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by Grant Jones,

Fist of the North Star

Volume 6

Fist of the North Star Volume 6

Kenshiro, Rei, and Toki encounter their most deadly foe yet: Raoh. Raoh is a warrior without equal, and battles them all to a standstill. But fate has even worse things in store for Mamiya and Rei, as they have both seen Shichosei - the death omen star - and now their fate is sealed. It's a race against time and the very limits of the human body.

Fist of the North Star is written by Buronson, with art by Tetsuo Hara. Fist of the North Star Volume 6 is translated by Joe Yamazaki, with lettering by John Hunt, and editing by Mike Montesa.


Fist of the North Star Volume 6 covers what may be the most recognizable stretch of events in the entire story. While I think it would be easy to make a case that there are individual events, fights, or villains that stand out from others, I think the material covered in Volume 6 represents the sort of “resting state” of the world of Fist of the North Star; in other words, the stars have fully aligned, and the chapters on offer deliver hit after iconic hit without missing even a single beat.

Many of the seeds and ideas planted in the early chapters have fully come to fruition. The drama of the Hokuto Shinken successors is in full swing, and the audience has been introduced to Kenshiro's brothers Jagi, Toki, and Raoh. The drama between these titanic warriors (though perhaps that's being overly generous to Jagi) is not just a dramatic part of the series, but really the drama. The struggle over Kenshiro's inheritance is the core conflict that drives so much of what the series is about: loss, shame, and might in a broken world. The tragedy of their broken brotherhood is on full display in these chapters, and it provides a bedrock of purpose that strings together the otherwise episodic tales of Kenshiro beating up mooks.

The battle between Kenshiro, Raoh, and Toki is truly one for the ages. It presents one of the first clear challenges to Kenshiro's might that we have seen yet. Thus far, Kenshiro has been a nearly invincible angel of vengeance, tearing through any opposition in a cathartic cacophony of gore. Even prior encounters with would-be successors to this legendary art – Jagi and faux-Toki (Fauxki?) – were little more than slightly steeper speed bumps in his path. But Raoh is a different breed entirely, a massive warrior with a peerless ego and the martial arts prowess to match. Having slain his master and father figure, he has reached a plateau even Kenshiro has not attained. It's the first time that our hero feels vulnerable, despite what we might know about genre conventions and future volume releases.

The melodrama and blood flow are heavy, with a flair for distinctive scenes that the series is known for. Raoh stabbing through his foot and Toki's to lock them into place, Raoh and Kenshiro battling each other to a bloody standstill that neither warrior walks away from cleanly—it's the stuff legends are made of.

Despite all this, Rei really steals the show in this volume. He has never exactly been Kenshiro's sidekick in the way Bat and Lin are, but he's not quite his equal either. It's clear there is a distance between them, but that makes Rei more endearing somehow, more human despite his ability to cut people into thinly sliced patties with his bare fingers. He has feet of clay in a way Kenshiro can't while never feeling like he's playing second fiddle. The drama herein is his eventual demise. We all know it's coming, the cast knows it's coming, and that inevitability only underscores the vital importance of every remaining moment he has. Kenshiro's inevitable victory pairs nicely with Rei's inevitable death, their fates orbiting one another in the wasteland. We already know the outcome but we can't look away, and can't help but get drawn in by Rei's burning desire to accomplish something meaningful before his time comes. That is what ultimately makes him relatable — despite the supernatural martial arts, the apocalyptic setting of football padding-clad bikers, and his impossibly long and glorious mane of anime boy hair, we the audience can see in him the same thing we see in ourselves: an awareness of our inescapable mortality.

It's not hard to see why this stretch of the series is sometimes regarded as the resting state of the franchise. Kenshiro, Rei, Mamiya, Toki, Raoh – the gang's all here, more or less, doing what we expect them to do. Unlike the very early or very late portions of the manga which have a somewhere different texture and tempo, and unlike the near future where some of these cast members have been rotated out and a different status quo is established, the story in Volume 6 really is what comes to mind when you think of Fist of the North Star. This is also the arc that the 1986 film largely concerns itself with, again adding to its sense of importance and iconic status. Tetsuo Hara and Buronson were really in peak form here, and despite enjoying the manga all the way through, it's not a stretch to say that this volume is when everything is singing.

If I have one complaint, it's that while reading this volume there was a rather noticeable error in one of the panels. Part of Kenshiro's hair is missing a giant cubic chunk where (I am assuming) the previous Japanese lettering of the sound effect was replaced with the much shorter English sound effect that did not reach his hairline. It's a minor gripe in the grand scheme of things, and I've got deadlines too, so I know things get missed. Still, it's painfully easy to notice and seeing it immediately kicked me out of the manga and back into the drudgery of real life – not a feeling you want to have while reading a glossy hardback release of one of the greatest manga of all time. That minor gripe aside, Volume 6 is, in my estimation, the most important volume of the Fist of the North Star manga released since the first.

Overall : A
Story : A+
Art : A+

+ Art, storytelling, characters all coalesce into one of the best arcs in battle manga
Minor issues with presentation

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Production Info:
Story: Buronson
Art: Tetsuo Hara
Licensed by: Viz Media

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