MANGA REVIEW | "Fist of the North Star" - Vols. 6 & 7
There’s a reason why many consider Fist of the North Star the greatest shonen manga ever written. While brutal violence has been around in manga since Go Nagai gave us Devilman and Violence Jack, Kenshiro’s story goes one step beyond by making it seem beautiful. Yes, gore and beauty shouldn’t go hand-in-hand, but for some reason it manages to work here. In VIZ Media’s sixth and seventh volumes, Fist of the North Star demonstrates that beauty in spades!
Kenshiro and Raoh are set to fight, with the odds of our hero winning and surviving being less than one percent. As Raoh has become a fighter who slays everyone and anyone, it makes him the most dangerous kind of enemy. Since Kenshiro would never lay a fatal hand on a child, that makes him (unfortunately) more likely to hold back in battle. It’s when Toki comes in to fight in his stead when Kenshiro sees how much he’ll need to become stronger to face him.
The fight between Toki and Raoh is akin to tidal waves battling calm oceans. Raoh slams and cuts through Toki like he was butter, but Toki’s peaceful aura makes him the more formidable opponent. Although the villain has the upper hand, his skills are still as rough as a violent sea. Once Kenshiro sees that, he breaks on through and begins to fight. What happens next may surprise readers, but it gives them the opportunity to look forward to another fight with them when they become much stronger.
After dealing with a village leader who puts dogs over human lives (albeit not in a good way), Mamiya reveals a scar left by a man named Yuda. His tactics are fierce, frightful, and beautiful…even though he looks like Dee Snider circa 1984. It’s here where beauty and brutality equally weigh each other out, as Yuda recaptures Mamiya and swears to bathe in her blood. That’s when Rei steps in, who goes through a grotesque technique that extends his life, but puts him through an enormous amount of pain.
That moment is where Tetsuo Hara’s art shines the most. Blood, bones, muscle, and even fingernails explode in a very disgusting fashion, but the emotion on Rei’s face is where the most pain is on display. We’ve seen many a person explode into meat sacks in Fist of the North Star, but this is a whole different level of intensity on display. However, what happens after this makes the pain Rei go through worth it, as he looks stronger and more determined to win.
The fight between Rei and Yuda continues in the seventh volume, as Yuda literally opens the floodgates and puts everyone in danger. Thankfully, this manga isn’t one to let evil snuff out the light of the world. As even Yuda has to admit, the violence that Rei displays is a sort of beauty that not even a John Wick film could capture. Not only does it show the carnage in all of its glory, but does so in a way that feels like it should be written as a haiku:
A hawk soars above
But Rei cuts through its body
Death begets beauty
Alas, even when victory is reached, the celebration is short-lived. Rei senses that his life is about to end, and sets off to die with dignity. It’s a moment that demonstrates the strength of Rei’s heart, as he doesn’t want his loved ones to see him suffer. As he takes his last breath behind closed doors, even Kenshiro admits that Rei is a far better man than he would ever be. Unfortunately, there’s no time to mourn or rest, as the next Fist of the North Star villain is right around the corner.
Enter Holy Emperor Souther, whose wickedness holds nothing back. He enslaves children, poisons them, and will go any length to get his pyramid built. An old ally of Kenshiro is there to aid in the next battle, with the blind fighter Shu testing the warrior’s skills. But reminiscing will have to wait, as they set off to find a way to topple Souther’s god-like power.
Although Fist of the North Star has always been a brutal manga, it’s in this arc where it’d be fully understandable to wince. Seeing children forced to build a massive pyramid and be tortured if they don’t follow orders might make some readers uncomfortable. But that’s the power of Buronson’s writing and Hara’s visuals: they want you to feel this way to fully understand just how evil man is capable of being. Thankfully, there’s always a hero to be found when foul men are in power, and in this case, there are two!
It often feels like every old friend of Kenshiro will appear right when he needs to be reminded of something. Shu is no different, who sacrificed his sight solely to say Kenshiro when he was younger. Thinking of others is certainly a Kenshiro move, but the way Shu does it is very saint-like. However, that doesn’t mean that he’s free from endangering others; Souther always finds a way to plant his wickedness solely with mere words and so-called “promises”.
Watching as Shu sacrifices himself in a brutal way can be considered Christ-like. Having someone try to aid him as he carries the last piece of the pyramid feels much aligned with what happens in the New Testament. As the children watch Shu walk up the steps with cut tendons a-plenty, the moment delivers a harsh sight of a man willing to do anything to keep those he loves safe. Although Shu’s time in the manga is short, his actions no doubt may affect the narrative of Fist of the North Star going forward.
As for Kenshiro, his injuries during a fight with Souther keep him out of the picture. However, a couple of men from journey’s past arrive to lend a surprising hand, one that’s covered with the blood of their enemies. It all leads to another face-off between Kenshiro and Souther, with the stakes at their highest yet. The outcome isn’t revealed, but one can easily feel that someone’s about to die in a glorious fashion!
Fist of the North Star has yet to slow down with the violence, and Volumes Six and Seven show that it never will be. The fights are showcased with Hara’s knack for brutality beyond anyone’s imagination, with it tied up nicely with Buronson’s storytelling techniques. Even when the story reaches uncomfortable levels, it’s practically impossible to look away from it all! Whatever happens next in Fist of the North Star will surely be a sight for the eyes, even if the beauty vanishes and carnage only remains.
VOL. 6 RATING:
VOL. 7 RATING:
Promotional consideration provided by Chantelle Sturt of VIZ Media. Volume Seven in stores December 27th!