Fist of the North Star Vol. 1, published through Viz Media with story by Buronson, art by Tetsuo Hara, translations by Joe Yamazaki, and lettering by John Hunt, is still as relevant now as it was when it initially dropped in 1983. Then, the original manga was so popular it spawned anime, games, and spinoffs. It is still so tragically familiar, so, we continue to feel closer to this doomsday scenario in our present world. A world where society is gone. The only rule of law is survival of the fittest. It’s a world where groups that exercise their collective might through violence and fear.
The story begins after nuclear war has decimated the world. As such, warlords and gangs have taken over what is left. Then Ken, a warrior with seven scars on his chest, shows up. The story is about Ken’s travels through the wastelands of civilization. He uses his martial arts, Hokuto Shinken, to punish the guilty and protect the innocent.
The Action Is Constant
Fist of the North Star has an invigorating lead and action-packed illustrations. The pace starts fast, violent and spirals ever upward. We meet various gangs through Ken’s journey and their unique styles. But all are violent with little regard for life. As the story continues, Ken rescues a variety of people and moves on to the next battle. The artwork emphasizes the violent scenes, and the dialogue complements it. Additionally, there are comedic moments that stem from the conceit of the villains. Their horrified expressions once they realize they are against a deadly opponent are rife with humor.
As the story continues, we see the breadth of the destruction and the new cities—more hollow wastelands—that have sprung up in the world. We witness the scarcity of food and water in this new world. Ken is charismatic, caring, and utterly self-assured that he is both right and will win. The first volume does not solely follow Ken drifting from location to location. Instead, a backstory builds when Ken learns an enemy from his past is still alive. Then the hunt is on.
Villains You Will Hate
Shin is not only Ken’s nemesis but his opposite in terms of martial arts. Ken’s style is the Divine Fist of the North Star and attacks the channeling points in the body from the inside out. On the other hand, Shin uses the South Star, an attack style that destroys the body from the outside. Their opposing martial arts styles make Shin a worthy and challenging opponent to Ken. They are dual sides of the same coin. Compared to Shin, the other villains are small fry. However, they all live up to their evil status. The manga does a phenomenal job at demonstrating why these enemies are horrific people. As such, readers will cheer for their inevitable demise.
The world in Fist of the North Star is not a pleasant world to live. There is a substantial similarity to 1979’s Mad Max, which had the same type of desert wasteland and spiky-haired villains. The world is vast and unfamiliar. Moreover, the artwork combined with the story in Fist of the North Star is still riveting today. Fans of action manga would be remiss not to add this series to their collection. It still has all the vigor and pertinence now as it did over 35 years ago, which shows its staying power.
We already received so much, and it’s only the first volume! The fast pace leaves us in a whirlwind, hungry for more. But, like a desert, no food in sight hungry!