What They Say:
Highly trained in the secret martial art of Hokuto Shinken, Kenshiro has achieved such a high level of combat expertise that he can kill a man with his pinky finger. Though these skills may be useful for a wandering man trying to survive the deadly wastelands left behind by nuclear war, they’re all but useless in modern day Japan!
With an apocalypse that never happened and a less-than-desirable skill set, would-be hero Ken is stuck looking for a job just like every other unemployed schmuck in Japan. And frankly, he doesn’t interview well. Things start to look up when he stumbles across an opening at a convenience store, but unfortunately he’ll have to deal with two contentious contenders if he wants the job: his own brothers Toki and Raoh, who’re just as dimwitted and muscle-headed as the mighty Ken himself.
Contains episodes 1-13.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the series in its original Japanese language form only, which is a shame, and it’s in stereo and encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that pretty much works a simple center channel based forward soundstage mix as it doesn’t deal much with directionality or depth outside of a couple of sequences overall. The general idea is that it’s a gag comedy and it really doesn’t require much in the way of an immersive mix. Though it’s center channel based, it definitely plays well and fun with the cast at hand and the sound effects to make it engaging enough. Dialogue is pretty fun with its range and the overall result is a pretty fun mix that comes across clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2013, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series runs for twenty-six half length episodes, so we get it spread across two discs with eighteen on the first (set up as 8 blocks of two) and eight on the second (set up as four blocks of two). Animated by Ajia-do Animation Works, the show is one that certainly goes with a simpler design overall, particularly when it comes to backgrounds, but there’s a lot of detail in the character animation with the action sequences and the various attacks that are used. The show has some good color definition to it and the black line work in the attack sequences are definitely great to see with how detailed it is. The transfer has a great look overall with what it’s working with, though the color palette is a muted one, and with some of its high action sequences standing out well, it looks good both there and in the simpler and more dialogue oriented pieces.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds both discs against the interior walls. The front cover gives us a great look at the overall design of the show with the three brothers in the foreground while Bat and Lin are off to the side in the background, which also brings in the convenience store done up in a dark and foreboding way that in some ways reminds more of the original work. It has some good colors here with a lot of pop and vividness and the logo is done in a properly cartoonish way that works well to make it clear this isn’t your traditional property in this franchise. The back cover makes it even more apparent as we get lost of bright colors with blues and greens and a tagline done in pink and white that lets it pop all the more. The premise is well covered with a nice bit of humor and we get a good bit of cute character images from the show and promotional pieces to tie it all together. The production credits lay everything out well in an easy to read form while the technical grid has it all in a clear and accurate way so you know exactly what’s done to bring the show to life. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this episode definitely reinforces what kind of show it is with its color design, and of course the character material that populates it. The left side has the menu navigation that doubles as the pop-up and it’s done with bright blues, reds and white, but it also breaks down the episodes with the lengthy titles each have, so the text is small. But they’re not key to moving about as the numbers are larger and easier to work with. The right side has a lot of yellow background space on top of which we get the promotional image with Kenshiro in his usual attire for the series in attack more with a price scanner in his hand while we see Jagi in the background trying to get his time. With no language setup here to be had, the only real submenu navigation is in the special features on the second disc, which has the trailers for other series as well. Everything moves smoothly and easily as a main menu and during playback with the pop-up menu.
The only extras included here are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the original work by Buronson and Tetsuo Hara, Kajio created a super deformed gag comedy series in 2010 with DD Fist of the North Star. The series has progressed slowly as one might imagine, building only five volumes in release so far, but it’s provided a playful approach to the property that some fans will adore and others will struggle with since it’s not their traditional Fist of the North Star. After the Flash based series that came out in 2011, Ajia-do Animation Works stepped in for this 2013 series that worked the half-length episode tales in a pretty fun way for a total of twenty-six episodes. Having seen a number of these kinds of comedic takes on more serious properties, they can definitely bit hit or miss, but for the most part this ne seems to hit the right tone.
Riffing off of the original properties premise, it’s 199X and things have not gone as predicted. The apocalypse did not happen and the world has gone on as always. Which isn’t a bad thing for most people considering they didn’t die in a nuclear fire. For Kenshiro and his brothers though, the world is a far greater challenge in this form than the wastelands that they should be facing. None of them are able to really survive in this world because their skills aren’t set for it. When we first meet Kenshiro in his super deformed form, he’s attempting to work as a construction worker, but his skill set is so wrong for it that he ends up destroying the place more than anything else because his thousand strikes don’t work on nails and his saving things ends up turning the place into dust. Suffice o say, he doesn’t know what to do.
So his “luck” ends up directing him in his wanderings to the Ryuryuken convenience store where he discovers that his Master is the owner there. He’s done in his normal form, providing some amusing contrast to the rest of the characters that are all done up in the super deformed ways. Unfortunately for Kenshiro, while he sees this as an opportunity since there’s a job opening there, two of his brothers are also there and attempt to get the position. Raoh is just as brash and combative as you’d expect and Toki is just struggling to not bleed all over the place between doing his bouts of work. He’s actually the most productive of the trio, which definitely makes for a lot of fun. Adding to the store regulars is Bat, who is a college student that works there part time, and the Masters daughter Lin, who Bat obviously has an interest in but never gets to do much with as he struggles with what Kenshiro and his brothers are constantly doing to cause trouble.
With this as the setup, as the Master pays a few yen for each of them to compete for the position that’s available, they’re piss poor broke constantly and struggling in all things. There’s a lot of amusing situational comedy with it in terms of dealing with shoplifters, customers in general and just handling deliveries and so forth. It’s not out of this world hilarious, but just the visual of Kenshiro in this form doing all of this makes for a lot of laughs and definitely a lot of silly fish out of water moments. The core group definitely works well together and when we get the three brothers dealing with things with their different personalities, all while looking for ways to gain position over the others, you have to grin because they’re all so blunt about it as there’s no subtlety in how they deal with things. They’ve living in a post-apocalyptic world mindset, just not the actual world itself.
Things don’t stay just at the convenience store though, which is very good, as we get a few other locales and some generic street scenes to deal with. One of the other primary locations is Bar Yuria, where Kenshiro’s beloved resides. Amusingly, she’s rarely there and instead has an indestructible and heavy “doll” of herself that stands around with a cigarette in its hand. The guys usually can’t tell the difference and it adds frustration to them as they try to impress and woo her, particularly as Raoh believes he’s better suited to her over Kenshiro. The group also has to deal with a competing chain of stores with Shin, who runs the South Star side of the city with complete dominance. And a complete lack of clothes outside of a cape and a white blur that covers his genitals. Shin is amusing as he plays the big, rich and important guy that is better than everyone else but can never seem to get far enough when it comes to outdoing the main trio.
With a lot of challenges to face, often of their own making, the cast does grow as we get characters like Airi showing up and others. The one that cracked me up the most is Jagi, who was always an utter ass in the mainline material, and gets treated in such a brutal way here considering that personality. He ends up not being with the other of his brothers and instead is either off screen most of the time and just referenced, with his brothers not remembering his name, or he’s on screen in his total mask and unable to get his name out before someone else screws him over. When he does get his helmet off, he’s so utterly different and adorable that it’s hard to look at him in any other way after that. Jagi’s definitely got a small role here, a bit role in the grand scheme of things, but it’s just perfect for him in so many ways.
I was never a fan of the Fist of the North Star TV anime series when it was originally out and in my early days as an anime fan, but I became a convert to the property when I read the Raijin manga that was released. While I lament that the property has largely been relegated to the dustbin in North America, this series definitely gives me a very fun taste of the characters with a comical re-imagining in a great way. It’s obviously not rich or deep because of what it’s trying to do, but it has some sharp things to poke at its characters that have decades of history and legions of fans. This release is something that I do wish had gotten a dub because the actors could have had a blast with it, but just getting the series at all and on Blu-ray is a huge win. It’s definitely a bit of a niche title overall, but it should delight the right audiences.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: April 14th, 2015
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.