Kenshiro (Hokuto no Ken)


Kenshiro, or just Ken as he is often called, is the central character of the Fist of the North Star manga, anime, and other related works. He is the 64th successor to the Hokuto Shinken art of combat, after his adopted father, Ryuken. He is considered "one of the greatest" successors in Hokuto Shinken history, due to his knowledge of certain legendary techniques like "Musou Tensei". In a survey conducted by the Oricon in 2007 between 1,000 people, Kenshiro ranked third place as the "strongest manga character of all time". [1]

Concept and creationEdit

Artist Tetsuo Hara originally depicted Kenshiro as a teenager who fought against the rival martial arts school of the Taizanji Kenpō in 1980s Japan in his two-part prototype version of Hokuto no Ken. This version of the character was given the full name of Kenshiro Kasumi. In this setting, Kenshiro was the 23rd successor of Hokuto Shinken, preceded by his unnamed father, who in turn learned the art from the 21st successor, Master Liú Zhèng. This Kenshiro was a lot more cheerful than the Kenshiro of the serialized manga, having yet to experience the same hardships at the start of the story and lacking his iconic seven scars. After Kenshiro's girlfriend Yuki is murdered and Ken is framed for her death, Kenshiro becomes a wanted fugitive who sets out to overthrow the Taizanji organization.

The character was revised by Buronson when Hokuto no Ken was picked up for weekly serialization. Now turned into a full-grown adult, Buronson has stated that he based the revised Kenshiro on actor and martial arts legend Bruce Lee and the character Max Rockatansky from the Mad Max series. The character is only referred by his given name in the series, which is always written in katakana in Japanese. The full name Kenshiro Kasumi was reused for the main character of Fist of the Blue Sky, a predecessor of the Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star, although his given name is spelled slightly differently(拳志郎 instead of 拳四郎).

Character overviewEdit

Kenshiro is characterized as the youngest of four adopted sons trained by the previous Hokuto Shinken successor, Ryuken. His origin is revealed during the latter half of the Fist of the North Star manga, in which he was sent to Japan, along with his future nemesis Raoh and Raoh's brother Toki, to escape from their homeland, the war-torn Land of Asura. A different origin is depicted in the first chapter of Fist of the Blue Sky: a newly-born child is brought to Ryuken's dojo in Japan, who names the infant after his older brother (Kenshiro Kasumi, the protagonist of Blue Sky), due to the Big Dipper-shaped birthmark on his head, although later chapters of the manga makes references to Kenshiro's escape from Asura with Raoh and Toki.

Kenshiro is trained in the art of Hokuto Shinken along with Raoh, Toki and a fourth student named Jagi, and is eventually named successor by Ryuken. After surviving the nuclear war, he tries to live in peace with his fiancee Yuria, until Jagi instigates Shin, a jealous rival from the Nanto Seiken school, to challenge, then defeat Kenshiro. Shin then engraves the iconic seven scars on Kenshiro's chest and leaves him for dead. It is believed that prior to this event he was much kinder and merciful, shown in a flashback when he spared Jagi. Both Shin and Jagi later claim he is not the Kenshiro they knew, reflecting the change in his nature. One major trait of his is that he will not grant mercy to the wicked but never kills those he feels deserve a second chance, shown when he spared a man who knew only how to kill.

The initial story arc centers around Kenshiro's quest to reclaim Yuria from Shin. In the very first chapter, he meets a pair of orphans who follows him in his journey: Bat, a thief; and Lin, a young girl rescued by Ken. Thorough the course of the series, Kenshiro protects the weak and innocent from the numerous gangs roaming the post-apocalyptic wasteland, eventually gaining his reputation as the "Savior of the Century's End". Kenshiro's skills improve through his encounters with members of the Nanto Roku Seiken and his Hokuto Brothers. At the end of the first part, he eventually confronts and defeats his eldest brother Raoh and is reunited with Yuria, and lives with her until she eventually dies from a terminal illness.

The second part of the manga (and the corresponding Hokuto no Ken 2 anime) sees Kenshiro joining forces with the now grown Bart and Lin, who have formed the Hokuto Army to fight off the now-corrupt Gento Kōken warriors. The story eventually takes Ken to the Land of Asura, where he learns of his Hokuto Sōke heritage and fights against the Warlords who controls the Land of Asura: his estranged blood brother Hyoh; and Kaioh, Raoh's other blood brother. The final story arcs of the manga (which were not adapted for the TV series) sees Kenshiro taking Raoh's orphaned son, Ryu, under his wing, before continuing on his own.

In the New Hokuto no Ken OVAs, he is apparently waiting for Ryu to grow up so that he may pass on Hokuto Shinken's successorship.

Voice actorsEdit

Kenshiro was voiced by Akira Kamiya in the TV series and 1986 movie, Ryō Horikawa voiced the child-aged Kenshiro in flashbacks. The role of Kenshiro was recasted to Takehito Koyasu in the 2003 OVA series New Fist of the North Star and then given to Kunihiro Kawamoto in the 2005 Fist of the North Star arcade game and the 2006 CG animated short film Hokuto no Ken: Legend of Heroes. In the Shin Kyūseishu Densetsu movie series, Kenshiro is voiced by Hiroshi Abe and by Eiji Hanawa as a child.

English voice actors that had voiced Kenshiro includes John Vickery in the Streamline Pictures dub of the 1986 movie, Lex Lang in the Manga Entertainment dub of the TV series and Robert Kraft in ADV Films dub of New Fist of the North Star. Gary Daniels played Kenshiro in the 1995 live action film.

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