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Fist of the North Star

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Fist of the North Star logo

The original version of the Fist of the North Star logo.

Fist of the North Star is the official title given to the various English adaptations of the Hokuto no Ken franchise published since 1989. Despite the similar sounding title, the name Fist of the North Star itself is not a direct translation of Hokuto no Ken, as Hokuto (literally the "Northern Dipper) is the Japanese name of the Chinese Běidǒu asterism (otherwise known as the Big Dipper in the west), whereas "North Star" traditionally refers to the star of Polaris, which is part of a separate constellation. The title Fist of the North Star as a translated title for Hokuto no Ken predates any official use in commerce, as it was used by fanzines published by Fred Patton's Cartoon/Fantasy Organization throughout the 1980's.[1]

The Fist of the North Star name started appearing more often in Japanese products following the production of the 1995 live-action film version. The English title also served as the namesake for the Nobuhiko Horie-founded company North Stars Pictures.

Ken the Great Bear FistEdit

Ken the Great Bear Fist title card

Title card from an unreleased English dub.

Prior to the production of any official English adaptation of Hokuto no Ken, Toei Corporation's International Sales & Promotion Department proposed the title Ken the Great Bear Fist for the foreign market, as they usually do for most of their works.[2] At one point during the 1980s, Toei produced a test English dub of the first episode (unrelated to the later dub produced Manga Entertainment) for promotional purposes in order to sell the rights of the series to potential foreign licensees. Reportedly this dub featured instrumental versions of the "Ai o Torimodose!!" and "Yuria... Towa ni" songs played alongside credit-less opening and ending animations.[3]

The title was also going to be used for Taxan's NES version of the Hokuto no Ken 2 Famicom game at one point, before it was changed to Fist of the North Star in order to tie in with Viz's adaptation of the manga..[4] Despite this, the title Ken the Great Bear Fist is still used by Toei's corporate website.[5] It is assumed that the French and Italian titles of the anime, Ken le Survivant and Ken il Guerriero respectively, were derived from Ken the Great Bear Fist.

MangaEdit

Angel Comics (unpublished)Edit

A New Jersey-based publisher known as "Angel Comics" distributed solicitations to comic book shops announcing their plans to publish an English version of manga (under the title The Fist of the North Star) as a biweekly series, with a scheduled November 3, 1987 debut. This version of the manga was ultimately never published. Little is known about Angel Comics, other than they allegedly bought the rights to the series illegally from a pirated version of the manga and were given a cease and desist order to stop its publication.[6]

VizEdit

In 1989, the San Francisco-based company Viz Communications (now know as Viz Media) started publishing their version of Fist of the North Star under their Viz Select Comics imprint as a monthly comic magazine in a softbound "prestige" format. This initial attempt to publish Fist of the North Star in English only lasted eight issues, dated from April through November 1989, which adapted the first sixteen chapters of the manga (covering the King and Golan story arcs). Viz would resume publication of the series years later, this time in a more conventional pamphlet format, which only lasted 20 issues (divided into three parts) dated from December 1995 to July 1997. Because Viz published Fist of the North Star in a monthly format, with each issue of the second run roughly adapting a chapter and a half, this meant that their English edition was serialized in a much slower pace than the original Japanese weeklies. As a result, Viz only adapted the manga up to the end of the Jagi story arc (at Chapter 44) during its accumulated three years of publication.

The translation (initially done by Fred Burke and Satoru Fujii during the first run, with Lillian Olsen replacing the latter in the second run) replaced many of the names and terms used throughout the story with anglicized equivalents. Most notably, the martial art of Hokuto Shin Ken was renamed the "Sacred Martial Art of the Great Bear", alternatively known as the "Fist of the North Star" (an attempt to reconcile the actual meaning of the Japanese title with its English counterpart), while the rival style of Nanto Sei Ken became the "Sacred Fist of the Southern Cross", sharing part of its name with Shin's city. The artwork was also mirrored to suit the standard left-to-right reading convention in the west (as translating manga with unflipped artwork was not the norm at the time), resulting in several details, most notably the scars on Kenshiro's chest, having to be redrawn to maintain consistency.

Certain foreign language editions of Hokuto no Ken, namely the first Italian edition (published under the title of Ken il Guerriero) by Granata Press and the Spanish edition (El puño de la estrella del norte) by Planeta DeAgostini, were initially adapted from Viz's first run, but were eventually translated from the Japanese original after they reached the Chapter 16 cutoff point.

GutsoonEdit

Gutsoon! Entertainment, a short-lived U.S. subsidiary of Coamix, picked up the rights to Fist of the North Star after Viz discontinued the series, this time retranslating the manga from the beginning rather than resuming from where Viz left off. Their version, titled Fist of the North Star: Master Edition, was published in a large trade paperback format that preserved the original right-to-left orientation, but also featured digitally colorized artwork in an attempt to entice new readers. The new translation kept the original names for most of the characters, organizations and martial art techniques, although the terms "North Star" and "Southern Cross" as English names for Hokuto and Nanto were carried over from the Viz version.

Only nine volumes (adapting the story up to Chapter 74), dated from January 2003 through May 2004, before the series was discontinued due to Gutsoon pulling out from the market as a result of their financial difficulties. A tenth volume was announced in solicitations, but was never published. The first three volumes reused cover art from previous Japanese editions, but from Volume 4 and onward they started featuring all new artwork by Tetsuo Hara drawn specifically for this edition.

AnimeEdit

  • The 1986 Hokuto no Ken movie was dubbed by Streamline Pictures, which was first released on VHS on September 27, 1991. The English script, written by Tom Wyner (who has a small role in the dub as Galf), was not a direct translation and thus takes several liberties with the original story.
  • The TV series was dubbed by Manga Entertainment in 1999 as Fist of the North Star: The Series, although only the first 36 episodes were translated. The first 24 episodes were released on seven VHS tapes that were released during a monthly schedule (with each tape containing three episodes), while the remainder of the series aired on Showtime Beyond in the US and on the Sci-Fi Channel in the UK. The entire dub was eventually released on DVD in 2003. While the script for this dub was a direct translation of the original, it featured a new opening and different background music.
  • New Fist of the North Star - English dub of Shin Hokuto no Ken.
  • Legends of the Dark King: A Fist of the North Star Story - English language version of Ten no Haō.

Video gamesEdit

  • Fist of the North Star (NES) - A North American version of the 1987 Hokuto no Ken 2 Famicom game published by Taxan. The packaging uses cel artwork from Episode 70 of the TV series, which depicts Kenshiro sparring with Toki, who never actually appears in the game.
  • Fist of the North Star: Ten Big Brawls for the King of the Universe (Game Boy) - A North American version of the 1989 Hokuto no Ken Game Boy game published by Electro Brain.
  • Fighting Mania: Fist of the North Star - An export version of Punch Mania: Hokuto no Ken arcade game by Konami.
  • Fist of the North Star (Arcade) - An English language version of the 2005 Hokuto no Ken fighting game by Sega and Arc System Works.
  • Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage - Export version of Hokuto Musō. Released in Japan as Hokuto Musō International.
  • Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage 2 - Export version of Shin Hokuto Musō.

Live-action movieEdit

ReferencesEdit

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