Until I kill you, I'll even eat mud to survive! Hokuto no Ken

Rei of Nanto Seiken.

When I finished watching Legend of the Galactic Heroes late last year, I felt like I’d had my fill of sprawling eighties anime series for a fair old time to come, but fate, it seems, has long been conspiring against me.
My destiny had seven scars on his chest. A mere swipe of his hand could (and invariably, will) render his enemies violently exploded! His name is Kenshiro, Fist of the North Star!
Firstly, I must admit, catching up with Hokuto no Ken has always been a secret ambition of mine. The 1986 “manga video” was a tangible part of my early years as an anime fan and exploring this whole, bloody story for the first time is akin to understanding that cliche feeling of a ‘child-like sense of wonder’.
Let’s face it, there’s no point in even trying to be objective about this, Hokuto no Ken is far, far, far from perfect. The story is predictable, the characters’ motivations are laughably ‘basic’ (‘without wit’ may be a better description) and the aesthetic is like some inbred, mutant offspring of Viking culture and Mad Max 2. So far, so flippin’ weird, but that’s why I love it, too!
People often forget anime; time always has the last word, but it seems many still remember Hokuto no Ken, which is ironic, as it’s probably the antithesis of what many fans would today describe as good anime; the manly ying to the moe yang, perhaps.

A subtle, beautiful and moving observation of life; Kenshiro’s journey is none of these things.
In 199X, the world is decimated by nuclear war. In-lieu of modern civilization, the strongest warriors have risen up to build vast armies of mohawked thugs and conquer the world. One of the few men brave enough to retain his honor and decency in this harsh new world (as evidenced by the fact that he wears denim jeans) is our hero Kenshiro, successor to the deadly martial arts style of Hokuto Shinken. He faces many fierce adversaries on his road to nowhere, including none other than his best friend, the blonde bombshell Shin.
Before abducting Ken’s fiancee Yuria, dragging her off to his castle and basically destroying Ken’s entire life up until that point, Shin was a good old boy, really. He just had some bad ideas about love, is all, but that will hardly stop Ken from sweeping across thousands of miles of broken cities and bitter deserts in search of delicious revenge.
The thing is, Kenshiro is a vigilante. He and his friends rarely live to fight another day; each battle is to the death and the so-called hero of this story could aptly be described as a mass-murderer too, which is, I think, why Hokuto no Ken has managed to retain its edge to this very day. It’s such an extreme and morally irresponsible show that one gets a giddy, visceral thrill from watching episode after episode of brutal, bloody death. That, and I think the art (particularly the character design) is great fun.

There are many square jawed, horse riding, really tall, massively fat and fundamentally odd-looking people in this. The facial expressions are often very funny and the voice acting is so melodramatic that I can’t help but be swept away by the sheer enthusiasm of it all. Logic be damned, then, I’m really enjoying Hokuto no Ken.

4 replies on “Until I kill you, I'll even eat mud to survive! Hokuto no Ken”

There’s this wonderful scene in the early episodes where Ken goes up against this guy who pops people’s heads off with piano wire for fun. Ken offs this dude with one of many “it works because we said so” techniques of Hokuto Shinken: he hits the guy’s pressure points such that he wraps his own wire around his neck and very slowly pulls his arms outward. Naturally, guy breaks his own neck (in the manga he actually decapitates himself!). Ken walks off, and what does he say, after killing another human being in such a horrific, brutal way?
“What a terrible world we live in.”
You’re the best, Kenshiro. Never change.
The best of HnK is still a long way off, but from where you are in the show I’d say you should just be ready for the same, but MORE SO. Enjoy.

Heh, I enjoy HnK for all the same reasons I enjoy the 1980’s Arnie flick ‘Commando’. Who cares if it’s actually terrible? I’m having too much fun.

@Sub – Heh! The majority of the so called ‘filler’ episodes (and the villains there-in) seem to be so extreme and weird that I wish I could recall them all! Remember the Red Beret guys? The Fang Clan? The guy with the praying mantis fighting style? There’s so many weird and wonderful little moments– if only I had the time, I’d go through each episode and try to document them all! 🙂
@Wildcard – Exactly. I’m tempted to say it’s “so bad it’s good”, but then, may be that would be doing a disservice to the show? I can’t help but wonder, was it intentionally so colourful, or was it just some cultural fluke?

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