Legends of the Dark King: A Fist of the North Star Story (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)
August 19, 2010 by Dennis Amith
Violent, bloody and action-packed. You expect nothing less from a “Hokuto no Ken” related anime series. And with “Legends of the Dark King: A Fist of the North Star Story”, this is a Raoh-driven anime series that doesn’t skimp on the violence. The Blu-ray version features an English dub lossless soundtrack and definitely a must buy if you are a “Hokuto no Ken” (Fist of the North Star) fan!
Image courtesy of © Youkow Osada, Tetsuo Hara, Buronson 2006. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Legends of the Dark King: A Fist of the North Star Story (aka Hokuto no Ken Raoh Gaiden: Ten no Haoh)
DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (325 Minutes)
BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English DTS-HD MA 5.1, Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: Showgate, Sentai Filmworks
RATED: TV 14VLD
Release Date: August 25, 2010
Based on a manga by Youkow Osada
Based on the characters of “Hokuto no Ken” by Buronson and Tetsuo Hara
Director: Masashi Abe
Screenplay by Hiroshi Ohnogi
Music by Kazuhiro Ishikawa, Shinya Naito
Character Design by Hirotaka Marufuji
Art Director by Seo Gu Lee
Sound Director by Jin Aketagawa
Director of Photography: Shoichi Komuro
Chief Product Supervisor: Nobuhiko Horie
Design Work: Yasuhiro Moriki
Animation Production by Satelight
Featuring the following voice talent:
Takashi Ukaji/Andrew Love as Raoh
Akiko Kimura/Shelley Calene-Black as Sakuya
Daisuke Matsubara/John Swasey as Ryuga
Hiroki Touchi/David Wald as Toki
Mai Nakahara/Emily Neves as Reina
Masaya Matsukaze/David Matranga as Soga
Atsushi Ono/Marty Fleck as Narrator
Ayumi Beppu/Maggie Flecknoe as Isabella
Ayumi Fujimura as Shimoto
Hideyuki Umezu/Chris Hutchinson as Gao
Masayuki Katou as Gaiya
A nuclear holocaust has robbed the world of its order, and now warring factions fight for every square inch of desert, spilling buckets of blood to gain control. But legends tell of one great warrior who will become King, using his powerful fists and an awesome rage to rise to his rightful place. That warrior is Raoh, a giant hulking fighter with the ability to vanquish his enemies in the bloodiest way possible. But other warriors will not relinquish their kingdoms so easily – because in this world, no one gives up without a fight!
In 1983, the manga “Hokuto no Ken” (Fist of the North Star) was unleashed in Japan. Illustrated by Tetsuo Hara and written by Buronson, the manga went on from 1983-1988 and has spawned anime TV series, two films, OAV’s, novels, video games and more.
Needless to say, in Japan, this series has been a staple of storylines that has touched Japanese pop culture showcasing good vs. evil as the series focused on a post-apocalyptic era in which the world now unstable with fear across the land. Where power is justice and power ruled. Those without power are left in fear. Those who have power command great armies or a ragtag group of the men who have succumbed to evil.
“Hokuto no Ken” featured four adoptive brothers who were taught the “Hokuto Shinken” (aka “God Fist of the North Star”). The four are eldest brother Raoh, Toki, Jagi and Kenshiro. With the main storyline focusing on the eldest, Raoh and the youngest Kenshiro. In the “Hokuto no Ken” (Fist of the North Star) series, Kenshiro has been chosen as the successor to Hokuto Shinken, a martial art that is 18-centuries old and involves using the body’s 708 vital pressure points to either destroy or heal a person from within. Kenshiro is a man who is in love with Julia and instead of having a happy life, his evil brother Jagi uses his influence over Shin, who controls the rival to “Hokuto Shinken” known as Nanto Seiken (aka Sacred Fist of the South Star). If Hokuto Shinken is the Yin, Nanto Seiken is the Yang. Two can’t exist without each other.
Earlier on, Shin has defeated Kenshiro but given a chance to live when Julia gives herself to Shin in order to rescue Kenshiro. Because of this pain, Kenshiro has learned from sorrow and vowed to get better, fight alongside the people and defeat evil. Meanwhile, his brother Raoh is the opposite. Jealous that his younger brother was chosen as successor, his goal is to conquer lands using his power and rule the world with fear, having not experienced sorrow.
Raoh can be seen like a Japan equivalent to Darth Vader, Cobra Commander or Megatron. Villains with power and despite being evil, their fan following is tremendous. In fact, he’s so popular that back in 2007, a mock funeral was held for the character in order to promote the theatrical release of “Raoh Den Gekito no Sho” (a retelling of the final battle between Kenshiro vs. Raoh). And thousands of people attended the mock funeral, and many genuinely mourned Raoh as a man who touched their lives (despite not being a real person).
With the popularity of Raoh, a 13-episode series based on the 2006-2007 manga by Youkow Osada (“Gear Rally”, “Toto”, “TRIBAL12”) was created to show how Raoh alongside Souga and Reina, and later a few other key members of his army known as “Kingdom of the Fist” were able to take on other evil/powerful sects around the country and completely drive fear around the world. The anime series was released on DVD in September 2009 from Sentai Filmworks and now a Blu-ray version of the series will be released and will include a English dub DTS-HD MA lossless soundtrack (as well as a DVD release now featuring an English dub).
The series featured anime production by Satelight (“Geneshaft”, “Heat Guy J”, “Macross Zero”, “Genesis of Aquarion”, “Hellsing Ultimate”, etc.) and was directed by Masashi Abe (“Blue Gender”, “Solty Rei”, “Tokko”, “”Inuyasha”, etc.), a screenplay by Hiroshi Ohnogi (“Aquarion”, “Arjuna”, “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”, “Macross Zero”, etc.) and character designs by Hirotaka Marufuji (“Death Note”, “Pokemon: Arceus and the Jewel of Life”).
The series would primarily focus on Raoh and give us a perspective of his side of the story and despite being a villain, he is the protagonist of the series and we see how he eventually becomes a demon.
The main characters of “Legends of the Dark King: A Fist of the North Star Story” are:
- Raoh – The eldest of the adoptive brothers who were trained by Ryuken, the previous Hokuto Shinken master. Wants to be the greatest martial artist in the world but is jealous that his younger adoptive brother Kenshiro was chosen as successor to the Hokuto Shinken. Also, the woman he loved, Julia, has chosen Kenshiro. Refusing to give up the Hokuto Shinken style, he has taken the name Ken-Oh (King of Fist) and together with childhood friends Souga and Reina, the three take part in developing one of the most feared armies in the land. Bringing fear to everyone around them.
- Souga – Raoh’s strategist. Known as Souga the Swift Footed for his incredible speed and Songshan Whirlwind Kick, he assists Raoh in developing the King of Fist army.
- Reina – Sister of Souga and the female captain of the Royal Guards. She is known as Reina of the Twin Blades and is fantastic with her swordsmanship. Although, Raoh and Souga accept their demonic side in conquering the world, she has a compassion because deep inside, she cares for Raoh and loves him.
- Sakuya – The mysterious woman who becomes the tactician for the King of Fist Army. Deadly, mysterious and becomes a rival to Reina for the attention of Raoh.
- Ryuga – Master of the Taishan Heavenly Wolf Fist and the right hand man of Raoh. Fast, furious and incredibly deadly, earlier on, he is a rival to Souga.
- Ulghur – A convicted killer who the prison warden at Cassandra have tried to execute five times but he has survived each execution. Seeing his potential, Raoh makes Ulghur the warden of Cassandra and using the city as a prison.
- Toki – One of the four adoptive brothers that learned the Hokuto Shinken but unlike Raoh, chooses not to fight and uses his martial art technique to heal people. Because he is knows the destructive power of Hokuto Shinken, Raoh wants Toki to join him at his side of the King of Fist army but Toki will never do such thing. His goal is if he ever runs into his adoptive brother Kenshiro, he will work with him. Because of that, Raoh has Toki imprisoned in Cassandra.
“Legends of the Dark King” features 13 episodes on 2 Blu-ray Discs. Here are the following episodes with spoiler-less summaries:
- EPISODE 1 – My Fists are for the Heavens! – How Raoh, Reina and Souga began their quest to form an army.
- EPISODE 2 – Kings Understand Kings! – How Raoh came to earn the respect of a powerful black stallion named Black King.
- EPISODE 3 – No Castle Can Stand Against Me! – A mysterious woman named Sakuya comes to offer her service to Raoh and help take down a castle.
- EPISODE 4 – These Fists Are For Other People! – Raoh encounters a convicted felon named Uighur who has survived five executions. Raoh encounters the huge behemoth.
- EPISODE 5 – Rival Siblings!– Raoh learns of how his brother Toki is using his power to help people. Because Raoh believes he should be the one helping the people of the country through fear, he comes to Toki with an ultimatum.
- EPISODE 6 – The Demon Awakens! – Raoh takes on Ryurou, a master of the Southern Star Flowing Seagull Fist.
- EPISODE 7 – The Blue Wolf Tears Across the Earth! – Ryuga inspired by Raoh, offers to help Raoh and becomes his right hand man.
- EPISODE 8 – Wailing Resounds Through the Darkness – Souga and Ryuga resolve their differences by fighting each other.
- EPISODE 9 – A Woman’s Battle – Reina defies Raoh’s orders and scouts a new country in the South.
- EPISODE 10 – Fists Smashed in Hot Sand! – Souga and his group investigate a country that is said to reappear and disappear in the desert.
- EPISODE 11 -The Holy Emperor Cometh! – Sakuya finds out the identity of the Holy Emperor but by meeting him without informing Raoh, is now branded a traitor and is imprisoned. Raoh goes to the Holy Emperor’s land to confront him.
- EPISODE 12 – The King of Fist’s Office is Falling! – A trap was set by Juda, while Raoh and his men met with the Holy Emperor, the Holy Emperor has his troops attacking the King of Fists castle.
- EPISODE 13 – I Walk the Path of the Heavens – The final episode – Raoh who knows the Hokuto Shinken vs. the Holy Emperor Thouzer, the successor of the Nanto Houken fight to the death.
“Legends of the Dark King: A Fist of the North Star Story” is presented in 1080p 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen. Hirotaka Marufuji wanted to make sure that the artwork of the series was close to Youkow Osada’s manga with the strong black lines and corners and curves were represented well. For the most part, because the era takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting, you can see there was quite a difference between the blue skies and vibrant setting before the war and now the grayish atmosphere after the war. But overall, animation was good and there is emphasis on dark strokes around the characters and a detail on the ravaged backgrounds.
Despite being a television series, there is still a good amount of severed limbs and bloody violence in the series. Not as hyper-detailed as what we would see in a “Hokuto no Ken” OVA series or film but still, good amount of violence which is expected from a “Hokuto no Ken” related title.
I didn’t see any compression artifacts, nor did I see any haloing, at times I felt there was a bit of edge enhancement but really, the picture quality is overall clean with no distracting anomalies.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for audio, the series is now presented with an new English DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack (note: behind the package it says English DTS but it is indeed a DTS-HD MA lossless soundtrack) and is also featured in Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 with English subtitles.
First the Japanese audio soundtrack. Audio is featured in Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital and there were some scenes where destruction can be heard through the surrounds and certain music that lingered on via LFE that had my subwoofers going for a bit. But for the most part, the series is front and center channel driven. Dialogue is easy to understand and for the most part, voice talent did a good job. Takashi Ukaji who has done the voice of Raoh in the previous live-action film and film series does a great job. The series also features well known voice talents such as Mai Nakahara (who plays Reina), known for doing the voices for May Wong in “Kaleido Star”, Nagisa Furukawa in “Clannad”, Eina in “Gravion”, Mai Tokiha in “My Hime” and “My-Otome” and many other series. Masaya Matsukaze (who plays Souga) who has done the voices of Blues in “Rockman.EXE”, Hirsche in “Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino-” and Daisuke Aurora in “Heat Guy J” to name a few.
As for the brand new English lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, we do hear a quite a bit of surround usage with the music but also certain sound effects. But the lossless soundtrack really makes the music and soundtrack come clear through the front and center channels. I enjoyed the Japanese soundtrack but the English lossless sounds great. If anything, I was more curious who would play the character Raoh because you need that dark, brooding, heavy vocals to pull it off and Andrew Love (Hades of “Appleseed”, Yasuhiro of “Ghost Hound” and Maaki of “Guyver: The Bioboosted Armor”) really did a fantastic job. As did David Matranga (known for his voice dub as Briareos of the “Appleseed” films) as Souga and new voice actress Emily Neves as Reina.
“Legends of the Dark King: A Fist of the North Star Story” comes with the following Special Features.
- Clean Opening and Closing theme and Sentai Filmworks Trailers
- Behind the Scenes of Legends of the Dark King – (28:04) An episode of “The Hobby World Project” hosted by actress Ayumi Beppu. The episode is about how Ayumi Beppu visiting the creators of “Legends of the Dark King: A Fist of the North Star Story”, how she became a voice actress on an episode and interviews with the crew and voice talent of the anime series.
“Legends of the Dark King: A Fist of the North Star Story” turned out to be a pretty good anime series and for those who are familiar with “Hokuto no Ken” (Fist of the North Star) can definitely respect the anime series as it did show Raoh as the incredible, major badass as he is. Despite being the protagonist in this series, he’s still the villain of the “Hokuto no Ken” storyline.
The anime captured Raoh’s lack of emotion (only once do we see him really showing off his emotion when he receives distressing news) but for the most part, he believes that he has received the power from the heavens to fix the world and become the leader of this new world.
Souga and Reina are characters that are dedicated to Raoh and can be seen through the “Legends of the True Savior” film series to know the backstory of why these two came to help Raoh. But even if you haven’t watched the films, it’s not essential to enjoying “Legends of the Dark King” as the film is pretty much about Raoh and him wanting to conquer countries and amassing a massive army.
The anime series also features a side of learning how people were starting to side with Kenshiro, because of his ability to understand the sorrow of the people but also emphasizing that the Hokuto Shinken is the Yin and Nanto Houken is the yang and it’s interesting to see the differences between the two martial arts and how it was utilized in the film.
Also, I found the various enemies that Raoh had to take on quite interesting and it was quite obvious that such a thing is good for a video game tie-in and sure enough, a fighting video game on the Sony PSP was released based on the anime series.
For those wonder if Kenshiro is in this anime series, he is shown via a silhouette or from behind. If anything, Kenshiro only shows up as reports given to Raoh but the main characters that know the Hokuto Shinken that you will see primarily are Raoh and his brother Toki.
A question that I have received when the first DVD came out was if anyone can watch this without having any knowledge of the previous “Hokuto no Ken” anime TV series, OVA’s or film and the answer is yes. Granted, it does help in the enjoyment of this series to have some background knowledge of the other series and Raoh’s hatred towards Ken and vice versa but since this series is not about Ken but more about Raoh’s ascension to power and those who fight alongside with him, one can easily watch this series and enjoy it on its own.
Overall, “Legends of the Dark King: A Fist of the North Star Story” was a violent, action-packed and highly entertaining anime series. As mentioned earlier in my review, like Darth Vader in the US, Raoh has a a large following in Japan despite being a villain. So, for those who have been enamored by the darker side of “Hokuto no Ken” especially with Raoh, this anime series is quite entertaining and again, yes… there is a good amount of bloody violence, decapitations and severed limbs which the series is known for. So, no worries about that.
If you are a fan of Raoh or the “Hokuto no Ken” series, definitely give “Legends of the Dark King: A Fist of the North Star Story” a chance!
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