What They Say:
Ten long years after Kenshiro left with Yuria, the world is still not at peace. Bat and Lin’s Hokuto Army has risen to protect the weak, waging a bloody war for a better tomorrow. When a martial artist with incredible power is forced to perform acts of evil, Kenshiro returns from the North to settle the score – but a diabolical successor to a secret new Hokuto style captures Lin as his new bride! Now Kenshiro must find a way to defeat a monster: Raoh’s lost brother, whose fists eclipse any man Kenshiro has ever faced.
This fourth 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, and episode 2 is especially atrocious with its abundance of missing subtitles.
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.
The packaging is a mustard yellow background with Kenshiro holding one of the new people he encounters in these travels while being surrounded by a few new, and not so new, faces. 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 a smaller case than the previous sets which uses a single flipper in the middle and the discs overlap each other in pairs. The first disc has a close up shot of Kenshiro fighting an opponent named Falco. The second has an image of Ein, a bounty hunter who will play a key role in the early episodes of this set. The third disc has an image of another one of the opponents that Kenshiro will find in his way. The fourth has an image of Kaioh, who may just be the most powerful opponent Kenshiro has ever seen, mounted on his mighty stead. The fifth disc has a bandaged Kenshiro emitting a blue fighting aura while the final disc has him fighting the now unmasked Kaioh.
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)
A decade has passed since Kenshiro defeated Raoh and vanished into legend with Yuria by his side. The hope was that a new age would be born, free from tyranny and the control Raoh believed humanity needed to obtained real peace. Judging by conditions, it is possible Raoh was right as the era of peace barely lasted before a new crop of men looking to assert control over the world appeared. In this bleak time the people have even lost hope that the man who saved them once will return and the fear is that their lives will never improve.
There are some however who aren’t content to just live with just a memory of the brief hope they had. They instead have taken the hope that so many bled for along the path that brought Kenshiro and Raoh together and forged it into a strength of their own. These people have formed their own army to fight back- an army that takes both its name and symbol from the stars that guided Kenshiro.
Additionally, the heads of this army aren’t relying on just tales of the past as the young man and woman who hold the reigns of leadership saw much of it first hand and now will fight with the spirit Kenshiro taught them. Of course, will can only take one so far as the now young adult leaders Bat and Lin know all too well and their successes are often met with horrific defeat as well.
As before though, when the age needs a savior one will arrive to help guide the age. Kenshiro has returned and now it is time for those who would oppress the people of the land to tremble in fear. In the years that have passed however a one new would be ruler has emerged leading what is called the Army of the Celestial Emperor. This new presence has assembled some incredibly strong fighters into its ranks, and to top it all off the lore of both the schools of the North and South Star tell of them both being subservient to the Celestial Emperor. Will Kenshiro run up against a fate he can’t fight or will he discover a shocking secret that may cause the Heavens themselves to split?
When an enemy kidnaps Lin when it looks like the North Star Army may be on the cusp of victory and takes her to a land of death known as Asura as his last spiteful act ,Kenshiro will have to travel what may turn out to be an even more brutal path. In this horrific land “survival of the fittest” is taken to its most extreme extent as less than 1% of the male population survives because they are all raised to be killers-and the only way to be acknowledged as a man in their society is to have killed one hundred other men.
But it isn’t this philosophy that will be the biggest obstacle as the land itself holds many secrets regarding both the origins of the Divine Fist of the North Star and Kenshiro himself. Will the land even accept him as savior, as they already know the man who will save them and they tremble in fear and/hope when his name is spoken- Even in this far away land the name of Raoh will hang over Kenshiro.
If that isn’t enough, the land also hides the practitioners of a rival school of The North Star- a school whose practitioners may not just be Kenshiro’s equal but perhaps his downfall as well. With his old friend in danger Kenshiro will confront not just his past but also the tragic two thousand year history of the Divine Fist of the North Star. Can even Kenshiro survive such long odds and become salvation to the world again, or is a dark curtain going to fall over it for good when he does?
Success can be a double edged sword in many ways. Obviously creators need some amount of it to keep working and carry out a tale rather than face cancellation but too much can become a prison as well sometimes. There are a number of creators who have become trapped by their own success who find that the audience (and therefore publisher) wants more of a type of story or adventures from their characters which can leave them painted into a corner as the chapters or years go by. In some ways this sequel series feels like that.
The original series wrapped up beautifully and if that had been the end of the story all would have been well. But the authors had a contract (and then the publisher pushing for more) so onward goes the tale which undercuts some of the climax of that end. Not that it is all bad, as seeing Bat and Lin as young adults following up on the example they learned from Ken was a treat, and seeing a reason given for Ken and Lin’s mysterious connection in the first series helped as well.
It is just the series quickly went down the same path the viewer has become used to- armies of cannon fodder being thrown at Kenshiro as he gathers more sadness when allies are gained just to fall and then encounter some boss type villain who often has a connection to the School of the North Star. This isn’t exactly bad, but when the authors start playing fast and loose with the past and various relatives to some of the characters met in the past the feeling starts to grow that they are returning to the well perhaps one time too often. Also of note, when showing Ken’s past with his brothers Raoh and Toki it probably wouldn’t have hurt for someone to remember Kenshiro had another adopted brother- Jagi- who seems to have been forgotten as quickly as Kenshiro defeated him.
The biggest problem is that the series kind of lacks a sense of hope. With the climax after the fight with Raoh there was the possibility that people might be able to band together and rebuild a new society, perhaps based on Kenshiro’s example of kindness and sacrifice. These new stories take that away though and pretty much leave the tale as one of Kenshiro over throwing one would be dictator or another but not really making a permanent difference as the majority of the people are just too weak to stand for themselves. For a story built on as much emotion, sacrifice and pain as this one that is a bit of a hard pill to swallow at the end.
This set still works well enough, but given the repetition of the themes it can be hard to start caring for a new character that experience tells you is just going to be killed in a small handful of episodes anyway. Additionally the series starts moving more into the less pressure point based fights and characters start fighting with their auras like in Dragonball, which seems like a step back given the series has already established its (fanciful and impossible) style of fighting.
This final set of animated adventures in the Fist of the North Star TV era return Kenshiro to his role of fighting the oppressive villains that no one else can while also carrying immense sadness on his broad shoulders. The set introduces the viewer to an older version of some familiar faces as they strive to live up to the example that Kenshiro has set as they try to bring peace to the land while even more secrets of the Divine Fist of the North Star’s tragic past are revealed. The set follows some by now well established patterns but is hard pressed to follow up after the emotional climax that was Kenshiro’s fight with Raoh and never quite finds a way to summon up that same emotion. Still, it isn’t a terrible sequel to the original, but going in with some lowered expectations might help with the enjoyment of this set.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: N/A
Readers Rating: [ratings]
Released By: Discotek Media
Release Date: November 8th, 2011
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.