The future is bleak but there’s always a fist of hope to be found.
What They Say:
A twist on the classic favorite that begins in the aftermath of the great apocalypse. Across a barren Earth, chaos is the rule and order is the exception. Bandits and enterprising overlords terrorize the survivors of the holocaust. Will a hero rise from the ashes and cut a swath of justice across the Earth’s ruined landscape?!
Contains OVAs 1-3.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty good as we get the original Japanese language in 5.1 as well as the English language, both of which are encoded at 448kbps. Many OVA series tend to be stereo presentations but this is one of those rare series in Japan that actually did a 5.1 mix for the native language and it plays out well here in a lot of scenes. From the explosive sequences in the prologue and including the vocals for Gackt’s songs, there’s some solid usage of the 5.1 mix here in both terms of directionality and usage of the rear channels. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback. We had heard this show previously in a PCM 2.0 mix and while that mix definitely had a good solid feel to it, I really like how the directionality in this one turned out.
Originally starting release 2003, the transfer for this three part OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, but like its Japanese counterpart, it is not enhanced for anamorphic playback. Unlike the previous releases, which were spread across three separate titles, this one is all on one disc but looks to use the same materials and encodings. The transfer for this show is like a lot of the OVAs of the time were doing doing in terms of mixing CG, cel shaded and standard animation together. Particularly with the cel shaded areas, such as the bikers we see at the beginning, there are large areas of solid colors that look really great and avoid any really noticeable blocking going on. Cross coloration throughout it essentially non-existent other than once or twice noticeable when the show was paused. Even aliasing is very minimal, giving the series a very nice smooth look to it. A few areas that I wondered about from the Raijin edition look just as slick here, such as the dirt and dust flying from travel across the desert; it all looks just right and avoids looking pixelated or problematic.
This release is done up in a single sized keepcase to hold the one disc that contains all three episodes and the front cover artwork mirrors a lot of what we saw before. With a silver and kind of campy looking old style logo, the character artwork is what defines it here as we get a shot of a serious looking Kenshiro and a reflective Sara, albeit one with her assets being a bit more visible than his muscles. The character artwork is representative of the series itself and it’s definitely something that doesn’t look like other shows for any number of reasons. The layout is straightforward and fans of the show know what to expect but it’s definitely a hard sell for anyone else. The back cover has a good mix of artwork to it as we get some character stuff along the left and some shots from the show through the middle. The summary has a lot to cover in a small space but it keeps it simple and easy. The production credits are done along the right, a rarity for this company, and the technical grid along the bottom covers everything cleanly and clearly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is simple and a bit awkward as we get a still screen with a blue background that has just an image of Kenshiro along the left. It’s very, very basic but what makes it awkward is that the navigation is all done at right angles with episode titles laid out without it being entirely clear what the order is until you start moving around them. The rest of the navigation is just a language submenu while another goes to a credits screen. Everything moves quickly and is easy to use but it’s all very basic and awkward at first until you start moving around in it. The show defaults to the English language track with sign/song subtitles.
None. Which is unfortunate as the previous ADV Films editions had a lot of extras on each disc, making those worth seeking out if you like the behind the scenes material and the English language adaptation extras.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Way, way back when Raijin Comics was getting their presence known in the U.S., they set up their subscriptions so that if you bought a full year subscription, you’d get some neat bonus items. After some wrangling, the rebooted version of the Fist of the North Star anime franchise was used as the bonus, giving subscribers the first episode before the show just as the licensing announcement was being made that ADV Films had picked it up. The disc was saw back then was produced by ADV from what we can tell but it was just one of a number of DVD-R’s that were sent off to qualifying subscribers. So back in January of 2004, I was able to see what you could basically call a rough draft of the previous release, which was three episodes spread across three discs.
The premise for this incarnation of the property isn’t all that different as it adheres to what made it so enjoyable in the 80’s. It’s been a few years since flames have engulfed the world and a seeming nuclear winter and summer have ravaged the lands. The world is in ruins; humanity has been pushed to the brink but still survives. The landscape is desolate; massive stretches of desert in every direction. Where cities once were only partial remains of buildings are there. Water in those locations is deadly, though people in dire need still try to drink it, even with other bodies littered around it. But still humanity pushes on, and we see a small expedition group from the Village of Freedom trying to find a new source of water in a well that an information man has sold to them.
Though they do strike water, their prize is quickly snatched from them by the arrival of motorcycle riding warriors from the Last Lands, the “ruling kingdom” of the region that controls everything through fear and intimidation via their god, Dhola and his guardian warrior Sanga. Nearly everyone at the expedition site is killed when the information man, Tobi, tries to take off. He’s nearly killed by a barrage of arrows, but the last headshot is stopped by the tall and muscular warrior known as Kenshiro who comes out of nowhere. Kenshiro, whose story is told over the three episodes in this series, is the classic quiet fighter. Through some flashbacks we see some of his philosophy and how he fights for what’s right by using the special martial arts skills that have been passed down to him, skills that are given to only one person in each generation to ensure their purity.
Kenshiro makes quick work of the scum that attacked the expedition and returns to the Village of Freedom to get Tobi fixed up. What surprises him here is that he meets a very attractive blonde woman named Sara who has also seemingly learned the same skills but has applied them to the art of medicine, using pressure points to heal wounds instead of creating them. Her talents have become quite known and she has a long line of people in need of aid that she doesn’t turn away. But her notoriety has also caused Sanga to desire her for the Last Lands kingdom as he can use her miracle ability to compliment those of Dhola to try and keep the populace under sway as he’s the real power behind the kingdom.
So when she’s kidnapped and much of the Village of Freedom is burned to the ground, Kenshiro and Tobi head off to the Last Lands to bring a little ass kicking justice where needed. In a way, the show disappointed me with the first episode. Dealing with the fallout from there, we find that Bista is actually still alive but he’s only got a few days left before Sara is unable to do anything else for him. There’s medicines that can cure him but that’s in Freedom Village which is four days away by jeep, so it wouldn’t be there in time. The only slim chance is to go through the mountains, to try and get past a group called the Clifflanders, to get the medicine there which would have it back barely in time for it to work. Kenshiro has no hesitation in doing this and immediately heads out along the path that leads through the mountains.
While they don’t exactly pass each other, when Kenshiro heads towards the mountains a man named Seiji is heading towards Lost Land. Seiji, as we learn, has spent quite some years learning the martial arts in a way that’s near obsession and focused solely on revenge for what his father has put him through. Seiji’s arrival in the Lost Land kingdom is fairly uneventful since Kenshiro has already eliminated Sanga, taking out some of the steam in his sails, but Seiji’s content enough to take control of the city and to plan his next maneuver. His time spent there is done mostly through verbal sparring of his ways with Sara while consolidating his control over the lower sheep that quickly learn to obey him due to his strength.
Kenshiro’s time in traveling through the mountains brings him into contact with the Clifflanders and through them we start to learn a lot more about the North Star arts and the various sub arts associated with it, such as the Hokumen arts that they practice. Kenshiro’s natural abilities end up becoming key to his getting through to them that he’s more than they’ve faced before and through them we start to learn about Seiji, which they fear will become an unstoppable power in the world. Much of the time spent between these two is given over to revelations of the way of the world now and how their arts have guided them since the fall.
With this second episode really doing a lot of setup for the finales confrontation, there is a good amount of flashback for characters like Seiji and Sara as we see their pasts and the events that molded them into who they are. There’s even some amusing clichéd coincidental moments between some of them that come back to haunt in the present day. Seiji takes up a good amount of the time in this episode as we get to learn why he’s as angry as he is and why he wants to destroy the Lost Land but it’s not anything major not something that isn’t all that well hidden as it’s telegraphed pretty early on. But the surrounding events to what he does is fun to watch since he controls the city quickly but there’s an actual revolt about to be launched over it from those who don’t want to live under him.
There are some good revelations made here that showcase more of the world of this day, particularly through the Clifflanders, but a lot of the volume felt like it wasn’t really trying in a way. Since it was so focused on getting everyone into place for the confrontations of the third volume the plot of getting Kenshiro out of town felt weak and the ease of which Seiji acquired the Lost Land felt equally as weak. The way everything is done, while fun in its own right at times since there are some good moments, you almost feel like you could get away with skipping the volume and just watching the minute or two recap at the beginning of the third volume to be all caught up. But that would only give you a few minutes of the violence that’s contained here and sort of defeats the point, but that’s just how minimal the plot really is this time around.
With the second episode seeming like it went on far too long and essentially made the setup for this episode, a lot of what we get in the third episode feels like it should have been covered already. With Kenshiro off traveling for most of it, he returns in this volume to a far changed place where Seiji has taken over the main fortress completely. Tobi has escaped with Bista and kept him in a secured location while everyone who has come to love and adore Lord Doha are now willingly giving their lives to protect him and do his bidding. Tobi, feeling that he can take advantage of this to ensure a peaceful future for everyone, has shifted positions into someone who speaks for his brother and even wears a cloak of gold now. His rise and fall is one of the more interesting aspects of the show.
Before he reveals that to Kenshiro though he takes advantage of what Kenshiro has brought with the medicine for his brother but he’s just as quick to cast Kenshiro into the prison so that he won’t interfere with his plans to launch a massive attack on the fortress so they can reclaim the water and eliminate Seiji. With the loss of Sara, the near loss of his brother and the way the world continues to collapse around him, Tobi’s breakdown into power and madness is well done. You can see it in his eyes as he makes decisions he doesn’t want to make but follows through on them regardless.
While this provides a great little arc for Tobi, especially over the course of the series, what it does in this volume is ensure that we really don’t see Kenshiro for roughly half of the final volume. It’s not until Sara has a change of conscience and help from some mysterious hooded woman that she comes down to where Kenshiro is and helps to free him from his cell and sends him on his way to do what he must. With Seiji not only being a potentially brutal dictator, he’s also using a variant form of his own style and that cannot be allowed into the world and must be dealt with.
One really unfortunate part of this episode is the awful outfit that they put on the otherwise very attractive Sara. Talk about wearing something that doesn’t accentuate the right things and hides the bad things. While it’s a decent outfit overall, the style of character designs just isn’t the best here for it. Some of it is decent, such as when she’s first introduced and the camera basically turns into a camera that follows just her ass, but later scenes just look really bad for her. The other unfortunate area is the final fight between Seiji and Kenshiro. Having been built up since we first saw him at the end of the first episode and with all that’s learned, the fight is simply over far too quick. While it does play, it’s a great fluid piece with lots of motion, violence and a certain beauty to it. But it gets finished far too quickly and then shifts into some territory that really didn’t need to be brought in since it diminishes the character in my mind.
New Fist of the North Star is an OVA series that ended up suffering by having an episode too many and could have been a lot tighter with a bit more streamlining of the script. With the combined three episodes running about just under three hours, it runs long by almost half an hour. What they did was enjoyable for the most part, but they provided a middle to the series that just felt like it was dragging things out because they had the space and time to do it instead of having a real reason for doing it. With the end coming far too fast and Kenshiro being off-screen for practically half of this episode, it’s a mixed bag of enjoyment because a lot of things are done right here, but it just took too long to get here. This release is welcome in getting the three episodes together in one well priced collection, but it’s at the sacrifice of a lot of extras that will be appealing more to English language fans than Japanese language ones, but still. If you just want the show, this is definitely the way to go considering the price.
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: C
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: ADV Films
Release Date: February 12th, 2013
Running Time: 175 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Non-anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.