Fist of the North Star (Hepburn: Hokuto no Ken, lit. “Fist of the Big Dipper”) is a Japanese manga series written by Buronson and illustrated by Tetsuo Hara. Serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump from 1983 to 1988, the 245 chapters were initially accumulated in 27 tankōbon volumes by Shueisha. Set in a post-apocalyptic world which has been destroyed by a nuclear war, the story centers on a warrior named Kenshiro, the successor of a lethal martial art style called Hokuto Shinken, which gives him the skill to kill most adversaries from within through the use of the body‘s secret critical points, often leading to an extremely brutal and gory death. Kenshiro dedicates his life to fighting against the various ravagers who endanger the lives of the weak and innocent, along with competing martial artists, including his own “brothers” from the exact same clan.
In the 1990s, culture was ruined as an outcome of a worldwide nuclear war and many creatures died out. In spite of these occasions, 30% of humankind survived and entered an age where the strong ruled over the weak, as the few survivors fought over whatever supply of food and uncontaminated water remained in the wasteland of the world.
Kenshiro, successor to the historical assassination art of “Hokuto Shinken”, wanders into a village in search of water when he is caught in a trap and imprisoned by the local defense force. In prison, he befriends a young orphaned girl named Rin who nursed him back to health. When the village is attacked by a biker gang and Rin is taken hostage by their leader, Ken breaks free from his cell and savings Rin, defeating the gang leader with his deadly martial art technique. Kenshiro leaves the village and continues his journey, now accompanied by a young thief named Bat. He becomes involved against the King organization after observing the many atrocities they have committed. As he infiltrates the gang’s stronghold in the town of Southern Cross, he finds out the leader of King is his old nemesis, the Nanto Seiken master Shin, the man who engraved the seven scars on Kenshiro’s chest and kidnapped his fiancee Yuria. Kenshiro emerges successful in his rematch with Shin, simply to discover that Yuria is no longer with Shin.
Kenshiro continues his journey and continues on to fight several more enemy organizations. After being reunited with Rin and meeting new allies such as the woman warrior Mamiya and the Nanto Suichōken successor Rei, Kenshiro learns that his three former brothers-in-training in the means of Hokuto Shinken are still living. The third brother, Jagi, a violent thug who sought to torment Kenshiro after losing the Hokuto Shinken series to him, seeks revenge against Kenshiro but is quickly eliminated. Kenshiro goes on to search for the second brother, a tender healer named Toki, and learns he is being kept prisoner in the dungeon city of Cassandra. After rescuing Toki, Kenshiro learns that Raoh, the eldest of the four brothers, has become a ruthless warlord known as “Ken-Oh” and is now seeking to conquer the post-apocalyptic world. Kenshiro goes on to challenge Raoh, but the long grueling battle ends in a stalemate and the two warriors are forced to settle their differences another day. Rei is fatally wounded as a result of an earlier conflict with Raoh and he spends the last few days of his life tracking down his nemesis Juda, successor of Nanto Kōkakuken, who once tormented Mamiya in the past. After defeating Juda, Rei goes to die, at peace with himself.
Kenshiro joins a resistance movement led by a vintage benefactor, the Nanto Hakuroken successor Shew. When Shew is captured and executed by Souther, Kenshiro faces Souther and foils his aspirations. With Souther now gone, Raoh recovers from his wounds and goes on to resume his reign of conquest. Toki, who is on the brink of dying as a consequence of intense radiation poisoning, challenges Raoh as part of a childhood promise they made to each other, but is ultimately no match for him. Raoh can not bring himself to land a killing blow on his own brother, and leaves after getting the better of Toki. After Toki expires in a battle against the freelance warrior (and Yuria’s brother) Ryuga, Kenshiro is left as the only one who can conquer Raoh.
The Last General of Nanto appears and decides to side with Kenshiro as a way to conquer Raoh, sending out her five guards, the Goshasei, after Raoh. Kenshiro and Raoh both learn that the General’s true identity is Yuria, Kenshiro’s lost fiancee. After a number of numerous events and conflicts, Kenshiro emerges triumphant over Raoh and he’s eventually reunited with Yuria. On the other hand, the victory is bittersweet, as Yuria, having affected by radiation sickness, has only several years left to live.
The peace that follows Raoh’s downfall does not last long and the world returns to chaos several years after. Kenshiro rejoins his former traveling companions, Bat and Rin, inside their battle against an oppressive Empire, fighting under the banner of the Hokuto Army. The Hokuto Army saves the rightful Empress Rui, who’s additionally Rin’s estranged twin sister, foiling the plot of the usurper Jako, who was blackmailing Rui’s defender, the Gento Kōken successor Falco, to do his evil bidding.
Nevertheless, Rin is taken captive by the remnant of Jako’s forces and is sent off to the mysterious Kingdom of Shura, a brutal land of warriors ruled by three overlords who’ve all mastered the ways of Hokuto Ryūken, a martial art which branched off from exactly the same family alongside Hokuto Shinken into the ways of darkness. Kenshiro gets the better of Han, the third-position overlord, who discloses that the Kingdom of Shura was Kenshiro’s birthplace. Also, Kenshiro also learns that Hyou, the second overlord, is his biological older brother. After a grueling battle, Hyou and Ken accommodate their differences and Kenshiro seeks out the highest-ranking and most powerful of the three overlords, Kaioh, who’s Raoh’s biological older brother, and plans a conquest to rule the post apocalyptic world in the name of evil after wiping out the followers of Hokuto Shinken. Nevertheless, Kenshiro is finally helpless against Kaioh’s wicked powers, and the man called Shachi, a feared righteous warrior throughout Shura, helps him virtually escape departure. After having regained from the harrowing fight, Hyou discloses to Kenshiro that the homeland of the progenitor family of all Hokuto fashion martial arts, the Hokuto Soke, lies in Shura, and holds the secrets of beating Kaioh’s overwhelming power. Upon gaining the favor of the spirits of the Hokuto Soke, and rightfully bestowed the ancestral techniques in a race against Kaioh, Kenshiro goes to confront the conqueror. When Kenshiro and Kaioh meet up again, the latter reaches a pressure point on Rin that leaves her unconscious and amnesiac and will compel her to fall in love with the first person she sees; Kaioh then sends her away on a horse before rematching Kenshiro. The closing battle concludes with Kenshiro defeating Kaioh, who makes his peace with Hyou as both of them pass away.
Afterward, Kenshiro rescues Rin and leaves her under Bat’s care as he goes on an experience with Raoh’s orphaned son Ryu. Meanwhile, a villain named Bolge appears, seeking retribution against Kenshiro for blinding him in a fight a long time past. Bat brands himself with Kenshiro’s seven scars and fights in his spot, simply to be crucified by Bolge and tortured to near-passing. Kenshiro saves Bat, subsequently fights and kills Bolge, while Rin recovers her memories and professes her love to a recovering Bat. Afterward, Kenshiro leaves and continues his job as the Post-Apocalyptic Savior, defending the poor and fighting off the greedy and violent, as the world finally begins to recover from the nuclear war.