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

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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 that ran from 1984 to 1988 in Japan. However, the story also received an animated film adaptation in 1986. The film was produced by Toei Animation, who also produced the 1984 animated series; because of this, the film reuses the TV show'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. However, the film, unlike the 1984 TV series, retained the manga's violent content... at least in the theatrical release.


At some point, Toei Animation was forced to heavily censor the film's content following large amounts of complaints surrounding its graphic imagery; many instances of gore were either blurred, heavily tinted, or (in one case) replaced with a discretion cut. 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).


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 both accounts uncertain.


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.

Meanwhile, 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. 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

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