Fist of the North Star (partially lost original uncensored version of anime film; 1986)


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Fist of the North Star (uncensored cut)
Still from the theatrical trailer, showing a scene that was censored in later versions of the film.
Still from the theatrical trailer, showing a scene that was censored in later versions of the film.
Status Partially Lost

Hokuto no Ken (北斗の拳, "Fist of the Big Dipper"), known to English speakers as Fist of the North Star, was a Japanese comic book that was serialized from 1983 to 1988. Spanning 245 chapters in 27 volumes, the series told the story of Kenshiro, a martial artist who wanders a post-apocalyptic Earth while fighting those who oppress what is left of humankind, as he faces a continuing battle to maintain his status as the successor of the Hokuto Shinken assassination art.

The manga became incredibly famous and is credited with pioneering the fighting genre in Japanese media, so it's no surprise that it has received numerous adaptations over the years, most notably a 152-episode animated television series by Toei Animation that ran from 1984 to 1988 in Japan. Because the manga's excessive violence was deemed unsuitable for Japanese television at the time (due to the lack of a late-night slot for adult content), Toei used various forms of censorship to keep the show TV appropriate, with many of these techniques being used for Toei's later works such as Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon. In 1986, Toei released a film adaptation of the manga's first few arcs as a way to further promote the TV show, reusing the latter's art direction and voice cast. This release took major liberties with the manga's plot, mainly in terms of the order of events, how they unfold, and the roles of the story's characters. One other major difference was that the film retained the manga's ultraviolence, with the animators carefully studying human anatomy in order to make the gore as realistic as possible (within the parameters of the somewhat fantastic nature of the manga's martial arts).

Censorship and Other Alterations

At some point, Toei Animation was forced to heavily censor the film's content following large amounts of complaints surrounding its graphic imagery; while initially coming from moral guardians, these protests managed to reach the Diet of Japan, who personally contacted Toei and forced them to edit the film. Many instances of gore were either blurred, heavily tinted, or (in one case) replaced with a discretion cut. Unlike the TV series's censorship, which was present from the outset, the film's modifications were done in post. For the home media release, they also heavily modified the outcome of the final battle, when Lin interrupts the fight before Raoh can kill Kenshiro, at the request of the film's director (in the theatrical release, Kenshiro is knocked unconscious before Raoh attempts to finish him off and is interrupted; both warriors are conscious in the home media release).

Disappearance

While both endings have been made available to the public over the years, the uncensored theatrical release has never resurfaced, and it is rumoured that Toei had destroyed its master prints. However, this is currently unconfirmed; Toei has not yet made any official statements on the matter.

There are conflicting accounts as to when exactly the film's censorship occurred. While it is often believed that the film was uncensored during its 1986 theatrical run and edited for the VHS and LaserDisc release, several accounts from individuals who claim to have seen the film in theaters attest that the censorship was present in the theatrical version from the beginning. Again, the lack of any official statements from Toei leaves the veracity of these accounts uncertain.

Recoveries

Note that despite the film's heavy censorship, a noticeable majority of its gore remains uncensored (most notably Jagi's death); aside from those that feature bloodshed only, these scenes occur very rapidly and are not entirely discernible due to their length, despite most of the film's censored scenes meeting the same criteria. Furthermore, the blur effects used for most altered scenes do not mask all of their gore, with numerous blurred scenes still containing enough visible entrails to give viewers an idea of how they were originally animated. Given that the film's censorship is identical in all re-releases of the film (save for the Italian VHS release, as noted below), it is unknown why it was altered in such a selective manner.

Some Italian VHS releases of the film (as well as certain trailers) contain uncensored versions of several gore scenes in the film, all of which have been uploaded to YouTube. Given the two conflicting claims about the timing of the film's censorship, this particular VHS release was based on either an incomplete edit of the theatrical version or an intermediate draft between the workprint and the final cut. Additionally, at least one scene that was censored in the film can be found unedited in a theatrical trailer for it. Out of all the scenes that were censored, the currently recovered ones are as follows:

Scene Censorship Uncensored source
Shin brands Kenshiro with his signature Ursa Major scar pattern by ramming his fingers into Kenshiro's chest. Tinted blue. Italian VHS
After a thug is hit with Kenshiro's Hokuto Shinken technique, he falls to the ground in front of Bat. Suddenly, his head explodes, and his neck stump sprays blood onto a terrified Bat while the corpse shoots upright and violently twitches. Tinted gray. Italian VHS
During Raoh's procession as the self-proclaimed Ken-Oh (King of the Fist), Galf (the procession director) crushes a man's head for chanting off-tempo. The death footage itself is replaced with a discretionary landscape shot. Italian VHS
Rei cleaves a thug's head in five pieces using his Nanto Suicho Ken (South Star Swan Fist) technique. Blurred Theatrical Trailer

In mid-2015, the Charles Theater in Baltimore, Maryland, made a post on their official site claiming that they would be screening the film's uncensored cut on September 23 of that year. Though the date of this post is no longer known (as it was taken down after the film's screening), forum posts on Crunchyroll and IGN regarding the showing date back as early as August 10. In a response to a Facebook user by the name of Joe Hostage, the theater claimed that they had acquired an unaltered print that was originally used as a master for American retail releases, which seems to indicate that the film's censorship was applied after the 1986 theatrical premiere and that claims of it being censored in theaters from the start are false. However, no footage of this screening is known to have surfaced online, and no one has verified whether or not the theater's copy had any noticeable differences from the home releases in regards to censorship.

External Links

Comments


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MinamiKousaka

16 months ago
Score 1++
Shouldn't this one be tagged as NSFL?
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Game4brains

16 months ago
Score 0++
I'm not sure if one can consider this lost content "disturbing", but I'll tag it just to be on the safe side.
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Insultingiguana

16 months ago
Score 0++
Streamline did the dub to the un - censord theatrical release, I already have a mega article for all the streamline dubs, this and Robotech needs to be added. None the less retro junk did a article about its releases in the u.s.a, it explains kinda how this all happend.
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Game4brains

16 months ago
Score 0++
The Streamline dub does exist in full, it's just the complete uncensored visual footage that remains lost; this footage is indiscriminate of language, hence why I gave it its own article prior to the wiki's domain shift.
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Anonymous user #3

14 months ago
Score 0++
theatrical release was censored.
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Ragy

16 months ago
Score 0++

GUYS I FOUND A GIF OF ONE OF THE CENSORED PARTS HOLY SHIT

http://45.me...7jo1_500.gif
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Ragy

16 months ago
Score 0++
IT'S ALSO MUCH MORE HIGH-RES THAN ANY SCREENSHOTS PROVIDED OMG
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Anonymous user #1

15 months ago
Score 1++
That gif has already been found before you posted this. It was from the theatrical trailer. Look it up, it's on youtube.
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Ragy

16 months ago
Score 0++
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Markiegee50X

15 months ago
Score 0++
The movie is in CrunchyRoll, I am a member but my premium account expired
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Kobochat

15 months ago
Score 1++
I checked it, the Crunchyroll version appears to be either fully censored or a mix of the fan-edit and the censored version. For instance, at 28:22, it cuts to a lower-quality VHS-looking source for the head explosion, but then uses the brown-tinting censorship for when the neck starts shooting blood. It also uses the blurring on the head-cleaving scene at 40:31. Maybe it's just fully censored, idk. Never seen the whole thing. (also, it should be viewable even for free members, just in slightly lower quality)
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Anonymous user #2

15 months ago
Score 1++
Isn't NSFL a bit drastic of a tag for a gory anime film?
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TEOL

14 months ago
Score 0++
Somebody should just use the RAW non subbed version from Japan and record the English audio before blending them together.
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Kobochat

14 months ago
Score 1++
The whole point is that the footage is censored even in the Japanese releases
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Anonymous user #4

9 months ago
Score 0++
So strange, I had always thought the overtly bloody scenes where blurred because of a bad transfers between master prints and other copies. Than again I was much younger when I thought this. I don't think it ever clicked with me that its only really the overtly gory moments that where blurred. Than again the blur always acted as a "There's going to be some gruesome shit" warning to me as an early teen. It's so strange how a Italian VHS Version of the film is less censored than the original Japanese. Hopefully one day Toei will release a remastered uncut version for the film.
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Anonymous user #5

8 months ago
Score 0++
I grossed myself out with this.
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WillyGurl08

8 months ago
Score 0++
I grossed myself out with this. (i'm Anonymous user #5 btw)
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Anonymous user #6

7 months ago
Score 0++

I saw some guy in Facebook who called Toei when it screened at a theater to see if it was uncensored and apparently Toei told him it was

There was absolutely NO updates after that though. I need to find it again.
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Game4brains

6 months ago
Score 0++
That's pretty much like saying that your uncle works at Nintendo and that your dad is Tatsumi Kimishima. You can't just say "I heard this from a guy who knows a guy" and leave it at that; link sources if you can, and check the veracity of said sources before doing so.
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Toki 199X

6 months ago
Score 0++

found a french youtube clip which showcases the differences between the censored and the uncensored versions of the movie in original japanese video format (not snapshots)

https://www....=6o6gicDjeb0
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Game4brains

5 months ago
Score 0++
That's actually the same channel that made and posted the edits of the film that re-insert the surviving uncensored footage, funnily enough; I should probably add that video to the external links section when I get the chance.
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YugiBoy2017

5 months ago
Score 0++

1. http://thene...dnight-show/

2. http://cinem...utton=Search


I found the 35mm print showing at New Beverly Cinema and the UCLA Library is holding the 35mm safety print at their archives.
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Game4brains

5 months ago
Score 0++
There doesn't seem to be any indication as to whether or not those prints are uncensored or not; it'd be very disappointing to get copies of them only to find out that they're censored reprints. We don't know for sure how those copies compare to the original theatrical release, and until we can get any official confirmation we're stuck in a Shrodinger's Print scenario of sorts.
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Anonymous user #8

1 months ago
Score 0++
Guys if the film was uncensored in Japanese cinemas then censored half way through could be the truth and if there was many prints sent to cinemas it makes sense that Italy had uncut scenes so if we recover a unaltered Japanese print its possible the full uncut version exists if it was an uncensored print so we need a search party in Japan's archives or Toei's
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Fatality14

4 months ago
Score 1++

I found a remnant of uncensored footage in the french cut of the film:

http://youtu...=hYIxAF-MBfU
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Game4brains

4 months ago
Score 0++
That's actually how the scene appears in the censored cut, sorry to say.
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Anonymous user #7

4 months ago
Score 0++
I regret everything and nothing at the same time. Not just for this, but that's just how my life is.
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Anonymous user #9

17 days ago
Score 0++
Some rumors I have been hearing involve a workprint version of the film being uncut. From the information I have gathered, there have been multiple versions of the workprint. A complete uncensored version, a slightly uncensored version (That was used for the Italian VHS), and than the final version which is no different from the final version we have on DVD, VHS, and LaserDisc.
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Game4brains

14 days ago
Score 0++

I already kinda discussed that in the Recoveries section:

"Given the two conflicting claims about the timing of the film's censorship, [the Italian] VHS release was based on either an incomplete edit of the theatrical version or an intermediate draft between the workprint and the final cut."

Also, as stated in the article, the Charles Theater made the claim that the copy of the film they were screening was an uncensored cut used for the US retail release, which would debunk the "censored in theaters" claim if this turned out to be the case (as no one's been able to confirm or deny if the Charles Theater version truly is the uncensored one). If the film's final cut was censored for the 1986 Japanese premier, then it's likely that Toei would've sent the censored version to retailers rather than the uncensored one, if all the hubbub surrounding the uncensored American release of La Blue Girl was anything to go by.
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