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Monday, June 16, 2008


The latest of the rebooted FIST OF THE NORTH STAR series has hit, and I have to ask just what the fuck do the makers of this series think they're doing. As Elvis Presley once said, "A little less conversation, a little more action," words the filmmakers would have been wise to heed, as this short feature could use a heavy dose of the martial arts violence that made this series a classic over twenty years ago. Much like the majority of the Japanese franchise reboots, this current FIST OF THE NORTH STAR installment is a wimpy and somewhat turgid shadow of its former self, sort of like a once-badassed junkyard dog that has grown fat and lethargic after having its balls cut off and dumped into the veterinarian's trash bin.

This chapter in the continuing retelling of the Hokuto Shinken brothers and their struggle for succession in their fighting art deals with the final confrontation between ambitious, malevolent Raoh and the gentle, pacifistic kung fu Jesus that is Toki, a classic segment in both the original manga and the 1980's television anime series that was rich with characterization, poignant back story, and an unavoidable, tragic showdown between polar opposites who love and respect one another, but only one can survive. It was great stuff back in the days, but this new series reads like a haphazardly abridged version of the famed warrior epic, skipping huge chunks of characterization and plot, even eliminating some of the most action-packed parts of the whole series; Kenshiro's storming of Cassandra Fortress to rescue the imprisoned Toki was the stuff of superhero legend when originally seen, a segment that occupied nearly a whole volume when collected in a paperback volume, and here it's given barely three minutes of screen time and manages to completely eliminate the presence of Mamiya, Raiga, Fuga, and, most egregiously, Rei (if you follow this stuff, you know this is like excluding all of the characters in the original STAR WARS except for Luke, in other words it just doesn't work). Even Toki's cosmic decimation of his would-be assassins comes off as lukewarm (though it is nicely rendered).

Toki: dying of radiation sickness, but still takin' no shit.

And, in an effort to make up for the original run's famous lack of female characters, there's a new character, Sarah, a doctor who accompanies Toki as he wanders the post-apocalyptic wasteland healing the sick. Sarah quite literally adds nothing to the story since she's barely introduced before she fucks off into the wastes with kung fu Jesus and we know nothing about her other than that he's a physician who was hanging around the Hokuto Shinken temple for no particular reason.

When we do get to the Toki/Raoh set-to, it's rather uninteresting since the digest version of the story completely robs the sequence of its tragedy, giving us nothing more than two Hulked-out dudes droning on and on about destiny while they blurrily hack and slash at each other.

And if you're a Kenshiro fan, there's no reason for you to see this film because Ken's one sequence of fighting has been reduced to virtually nothing, and he can't get involved in Toki and Raoh's business because it's for them to hash out on their own.

So while well-crafted, SHIN KYUSEISHU DENSETSU HOKUTO NO KEN: TOKI-DEN is rather lackluster on its own merits, and will be a major disappointment for old school NORTH STAR diehards while simultaneously causing newbies to wonder just what the hell the big deal was when this series was in its heyday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm noticing that most of these new HNK films are attempting to achieve a lowest-common-denominator mainstream appeal which waters down the action and slaps together scraps of character history as though it's some kind of chore. The remaining factory-processed sentimentalism undermines the whole point of the series.
Still though, I hope these films serve their purpose, and that is reviving the popularity of one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, anime series of all time.