As of yesterday, you can now own all of the Fist of the North Star TV series on DVD in North America. It’s been a varied journey getting here.
The anime began airing in Japan in 1984, and soon after hardcore American anime fans were tracking its details furiously. But it wasn’t until 1999 (fifteen years later) the FotNS TV show was actually being sold in North America. That’s when Manga Entertainment starting releasing it on VHS, as anime pioneer Carl Macek outfitted it with an English dub and “modern” electronic music. By 2003 Manga released the first 36 episodes on DVD. These episodes also aired on television channels Showtime Beyond and Starz! Action.
But that’s as far as Manga went before their license expired. The well had dried up. It seemed there would be no more releases of the 152 episode-long series.
Digital fansubbers eagerly began correcting this over the next five years, finally completing the job in September 2008. One month later Toei Animation started officially streaming FotNS online with their own subtitles. It wasn’t long before the entire series was streaming legally and for free on Toonzaki, Hulu, Funimation, Crunchyroll, Crackle and Anime News Network!
It wasn’t as perfect as it might sound. Toei translated the anime awkwardly in spots, suggesting it wasn’t proofread by a skilled English speaker familiar with the series. For example, Kenshiro’s iconic proclamation “You’re already dead!” is translated to “You don’t even know you’re already dead!”
In addition, the video quality is sub-optimal, very dark and muddled. In 2008 the anime had been beautifully remastered in Japan, but that’s not the version used in Toei’s streams or the fansubs.
Enter Discotek Media. Last July they began releasing the television series on DVD, in a saturated and uncertain market. Their box sets not only include Manga’s English dub of the first 36 episodes as a neat extra, but they tweak Toei and Manga’s subtitles to make them less likely to grate on fans’ nerves. In addition, Discotek are the only ones to have used the Japanese remaster of the TV series! It’s never looked so pristine.
A lot of us fans are breathing a collective sigh of relief. A journey 27 years in the making is now complete, with Discotek’s fourth and final box set released on November 8.
There isn’t a better time to be a North American fan of this show! Feel free to check out the first episode below. And when you’re ready to take your interest to the next level, the Discotek box sets are available at all good online retailers.