Fist Of The North Star: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Kenshiro

A lot of the people in the anime community are at least tangentially aware of Fist Of The North Star even if they haven't seen the classic '90s OVA or read any of the manga. The reason that people really should look more into this franchise isn't just because it's been ridiculously influential on Shonen, Seinen, and manga and anime as a whole, even though that's definitely true.

If anything, this series really stands on its own outside of the fact that we wouldn't have things like Jojo's Bizarre AdventureNarutoBleach, or any of your other favorite anime series without its existence. Just so that we can shed some light on the series for people who are unaware, let's look a little more into the protagonist of the series, Kenshiro.

10 "Omae Wa Mou Shindeiru" Isn't Just A Boast

Omae Wa Mou Shindeiru

Even people who haven't watched any of the show or read the anime are familiar with what's pretty much Kenshiro's catchphrase "Omae Wa Mou Shinderu" which translates to "You're already dead". It's one of the all-time classic anime memes but if you aren't familiar with Kenshiro, you would probably just assume that it's a slick one-liner meant to intimidate the opponent.

Not that it's not intimidating, but the best part about this catchphrase is that it isn't just a bunch of empty words. If you hear Kenshiro utter it, you probably have at most 10 seconds before your head explodes. That's because Hokuto Shin Ken uses pressure points to disrupt bodily operations, meaning essentially that Kenshiro can poke you in the forehead and stop your heart.

9 The Live-Action Movie Counts As Tokusatsu

"Kenshiro" live-action in fighting stance

If you're at all into the Tokusatsu part of Japanese pop culture, you'll probably recognize one of the actors who's portrayed Kenshiro. Tokusatsu is any type of Japanese media that makes heavy use of special effects, usually in speculative fiction genres such as sci-fi, horror, or fantasy. So technically speaking, the awful 1995 American film counts as Tokusatsu.

If you've ever watched Super Sentai, (aka the basis for Power Rangers) any sort of Kaiju movies such as the Godzilla franchise, or Ultraman, you're already familiar with Tokusatsu. In fact, William Winkler, the voice actor for Kenshiro in the Toei dub, has produced tons of Ultraman films.

8 Hokuto Shin Ken Isn't The Only Style He Uses

kenshiro poses, all points of the big dipper appearing on his body.

When you think of Kenshiro, the first thing you probably think about is the fact that he's the heir to the art of Hokuto Shin Ken, a martial arts style passed down from generation to generation that can only be known (technically) by one living person. It's also the phrase that's used for the title of the manga.

That being said, this isn't the only style that Kenshiro knows. The other style is called Hokuto Soke no Ken, and it's another style that Kenshiro shares with his brothers, even though we really don't see more than five techniques from it.

7 No One Knows Exactly How Old He Is

Kenshiro stands in front of a yellow sky.

There's a bit of mystery surrounding Kenshiro's age. In the manga, he's clearly older than a teenager but probably not nearly middle ages, so most people would guess that he's in his 20s. The only other specifics anyone really knows is that Kenshiro was born sometime in the late 197X's, which doesn't help at all because this isn't the regular calendar we're talking about.

For whatever reason, the format of the calendar in Fist Of The North Star is kind of broken and it makes calculations difficult. If it's any more context for the sleuths out there, the manga takes place sometime in the 209xs.

6 Kenshiro & His World Are Largely Based On Mad Max

Mad Max Kenshiro

Anyone who doesn't pretty much immediately notice a huge Mad Max vibe to the post-apocalyptic world (particularly The Road Warrior) that Kenshiro exists in either isn't particularly familiar with Mad Max or just doesn't know that this kind of fantasy world setting didn't really exist before it.

There are huge themes in a lot of Japanese media relating to large scale fallout and mutually assured destruction, but Fist Of The North Star had a hand in making that a staple in a lot of anime. From the tribal antagonists, overall desperation and even the characters' attires, you can tell that Kenshiro took a lot of notes from Mad Max.

5 He's A Man Of Many Names

Alf prepares to throw a punch at Kenshiro.

Kenshiro is many things to the different people throughout his travels. To those like Lin and Bat, he's a best friend and older confidant, bordering on father figure. To his enemies, he's a walking indicator of the fact that they'll most likely be dead very soon unless they can get out of the way.

He's known throughout the land as the "Man Of Hokuto," the "Man With Seven Scars," and "Ken" to the people he's closest to. While Kenshiro is all of these things to many different people, at his heart, he's a vulnerable person doing his best to do what's right. Again, this is can be seen as a shoutout to Mad Max, where Max (a legend of sorts in the wastelands) also goes by many names.

4 He's A Tribute To The Late Great Bruce Lee

Split image of Kenshiro and Bruce Lee side by side.

During the first three seasons of Fist Of The North Star, Kenshiro looks particularly familiar for a fictional anime martial artist, and that's because he's based on someone real. Kenshiro is kind of a walking reference to martial arts legend Bruce Lee, in more ways than one.

In those first three seasons, there was a deliberate effort made to make sure that Kenshiro evoked Lee's aura at all times. Cases in point, Kenshiro perfectly recreates Lee's battle stances, he constantly displays high-pitched battle cries like Mortal Kombat's Liu Kang (who is also a reference to Bruce Lee) in combat, and he also does Lee's signature jump change.

3 He's One Of The First Anime Men Who Knew It Was Okay  To Cry

A single tear falls from Kenshiro's eye.

A lot of anime and manga protagonists end up being the cold and stoic type; characters who are pretty much the archetype of what people think men are supposed to be in media. They don't get upset, they don't cry, and they spend a lot of time acting like they aren't bothered by anything. At most, they blow up in violent fits, kill a few guys, and then they're over it.

Not Kenshiro, though. Kenshiro was one of the first anime protagonists to frequently be shown being emotionally and physically vulnerable, such as openly mourning the death of his brothers. This was a nice touch of humanity in an otherwise badass story set in a dying world.

2 His Anime Could've Had A Weaker Title

Kenshiro stands with nunchucks primed to attack.

Hokuto No Ken aka Fist Of The North Star aka... Ken, The Great Bear Fist?! The source material (as expected) has different titles depending on region, but that doesn't mean that all of the English translations are accurate, either. In fact, the Japanese name of the manga translates directly to "Fist Of The Big Dipper" which, admittedly, doesn't sound nearly as cool as the translation.

That's probably why the translators opted for the title most people are familiar with. Hilariously, the Big Dipper doesn't even contain the North Star.

1 Malcolm McDowell Is (Technically) His Dad

So, a couple of hard pills to swallow are involved with this one. There was indeed a live-action Fist Of The North Star adaptation made back in the '90s. By all accounts, it's not great. It's goofy, overacted, and everyone involved had no clue how to go about adapting a manga and/or anime in the first place. However, they did it anyway and decided to cast Malcolm McDowell of all people as Kenshiro's adoptive father.

Yes, the guy who played Alex from A Clockwork Orange, directed by THE Stanley Kubrick, is Kenshiro's father. Assuming that society and the world do collapse after A Clockwork Orange's events, Fist of the North Star is that timeline's logical endgame.

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