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Fist of the North Star makes its bloody return to the West

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The anime classic’s return is Yakuza-meets-extreme gore

Sega

Your familiarity with Fist of the North Star — the classic, post-apocalyptic and extremely violent Shonen Jump series — likely varies depending on your age.

In North America, the manga has been out of print for several years; 36 episodes of the anime were dubbed into English, with the remaining 116 available only with subtitles. But if you were reading manga in the late ’80s, there was a good chance you both had access to and read Fist of the North Star. The same is true if anyone watching fansubs back then, or who managed to catch the English run in the late ’90s. In that case, you recognize that the sci-fi series is a gruesome mix of fantasy action and profuse gore. There were also a few games that made it over here, including those for NES, Game Boy, Master System and Genesis, and, more recently, Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors-style Fist of the North Star games.

Otherwise, Fist of the North Star is most commonly known as a meme these days. Super-powered martial artist Kenshiro’s catchphrase makes for a perfect reaction GIF: “You’re already dead.” In the series, Kenshiro says this before he blows up his enemies’ heads. Online ... here’s how The Daily Dot explains its usage:

“‘Omae wa mou shindeiru [‘You’re already dead’]’ fits well with any schoolyard fight highlight or other blooper where one participant is suddenly and unexpectedly knocked out. It’s also great for recapping an epic victory or defeat in a video game. In YouTube remixes, the phrase is often paired with ‘Nani?!’— meaning ‘What?!’ — as well as a sharp, high-pitched tone, and sometimes glowing eyes.”

So it fits that Fist of the North Star’s return to the Western cultural consciousness is a little bit of both: funny and bloody, absurd and disturbed. Sega announced during E3 that it would bring PlayStation 4 action game Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise overseas this October. And it sounds like the company is putting a lot of effort into helping ease English-speaking newcomers into the series.

“To be completely honest, we’re not really sure how many Western fans are familiar with Fist of the North Star to begin with,” producer Daisuke Sato told us at E3. “Our feeling is that maybe not so many people — it’s not a massively popular title over here. It’s a cult classic.”

The team thus went the extra mile to ease players into the world. There’s full English voiceover, and the Western release even has a high-intensity bloodshed setting. While enemies just turn into black smoke when Kenshiro defeats them in the original version, Sega programmed some obscene amounts of blood for the overseas edition. It’s incredibly graphic, but so was the manga. The waves of enemies that Kenshiro punches around explode into a sea of blood with every finishing blow, and it never stops being shocking. It also is impressively fun; so fun that it may make you question your threshold for hyper-violence.

At least there are some Yakuza-style minigames to make things a lot sillier; considering that the Yakuza team is behind Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise, watching Kenshiro switch from being a brawler to a bartender isn’t as odd as it would otherwise seem.

Kenshiro is as serious about mixology as he is about fighting.
Sega

Even the vocalized death cries that Kenshiro can then use as weapons have been localized, said Sato. There are three most popular ones that remain in Japanese, but the ones that have been switched to English are very good.

“There are a lot of death cries that have been localized into English,” said Sato, noting that they are often among the most explicit. Examples: “Shit balls, fuck off.”

We can all start beating bandits to death with physical manifestations of the phrase “shit balls” starting Oct. 2.