A Fist of the North Star


I first saw Fist of the North Star as a very young child. At the time,
I had a bizarre interest in films with 18 certificates, probably
because I felt as though they were out of bounds. If I recall
correctly, the staff of the local video shop would let me take out a
film, provided it was universal or parental guidance. Those were
ratings to denote who could take them out. Everyone could take out
a universal, hence why it was called a ‘universal.’ Parental guidance
meant a parent had to guide, I suppose. I think on rare occasion I
was turned down when I tried to take out a PG, as it’s called for

Other than these two ratings, there were ones: 12, 15, and 18. This
is here in the UK. In the US, they have a different ratings system,
although the two are mutually intelligible. Basically, adult content
was off limits to children like myself. This included on a
psychological level and on a physical level, in terms of violence.
My mother would take out any film I asked for, from a certain age
onwards, I don’t remember how old, but it was from quite young.
Perhaps she shouldn’t have done this, but she was not fond of rules
in some respects, that to be one of them.

I tended to watch martial arts films, such as the ones which starred
Jean Claude Van Damme. Funnily enough, I became fascinated, almost
obsessed with martial arts, but most specifically exercise. I
would exercise a lot, because I thought Van Damme had a brilliant
physique, but when I would look in the mirror, I noticed I did not
have a physique like the one he had. Of course, I know now he not
only exercised a lot, but took steroids also. That to be said, I did
develop a somewhat athletic body, as a result of this, even if it
didn’t look like anything special. I retain quite a bit of this
athleticism, to this day, maintain it, and play a few combat sports,

I almost never watched Disney movies. I wonder how this affected
me and perhaps still affects me. Disney movies are meant to instill a
strong moral compass in the viewer, whatever his age, although this
is more likely to be successful if he is very young, for reasons I
hope are obvious. One thing I vividly recall, which was to want to
not be strongly affected by depictions of violence. This was
because I was affected by them. After to watch many action movies
for young adults, I did get a bit used to it, but never completely.
Even now, if I watch one from the Resident Evil series, I get a bit
uncomfortable at some of the depictions that involve violence and

Now, let’s go back to Fist of the North Star. I am sentimental about
it, because I saw it for the first time while so young. I have seen it a
number of times since. The first time I saw it, I was mostly struck
by its cartoon violence. I mean literally cartoon violence, as it is an
anime. Some people use that term to describe live motion films as
well, but Fist of the North Star really is a cartoon. An adult
cartoon, but other than a pornographic one, to be clear.

Beneath the violence, the metaphysical muses of a character called
Ryuken struck me. I was fascinated by the stars at night already,
and certain star constellations are shown early on in the film and
the meaning of constellations is central to it, as you may have
guessed, with it to be called Fist of the North Star. There is
mention of polar opposites, of balance, and things to be one way
for a time, until eventually they are the other way, due to the nature
of life.

Despite this, much of the story is immature, but that fact is in a way
highlighted by the character Ryuken, who is elder, wiser, and
knows some of the protagonists are idiots, despite their prowess in
some areas. Usually only one area – fighting. I know a bit more
about the story than is depicted in the film, because it’s based on a
comic and there are a few TV shows based on it as well, so I will
sometimes mention things not shown in the film.
Ryuken is a master of a martial art called Hokuto Shin Ken. It’s
passed down through the generations of his family bloodline.
Unfortunately, he does not manage to have any children, but tasked
with to continue on the family tradition, and to call it this is an
understatement, he decides to adopt 3 boys. The rule is the most
competent son is the one which continues on the tradition of to
have children, teach them the art, and choose the one to be the
successor. The other sons must cease to practice the art. They may
have children, but they may not teach them the art. Only the
successor continues to practice it, and must pass it on.

The reason why is because it’s a difficult task and must be done
with maximum competence. It’s importance to the bloodline does
not boarder on spiritual – it is spiritual – to them. Although
nothing exactly like this exists in real life, there are elite families
which pass down knowledge generation after generation, and most
especially pass down wealth as well. It’s of interest that there is a
genetic interest in some cases as well, because some families do not
want their heirs to have children with people not from another elite
family. Due to this practice, the resort to inbreed has occurred,
especially with royal families. It’s odd because usually to inbreed is
associated with intellectual impairment and various issues, but in
the case of the elite families and royalty, the opposite is intended. It
is believed there is some innate quality they possess, which puts
them above the herd, and the hope is people from other elite
families have this quality as well, and it can be preserved and
passed down through to breed together.

In practice, whether it actually works is up for debate. Perhaps it
does sometimes and doesn’t at other times. It’s quite well
established genetic diversity increases the chance of good health
and generally better physical appearance. That goes against the elite
family idea, but I’m sure there are many more variables and things
we don’t understand. It’s evidently the case many people are sheep
and cannot think for themselves. These wolves which rise to the top
tend to be able to act on their own initiative, bring something new
to the table, and resist the urge to just go with the herd.

Let’s explore the general outline of the film’s story. Just a bit into it,
after we hear Ryuken’s voice over, we’re introduced to the
characters Julia and Ken. Ken is Ryuken’s adopted son and Hokuto
Shin Ken successor. Julia is his fiance. There has been a nuclear
holocaust, and there doesn’t seem to be any plant life as a result.

Julia carries seeds in a pouch and hopes to grow plant life. Terribly
unfortunately for Ken, his so called friend Shin appears and is in
love with Julia. Shin is the Fist of the South Star. He practices an
equally formidable martial art to the one Ken practices. Julia
explains how the Fists of the North and South are not supposed to
fight and he knows this. He ignores her. His intention is to beat
Ken, to show her he is better than him.

He does beat him, but it only upsets Julia. He begins to torture Ken
in front of her. He tells her he won’t stop, until she admits she is
his. That she does, and he leaves Ken on the floor, but still alive,
then takes her away. Ken’s two brothers watch all of that play out
from somewhat afar, and it angers one of them, Raoh, because he
would probably have beaten Shin, but was not chosen as the
successor. The other brother, Jaggi, is a good fighter, but the
weakest of the three.

It was Jaggi that convinced Shin he could have Julia if he
performed that diabolical stunt. Jaggi becomes known as ‘Jaggi the
Pretender,’ because he goes around and pretends to be Ken, while
he commits terrible acts. He does that to do as much damage as he
can to Ken’s reputation, which was very good prior to that
abominable sabotage of it. He even drags Ken’s body to a canyon
edge after his fight with Shin, to toss him over it. With it to be a
supernatural story, Ken survives, and even comes back stronger.

The rest of the film is about Raoh’s fight for power and recognition,
despite to be rejected by Ryuken, Ken’s search for Shin who has
Julia captive, whether or not Jaggi will get his comeuppance, and
some other little story lines along the way. The most poignant thing
for me was Raoh was not chosen as successor because despite his
competence and prowess, he is an idiot. The best part of the film is
right at the end, when he realises that, after he causes an untold
amount of carnage. It’s a message to everybody and the people who
need to hear it most – the idiots of the world just like him.

A Fist of the North Star

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