Fist of the North Star (1986) – By Chris Morelli

 Post-apocalyptic wasteland? Check! Deadly martial arts? Check! Exploding heads??? Double check! This anime flick has it all! The Fist of the North Star is a full-length feature based upon a series of Japanese manga comics. It centers around a young nomadic warrior named Ken, and as you may have guessed, he is the "Fist of the North Star." Ken wanders the wasteland which is all that is left of a modern world destroyed by greed, and a butt load of nukes! In these trying times the people of the land are barely surviving from a lack of uncontaminated water and food. This is where Ken comes in as he fights to restore the world to the flourishing landscape it once was. He is the biggest badass around and he can punch dudes and cause them to explode!

Unfortunately for Ken, his menacing brothers Jagi and Raoh are on his heels every step of the way. They each want to be known as the "Fist of the North Star," a title bestowed upon Ken by their teacher/father Ryuken. Each of them possess a different deadly ability: Ken has the whole exploding punch thing, Raoh has force lightning worthy of the Emperor Palpatine himself, and Jagi can hit the ground and create huge fissures. The story kicks off when Ken’s former best friend Shin and his gang of baddies attack Ken and the love of his life, Julia. Shin wants Julia for himself, so he trashes Ken, and pokes numerous holes in Ken’s chest, causing Ken to bleed ridiculously. Yet, despite his mortal wounds, Ken somehow survives.

Shin, who was "Fist of the South Star," proclaims himself the new "Fist of the North Star," takes Julia, and runs off as Jagi and Roah watch everything from a distance. After Shin leaves, Jagi takes Ken to a canyon and throws him in, but Ken later returns, with a vengeance! During Ken’s long disappearance, Jagi has wreaked havoc on towns claiming to be the "Fist of the North Star," and Raoh has started on a quest to become the ruler of the world. During his journey to rescue Julia and stop the evil machinations of his brothers, Ken teams up with two youths, one of which has the ability to make plants grow, and another wandering warrior named Rei. He must save Julia, defeat his evil kin, and save the world! "Fist of the North Star" is a good movie to see if you’re a hardcore anime fan, or just curious about the genre.

Also give this cool flick a look if you’re really in to the Mad Max movies, which bear a striking resemblance to a lot of Fist’s design elements. (There’s even a mowhawked motorcycle gang!) One of the minor downfalls of the movie is that its plot has been recycled quite a bit. The other is that by today’s standards, the animation in the film looks a bit dated. And speaking of the look of the movie, Fist of the North Star, like a lot of other early anime, is a very gory flick. People explode and get ripped to shreds every few moments! It’s wonderful! Bottom line, this is an awesome title and definitely worth checking out! (Note: "Fist of the North Star" is currently out of print, but Region 0 copies of the film can be found online. And make sure you’re buying the anime and not the terrible live-action flick that came out in the 80s!)