Reviewby Ryan Blackmore, Jan 27th 2011
Legends of the Dark King
DVD - A Fist of the North Star Side Story
For the 25th anniversary of the original Fist of the North Star the powers that be decided to bring out a new animated story. Fist of the North Star: Legend of The Dark King Raoh Side Story (besides being a mouthful to say) follows Raoh's rise to power as he recruits his army and proceeds on his quest to conquer the land. The story takes place before and during the events of Fist of the North Star and adds somewhat to the backstories of the original characters as well as including a few characters introduced in the 2006 re-imagined Fist of the North Star: Legends of the True Saviour films.
For those unfamiliar with post-apocalyptic martial arts epic, Fist of the North Star follows the successor to the Divine Fist of the North Star technique, Kenshiro, on his journey to bring peace and justice to the land using the power of his fists to generally explode and mutilate his enemies as he searches for his beloved Julia. During his travels he comes to blows with fellow Fist of the North Star successor candidate Raoh. While Kenshiro believes that peace can be brought to the land by eliminating all the sorrow brought about it, Raoh on the other hand believes that the only way to bring about peace is for him to rule the world, using the power of his fists to make the people to fear and worship him while destroying anyone who stands in his way.
The series starts off with Raoh and his companions, Reina of the Twin Blades and Souga the Swift, waltzing into the castle of the self-proclaimed Demon King with the objective of taking the castle for themselves. Souga and Reina infiltrate the castle and enter the Demon King's confidence by masquerading as a travelling musician and dancer respectively. All that they need to give a perfect performance is Raoh, their trusty koto player. Raoh soon arrives and is asked by the Demon King to prove his Koto prowess. He begins his Koto performance by picking up his plectrum, assuming a chord and then smashes the instrument into pieces while nonchalantly proclaiming “I can't even play the koto.” then proceeding to defeat the Demon King in a one on one fight and claiming the castle as his base of operations.
The thing I love about Raoh is that for such an over the top character he's played so simplistic. During a flashback Raoh storms an indomitable fortress town almost singlehandedly because the castle had a reputation for being impenetrable and that the task was deemed impossible. With the town rigged with traps triggered by either opening the gate or climbing over the walls Raoh comes to logical conclusion of entering the town by punching a hole through the wall and then, very much like the game breaking roleplaying game munchkin he is, proceeds to make his way up through the trapped castle by either yelling or punching each trap into submission. Shortly after conquering the castle and taking the town for himself he decides he doesn't want such a cowardly fortress as his base of operations after all and repurposes the town as his own personal prison.
As the series progresses along Raoh is relegated to the background while Reina, Souga and a few other major characters lead Raoh's forces into battle with Raoh only going into battle when his armies come across similarly powerful martial artist whom Raoh proceeds to swat like flies. Most of the time he doesn't even bother to get off his horse. Almost everyone Raoh or his horse comes across ends up as the typical Fist of the North Star spray of blood and gore. Well almost. I don't know whether it's from budget or censorship standpoint, even though Legend of the Dark King is a more gruesome story than the original Fist of the North Star, the violence and gore is more toned down. When someone is torn apart by Raoh it's done in the blink of an eye and what's left, if anything, is a person split open to reveal pink flesh and maybe a bone or two. No blood or guts at all remain when the person is dead. Perhaps Raoh punched them all out?
Besides the lack of gory details the animation quality is actually quite good. It tries to remain stylistically close to the original while at the time including modern animation techniques with minimal intrusion by 3D CG. The use of a cinematic-style score being used for the music of the series lent itself really well to the action. Although Raoh's 'main riding into action' theme sounded a lot like a cheesy version of the action theme from Pirates of the Caribbean... I have no complaints about the Japanese voice acting with pretty much each voice being appropriate for each character but the English dub was plain terrible and I couldn't stand to listen to it past the first episode. I'm glad that the Siren Visual DVDs have the Japanese soundtrack turned on by default. The DVD itself comes with scant few extra features. Besides the typical textless openings and endings there is a “making of” featurette which is taken from a Japanese television special. The featurette includes interviews with a few of the cast and crew as well as the manga-ka who drew the series which Legend of the Dark King was based upon.
At 13 episodes, Legend of the Dark King is an ideal entry point into the Fist of the North Star series for the uninitiated.
Overall (dub) : D
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C
Animation : B
Art : A
Music : B
+ Decent quality animation, good narrative pacing (not too short or too long).
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