ADV Films // 2004 // 50 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // October 14th, 2004
He's mad as hell...and heads are going to blow!
Kenshiro, grandmaster of the Fist of the North Star, returns in this latest installment of the popular anime series. Roaming the barren landscape of a world devastated by a nuclear holocaust, Kenshiro employs the techniques of the Hokuto Shinken discipline of martial arts in his quest to restore justice.
The story opens with a band of citizens from the Village of Freedom discovering an underground spring. Fresh water is the most valuable commodity in this post-apocalyptic world, and the villagers believe this will end their dependence on Sanga, the warlord who rules the city of Last Land; Sanga controls the distribution of water in this region, and the price of subverting his authority is death. Sanga's henchmen arrive and begin slaughtering the villagers; Kenshiro intervenes, but he only manages to save the life of Tobi, the man who led the villagers to the spring. Kenshiro returns Tobi to the Village of Freedom; Sara, the village's healer, nurses Tobi back to health. Sanga, learning of Kenshiro's interference, orders his men to raze the Village of Freedom. Revenge is not his only motive, however; he knows of Sara and her abilities, and orders his men to bring her back alive. Kenshiro and Tobi return too late to save the villagers, but they realize Sara has been kidnapped and set out for Last Land in an attempt to rescue her. Sanga, meanwhile, convinces his subjects Sara is a goddess, her healing abilities proof of her divine nature.
I'm not really interested in watching guys with necks the size of Christmas hams beat the crap out of each other, but if you are, this series should be right up your alley, as Kenshiro and his opponents do a pretty good job of laying the smack down. That being said, you might find it a little hard to sit through the thin (read: anorexic) story surrounding the fights scenes, as it is both derivative and laughable. The main influence on New Fist of the North Star is The Road Warrior; we have a loner wandering through a wasteland, coming across a small band of freedom fighters who possess their world's most vital resource, and then aiding them in their struggle against a ruthless warlord. The villains in this series strongly resemble the followers of that film's Lord Humongous, right down to the crossbows strapped to their wrists; I'm either getting old or I've seen too many movies, but it seems today's filmmakers aren't aware of anything released before 1980. There are also ludicrous lapses of logic. Kenshiro is able to make his opponents' heads explode (imagine him as a cross between The Rock and Michael Ironside's character in Scanners), but there are times when he still insists on engaging in ordinary fisticuffs. Sanga's stronghold, Last Land, is a sprawling fortress carved into the face of a mountain; you would think a place like this would be almost impenetrable, but Tobi and Kenshiro apparently just walk in. One minute they're in Tobi's jeep speeding through the desert, then next thing you know Kenshiro has infiltrated the city's barber shop (don't ask). How'd they get in? I guess they just rang the doorbell. Lastly, there are two problems with the animation itself. It often resembles the cheap, rushed work of Saturday morning cartoons; at times it looks less polished than an episode of Captain Caveman. There are also points in this series when computer-generated shots are used to augment the traditional, hand drawn animation. This works at times (mainly the vehicles), but at other points it is incredibly jarring (as in the first reveal of Last Land); not enough effort was made to combine the two styles. I imagine I wouldn't have given much thought to these flaws if I had been entertained, but I wasn't so I did.
ADV has performed another fine job on the technical end. The transfer, with the exception of very limited edge enhancement and some artifacts in a couple of shots (an anamorphic transfer probably would have helped), is beautiful. Colors are bold (the blood and brains from those exploding heads look quite nice) and nicely saturated, with deep blacks and virtually no bleeding. The 5.1 mixes, available in an English dub and the original Japanese, are impressive. The soundstage is spacious, especially in the fight scenes, but the music and atmosphere also benefit. Desert winds blow through the surrounds, and there were times I felt I was in the middle of a crowd of Sanga's shouting minions. Extras include interviews with members of the English language cast, character bios, ADV previews, and a press conference announcing the launch of the series in which the authors of the original source novel make an appearance.
If I were a fan of the Fist... series, I imagine I would be pleased with this release. If you are, I think for you this disc will be money well spent. Others beware.
The charges against ADV Films are, as usual, dropped. The Creators of New Fist of the North Star, however, are sentenced to a Hulk Hogan film festival. The screening of Three Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain will begin shortly.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
Running Time: 50 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Voice Actor Interviews
* Press Conference
* Character Bios
* ADV Previews