After taking a short break, we’re back with another look at Fist of the North Star! For those of you just joining us, you can catch up by reading Parts 1 and 2. When last we left off, Kenshiro had witnessed a duel between Toki and Raoh, ending with Toki’s defeat, and Raoh’s promise to continue his conquest as the mighty Ken-Oh. It doesn’t take long for him to make good on that promise.
While Raoh spent time recovering from his wound inflicted by Kenshiro during their duel in Mamiya’s village, his top subordinate Ryuga worked to stabilize his empire and reassert control over territories threatening to break away. As a reward for his service, Ryuga asks Raoh for the opportunity to fight Kenshiro himself.
But who is Ryuga, and why does he want to fight the rival of his liege? Though his allegiance is with Raoh, he is by nature a lone wolf. The world will either be united through the brutal conquest of Ken-Oh, or saved by Kenshiro, and Ryuga wants to know if Kenshiro has what it takes. He also holds a secret; he is the older brother of Yuria.
Though Ryuga challenges Kenshiro directly, Kenshiro avoids what he sees as needless confrontation, forcing Ryuga to take more drastic measues. He kidnaps a now ailing Toki, using him as bait to lure Kenshiro into the battle he seeks. However, he is no match for Kenshiro and is soundly defeated. But before he dies, Kenshiro sees Ryuga’s pendant with Yuria’s picture and learns of their sibling connection. It is also revealed that Ryuga had entered the fight intent on it being his last battle either way; he had slit and bandaged his own belly prior to Kenshiro’s arrival. Ryuga is able to die, content that the man he lost to is a worthy one, but tragically, Toki follows him into the afterlife, as his illness finally takes him.
The Final General and the Five Chariot Stars
With only Lin and Bat as his traveling companions once again, Kenshiro’s direction becomes guided by the sudden appearance of the Five Chariot Stars; men that serve as guardians of the sixth and last Nanto General. Rihaku of the Ocean, the eldest of the Chariot Stars, guards the general himself while serving as a tactician. He calls upon Hyui of the Wind, who encounters Kenshiro while using his troops to harass Ken-Oh’s army. After informing Kenshiro that he should travel to the capital of the South Star and meet the general himself, Hyui takes on Raoh directly. But he’s is no match for the might of Ken-Oh and is killed with a single blow.
The next Chariot Star called upon is Shuren of the Flame. Burning with a passionate resolve to avenge Hyui’s defeat, he too challenges Ken-Oh directly. He gambles everything on a suicide attack to burn both himself and Raoh alive, but Roah’s spiritual aura is too powerful to allow the flames to touch him, and Shuren burns to death alone.
With no other choice, Rihaku tries to summon Juza of the Clouds; their last hope to slow Raoh’s own advance toward the capital. But Juza is a capricious man who has given up on his duties, preferring to while away his days chasing beautiful women and living a life of leisure. He had been raised alongside Yuria, becoming close to the point that he desired to marry her, but was forbidden for a single reason, kept secret from him until that key moment; he is Yuria’s half-brother.
Ever since his life as he had known it was shattered and Yuria left to lead a happy life with Kenshiro, Juza had given up his soul. Raoh himself was confident that Juza posed no threat, as there could be no way that his fighting spirit could be revived in time. Rihaku becomes so desperate for Juza’s aid that he sends his daughter Toh on a mission to drug Juza and drag him back to the capital. When he awakens, Juza is bound in chains and ready to once again refuse…until he meets the last general. Learning her identity, his spirit is rekindled, and he charges out to do battle with Raoh.
In their encounter, Juza’s self-taught, original technique proves crafty enough that he manages to steal Koku-Oh, Raoh’s prized horse, and rides off, though the encounter leaves him wounded. With the horse in his hands, he knows that Raoh will be too proud to continue moving without him, which should buy time for Kenshiro to make it to the capital first.
Meanwhile, Kenshiro, Bat and Lin meet Fudo of the Mountains; a gentle giant with powerful martial arts ability that had been tasked with guiding Ken to the capital. But their trek is slowed when Ken-Oh’s men use Fudo’s sympathy against him; they kidnap orphans that he had raised by himself and threaten them with death in a quicksand pit. Fudo risks his life to save them, and Kenshiro, unwilling to simply leave Fudo behind, even for the sake of meeting the general that everyone seems so desperate for him to see, uses precious time to return to Fudo’s side.
After Fudo is rescued, he takes Kenshiro to the home where he and his large family of orphans live. Kenshiro insists on traveling the rest of the way to the capital alone, at which point Fudo feels it’s time to reveal the identity of the last general to him. And that general is…
Lost Love Found
Yes. Yuria. Kenshiro’s love, presumed dead after leaping from Shin’s palace in Southern Cross, is not only alive, but the last of the Nanto Generals. She was rescued from certain death by Rihaku, Toh, and Fudo. Shin, learning from them that Raoh is on his way to Southern Cross, and would kill Yuria if she didn’t pledge herself to him, is forced to give her up. Shin chose to take the blame for Yuria’s death in order to hide her existence, and since then, Yuria has waited in seclusion for Kenshiro to come for her.
With this new knowledge in mind, Kenshiro heads for the capital. But at the same time, Juza engages in a second duel with Raoh and loses. Raoh hits one of Juza’s pressure points to force him to reveal the final general’s identity, but Juza uses all of his strength to resist. He fights Raoh to his last breath, but Raoh, who resumes his journey with Koku-Oh, is able to decipher the general’s identity from Juza’s sheer determination not to speak her name.
As a result, Kenshiro and Raoh arrive at the South Star palace at the same time. Raoh takes the lead thanks to some of his shadow troops ambushing Kenshiro and begins tearing the place apart in search of Yuria. Meanwhile, Kenshiro, having defeated the ambush, is escorted by some of Rihaku’s men into a secret chamber where he is to meet Yuria so that they can safely escape together. But Kenshiro can’t remain idle as long as Raoh remains a threat to Yuria, and heads upstairs to confront him.
Kenshiro vs. Raoh: Round 2
There, Kenshiro and Raoh fight. Raoh expects to have an easy time of it, but is caught off guard when Kenshiro not only dodges his attacks with ease, but fights back with the techniques of fallen warriors like Rei and Toki. He realizes that, for the first time in Hokuto Shinken’s two-thousand year history, Kenshiro has become the first successor to master Musou Tensei, an ultimate technique that allows for the unconscious transmigration of souls. By embracing and harnessing sorrow and the memories of his fallen friends, he’s grown so powerful that he makes Raoh tremble in fear.
But before the fight can reach a proper conclusion, a trap is inadvertently triggered, causing the floor to collapse out from under Raoh, depositing him in the very same room where Yuria was waiting. Seeing his good fortune, Raoh quickly captures Yuria and rides off. Meanwhile, Kenshiro is blinded by the trap, but thanks to unconscious transmigration is able to make use of Shu’s abilities. He leaves in pursuit of Raoh and Yuria.
Raoh vs. Fudo
To master his fear of Kenshiro, Raoh determines that he must fight and defeat the only other man that had ever instilled fright in him; Fudo of the Mountains. In the past, Fudo was not a gentle giant, but a violent, selfish thug. In his youth, the very sight of his savagery was enough to make Raoh freeze in terror. Raoh faces his fear by traveling to Fudo’s home and forcing him to fight, as refusal would mean the death of all of the children he cared for. Raoh also sets a special condition for the fight. He draws a line in the dirt and tells his men to shoot him in the back should he take even a step behind it out of fright.
What follows is a brutal battle. With the love of the children in his heart, Fudo gives it everything he has and fights with the ferocity that he once displayed in Raoh’s youth. But what could make such a savage brute change? How did Fudo become such a kind and caring man? He was shown the error of his ways by a young Yuria, who as a child stood her ground to protect a door from his brutality. And behind that door was a dog nursing her newborn pups. Fudo had never experienced the warmth of a parent himself, yet Yuria’s kindness and determination had won him over, at which point he dedicated himself to being one of her Chariot Stars.
And it is that same kindness and determination that allows Fudo to persevere, even against Raoh’s most savage attacks. This strength makes Raoh take pause, as he recognizes the look of sorrow in Fudo’s eyes, and the eyes of all of his children, as the same sorrow in Kenshiro’s own. The looks the children give him force him to take a step back, over the line. Fudo has won.
And yet, Raoh’s men disobey their orders and fire on Fudo. Raoh flies into a rage and attacks his own men before riding off. Kenshiro arrives just in time to comfort a dying Fudo, whose heartfelt love for the children brings tears to Kenshiro’s eyes as they heal.
Back at his fortress, Raoh continues his rage and violently beats his men for disobeying him. As they lie crumpled on the floor in pain, Yuria enters and uses the power that makes her the sixth and final general. Though she has no fighting ability of her own, she has the power to heal others with a simple touch, as well as a motherly, benevolent heart. Raoh’s men rally behind her in their gratitude.
But Raoh, in the meantime, has come to the conclusion that if he is to feel sorrow, if he has any chance of mastering unconscious transmigration himself, then he must kill Yuria. He had previously believed that he had never felt love, but in recalling words of Toki’s, wonders if he was in fact wrong. What if his feelings for Yuria all this time were feelings of love?
Informed of his intentions, Yuria kneels, ready for Raoh’s killing blow. And though Raoh’s men try to protect her, there’s no going back. Raoh delivers a strike, vowing to carry the sorrow of Yuria’s death in his heart.
Kenshiro vs. Raoh: The Final Battle
After Fudo’s funeral, Koku-Oh arrives in the camp. Kenshiro knows that Raoh intends for them to meet for their final battle. Koku-Oh takes him to an ancient Hokuto Shinken training ground; one that would serve as a fitting setting for the fight to come. There, Raoh shows Kenshiro Yuria’s lifeless body, which is set aside with Bat and Lin as the fight begins.
Raoh has indeed mastered unconscious transmigration, and in doing so, manages to match Kenshiro step for step and blow for blow. The two men beat each other without regard for their own defenses. Raoh attempts to gain the upper hand by channeling his spiritual aura, normally powerful enough to repell and decimate all that come near him. But Kenshiro, through his mastery of Hokuto Shinken, is able to pass through it without harm. Seeing this, Raoh pulls the aura back. Kenshiro then brings the fight to an end with a powerful final blow.
It is then that Lin realizes that Yuria isn’t dead. Raoh reveals that he had used a technique to put her in a death-like state rather than kill her. Moments before he was to actually end her life, he learned that she had contracted a terminal illness; an illness that she had first begun to suffer from shortly after being abducted by Shin. Knowing that her time was short, she then chose to live no matter what with her heart steadfast for Kenshiro, and would wait however long it took for them to be reunited. When Raoh abducted her, she only had months to live.
Raoh, struck by this tragedy, used a technique to slow the pace of her illness, and imbued Yuria with some of his own spiritual aura to extend her life by a matter of years. And with the truth out in the open, he urges Kenshiro to live happily and in peace with Yuria in the time she has remaining. Knowing that he has lost, he gives up his own life, regretting not a single act he’s committed.
Later, Kenshiro buries Raoh next to Toki, and then leaves to live in quiet seclusion with Yuria. Bat starts to follow, but Lin, who idolizes Ken more than anyone, pulls him back; they had promised that they wouldn’t run after him. But even as Kenshiro rides off into the sunset on Koku-Oh, she knows that they’ll see him again someday.
And thus ends Fist of the North Star. After 109 episodes, Kenshiro’s journey to be reunited with Yuria is at an end. It’s certainly not a flawless journey, as the series definitely has its weaker episodes. It also features a greater than average number of clip shows to retell events of episodes past. Then again, this is a series that was produced in an age where DVDs and streaming weren’t a reality, and what one could consume in a matter of days today could only be watched week by week when it first aired.
A lot happens over the course of the show; too much to easily recount, even in a series of columns such as this. For as much emphasis as there is on the fighting, there’s also plenty of fine character work. Every member of the cast is fairly simple on their own, painted with broad, powerful strokes of emotion, whether it be Lin’s devotion to Kenshiro and her mysterious empathic link with him, the ways in which Kenshiro’s adversaries often represent specific thoughts and ideals, or Kenshiro’s own willingness to eliminate anything that would harm an innocent from the face of the earth. It is martial arts melodrama at its most potent.
What makes the characters work is the way in which they all mesh. From the earliest confrontation with Zeed to the final battle with Raoh, everyone that Kenshiro meets is colorful and memorable. And while not every character is particularly noteworthy or well-done, these larger than life personalities are a perfect fit for the post-apocalyptic world of violent martial arts and powerful emotion.
But wait! We’re not done yet. While Kenshiro’s journey has concluded, a new one is about to begin. Join us again in two weeks as we take a look at Fist of the North Star 2.
Fist of the North Star was released on DVD in North America by Eastern Star, a Discotek Media label. Episodes 73-109 were were released with Japanese audio and optional subtitles. The series is not rated, but contains graphic violence and brief nudity.