What They Say:
The presence of the final surviving general of the South Star order changes everything Kenshiro thought he knew, and sends him rushing into battle with the only man he could never kill; his own brother, Raoh the Conqueror. The very future of the Hokuto Shinken style is put into jeopardy as these two titans of martial arts face off in the final days of lawless chaos! Will the rightful heir Kenshiro unite the destiny of Hokuto Shinken and Nanto Seiken, or will his brother’s wicked ambition destroy them all?
The fate of the North Star will be decided in a devastating duel between brothers! Contains the final part of the first series, episodes 73-109!
This third set of episodes contains only a Japanese 2.0 track as the dub on the first set had been created by Manga Entertainment years ago and they never went past the first 36 episodes. The track is clear with no dropouts or distortions and while the dialogue is primarily center speaker driven special care seems to have been taken to make sure the voices are very clear and resonant. It is a fabulous 2.0 track. On the downside there are a number of errors in the subtitles as words are added or dropped causing a bit of confusion when it comes to reading them.
The series originally started airing in 1984 in Japan and is presented in 4:3 ratio which was standard for the time. The set uses the remastered Japanese footage and is unique in R1 to this presentation. The worst part of the video is actually Toei’s logo as that made me fear what the series would look like-thankfully it is not representative of the quality within. The colors are also much better on the disc than seen on the internet stream, but the majority of colors used are more of the washed out look to reflect the wasteland that exists in the piece. The only two noticed problems with the disc are some color blurring with the red effects and some noise that isn’t quite covered up by the video grain. This set also contains a good deal more screen jitters than the other two are remember to have had.
The packaging is a mustard yellow background with Kenshiro surrounded by the faces of the five masters of the Southern Star style that he has encountered. A blurb at the top states the number of episodes as does a banner at the bottom. The back is the same color carried over with five shots from the series. The side has the same shot of Kenshiro from the front resized as well as the series title and info on the episodes contained. The discs come in an M lock case with two “flippers” in the middle so no disc overlaps any other. The first disc has a close up shot of Raoh in his battle gear. The second has Five Chariot member Hyui in his combat stance with the wind moving visibly around him. The third disc has an image of Bat, Lin and Kenshiro riding in Bat’s buggy. The fourth has a scene of Kenshiro with some of his aura/energy waves behind him. The final disc features an image of Kenshiro standing tall as the clouds start to part behind him.
The menus are static affairs that have the language selection right on the front page and whose screens have the full images that the disc labels images were taken from. The menu is quick to respond to selections and remote prompts.
This release contains no extras.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The third set begins with the introduction of Ryuga, a man ruled by a solitary star and is not fated to side with either the North or South Stars. Ryuga uses this separate nature to look at the world around him and has come to the conclusion that what the world needs is a single solidifying individual whose philosophy can bring order to the chaos. To this end he joined Raoh’s army initially but has begun to wonder if Raoh is the man for the age or if it will be Kenshiro’s philosophy is better suited to carry the age to the future.
When Ryuga is asked what reward he wants for his loyalty by Raoh he chooses a duel with Kenshiro to find out with his own fists who is most worthy of taking on the role of anchor for humanity. When Kenshiro refuses Ryuga will push him forward by taking someone Kenshiro loves hostage as he schemes to bring out Kenshiro’s full rage and power. What secret does Ryuga hold that ties him to Kenshiro’s past and what will Ryuga decide as to whom the new age should follow? With his decision and this clash of fists the third arc of the series comes to an end.
The final arc adapted from the manga introduces some new characters as the Five Chariots Stars will appear along with the general they serve, the last person remaining representing the Southern Star School. With their general destined to meet up with the representative of the Northern Star each of the five Chariot Stars will make their individual decisions as to whether or not they chose to find Raoh or Kenshiro to be the fulfillment of what they wish the future to be. As Kenshiro, Bat and Lin travel they will encounter some of the Stars, though these encounters may lead to further sorrow for the travelers as Raoh will also encounter the Chariot Stars as well.
When the Southern general’s identity is revealed the final fight between Kenshiro and Raoh is set in stone as each move to place themselves next to the general for their own reasons-which may not be so different in the final equation. With the two men now on an inevitable collision course with the fate of the world on the line who will grasp the title of true successor to the Fist of the North Star? And what is the secret to learning the School’s most powerful-and most elusive- final technique? Will it be one that allows the victor to triumph or will nothing be left in the end but bitter ashes no matter the winner?
With this third set the third arc of stories adapted from the manga will come to an end and the fourth set is presented in its entirety. Fans of the series already have an idea what to expect in terms of battles but this volume introduces a new wild card as an event whose outcome was revealed previously is suddenly turned on its head. With the introduction of the final Southern Star general events will move into their final place as the destinies of Kenshiro and Raoh will finally clash to discover who is truly going to be the true heir of the 200 year old Fist of the North Star school and the foundation for the future of civilization. In many ways the final march of the series has been set in stone from its original moments, which is both a good and bad thing. The series largely keeps with faith with the world that has been established and doesn’t decide it needs to tinker with things too much. This can be a plus as it doesn’t negate most of what was previously established but after almost one hundred episodes one wishes that a little more flavor could have been thrown in from time to time as events do tend to start feeling similar.
I’m still not sure whether the last surprise twist of the Southern General is a positive or not which may be a sign it is gimmicky in that it doesn’t feel completely natural, though what doesn’t really work is the number of recap episodes in this set. While over the course of two years viewing for the whole series they would probably be a bit more welcome, when viewed in a set like this as close as these have been released to each other it is probably more of a drag on the flow than anything. I’m glad they were included for completionist sake but they sure tend to really disrupt things and disrupt the narrative a bit which is not a benefit to the series’ conclusion. But it is a series conclusion which some other long running series sometimes skitter about. When the motivations of both protagonist and antagonist can be laid out and made clear and their logic explained to the viewer so understanding, if not agreement with the philosophy itself, it can give a respect for the characters that adds a level of humanness to both sides, something that often is lacking in certain other shonen fighting series.
This third set of episodes from Discotek finish off the 109 episodes that were adapted from the original Fist of the North Star manga. The series manages to finish off on a solid note though there are a couple of stumbles in this set that don’t take away from the finale but do trip up the pace a little along the way. Still it is a rewarding end to a long and emotional journey for fans of the series that helps to underscore how Fist of the North Star has become a legend for fans of Japanese martial arts anime.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Discotek Media
Release Date: July 26th, 2011
Running Time: 820 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Samsung 50″ Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.