published as a one shot story in the April 1983 issue of Fresh Jump, which was followed by Hokuto no Ken II, a second one-shot published in the June 1983 issue. Both stories are collected in the second tankōbon volume of Iron Don Quixote.

The two one-shots were well-received in the reader's surveys of Fresh Jump and Tetsuo Hara was commissioned to turn Hokuto no Ken into a weekly series. Buronson was assigned to work with him as writer for the serialized version. The storyline was revamped, with the 1980s present-day setting in the original version replaced by a Mad Max-inspired post apocalyptic future world, and the protagonist Kenshiro, originally a high school student, became an older and more stoic hero inspired by Bruce Lee (though the physical similarity between the two is only present in the anime, and not the original manga). Originally, Tetsuo Hara and Buronson were contracted to do Fist of the North Star for a three-year run, but due to its popularity and the publisher's demand, it was extended to a five-year run.

Media

Manga

Hokuto no Ken premiered in Japan in the Weekly Shōnen Jump in Issue 41 of 1983 and was serialized weekly until Issue 35 of 1988, spanning 245 chapters. The original collected volumes or tankōbon of Hokuto no Ken were originally published under Shueisha's Jump Comics imprint and spans 27 volumes. During the 1990s, Shueisha reprinted Hokuto no Ken in 15 hardcover aizōban editions, as well as 15 corresponding economy-sized bunko editions.A 14-volume Kanzenban edition was published by Shogakukan in 2006 under the Big Comics Selection imprint, featuring the original water-colored artwork from the Weekly Shōnen Jump serialization. It has also been released in 27 pay-to-download e-book editions.

Viz Communications published the first sixteen chapters of Fist of the North Star in English as an eight-issue monthly comic in 1989, which were later reprinted in a single graphic novel collection in 1995. During that same year, Viz resumed publication of the series as a monthly comic until 1997, lasting eighteen issues (spanning chapters 17-44), which subsequent reprinted in three additional graphic novels. The license was later acquired by Gutsoon! Entertainment, which published a new translation of the series in the form of a "Master Edition" featuring newly colorized artwork and retained the original right-to-left orientation of the art, as well as new cover artwork by Tetsuo Hara from the fourth volume and onward. The Master Edition of Fist of the North Star was published from 2002 to 2003, lasting only nine volumes, due to Gutsoon!'s withdrawal from the North American market.

Spin-off works

Weekly Comic Bunch No.
44 from 2007, depicitng Rei Gaiden and Toki Gaiden on the cover).
In 2001, Tetsuo Hara began working on a Fist of the North Star prequel titled , which is currently serialized in Weekly Comic Bunch. Set during the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1935, the story stars Hokuto Shinken predecessor and Kenshiro's namesake, Kenshiro Kasumi. An English adaptation of Fist of the Blue Sky was published in North America by Gutsoon! Entertainment in the now-defunct manga anthology Raijin Comics. Four collected volumes were published before the company went out of business.

A series of Fist of the North Star spinoffs began to be published in the Weekly Comic Bunch and Big Comics Superior later. This lineup of titles has been dubbed the series, as each title focuses on a particular supporting character from the original manga. The following titles had been published so far:

  • by Youkow Osada. - A series that was serialized in Weekly Comics Bunch featuring Reina and Souga from The Legends of the True Savior movie series. All 42 chapters (as well as a two-part epilogue published sometime after the series' conclusion) were collected in five tankōbon volumes. It was adapted into a 13-episode anime series which aired on Tokyo MX in 2008. The anime adaptation was licensed to Sentai Filmworks and a subtitle-only DVD set of the complete series is currently scheduled for a September 2009 release.


  • by Ayumi Kasai. Serialized at Big Comics Superior in three parts that ran from March 10 to April 14, 2006 and six subsequent chapters from March 9 to June 8, 2007. A single tankōbon volume was released.


  • by Yasuyuki Nekoi - Rei Gaiden originally began as two separate one-shot stories that were published in the March 22 and December 8, 2006 issues of Weekly Comic Bunch. The one-shot version of the manga is subtitled . Rei Gaiden was picked up as an ongoing series, which began in the April 27, 2007 issue of Weekly Comic Bunch. The serial was originally subtitled , before receiving its current title.


  • , a one shot story by Hiromoto Shin-Ichi, published in the December 8, 2006 issue of Comic Bunch.


  • , a series by Yuka Nagate that begun serialization in the August 24, 2007 issue of Weekly Comic Bunch.


  • by Hiromoto Shin-Ichi, which began serialization in the December 26, 2008 issue of Comic Bunch.


Anime

TV series

Hokuto no Ken was first adaptated into a weekly anime series by Toei Animation. The series aired on Fuji Televisionmarker from October 4, 1984 to March 5, 1987 and was given the subtitle of following episode 22. It was immediately followed by a sequel series, titled Hokuto no Ken 2, which aired from March 13, 1987 to February 18, 1988. A combined total of 152 episodes were produced for the two series. Reruns are aired in Japan on the satellite television network Animax.

The first 36 episodes of the first series were translated and dubbed by Manga Entertainment in 1999, although only the first 24 episodes were released on VHS. All 36 episodes of the dub version were aired on Showtime Beyond in the United Statesmarker and on Sci-Fi Channel in the United Kingdommarker, and were later released on individual DVD volumes in 2003. In 2008, the US subsidiary of Toei Animation produced official subtitled-only translations of all 152 episodes, which were released on various paid download and video streaming websites available only for North American customers. Discotek Media announced on October 2, 2009 that they have licensed the entire Fist of the North Star TV series. They will release all 152 episodes in a total of four boxsets sometime in 2010.

1986 animated movie

An animated feature film version of Fist of the North Star was produced by Toei Animation, which premiered in Japan on March 8, 1986. Produced by the same staff and cast who worked on the TV series, the movie adapts the storyline of the manga from the beginning and up to Kenshiro's first fight with Raoh, taking several liberties with the order of events and how the story unfolds. An English-dubbed version produced by Streamline Pictures was first released in 1991 in the USA and 1994 in the UK and Australia by Manga Entertainment.

New Fist of the North Star

 is a three-part OVA series produced by OB Planning that was originally released in 2003 and 2004 in Japan. It is based on a 1996 Hokuto no Ken novel by Buronson and Tetsuo Hara titled  , whom the first episode of the OVA draws its title from. It was fully licensed and released in English by ADV Films. Akira Kamiya, who had voiced Kenshiro in all previous animated incarnations, was replaced by Takehito Koyasu for this OVA series. Celebrity voices were also employed, with musician Gackt (who also performs the opening and ending themes of the OVA) as the antagonist Seiji.


Set sometime after the conclusion of the original manga, a man named Sanga has constructed a fortified zone called The Last Land. While Sanga's men go out and seek water through violent means, they encounter Kenshiro who desires to end their reign of terror.

The ADV Films' dub of the trilogy has garnered positive reviews from critics. Chris Wood of Toon Zone praised "Kenshiro is in fine form, and though the story may not blow you away, it’s plenty adequate to support the action" Mike Toole of Anime Jump says that New Fist is "flashy and a little cheap, but ultimately rewarding." Chris Beveridge of AnimeOnDVD.com was "very pleased with" the first episode, but felt that the second episode could've been "much better written" and that the third episode was unnecessary and that the trilogy "could have been a lot tighter with a bit more streamlining of the script".

The Legends of the True Savior movie and OVA series

Theatrical poster for Raoh Den - Jun'ai no Shō.
North Stars Pictures and TMS Entertainment produced a five part Fist of the North Star film series titled from 2006 to 2008. The films are both, remakes and side-stories to the original manga series. The series is composed of three feature films and two OVAs. The films uses a new cast of voice actors different from the original anime series, with Hiroshi Abe as Kenshiro, Takashi Ukaji as Raoh, and Yuriko Ishida as Yuria.

  1. , theatrical film directed by Takahiro Imamura released on March 11, 2006.
  2. , OVA directed by Hidehito Ueda released February 23, 2007.
  3. , theatrical film directed by Toshiki Hirano released on April 28, 2007.
  4. , OVA directed by Kobun Shizuno released on March 26, 2008.
  5. , theatrical film directed by Toshiki Hirano released on October 11, 2008, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the franchise.


Novels

An original novel was written by Buronson and Tetsuo Hara titled which was published by Jump Novel in Japan on December 13, 1996. The novel was the basis of the later three-episode OVA series New Fist of the North Star. A novelization of the movie Legend of Raoh: Chapter of Love in Death written by Eiichi Sakaki was published by Tokuma Novels on March 10, 2006.

There has also been two cell phone novels released via the mobile site Hokuto no Ken DX. , a novelization of the manga of the same name, and , an original novel by Jotaro Higashi.

Live-action film

An American-produced live-action movie version of Fist of the North Star was released in 1995, directed by Tony Randel based on a script by Peter Atkins and Wynne McLaughlin. The movie, loosely based on the Shin storyline of the manga, stars Gary Daniels as Kenshiro, Costas Mandylor as Shin and Japanese actress Isako Washio as Yuria, with Malcolm McDowell as Ryuken and Chris Penn as "Jackal" (actually a renamed Jagi). It also featured a cameo by professional wrestler Big Van Vader as Goliath. The movie saw a theatrical release in Japan, but went straight-to-video in the US (though it did receive a premiere on HBO.) The Japanese dubbed version used the original voice actors from the 1980s anime series.

The movie had mixed reviews from fans and critics. Dave Foster of DVD Times panned the movie as a poor adaptation and commented that Kenshiro's pressure point techniques "look rather tame" in comparison to the way depicted in the manga and anime series. A reviewer from eFilmCritic remarked that Kenshiro's defeat at the hands of Shin "comes off as standard" and "unbelievably goofy" compared to the 1986 animated movie version. However, Video World gave a much more positive review, calling it "First rate." It has since been firmly established as a cult film in the west, and remains the film for which Gary Daniels is best known.

Video games

Several licensed Hokuto no Ken video games have been released in Japan thorought the years. The earliest Hokuto no Ken video game was a 1986 adventure game simply titled Hokuto no Ken, released by Enix for the NEC PC-8801. Toei Animation published many of the early Hokuto no Ken games for Nintendo consoles (Family Computer, Game Boy and Super Famicom), while Sega also published their own Hokuto no Ken action game for the Sega SG-1000 Mark III (which was later remade for the PlayStation 2 under the Sega Ages lineup), along with a sequel, Hokuto no Ken: Shin Seikimatsu Kyūseishu Densetsu for the Mega Drive/Genesis. Two of Toei's Hokuto no Ken games, Fist of the North Star (Hokuto no Ken 2 in Japan) for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Fist of the North Star: 10 Big Brawls for the King of Universe for the Game Boy, were published in North America with the license retained. Both of Sega's Hokuto no Ken games were internationally as Black Belt and Last Battle respectively, with the North Star license and character likenesses removed.

In 1995, Banpresto published an original Hokuto no Ken adventure game for the Sega Saturn. It was ported to the PlayStation the following year. In 2000, Bandai published a 3D action game for the PlayStation titled Hokuto no Ken: Seikimatsu Kyūseishu Densetsu.

In addition to original console games, there has also been Hokuto no Ken arcade games such as Konami's Fighting Mania boxing game, a competitive fighting game by Arc System Works (later released for the PlayStation 2 in Japan) and licensed Hokuto no Ken "pachislot" machines (hybrid pachinko and slot machines) and pachinko machines by Sammy (which have inspired video game versions for the PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS and Wii). A series of Hokuto no Ken typing games were also made for Microsoft Windows. An MMORPG based on the seriesl, titled Hokuto no Ken Online, was released for the general public in .

The characters of Hokuto no Ken also appeared in two crossover games involving Weekly Shōnen Jump characters, 's Famicom Jump: Hero Retsuden for the Famicom and 's Jump Ultimate Stars for Nintendo DS.

A Dynasty Warriors spinoff based on Hokuto no Ken for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 was announced by Koei titled on October 14, 2009.

Reception

Fist of the North Star was one of the Weekly Shōnen Jump's most popular titles during the 1980s. As of 2007, it is the seventh best-selling Shōnen Jump manga of all time in Japan. In a poll conducted by TV Asahimarker in 2005, the Fist of the North Star anime series ranked 26 in a list of Top 100 Anime series. In a second poll in 2006, it ranked No. 89. In a celebrity version of the poll, it ranked No. 15.

Notes and references



Bibliography



See also



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