FFWD REW

Exploding mohawk punk apocalypse

Splattery fisticuffs in Fist of the North Star

It happens at least once per episode. A gang of cutthroat marauders is out doing evil in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of “199X.” Innocent women and children sob as the vicious gang stomps on some babies laughing at their own cruelty. Then Kenshiro our beefy hero with the huge eyebrows shows up. If hostages are in imminent danger he’ll run to save them but otherwise he’ll just sort of saunter up to the bad guys being all stoic and grim.

The bad guys pause in their gleeful wrongdoing; “HAHAHAHA… huh?” They raise their eyebrows quizzically at this sleeveless-jean-jacketed hero who dares to interrupt their fun. Most of the gang have facial tattoos and mohawk hairdos. (Not all villains wear mohawks but only villains wear mohawks. In the year 199X it’s akin to sporting a swastika.) The leader of the gang bellows a threat that firmly establishes his diabolical nature. (“Stop right there or I’ll eat this puppy!”) Kenshiro (or just “Ken” to his friends) goes from silent Clint Eastwood mode to full-on screaming banshee as he spaz-punches the bad guys 50 times while shrieking like a kookaburra. Then Ken instantly calms down and goes back to being all quiet and nonchalant while the gang leader wonders what the fuck just happened. Apparently unhurt by the hero’s powder-puff blows the gang leader will taunt/insult/question our hero who calmly mutters “you don’t even know you’re already dead.” After a few seconds the villains suddenly scream in pain their eyes bulging and their heads stretching like balloons before they burst open like piñatas. Splat!

Y’see Kenshiro has mastered a martial arts technique that makes people burst open when you hit their “pressure points.” Fortunately he only uses this talent for good (???) wandering the post-apocalyptic desert detonating bullies thieves and rapists. He’s the hero of Fist of the North Star (1984-1988) a Japanese animated TV series that turned out to be quite influential.

You might be familiar with the Fist of the North Star franchise from the 1986 animated film of the same name made by the same team who worked on the series and featuring much gorier violence than was allowed on TV. (The erupting intestines were often shown in silhouette on television but the movie shows everything.) Alternatively you might have seen the live-action film adaptation from 1995 starring Gary Daniels Costas Mandylor Chris Penn and Malcolm McDowell. (Penn’s character had to wear leather straps around his head to keep his noggin from exploding. Remember that?) There’s also a glut of video game adaptations including a 1989 Nintendo cartridge that made No. 10 in Seanbaby’s famous “20 Worst NES games of all time” list.

This is a good time to get acquainted with the original TV series though because all 152 episodes (!!!) are now available (subtitled) on various streaming websites including Crackle. Good lord! That’s over 60 hours of exploding shirtless musclemen not counting commercials! How many episodes of meaty splat-fights can you get through? Will Ken be reunited with his kidnapped fiancée? Will “Bat” usurp Temple of Doom ’s Short Round as the most annoying child sidekick? Will the entire mohawk hairdo get wiped off the face of the Earth? Stay tuned!

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