Fist of the North Star Volume 1 Review

When it comes to shonen manga from the 1980s, the two that will come to mind for many are JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Fist of the North Star. For a while now VIZ Media have been giving JoJo new hardback releases and now they’re doing the same for Fist of the North Star, which I’m here to take a look at today. 

The story of Fist of the North Star is set in a world devastated by nuclear war. What’s left of humanity fights over simple things like food and shelter, with the strong taking advantage of the poor at every turn. Our protagonist is Ken, a man left for dead by his best friend and a wielder of the Hokuto Shinken martial art of assassination. 

Ken travels around the world, often helping those he finds who are in trouble. Although he doesn’t go looking for trouble it usually finds its way to him, leaving him with no choice but to fight for the greater good (despite being an assassin). One day he’s captured and meets a young man called Bat, who later joins him on his journey after Ken saves his life. 

This release of Fist of the North Star includes roughly a volume and a half of the original Japanese releases (13 chapters in all). This series is very ‘monster of the week’ in its structure, with Ken and Bat travelling to different settlements and being embroiled in whatever bad thing is happening and then defeating the evil. 

For a Weekly Shonen Jump series, this structure isn’t anything new and admittedly even JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure follows it too, but I think a big problem here is that we don’t really spend enough time getting to know Ken before falling into this. All we know is that he’s an assassin who was betrayed by his friend and although the later chapters do try to deal with this storyline, it’s not really in a satisfactory manner. The chapters that do deal with Ken’s backstory are still monster of the week, but they’re at least more interesting to read than what comes before them. 

Having said that, if you’re in the market for a series like this with epic (and often ridiculous) fight scenes and humour, then Fist of the North Star will scratch that itch for sure. This release from VIZ is on the pricey side at £16 a volume, but it’s certainly nice for existing fans. It’s a hardback book with a few colour pages, but instead of using a white glossy paper throughout (like the new Fullmetal Alchemist editions do), they use a more cream matt finish. It gives the release a slightly aged feeling, but I think that fits, given the era this manga is originally from. 

This manga story is written by Buronson with artwork by Tetsuo Hara. Both are experienced in creating manga, even back when this was first being released and that does come through in the finished product. My complaints about the structure of the story aside, it’s hard to deny that the world is well thought out and the characters’ motives are suitable compelling for what they are. In terms of the artwork, Hara doesn’t always draw in a lot of backgrounds, instead opting for a focus on the fights and character profiles. This works out fine since the battles are certainly what readers are coming for, although be warned that they can be quite graphic in terms of gore. 

As previously mentione,d Fist of the North Star Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to VIZ Media and has been translated by Joe Yamazaki. I’m not sure if this is a new translation compared to the previous English editions, but either way, it reads well with no issues to note. Volume 2 is due out in September. 

Overall, existing fans of Fist of the North Star will have a blast with these new releases. However, newcomers may find themselves put off by the structure of the story and the high price point is likely to further put them off. 

7 / 10


When she's not watching anime, reading manga or reviewing, Demelza can generally be found exploring some kind of fantasy world and chasing her dreams of being a hero.

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