After a nuclear war in which most of the world resources have been destroyed, Kenshiro, the next successor of the fighting style Hokutou Shinken, is fighting against one of the new World tyrants Souther, along with his friend Shu.
Directed by: Takahiro Imamura
. Starring: Hiroshi Abe
, Takashi Ukaji
, Ko Shibasaki
, Akio Ôtsuka
, Hôchû Ôtsuka
, Ken'yû Horiuchi
, Unshô Ishizuka
, Daisuke Namikawa
, Maaya Sakamoto
, Miyu Irino
, Yuzuru Fujimoto
, Masuo Amada
, Seiko Fujiki
. Music by: Yuki Kajiura
Continuing the trend of reviving classic anime, this new Fist of the North Star installment has a modern look and feel, and even with the addition of some new characters and continuity details not present in either the television series or feature film from two decades ago, the story is rather faithful to the source comics. However, a major problem with the film is its dependence upon the viewer having a pretty thorough working knowledge of the complete comics saga -' all twenty-seven collected volumes of it -' which leaves the average moviegoer out of luck.
The story finds the three North Star brothers, Raoh, Toki, and Kenshiro, converging to take on Souther, a despot who enslaves children. Also drawn into this conflict are the blind warrior Shuu, and Reina, a general in conqueror Raoh's army who carries a torch for the big guy. The main thrust of the story centers on the inevitability of Kenshiro's throw-down with Souther, and in the course of getting to that we are treated to a few fights of the type for which this series is famous, and some grade school-level soap opera involving Reina's love for Raoh.
This series is notorious for how few female characters are present, and those that are there exist solely to be rescued, raped, or killed. Reina is presented as a fighter whose mettle is worthy of her status as one of Raoh's generals, and when she is introduced we see her hand out beatings like they were Halloween candy, but halfway through the film she rides off to find Kenshiro, and is promptly waylaid by a squadron of Souther's soldiers. We don't see what happens after that, but when next we see her, Reina is in pretty bad shape, apparently having survived a gang rape; this is merely alluded to, and there is no explanation as to why the soldiers let her go, or if she killed all of them and was in a state of both exhaustion and shock from having to deal with their sheer numbers. After that, Reina recuperates, rejoins Raoh on the battlefield, rescues a mewling infant and gets ventilated with a dozen arrows for her efforts, declares her love for Raoh, seemingly dies and is healed (a common occurrence in this series), and finally leaves to return to her homeland and await Raoh. As happened with the only other warrior woman in the series (Mamiya, who didn't make it into either of the features), Reina's warrior skills are rendered null and void when her feminine characteristics come to the fore, and once she shows a loving nature and concern for a baby, she no longer has a place in all of the manly action and becomes a boring old girl. Any way you cut it, it's confusing and disappointing.
Souther comes off as merely an arrogant, sadistic jerk with no real reason for being as evil as he is, and that's a shame because his back story in the comics is truly tragic. There is no explanation of this whatsoever in the film, and that lack of info reduces Souther to nothing more than a mustache-twirling Snidely Whiplash stock bad guy.
The nuclear war that provides the desolate setting is given a bit more background here, being shown as a steadily escalating series of military conflicts around the globe rather than the instantaneous result of a drunken madman pushing "the Button," thereby becoming one of the few elements of realism ever to make its way into this story. But the weird thing about that is that it's been previously established, in both the comics and the film itself, that the nuclear exchange happened all of a sudden, even catching an adult Toki off guard and afflicting him with radiation poisoning, yet we see a flashback of the very young North Star brothers years earlier leaving their homeland to get away from the obvious nuclear devastation.??? Well, whatever; in order for civilization to have taken the precipitous nose dive into the outright savagery seen throughout the series, there would have to have been at least a decade or two of events leading to that, so I'll overlook the self-contradictory plot points.
The real selling point here is the ultra-violence, and while there is plenty on hand, the film is curiously much more restrained than the old film and TV adaptations. The Japanese have always been generous with the blood and gore, so why not go overboard with a contemporary Fist of the North Star cartoon? The original broke much ground as to what could be gotten away with in entertainment geared toward kids, but now the series is seen as the venerable progenitor of the slew of hyper-violent comics, cartoons, and video games that followed in its wake, so the relative restraint shown in the new film makes not one lick of sense. Kenshiro's final showdown with Souther was a classic, both on paper and on television, but the version seen here lacks much of its visceral punch.
But the bottom line is that the film is a fun way to waste seventy minutes, even if it does feel like you walked in about two thirds of the way through the picture (which you kind of did), and is a marked improvement over the abysmal straight-to-DVD trilogy from a couple of years ago. That's a good sign since there are two more theatrical features and three made- for-DVD followups in the pipeline, and I can't wait to see them. Just ratchet up the martial arts violence another few notches, please.
Review by GrandpaBunche from the Internet Movie Database.