I was going to do a tear apart of AniFem’s review of this new release in what I’ll effectively call the ‘Fist of‘ franchise, even if it only consists of Fist of the North Star and Fist of the Blue Sky, essentially. However considering the overall feeling and legacy this cult classic property holds, I think I’ll do something that I bet AniFem refuses to do – Give this series a two episode cover. That, and it doesn’t help that it seems the coward Amelia Cook is blocking archivists now because she is sick of us killing her traffic. Might help if she would just stop lying, but expecting a feminist not to lie is like expecting shit to not smell bad.
Then again its safe to say that their review is “Oooh I don’t like how this looks, Why so masculine? WHY SO BURLY!?!?! I feel icky about how moist this is.” They don’t even bother to pay attention to the story as a whole.
It helps to also note that this is a CG-based anime. While not as bad as another ultraviolent fan-favorite Berserk its artistic quality isn’t up to the recent Land of the Lustrous, which will likely set the bar for CG anime from this point forward. That being said, I rarely base my reviews of such shows on the animation quality. If that alone determined the quality of a work, then several classics and important works would fall to the wayside. In cases like these, the story more often than not supersedes the animation quality, which going by what I’ve seen thus far would seem to be on an uptake with the team involved. So knowing where we are going, Let’s Hammer This In!
Its the 1930’s, Shanghai. Two gangs have recently ended their brutal feud with the backing of Kasumi Kenshiro, 62nd Grandmaster of Hokuto Shin Ken and possibly the grandfather of the 64th Grandmaster known only as Kenshiro From the Fist of the North Star series. The end of this gang war is celebrated with the Green Gang, whose original leadership saw him as a brother, and whose inheritor sees him as a love interest, as well as Charles de Guise – a French intelligence officer who he had learned Hokuto Sonka Ken, an offshoot of Hokuto Shin Ken. It’s then that the focus of this story comes into view from the deserts of China. Liu Feiyan, a master of the loosely related Kyokujuji Sei Ken (Southern Cross Star Fist) and his charge Erika approach Shanghai to escape the Nazi Reich, who desires the young Jewish girl.
Its found out in the second episode that she has a photographic memory and is essentially a living ledger known as the “List of Hope,” a record of the location of various antiquities and routes meant to relocate thousands of Jewish refugees out of the country before the Holocaust comes about. This list has been entrusted to Liu by her mother with her dying breaths for protection. This, we will cover more when I get to the second episode because this information is not given in the first. After Liu saves Erika from German Intelligence agents looking to abduct her, we are greeted by Guise going and preparing to meet the child, as he is met by a mysterious stranger that kills our would be defender on the spot with a mysterious martial art, all while claiming his ‘god’ would not allow a single practitioner of Hokuto Shin Ken to survive.
After our first episode ends with both our traveling duo and our lead coming upon the horrifically mangled body of the late officer, a misunderstanding occurs as both parties wonder if the other had anything to do with this brutal execution. It is at this point that soldiers happen upon the situation. The three escape, only to have Erika pass out along the way there after seeing the brutal sight. It’s here that our martial artisans have a very short bout. Kenshiro, being the chain-smoking genius he is can tell immediately after just two or three attacks that not only is Feiyan not his friend’s murderer, but also how to counter his martial art, which specializes in performing hits that are as sharp as swords, performing feats of dismemberment that are rather brutal.
This fight is quickly ended when Pan Yuling, Kenshiro’s fiance, jumps in-them between with a revolver out, stating that neither man had killed Guise and that they need to keep their heads down because the Germans are coming. Parking the boat they were fighting, they work out the misunderstandings in the midst of escape, as well as the discussion of exactly who Erika is. Still, the moment there is a distraction made by a gunfight that occurs between German and French soldiers by bumbling officers within their own ranks (complete with some amusing prodding at stereotypes of the time, the French being depicted as rats and Germans as pigs) Liu Feiyan spirits Erika away to safety and our bold couple fucks off as well.
The next day, all involved with the now deceased Colonel de Guise are at his funeral, which, entertainingly enough is held in a Catholic church. I say such due to the fact that part of the entire motivation for Guise to defend Erika like he intended to, and his concern over the Jews escaping Germany, was due to him being a French Jew himself. Of course, considering that all involved in this work at this time had very little exposure to the precise differences between the Jewish and Christian faiths, this would be how they would treat it. At least there is some historical accuracy if only in how the two religions were treated in the East, viewing them as two sects of the same faith, with the symbolism of both meshed. I shouldn’t have to go into why it wouldn’t, nor suggest that the author of this version didn’t do their research. They probably did, at least until the point where they’d learn how the two foreign faiths were treated in relation to allies dying in China’s neutral areas.
At this point a Japanese connection other than Kenshiro comes up in the form of Takeshi Kitaoji, head of the Kitaoji Zaibatsu, which has their legitimate front and their darker side in connection with the Green Gang Triad group. They were working together with Guise to develop part of Shanghai into a refuge for Jews escaping out of Europe, as no one in the East would have any reason to despise the Jewish race at this time. Though some have come up in recent years. Not even the Japanese government, who would ally themselves with Germany, would have any reason to send Jews back to Germany from China at this point so making Shanghai a safe haven is pretty sound and logical from a strategic standpoint, especially considering at this time that China through alliance with the Russians were against the Germans as well.
It is through Kitaoji that we hear about Guise’s last moments of life, about the mysterious assailant who brutally killed the Colonel, who likely got a two rank promotion formally to a Division (three star) General as he died in the line of duty, though the anime will likely not cover this possibility. As its also likely that Guise’s Eastern friends wouldn’t know of Western war customs for death in battle either. In this flash back we also see Guise raise his hand to the sky and belt out Kenshiro’s name reaching to the Big Dipper. For those with any knowledge of the series’ history you will recognize why this is a big nod appropriate for a 35th anniversary telling of a Hokuto no Ken related story, as Hokuto is what the Northern Star at the end of the Big Dipper is called, alongside the Big Dipper. Both the Constellation and the prime star of it are called Hokuto in Japanese.
This, of course, all happened before Kenshiro and Feiyan arrived as Kitaoji tried to follow the murderer to ensure he didn’t get away, but was injured himself from the conflict. As such, the man got away. Kitaoji then notified both the French Army and Yuling so that aid could be obtained with transporting the body of the deceased and Kenshiro would be notified as he got treatment for his head wounds. After beginning contemplation of who the assassin could be, it goes off to showing us where Feiyan and Erika escaped to, and Feiyan remembering his initial meeting with Erika and taking upon himself the job of protecting her.
Rushing into a presumably German manor on the edge of the countryside, it’s shown that most of the inhabitants have been brutally killed by gunfire, leaving only Erika and her mother as survivors, though the mother won’t be one for long as she was shot through the gut and is bleeding out. Upon asking if the “List of Hope” was taken, it is revealed that they had a fake – a physical prop meant to disguise the fact that Erika was the List through her photographic memory. It is at this point that anyone could tell that she was holding back her tears watching the life leave her mother’s body, a daunting scene for anyone, much less a young child watching a parent die protecting them.
When asked by the warrior why she doesn’t cry, that it would be understandable if she had done so, Erika states that she won’t cry, this being because she had promised her mother that she would not cry no matter what. She would keep on her face the smile her mother adored. She takes her index and middle fingers in shape of a V and pushing the edges of her lips up to fake a smile in the deepest sadness. Understanding this, he suggests that she lay her head upon her now dead mother’s lap while she is still warm so she could forever remember the warmth of her mother’s love. At this, tears suddenly burst from the eyes of the would-be a stone cold killer. He is shocked that he, as a self-described ‘demon,’ could cry at the sight of a girl mourning her mother’s passing at her side.
This, while showing full well the compassion of men and truth of the masculine heart, made him feel as if he was unworthy of protecting her, that he was weak not because of what seems to be, to my limited medical knowledge, a nasty case of tuberculosis, but because he was so completely brought to tears. Just within two episodes they not only showed that even the strongest men have the boldest hearts, but also that they are as disposable as tissue paper, at least in the eyes of society – while women are to be protected no matter what and have the strength to endure all hardship. We know in reality that there are differences between this depiction of women, though to be fair I would find it more believable to find a strong and noble woman in 1930’s Shanghai than in a majority of the contemporary West, even if I have found a few.
I would give a third episode review at this time, but for now, I’m wrapping this article up. The episode likely won’t have dropped until after review, so I may add that third episode cover into the comments so that a full three episode opinion is given to show whether this show is overall worth watching or not. However, the emotions and politics of the time seem to be accurate despite the obvious liberties with the facts for the sake of the inclusion of insane martial arts skills.
I’m currently of the opinion that this is worth following, even separate from its franchise history. As I said before its animation is not nearly as bad as Berserk 2016’s was and is also currently showing a rate of improvement as time goes on. By what I’m seeing it will likely reach the level of some of the early JoJo CGs by the end, if not surpassing that point. It not only covers the subject of dealing in World War II fiction well, but shows an argument that the issues men have been having in society are far from a new thing, which we know predates even this conflict within history. As such I do wish to ask a question here at the end of my review to all of you. You don’t have to answer this one in the comments just think about it: Have you ever noticed that it’s only determined a ‘genocide’ when women are included in a killing of large swaths of people? With that Please Remember to Game Freely!
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