Fist of the North Star (北斗の拳 Hokuto no Ken?, literally "Fist of the Big Dipper") is a Japanese manga series written by Buronson and drawn by Tetsuo Hara that was serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump from 1983 to 1988, spanning 245 chapters, which were initially collected in a 27-volume tankōbon edition by Shueisha. Set in a post-apocalyptic world that has been destroyed by a nuclear war, the story centers around a warrior named Kenshiro, the successor of a deadly martial art style known as Hokuto Shinken, which gives him the ability to kill most adversaries from within through the use of the human body's secret vital points, often resulting in a violent gory death. Kenshiro dedicates his life to fight against the various ravagers who threaten the lives of the weak and innocent, as well as other rival martial artists, including his own "brothers" from the same clan.
The manga was adapted into two TV anime series produced by Toei Animation which aired on Fuji TV affiliates from 1984 through 1988, comprising a combined total of 152 episodes. Several films, OVAs, and video games had been produced as well, including a series of spin-offs centering around other characters from the original story.
The original manga was published by Viz Communications as a monthly comic book, and later by Gutsoon! Entertainment as a series of colorized graphic novels, although neither translations were completed. English adaptations of other Fist of the North Star media have also been licensed to other companies, including the TV series and the original 1986 film.
Near the end of the 20th century, a nuclear flame engulfed most of the Earth's surface, reducing most of the world into a vast desert wasteland. The survivors of mankind banded together in tribes in order to fight over the few supply of uncontaminated food and water still left in the world, with the strong often preying on the weak. Kenshiro, the successor of the assassination art known as Hokuto Shinken, wanders the wasteland after being separated from his fiancee by a rival martial artist. Accompanied by two young children, Bat and Lin, Ken becomes a savior to the weak and innocent from the various gangs threatening their survival. Throughout the course of his journey, Kenshiro encounters various formidable rivals and adversaries, ultimately culminating with Kenshiro's eldest adoptive brother Raoh, an oppressive tyrant who challenges Ken for the right of the Hokuto Shinken succession.
Several years afterward, Kenshiro reunites with the now grown Bat and Lin in order to stand up against a corrupt Imperial Army. The three, with the help of other rebels, manage to expose a conspiracy within the Imperial Army to keep the Heavenly Empress (Lin's estranged twin sister, Lui) imprisoned. The Empress is saved, only for Lin to be taken to the "Land of Asura", a country of warriors where only the mightiest survive. Kenshiro crosses to Asura in pursuit of her, only to find himself fighting against the three generals who rule over the land. Kenshiro finds himself fighting not only against his own blood brother Hyou, but also Kaioh, Raoh's own brother. After defeating Kaioh, Kenshiro goes on a few further adventures with Raoh's orphaned son, Ryu.
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 Tetsu no 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 in Hara's earlier story, became an older and more stoic hero inspired by Bruce Lee. 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.
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, lasting 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 the same year, Viz resumed publication of the series as a monthly comic until 1997, lasting eighteen issues (adapting chapters 17-44), which were subsequently republished in three additional graphic novel volumes. A second English adaptation was published by Gutsoon! Entertainment under the title of Fist of the North Star: Master Edition,which featured newly colorized artwork, but retained the original right-to-left orientation. Each volume from the fourth one and onward featured new cover illustrations by Tetsuo Hara that were made specifically for the Master Edition. The Master Edition was published from 2002 to 2003, lasting only nine volumes, due to Gutsoon!'s withdrawal from the North American market.
In 2001, Tetsuo Hara began working on a Fist of the North Star prequel titled Fist of the Blue Sky (蒼天の拳 Sōten no Ken?), 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 Hokuto Gaiden (北斗外伝?) series, as each title focuses on a particular supporting character from the original manga. The following titles had been published so far:
- Legends of the Dark Kings: A Fist of the North Star Story (天の覇王 北斗の拳 ラオウ外伝 Ten no Haō - Hokuto no Ken Raō Gaiden?) 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.
- Fist of the North Star Yuria's Story: The Merciful Mother Star (北斗の拳 ユリア外伝 慈母の星 Hokuto no Ken Yuria Gaiden - Jibo no Hoshi?) 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.
- Bloody Wolf's Darkness Blue: Fist of the North Star Rei Side Story (蒼黒の餓狼 -北斗の拳 レイ外伝- Sōkoku no Garō Hokuto no Ken Rei Gaiden?) 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 The Magnificent Avenger (華麗なる復讐者 Kareinaru Fukushūsha?). 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 The Hungry Wolf Saga (餓狼編 Garō Hen?), before receiving its current title.
- 銀の聖者 北斗の拳 トキ外伝?, Shirogane no Seija - Hokuto no Ken Toki Gaiden), a series by Yuka Nagate that begun serialization in the August 24, 2007 issue of Weekly Comic Bunch. 銀の聖者 北斗の拳 トキ外伝
- The Flower of Carnage: Fist of the North Star Jagi Side-Story (極悪ノ華 北斗の拳 ジャギ外伝?) by Shin-ichi Hiromoto, which began serialization in the December 26, 2008 issue of Comic Bunch.
Hokuto no Ken was first adaptated into a weekly anime series by Toei Animation under the title Seikimatsu Kyūseishu Densetsu: Hokuto no Ken (世紀末救世主伝説 北斗の拳?, lit. Legend of the Century's End Messiah: Fist of the North Star). The series aired on Fuji Television from October 4, 1984 to March 5, 1987, lasting 109 episodes. It was immediately followed by a sequel series, titled Hokuto no Ken 2, which aired from March 13, 1987 to February 18, 1988, lasting for 43 additional episodes (a combined total of 152 episodes between both 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 States and on Sci-Fi Channel in the United Kingdom, 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.
Films and OVAs
The first animated feature film based on the series, simply titled 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 North America and in 1994 in Europe and Australia by Manga Entertainment.
In 2003, a three-episode OVA mini-series titled New Fist of the North Star was produced by OB Planning. based on a 1996 Hokuto no Ken novel Jubaku no Machi. An English dub version was produced by ADV Films in 2004.
In 2005, North Stars Pictures and TMS Entertainment announced the development of a five-part film series titled Fist of the North Star: The Legends of the True Savior. The series is composed of three theatrical films and two OVAs, which were released during a three-year period between 2006 throughout 2008, culminating with the 25th anniversary of the franchise.
An original novel was written by Buronson and Tetsuo Hara titled Shōsetsu Hokuto no Ken: Jubaku no Machi (小説·北斗の拳 呪縛の街?, Fist of the North Star the Novel: The Cursed City) 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. Raoh Gaiden (ラオウ外伝?), a novelization of the manga of the same name, and Kenshiro Gaiden (ケンシロウ外伝?), an original novel by Jotaro Higashi.
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 was released straight-to-video in the US and Japan (though it did receive a premiere on HBO.) The Japanese dubbed version used the original voice actors from the 1980s anime series.
Numerous video game titles based on the Fist of the North Star have been produced since the 1986 release of Enix adventure game, simply titled Hokuto no Ken for the PC-88. The earlier games in the franchise were released by Sega for the Mark III and Mega Drive and by Toei Animation for the Nintendo's Family Computer, Game Boy and Super Famicom. These titles included side-scrolling action games, RPGs and competitive-style fighting games. The two Sega titles were released overseas without the Hokuto no Ken license under the titles of Black Belt and Last Battle, while a couple of the Toei titles, namely Fist of the North Star for the NES and Fist of the North Star: 10 Big Brawls for the King of Universe for the Game Boy, had American releases with the license intact. Further games were released were released for the Sega Saturn, PlayStation, Arcade, PlayStation 2 and Nintendo DS among other platforms. In 2000, Konami released an arcade game based on the franchise titled Fighting Mania. Another arcade game, a 2D fighting game simply titled Fist of the North Star, was produced by Sega and Arc System Works in 2005. Both games saw international distributions, although the PS2 version of the fighting game was released exclusively in Japan. Koei produced a Dynasty Warriors spinoff based on the franchise titled Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage, which was released in Japan on March 25, 2010 and is scheduled to be released in North America November 2, 2010 and in Europe November 5, 2010.
In addition to traditional video games, the franchise has inspired a series of typing software, an online MMORPG, and numerous pachinko and pachislot machines.
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 Asahi 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
- Hokuto (北斗) is the Japanese name of the Big Dipper asterism, which literally means the "Northern Ladle".
- Hokuto no Ken manga, Volumes 1-16
- Hokuto no Ken manga, Volumes 16-27
- "Interview with Hara Tetsuo". Raijin Comics (waybacked). Retrieved 2007-07-21.
- "Interview with Buronson". ADV Films Presents: New Fist of the North Star. Retrieved 2007-07-21.
- "北斗の拳 全27巻・全巻セット｜原 哲夫／武論尊｜ジャンプコミックス｜BOOKNAVI｜集英社" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2007-08-02.
- "北斗の拳／全15巻｜原 哲夫／武論尊｜愛蔵版コミックス｜BOOKNAVI｜集英社" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2007-08-02.
- "北斗の拳全15巻・全巻セット｜原 哲夫／武論尊｜集英社文庫(コミック版)｜BOOKNAVI｜集英社" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2007-08-01.
- "小学館：コミック" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2007-08-02.
- "北斗の拳 原哲夫 : コアミックス - 電子書籍はeBookJapan : マンガ" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2007-08-02.
- "週刊コミックバンチ★コアミックス：連載作品・作家紹介：天の覇王 北斗の拳 ラオウ外伝" (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 2007-08-13. Retrieved 2007-07-29.
- "ADV Nation: ADV Films to distribute Sentai Filmworks new license: Ten no Haoh (Fist of the North Star spin-off)". Archived from the original on 2009-07-04.
- "Amazon.com: 北斗の拳ユリア外伝慈母の星 (ビッグコミックススペシャル)" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2007-07-29.
- "週刊コミックバンチ★コアミックス：最新号情報と予告" (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 2007-08-13. Retrieved 2007-07-29.
- "週刊コミックバンチ★コアミックス：最新号情報と予告" (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 2007-06-24. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
- "北斗の拳 (official Toei site)" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2007-09-01.
- "Discotek Media picks up Fist of the North Star".
- "Hokuto no ken (1986)". Imdb.com. Retrieved 2008-09-14.
- "GAGA Communications, Inc.／International Sales Catalogue".
- "劇場版映画“北斗の拳「ラオウ外伝」純愛編”を2006年春全国東宝系公開" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2007-08-30.
- "小説・北斗の拳" (in Japanese).
- "北斗の拳 — 徳間書店" (in Japanese).
- "Shōnen Jump Manga Circulation Numbers". ComiPress. Retrieved 2007-07-21.
- "TV Asahi Top 100 Anime". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2007-07-21.
- "Japan's Favorite TV Anime". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2007-07-21.
- Hokuto no Ken Special: All About the Man (北斗の拳SPECIΑL ΑLL ΑBOUT THE MΑN?) (in Japanese).
- Hara, Tetsuo. Tetsu no Don Quixote (鉄のドン·キホーテ Tetsu no Don Kihōte?, "The Iron Don Quixote") (in Japanese). ISBN 4420131098.
- Buronson. Shōsetsu Hokuto no Ken: Jubaku no Machi (小説·北斗の拳―呪縛の街?, "Fist of the North Star the Novel: The Cursed City") (in Japanese). ISBN 4087030547.
- Hokuto no Ken Kyūkyoku Kaisetsusho: Sekimatsu Haō Retsuden (北斗の拳 究極解説書 世紀末覇王列伝?, "The Ultimate Handbook to Fist of the North Star: History of the Century's End Conqueror). ISBN 4834216845.
- Hokuto no Ken 2000: Kyūkyoku Kaisetsusho Part 2 (北斗の拳2000 究極解説書 PART2?, "Fist of the North Star 2000: The Ultimate Handbook Part 2"). ISBN 4834216853.
- Boku-tachi no Sukina Hokuto no Ken (僕たちの好きな北斗の拳?, "We Love Fist of the North Star"). ISBN 4796658580.
- Hokuto no Ken Kanzen Tokuhon (北斗の拳 完全読本?, "The Complete Guide to Fist of the North Star"). ISBN 4796669476 Check
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- Official sites
- Shin Kyuseishu Densetsu - Hokuto no Ken official website (Japanese)
- Toei Animation's official Seikimatsu Kyūseishu Densetsu: Hokuto no Ken website (Japanese)
- Animax's official Seikimatsu Kyūseishu Densetsu: Hokuto no Ken website (Japanese)
- Official English subtitled episodes at CrunchyRoll
- Official English subtitled episodes at Funimation
- Unofficial sites
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