Stephen reviews: Fist of the North Star (1986)

Fist of the North Star: the Movie [劇場版 世紀末救世主伝説 北斗の拳 Gekijōban Seikimatsu Kyūseishu Densetsu Hokuto no Ken, Fist of the North Star the Movie: Legend of the Century’s End Savior] (1986)

Starring Akira Kamiya, Chikao Ohtsuka, Kenji Utsumi, Toshio Furukawa, Kaneto Shiozawa, Mie Suzuki, Tomiko Suzuki, Yuriko Yamamoto, Junpei Takiguchi

Directed by Toyoo Ashida

I hope you’re ready for the most intense, hyper-masculine orgy of ultra-violence ever made, because I sure as hell am. I haven’t seen this movie since high school, and after watching Expendables 2 I was suddenly in the mood for cocky, musclebound men performing manly feats of impossibility. So I tracked down the DVD and found that Fist of the North Star has aged like a fine wine; its ridiculous violence and ’80s styling making it a savory delight even better than I remembered.

The DVD case proudly advertises Fist of the North Star as “the most violent and action packed animated film of all time,” and my first reaction when I saw the box was disbelief. There has to be something even more over the top. But I really couldn’t think of many examples. Maybe Berserk or Claymore, but even those didn’t seem to fit the bill. Now that I’ve watched the film again, I can say that no, there is nothing I am aware of that has more violence and more machismo concentrated into one package.

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Stephen reviews: Vampire Hunter D (1985)

Vampire Hunter D [バンパイアハンターD] (1985)

Starring Kaneto Shiozawa, Michie Tomizawa, Seizo Katou, Satoko Kitō, Kazuyuki Sogabe, Ichirō Nagai, Keiko Toda, Yuusaku Yara

Directed by Toyoo Ashida

Like many budding anime fans of the ’90s, I first saw this film when Cartoon Network aired it on television. And while I did eventually see the unedited version, it has been many long years since I last watched it. It hasn’t been quite as long since I read the novel it was based upon, which is easily available in English these days, but it has still been quite a few years, and my memories of both are a bit fuzzy. This was also my first time seeing the film subtitled, and as distant as my previous memories are, I noticed some odd translation differences in this version. Differently spelled names are nothing new, but I was interested in the way they referred to Dracula this time. In the other versions of the tale he is called the “noble ancestor” or “sacred ancestor” of vampires, but this translation calls him “ancestor god,” which conveys a slightly different view of outright worship and prayer rather than simple respect and looking up to him as an example.

As you might have guessed by the mention of Dracula, this film takes a more traditional Bram Stoker approach to vampires. In fact, the original novel by Hideyuki Kikuchi is dedicated to the cast of the 1958 Hammer film, Dracula. The main villain of Vampire Hunter D is Count Magnus Lee, and he looks every bit the classic vampire with a black cape and elegant clothes to match his calm and regal demeanor. His first appearance at the beginning of the film is ominous and sinister, with lightning flashes giving his face a completely different appearance, and it’s hard to decide which looks more frightening. I am glad that his victim, Doris, had the presence of mind to shoot him with her laser rifle. Her role is never more than the typical damsel in distress, but at least she isn’t a pathetic and helpless idiot. Not that Lee gives a crap. Like Darth Vader, he just lets the gunshots bounce off him. And in a contest between the two, my money might not be on Vader. Right from the first you know Magnus Lee is an indomitable force of evil.

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