DD Fist of the North Star
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Year:
2013
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13 episodes
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Review date:
24 October 2016
dd.hokuto.no.ken
Fist of the North Star was an ultra-violent iconic 1980s manga and anime, starring a peace-loving hero with the ability to make people's skulls explode. He did this and more every week to evil bastards in a post-apocalypse hellworld.
DD stands for "Design Deformation". In this case, it means characters with huge cartoon heads and hands the size of their torsos.
I think you can see where this is going.
DD Fist of the North Star is the kind of show that you'd expect to come in three-minute chunks and it feels faintly wrong for its episodes to last 24 minutes instead. (Well, twelve minutes. Each episode has two stories, split at the advertising break.) What's more, three-minute episodes was the original plan. What I watched is Season 2. There was a Flash-animated Season 1 in 2011, directed by the manga's author and indeed being short-format. This season, though, was directed by Akitaro Daichi, who's always been a man to watch and so the format expansion makes complete sense.
It's pure gag comedy, though. Non-stop pisstake. Not even a shred of seriousness. Akitaroh Daichi's done a lot of those, but it does mean that the show lacks the depth of some of his other works, e.g. Kodocha, Jubei-chan or Fruits Basket. (Don't even think of Now and Then, Here and There. Putting that together with this show would cause an anti-matter explosion and destroy us all.) There's no emotional weight. Kenshiro, Raoh and Toki have the brains of an acorn. Everyone else is pretty much the same. It has nothing to offer the audience except the chance to laugh at silliness, but fortunately the show's funny enough for that to be a sufficient reason.
It starts with the classical "199X" title card, which normally heralds the death of civilisation. Here, the narrator tells us that there have been no disasters and so the world's happy and at peace. We then get a title sequence that gleefully rips off the TV series's visuals, while a heavily rewritten version of its most famous opening song ("Ai o Torimodose") explains why martial arts aren't very useful and tells us about Kenshiro's part-time job in a convenience store. I laughed every time. It's all in the contrast with the hot-blooded passion of the original, which is the kind of song that crushes armies and fells temple walls. This version's being done on a Hammond organ.
The main characters are the three brothers, Kenshiro, Raoh and Toki. (No, the anime hasn't forgotten Jagi. However everyone else has, so it's a running gag that even his own brothers never recognise him and instead will abuse him for laughs.) They're all about four foot high, as is almost any martial artist from the original, and they're amazingly stupid. They'll believe anyone. They think they're rich if they earn a few pennies. They don't understand even the most basic societal norms and their brains are locked in "Original Non-Parody Fist Of The North Star" mode. Raoh's the funniest of the three, since he has the best-defined character. He's a villain. He laughs evilly, talks to everyone as if they're worms and at his most deranged is barely sentient. He also claims to be the king of everything, e.g. "Raoh, King of Farting in Elevators!"
The One Sane Man is Bat, who's incessantly exasperated at everyone's stupidity. Personally I'd have preferred Rin, because I love Rin. It might also have added something for the girl to be the sane one among lots of stupid violent men. However I can see how someone might feel that an irritable character might work better as a straight man, whereas Rin's always cheerful and nothing fazes her. (Well, almost nothing. Her non-reaction to Roah's boy's love scene with Ryuken in ep.12 had me on the floor.)
Ryuken is now the father of Rin and Bat and the appalling employer of Kenshiro, Raoh and Toki. He's funny. He's also voiced by Akira Kamiya, i.e. Kenshiro in the original Fist of the North Star. (He's also got plenty of comedy experience, though, e.g. Mendou Shutaro in Urusei Yatsura and Shun Mitaka in Maison Ikkoku.) It pleases me that they brought him back, although I might have died with joy had Crystal King sung this show's silly version of "Ai o Torimodose".
The art is even cheaper and dafter than you're imagining.
The plot is... hang on, no. There is no plot. It's just gags. Are they funny? Usually, yes. That's all there is to say, really. The show's too flippant and random to become a must-watch, but I laughed, often a lot. Do you want to see how badly Kenshiro can mess up being sent to buy bananas? Do you want to plumb the depths of Raoh's gullibility? (He'll believe a sob story by a telephone conman claiming to be his brother Toki, even when the real Toki's standing in front of him. Roah's defence against reality is to be too stupid to accept it.) Do you want to see Kenshiro and his brothers trying to differentiate between obvious hardened criminals and harmless little old ladies? Do you want to be reminded of The Goon Show in people's comedy attitudes to money (in any quantities at all)?
It's a laugh. That's all it is, but that's not a bad thing.
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