'80s Hair: Apparently the nuclear holocaust caused a mutation that gave almost all women naturally feathered hair. The men without mohawks also mostly tend toward mullets and big hair.
Abandoned Catchphrase: One of the most notable elements of Fist of the North Star is Kenshiro's line "You Are Already Dead," delivered to those due to explode. However, this catchphrase was only really around during the Southern Cross arc, and disappeared after Shin's death. It does get uttered again on rare occasions, but by then its catchphrase status had practically died out.
Abduction Is Love: Juza and his men invade bandit villages and carry off the women. Since these are always previously-abducted women being saved from rape or worse, they're generally happy to become part of his harem. When he finds out one group are all married women who want to return to their husbands, he gives them supplies and lets them go (with a bit of grumbling.)
Abnormal Ammo: Guns are relatively common in the wasteland, but apparently making bullets is a lost art. Guns tend to shoot knives or other weird projectiles instead.
Absurdly Sharp Blade: Rei has absurdly sharp fingers. His martial art style is based off of creating a cutting force right at the tips of his fingers or the edge of his hands, allowing him to slice men in half with a simple clawing motion that seems to miss them by about an inch. All the Nanto styles qualify for this.
Afraid of Blood: Mr. Heart goes batshit, when he sees his own blood, attacking everyone in sight, friend or foe. Joker triggered this intentionally, so he'd have an edge against Ken.
Adaptation Dye-Job: The original anime version by Toei changed the hair colors of some of the characters. Most of the later anime productions by North Stars Pictures reverted back to their manga hair colors.
The 1980s anime TV series, although it toned down some of the violence and had lots of filler, also actually develops many characters beyond what they were developed in the manga. Shin, in particular, is given a much more prominent role and exploration of his backstory and motivations, making him a much more sympathetic character. They also add in a lot of variations of the Nanto schools, many interesting min-bosses and civilians (including several Badass Bystanders), new towns (and even naming random locations visited in the manga), and show more of the daily lifestyles and cultures that emerged after the nuclear war.
Part of Buronson and Tetsuo Hara's involvement in Hokuto Musou was to create new moves for every character so they'd have an expanded move list. This actually means that not only are said moves canon, they also show what many characters that didn't get a chance to really showcase themselves were capable of. This is especially welcome with the Nanto characters, like Shin and Thouzer.
For all the omissions and changes they made, the True Saviormovies and OVAs feature plenty of new story elements as well. The first four installments did so by retelling events from the manga from the perspective of characters other than Kenshiro, while the fifth movie was actually a prequel to the manga.
Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: A filler episode has Uighur send a female martial artist (Bella) to assassinate Kenshiro, believing that he would never hurt a woman. Ironically, he actually did so in an earlier filler when he fought against Patra the Sorceress. Another episode has a villager recognize Kenshiro as the man who defeated Devil Rebirth, despite nobody outside of Jackal's gang being aware of his existence (in the manga, the villager mentions Jackal instead).
Adaptation Name Change: Shin's flying kick technique of Nanto Gokuto Ken (Hell Butcher Fist), which he uses to defeat Kenshiro during their mutual origin story, became Nanto Gokusatsu Ken (Hell Slaughter Fist) in the anime in order to avoid offending the Buraku people (a historically ostracized ethnic minority in Japan known primarily for working in butcher shops). Other changes include renaming the Golan organization to God's Army and Misumi (the elderly farmer whose life is saved by Kenshiro in the second episode) becoming Sumisu (or Smith).
After the End: The series takes place after a nuclear war, with a few characters being affected by radiation poisoning. The prequel, Fist Of The Blue Sky takes place in pre-World-War-II Japanese-occupied China.
Air Jousting: Ken and Shin engage in a splash panel's worth this in their first fight, and it became the most famous single panel of the series (which is saying a lot). Anime parodies of Fist of the North Star frequently refer to this panel, with Ken and Shin's legs crossed in midair. Also, Ken and Raoh jump straight up to do a little air jousting later. Usually, though, jumping attacks are carried out against opponents on the ground.
All Bikers Are Hells Angels: Not to mention screaming hooligans with tattoos and mohawks who have a delightful tendency to pick the exact same afternoon Kenshiro is passing by to abuse people.... and explode.
Yuria's many admirers include Shin* who steals away Yuria in an effort to keep her safe from the wastelands, convinced that Kenshiro's kindheartedness would get himself killed and put Yuria in danger, Toki* who on behalf of Kenshiro during a flashback makes Raoh stand down when he tries to strongarm Yuria into loving him instead, and Raoh* who, after witnessing Toh of the Sea kill herself in front of him, is rather upset at coming to the conclusion that his feelings for Yuria; much like Toh's feelings for Raoh; are entirely one-sided. There, he declares Yuria as good as dead if she won't love him back. Mamiya is both impressed and intimidated from hearing about the many hearts Yuria had inadvertently broken just by existing.
Lin and Mamiya both harbor crushes on Ken, and of course, who could blame them? Ken of course views Lin as one would a little sister, even post Time Skip when she co-leads the North Star Army with Bat. Mamiya squashes the idea of pursuing Ken entirely when she realizes Ken only has eyes for Yuria and would never love another, even after believing her to be dead post Southern Cross arc.
Speaking of Mamiya, by the time she realizes she feels for Rei as Rei feels for her, it's during an agonizing three day death sentence for him courtesy of Raoh.
All There in the Manual: The name of Shin's Nanto Seiken branch was never mentioned in the manga (partly due to his role as Kenshiro's Token Motivational Nemesis). It would later be retroactively established in the 1986 special issue of Shonen Jump titled Hokuto no Ken Special: All About the Man.
All Your Powers Combined: Another one of the effects of Musou Tenseinote "Nil Thought Rebirth" is to commune with the souls of dead friends and allies and harness their strength and skills.
Kenshiro: This is for Shin! (asskicking ensues) [...] The fists you are about to feel... (more asskicking ensues) ...IS FOR YURIA! [...] This is for the little child that you killed! (stabs an arrow into chest) [...] And this last one...this is for the man whose life you have stolen! This...is...THIS IS MY RAGE! (punches Jagi and sends him flying ass over head)
Anime Theme Song: "Ai Wo Torimodose", the theme song for the original anime series is one of the most well-known anime theme songs ever, and it is absolutely synonymous with the series. Any adaptation of the series in other media that uses ANY song from the anime will use Ai Wo Torimodose. It is also considered by many to be one of the most hot blooded anime theme song ever, and apart from that if you go through the lyrics - you'll find yourself shedding Manly Tears.
Antagonist Abilities: Due to Ken's near-invincibility against anyone that isn't a successor of the Hokuto or Nanto styles, many of his opponents fall into this trope. For example, one of his earliest opponents is Heart, whose blubbery body makes opponents Left Stuck After Attack. There's also Patra, who uses illusions, Villain Teleportation, and Smoke Out abilities. Even against more capable opponents, such as Thouzer, there is usually some sort of gimmick that Ken has to overcome before he can fight at his best. But the trope isn't as effective as it could be, thanks to the Hokuto Shinken style giving Ken New Powers as the Plot Demands.
Anyone Can Die: The only three completely safe recurring characters are Kenshiro, Rin, and Bat (and even they have their moments). Everyone else, in a manga spanning hundreds of chapters with a cast of hundreds if not thousands, is fair game. In some arcs, this is taken to Kill 'em All levels. The only character still breathing by the end of Kenshiro Den prequel movie is Kenshiro himself!
Apocalypse Anarchy: After the world gets devastated by nuclear war, practically all forms of government have been abandoned. The highest sort of organization the villages have are little communities headed by an elder. Meanwhile, there are either random gangs of mohawked thugs or armies organized under one very powerful individual, and either are more than willing to take what they want from the villages without remorse.
Arc Welding: As the manga went on, it was not uncommon to weave in earlier and seemingly unrelated story arcs into current ones. When Jagi was first introduced, it turns out he was the one who brainwashed Shin into betraying Ken.
The original theme song, "Ai Wo Torimodose", is about Kenshiro's quest to rescue Yuria from Shin. It's still used as the anime's opening theme after the end of the Southern Cross arc until the switch to "Silent Survivor" in the fourth story arc.
The Golan theme is still used throughout the series, even after the God's Army arc is over. It most notably becomes the theme of the Holy Emperor's army.
Artistic License: The Southern Cross is closely associated with Nanto Seiken, to the point that it's even used as the crest for the school. In reality, the Nanto constellation is an unrelated Chinese constellation roughly equivalent to the Milk Dipper asterism that forms part of Sagittarius.
Let's talk about Spade. In the second chapter Kenshiro ran into him and his goons while torturing an old man to steal a bag full of rice. When Kenshiro intervened, Spade shot an arrow at him, and Kenshiro stopped it easily. Kenshiro informed him that he would only take his eye - instead of killing him - if he tried that again. Spade tried it again with predictable consequences. Kenshiro, though, still spared his life... and Spade attacked him again. Spade, lad, there are less painful ways to commit suicide!
Audience Surrogate: Bat and Lin in the early chapters mainly existed for Kenshiro to have someone to provide exposition to.
Awesome by Analysis: Amiba plans to become adept in the Hokuto Shinken style by experimenting with human guinea pigs to discover the pressure points that are quintessential to it.
Kenshiro is the successor to the deadly martial art known as Hokuto Shinken, which relies on hitting pressure points to kill your enemies in very gruesome ways (usually by making their heads explode). Ken also happens to be one of the kindest people in the entire Crapsack World he inhabits, and uses the pressure point techniques of the art to heal as well as to kill.
This applies to his adoptive brother Toki as well, who uses the same assassin's art that Kenshiro does. He does so as a kindly, almost messianic doctor, using Hokuto Shinken to heal diseases and afflictions even though he himself is sick with terminal radiation poisoning.
Shew, a benevolent blind warrior who looks after orphans, uses the Nanto Hakuro Ken style, which involves the ability to carve people to pieces by kicking them. In one instance he performs a Hurricane Kick so potent that it cleanly decapitates everyone in a ten foot radius.
Jackal. In a world of flesh-melting kung fu megapowers, he becomes an important villain by knowing how to manipulate people and never facing anyone stronger than he is.
Ein is a well-known and feared bounty hunter. His combat skills boil down to basic brawling, and hitting things really, really hard.
Bad Moon Rising: The Star of Death. When it appears in the sky, those who see it are doomed to die within a year. There are NO EXCEPTIONS to this rule. Only one character has been spared this fate, and it involved The Power of Love to intervene.
Barbie Doll Anatomy: For a shonen series, the men have no visible nipples when shirtless. Shin's first appearance in the manga has him completely naked, but looking like a statue being polished by two women. Subverted with women in anime and manga where they do, especially Mamiya.
Bare-Fisted Monk: Endemic amongst the main cast and villains, given all the superpowered martial arts going around. Anyone fighting with weapons is a mook, a Red Shirt, or some other kind of minor speed-bump for their unarmed opponents.
Famously Ken and Rei, but at one point Raoh and Toki (who actually are brothers) teamed up on their way to see Kenshiro's second confrontation of Thouzer.
Raiga and Fuga, the Sibling Team gatekeepers of Cassandra Prison, who end up joining Kenshiro to destroy the place.
Battle Aura: Hokuto Shinken allows its practitioner to increase their strength by using an inner energy called "touki", which literally means "battle aura". Taken a step further with the art itself: A character's presence is directly reflected in the size they're drawn. This of course means that the noisy, reckless, and above all else, LOUD henchmen are rarely less than twice as large as any other character, with rareexceptions. As a side effect, characters' actual sizes are impossible to tell without reading some supplementarymaterial.
Battle Strip: It is kind of hard to ignore the fact how just about every time Kenshiro goes into Rage mode (usually for emotional reasons), his touki incinerates his shirt. This similarly applies to major villains in battle against them. Kinda makes you wonder how their Clothing magically reappears in a latter time, considering the post-apocalyptic nature of their world. The only thing in fact to change as such are Kaioh's or Raoh's helmets. Raoh tends to remove his cape when fighting, and one or more of his shoulder pads usually burst off his shoulders when the pressure points in them are activated.
Beard of Sorrow: In the 1986 film version, Ken grows one after losing to Shin, which makes him look totally like an 80s-era Chuck Norris. Its presence in the scene where he meets Bat and Lin by saving them from bandits makes him all the more badass.
Beauty Equals Goodness: Attractive villains are treated with sympathy when they die even if they aren't actually sympathetic (looking at you Yuda and Thouzer). Ugly villains are killed with no remorse. On the other hand, the handsome villains are more likely to actually show remorse in the first place.
Hurt innocent people in front of Kenshiro and heads will pop.
Mr. Heart flips out and attacks people indiscriminately if he sees his own blood. One of the other villains uses this fact to his advantage during Heart's fight with Ken.
Boogal absolutely despises being dirty at all, and will take as many baths as possible to keep clean, if it means literally bathing all day. When one of his henchmen politely tell him he's using too much water, Boogal demands that the villagers' already pathetic water portions be cut in half.
Morgan hates having his driving criticized at all, and sought to murder Bat after he passed Morgan on the road.
Beware the Nice Ones: The nature of the series means that the nicest characters are also highly lethal martial artists. Kenshiro, Toki and Shu are some of the most prominent ones. Thouzer's master Ohgai was likewise this; though he was a loving foster father to Thouzer, it has to be remembered that he was also the successor to the deadliest Nanto technique. This is demonstrated in the Right on King one-shot, where he took the right arm of Gishaku (Shin's father) in the blink of an eye.
BFS: Four mooks team up to swing one gigantic sword in order to kill Shu/Shew. They fail and get horribly killed for their trouble.
Bittersweet Ending: The first series ends with Kenshiro defeating Raoh and riding off with Yuria...who is dying of radiation poisoning.
Book-Ends: The final story arc takes place in the same village Chapter 238 (the third chapter in the final volume) ends just like how the very first chapter began with Ken staggering through the desert, begging for water — but this time, with Bat and Lin right there.
Black and Gray Morality: The thugs and warlords that populate the wasteland steal, murder and rape to their heart's content, and any attempts to keep them in line tend to be marginally less brutal. Even Raoh looks good compared to them.
Being made before the days when violent anime is screened during midnight, desaturated, black or white blood was the only way that Fist of the North Star could air on television at all. Over the course of the first season, this appears to have gradually been phased out for normal red coloured blood, with the black and white bursts of blood being used primarily for when the fluid spurts out of wounds.
There is still ome genuine red blood in the anime TV series, most notably when Shin cripples Kenshiro in their first fight. You will never see it when Kenshiro makes a random mook's head violently explode, however.
In the 1986 film, red blood is present throughout. And plenty of gore and entrails to go with it.
Black Humor: Kenshiro's treatment of many villains oozes that, like when he killed a Mook with a Groin Attack so strong that sent him flying and beating the hammer throw record of the head mook and his assistant.
Bloodier and Gorier: The 1986 film had high amount of violence than the series itself (which is funny, since the original manga was a bloody and gory mess itself).
Blood Upgrade: Seeing his own blood makes Mr. Heart flip out, and more dangerous.
Born Lucky: Curiously enough, the Big Bad Raoh of the series. He should have been dead several times over before the end of the series but survives long enough for his final battle with Kenshiro. Oh, what the hell, let's count all of the lucky breaks he got.
A chance encounter with Juza in his childhood which gives him just the right Aesop that he uses to avoid a fatal ass-kicking.
The second person who could stop him, his father Ryuken, suffers a fatal heart attack right before he stopped Raoh from assuming the mantle of Big Bad.
The third person who could stop him, Toki, suffered crippling radiation poisoning and was just shy of having enough strength of finishing Raoh off for good.
A trap meant as a last-ditch resort to finish off Raoh actually ends up allowing Raoh to escape and kidnap Yuria.
In terms of his reputation, he also "died lucky" in the sense that he's lionized for the rest of the manga after his death too, both in and out-of-universe (that is, both by characters' words and in the context of the manga's events).
The violence from the manga was toned down considerably in the TV series, with many of the violent deaths and blood being rendered in black and white and scenes involving children's deaths (such as Bat's adoptive brother Taki or the kid who ate poisoned bread in Shuh's hideout) were rewritten to have Kenshiro save the child at the last minute. In spite of this, the show still attracted the negative attention of moral guardiansin Japan.
Toei Animation attempted to avert this with the movie, with blood and guts flying everywhere, like above, it caught the attention of Moral Guardians, to the point major violent scenes are blurred, including the remastered version. Averted in the Italian copy.
Inversion: Fudoh of the Mountains instantly experiences a Heel–Face Turn after holding a warm puppy in his hands.
Played Straight: The Star of Death, a star next to the big dipper. Anyone who sees it is going to die very soon.
Bruce Lee Clone: Kenshiro, especially evident with his high-pitched battle cries.
Burning the Ships: While in the process of mourning the fallen Hyui, Shuren, one of the Five Chariot Stars, incinerates his army's fortress as a memorial to his fallen comrade and as a means to force his men to attack the killer, Raoh. Shame that it does very little to help him survive his fight with Raoh.
But for Me, It Was Tuesday: During his confrontation, Kenshiro accused Jagi of killing an innocent child. Jagi does not remember it even though it happened a short while ago. When Jagi finally does, he replies "Who cares if I've wasted a kid or two?".
Complete with the kanji for the attack name printed on screen, which is subject to lots of parodies. It is, however, an inversion of this trope: most of the time, they call their attacks after using them.
The fact that Ken's iconic Touch of Death has a delay also helps, since he can tell his victims the name of his attacks after it's too late for them to do anything about them.
Camp Gay: Juda. Also very harshly subverted when we get into his backstory.
Filler character Saki, a servant of Yuria, appears in the Yuria Gaiden manga.
Movie characters Reina and Souga are main characters in the Ten no Haoh manga.
The character Sakuya was created for the anime Legends of the Dark King and was incorporated into two manga specials by the original manga's author.
Cast Full of Pretty Boys: In the original series only Rei and Jyuza were considered to be handsome, but of course that was only in-universe and fans had more choices to pick and argue about; the spin-offs though, tends to scale up the cast's beauty by a notch, Yuria Gaiden in particular makes every single character a fine piece, if some were already pretty to begin with, they got even more handsome, even Jagi out of all people didn't look disgusting in this particular spin-off.
"Omae wa mo shindeiru" ("You are already dead"). Memetically mutated into a general statement of badassery. There's also the "Omae wa sude ni shindeiru" variation, which means the same thing, this one is almost forgotten by most fans, some even accuse to not even exist in the first place, due to how rare it is. One example of its use is found in the episode "Villains! Finish your prayers before you die!" Patra's henchmen are at the receiving end of an attack that breaks their spines.
Made even more awesome by its continually being translated as the more defiant: "You don't even know you're already dead."
Many of the villains Kenshiro kills have a tendency to utter an onomatopoeia such as "ABESHI" and "DAWABA" when they die. The most notable is "HIDEBU", a corruption of "ite yo!" (it hurts) which was first uttered by Mr. Heart in the manga and was uttered very often in the anime adaptation (even by Zeed, who precedes Heart in the story).
Rei's "KISHAO!" upon successfully slicing an opponent using his techniques, immediately before said opponent explodes or falls into pieces.
The Cavalry: The Army of Hokuto acts as this during the finale of the Shura arc as Bat and Rihaku lead their soldiers into the Land of Shura and defeat a regimen of Kaioh's army to save Lin and Hyou.
Characters Dropping Like Flies: The manga has so many people die that it would be easier to count how many people are still alive at the end of this series, even if one discounts all the random mooks that get massacred throughout the series. Driving this in further is the fact that these people are still remembered, to the point that the Toei anime had the credits of the Grand Finale had the images of about every named character (Aside from the most important of them) scrolling by.
Even though being an Asian martial arts series somewhat obviates this trope (i.e., the genre demands it of everyone anyway), there's still Ein. This American-flag clad bounty hunter employs no fancy techniques, defeats enemies (and barriers) by simply punching them, and claims to know the vaguely named Kenka Kenpo ("brawling martial art"). One could argue that being so strong, despite a lack of formal martial art skills, puts him in this category in a setting where Chinese martial arts generally lead to superpowers.
Kenshiro explains early on that most humans only ever use a small portion of their total potential for strength, and Hokuto Shinken teaches you how to utilize it 100%. Presumably the same can be said about a whole lot of other styles in the series.
Kenshiro: Most people only use 30% of their natural strength. That's not much. The secret to Hokuto Shinken is controlling the other 70% as well.
Clothing Damage: Kenshiro lives in a world where you sometimes must literally give an arm and a leg for basic necessities like food and fresh water, and yet can still afford to shred his expensive jacket every single episode and get a good-as-new replacement the next episode. Episode 23 shows Ken repairing a shoe though, so perhaps Ken uses what limited resources he can find to repair his outfit. Though then again, most of the time they're seen not just ripping but outright disintegrating.
Combat Breakdown: Enforced and commented on in Raoh's final battle with Kenshiro. Since both have mastered Musou Tensei, the use of all orthodox Hokuto Shinken techniques have become useless gestures. Because they're evenly matched, there's nothing left to do but to slugfest it out like infants.
Combat Pragmatist: Jagi made a career out of doing this. And him using a gun arguably isn't even the worse thing he did.
Competitive Balance: The most deadly techniques from the series are downplayed to fair levels in many game adaptations:
Hokuto Zankai-Ken: The move where Kenshiro hits the pressure points in both sides of his foe's head with his thumbs, the given time before death is 3 seconds, in games it becomes 30 seconds or more, and can be interrupted, as seen the Arcade Fighter game and Jump Super Stars.
Hokuto Hyakuretsu-Ken: The famous Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs, it only reaches the titular one hundread cracking fists when the attack is a special or desperation move, if not, it barely reaches 20 hits.
Any Nanto Seiken Technique: Nanto praticioners are shown to dismember lesser mooks easily, literally a One-Hit Kill, it's only downgraded against other Nanto and Hokuto fighters, where the move just cuts instead of outright dismembering, although in games, the mookiest of the mooks can't be killed instantly by the Nanto attacks.
Musou Tensei: The ultimate Hokuto Shinken art, the user becomes immune to everything thrown against him, it also channels the Hokuto Shinken Mega Manning powers to its maximum, the user can use all the techniques from his fallen comrades and foes at any time; in games, it's just a temporary Super Mode that is immune against everything but another Muso Tensei user and does not channel Hokuto and Nanto arts in one go, in certain cases it's just a counter-attack, a great one but still, as seen in Jump Super Stars.
Completely Different Title: Hokuto no Ken is officially translated as Fist of the North Star in English when it really should be "Fist of the Big Dipper". This is an artifact from when Viz translated the manga in 1989. Instead of explaining what the names Hokuto and Nanto meant (the Northern and Southern Dippers, two Chinese constellations roughly corresponding with the Great Bear and Saggitarius), they changed the names of the two main martial art schools to North Star and Southern Cross respectively. The North Star is still somewhat related to the Great Bear, as the Big Dipper is used to locate it, but Southern Cross barely has anything to with Nanto other than the fact that it happens to be the name of Shin's city. Later translations stick to the styles' original names, but the English title remains Fist of the North Star for recognition. Toei originally proposed the name Ken the Great Bear Fist and almost used that title for the NES game until they went with Viz's chosen title.
Fist of the North Star can be considered more of a localization than a direct translation of the Japanese title. The North Star and Southern Cross have historically been used as navigation aids. Considering that one of the themes of the story is who will lead the ruined Earth, it is fitting that the martial art schools of the main warriors would be named after beacons of guidance.
In Italy and France, the title was localized as Ken il guerriero (Ken the Warrior) and Ken le survivant (Ken the Survivor) respectively.
Compressed Adaptation: The 1986 movie roughly adapts the initial 72 chapters of the original manga (or the first 49 episodes of the TV series) into a 2-hour film. This was mainly done by rearranging the order of events and focusing the plot on the franchise's now-iconic rivalry between Kenshiro and his brother Raoh, reducing the role of every other villain to extended cameos (with only Shin and Jagi getting sufficient development due to their importance to the plot). However, Toki (the second of the four Hokuto brothers) was left out completely with not even a hint of his existence, and while Rei still appears, his love interest Mamiya does not, and he dies without his final challenge to his nemesis Yuda.
Continuity Drift: The latter part of the manga revealed that Kenshiro, Toki and Raoh were originally refuges from the Kingdom of Shura, where Raoh and Toki's mother was also buried. However, the first half of the manga already showed the ruins of Raoh and Toki's hometown, as well as the graves of both of Raoh and Toki's parents. Some adaptations choose to stick with the first origin story for Raoh and Toki, and others go with the Shura origin.
Cool Horse: Raoh's horse and later, Kenshiro's horse Kokuoh-Go, who is a black stallion the size of an elephant.
Courtly Love: In spite of not being an actual nobleman, this is the way that Rei shows poor Mamiya his love - he never even gets to kiss her before his tragic death at the hands of Raoh.
Crapsack World: If you're everyone but the protagonist, your life will be one of miserable squalor and highly probable violent death. If you're the protagonist, even more miserable, but less death.
Kenshiro: For nothing but a drop of water... A child's life is taken! What horrible times!
Crazy-Prepared: Kenshiro's martial art is older than most of the nations of the Earth and appears to have a specific attack for every occasion.
For example, the correct application of pressure points is exactly right for making someone garrote themselves — or behead themselves with a razor wire in the manga.
Raging Flame Reverse Flow Punch: for that one occasion you might run into a fire-breathing boss mook!
In one particularly strange occasion (that set the tone for everything else, including the fire-breathing guy), Shin (who, knowing Kenshiro, knew how Hokuto Shinken worked) had Kenshiro face Mr. Heart, whose enormous fatmade him immune to all martial arts but Shin's own Nanto Seiken. Kenshiro proceeded to use an attack that moved away Heart's fat before pressing the right pressure point. Shin's face was priceless.
Among the more bizarre examples there is also a technique for dismantling a tank (developed 2000 before mobile armor was invented), as well as a technique which causes the victim to change skin color and get struck by lightning.
Cruel and Unusual Death: Most people get cut to ribbons or popped like blood-filled balloons, but two particularly nasty deaths stand out:
Rei gets hit with a technique from Raoh that will cause his blood to drain from his body in three days and cause incredible agony.
Shew is forced to carry the peak of Thouzer's pyramid after having the muscles in his legs cut. He is then riddled with arrows by Thouzer's archers and impaled with a spear hurled by Thouzer himself, before ultimately being crushed under the stone as his strength gives out.
Curb-Stomp Battle: The entire series is based on this. There is only rarely such a thing as an equal battle, even amoung the various martial artists (be it Kenshiro or anyone else), one side will invariably dominate the other heavily. Sometimes this is a setup for a fight-back, sometimes not. It actually becomes a plot twist when Kenshiro actually has to fight on equal ground with an opponent. Curiously enough, the first Big Bad of the series, Raoh, has the smallest ratio of participating in these kinds of battles of any kind of character. He was on pretty even footing with Toki (both occasions), Juza, Fudoh, and Kenshiro in their second confrontation.
Deadly Upgrade: Hokuto Shinken knows a series of pressure points that will cause one's muscle power to increase greatly but irrevocably shortens one's lifespan. Interestingly, there's a variation where a different series of pressure points actually extends one's lifespan...but the pain is so great one might die from it while it takes effect. Also, the entire Hokuto Ryuuken martial art is arguably a Deadly Upgrade from Hokuto Shinken, since it drives its users insane with evil.
Mitsu, the younger brother of Raiga and Fuga does not survive his captivity in the anime and gets buried by his big brothers alongside Uighur's other victims, whereas in the manga Mitsu lives long enough to see the twins sacrifice their lives for Kenshiro and his friends.
The manga spares Gill, the younger Harn Brother, in one of the rare instances in which a major fighter lives, whereas in the anime he joins his brother Buzz/Has in his heroic sacrifice.
Death Equals Redemption: Played with several villains, notably Shin, Thouzer, and Raoh. There's also Kaioh, whose atrocities include murdering his sister, who doubles as his comrade's fiancée, and framing Kenshiro for the act — then turning on said comrade behind his back while he's occupied with Kenshiro. Kenshiro defeats him with a coup de grâce out of pity for his sad destiny, as this◊ pretty much says..
Death Glare: This anime is notable for having some of the most evil death-glares from good guys.
Death Is Cheap: The series actually averts this for the most part, but there is one major exception in Yuria. While she actually survived her fall from Shin's castle thanks to the Goshasei, her eventual death from radiation sickness hangs over both Raoh — it's what finally teaches him sadness, allowing him to know/use Musou Tensei — and the opening of Kenshiro Den, which is essentially is an epilogue to the entire Raoh story arc. According to the manga, her passing does greatly affect Kenshiro in the years afterward.
Deceptive Disciple: Inverted with Thouzer: his master tricked him into killing him in order to pass along the succession of Nanto Ho-oken to Thouzer. Thouzer went Ax-Crazy and decided to build a shrine to his master in the form of a massive pyramid built by child slave labor.
The point Rei was trying to make is that if Mamiya had fully renounced her femininity, she shouldn't feel the need to cover up. If that was going to stop her, she should just plain not go get herself killed.
Depraved Dwarf: Little people in this series are universally evil and subhuman, and are used by several warlords as spies and entertainment. Boss Fang's gaggle of 'children' are perhaps the most prominent examples.
Deus ex Machina: Every few episodes, there's a Shocking Swerve, with an enemy that Kenshiro's "AHTATATA..." doesn't work on. The standard resolution? A new techniquenote Generally "AHTATATA..." with slightly different animation. we've never heard of before that just happens to be custom tailored to his opponent's weak point! So Once Again, the Day Is Saved!
Dirty Coward: Very, very many, and very prominent due to the fact, that Kenshiro just loves to inflict slightly-delayed painful deaths on villains caught red-handed and then explain to them what he just did. Practically all minor villains break down and panic or plead for their life pathetically. On the other hand, most of the major antagonists face death with courage and dignity, because they are usually revealed to be tragic charactersright after the deathblow is struck. The most obvious AND unrepentent example though is Jagi.
Shew's loss of eyesight allowed him to "see" with his "heart", while Thouzer's heart is on the right side of his chest, and his pressure points are symmetrically mirrored.
Akashachi's eye, hand, and leg have been replaced by weapons.
Do with Him as You Will: One of Jagi's worst lieutenants terrorized a village by burying a victim up to their neck in sand, then forcing someone else to either cut off the first's victim's head or die. After Kenshiro beats the lieutenant, Ken buries him in sand, then leaves him at the mercy of the villagers he wronged.
The Drifter: Ken and Toki. And Rei. And Juza. And...well, if you're not running a corrupt empire, you're wandering around looking for one to crush, basically.
Dueling Messiahs: Kenshiro and Raoh, both of whom were students of Hokuto Shinken. Kenshiro believes that the world can be changed by example and that he can inspire humanity towards peace, while Raoh is a Social Darwinist who believes that he can keep the world in check by ruling over everyone. Toki strives for peace and non-violence, which puts him on Kenshiro's side but at odds with Raoh.
Enemy Civil War: In Episode 21 of the anime, General Balcom tries to overthrow Shin and is killed, and the remainder of Shin's army goes berserk and starts randomly burning Southern Cross and murdering slaves as Shin's authority crumbles. This has nothing to do with Kenshiro; Shin's men are simply fed up with his obsession with Yuria.
Somewhat justified considering cars in this universe are either cobbled together buggies or leftover pre-war tech. Even so, odds are if a car (other than Bat's) appears, it will explode at some point or other.
Even tanks and battleships aren't immune from this.
Even Mooks Have Loved Ones: And that is why there are actually decent men amongst Thouzer's army of beating and killing children; they are free to refuse if they can accept The Holy Emperor tearing their children and wives to pieces for their disobedience...
Everyone Went to School Together: With the exception of Rei and Juda, it seems that the Hokuto brothers met each of the Nanto Rokuseiken (Shin, Shuh, Thouzer and Yuria) before the apocalypse. Likewise, Raoh was also acquainted with both, Juza and Fudoh, when he was a child.
If Shin really knew and loved Yuria, he really shouldn't be surprised that she was Driven to Suicide by the cruelty and genocide committed in the name of earning her love.
Ditto for Thouzer, who probably missed the point of Master Ougai's love...
After Jackal's gang murdered an old lady taking care of a bunch of little children, Kenshiro swore to track down and kill all of them. Of course, he began to do just that. After finding a corpse of one of his comrades, a bandit said he didn't understand why Kenshiro was doing something he gained nothing from.
Evil Is Bigger: A good many of Kenshiro's foes are at least twice his size. And at six feet tall and 220 lbs of solid muscle, Ken's already huge by Asian standards.
Exact Time to Failure: Or in Kenshiro's case, Exact Time Until Your Head Asplode. A mook tries it ON Kenshiro once. A head explodes perfectly on cue. The mook's, of course.
Executive Suite Fight: Whereas the entire first season of Fist of the North Star takes place in a fallout-blanketed and crumbling post-apocalyptic desert wasteland, Kenshiro's final confrontation with his Rival Turned Evil best-friend Shin takes place in a cleanly polished, cavernous throne-room of marble and gold.
Clone Zero in The King of Fighters 2000, who is an expy of the Rasho Han, and has special moves named after ones used by Kaioh and Hyoh.
Sakuya from the Raoh Gaiden anime series, who is an expy of Demona from Gargoyles. This was less so as time went on though, and in any case was an expy of the look and sound — they were nothing alike personality-wise or in mindset.
Goliath, a boss from Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, is basically what you get if you cross Raoh with Frankenstein's monster. His death animation replicates Raoh's own, right down to the white aura and fist raised to the sky. The only difference is that Goliath's body disintegrates.
Eyepatch of Power: The Colonel. Akashachi. Shachi. Inversion: Spade loses his eye to Ken and gets quickly killed in their next encounter. Eyepatch of Shame?
We see it just at Chapter 2 of the manga, where Kenshiro catches a bolt from a crossbow and throws it back straight at the center of the eye of the punk who shot it.
Shew uses his Nanto style to blind himself so the young Kenshiro could be spared.
Shew: I give up my light for his life!
Shachi. To prove his devotion to Kenshiro before Hyo, he gouged out his left eye AND was willing to gouge his right eye too!
Patra, a mistress of illusion, gets this when two of her own illusion pearls are rather vividly jammed into her eyesockets. She then proceeds to burn alive and fall off a cliff.
The Colonel, the first user of a Nanto style faced in the manga other than Shin, gets a version of this when Ken manipulates one of his pressure points into forcing his one eye to vividly roll up in the socket, effectively permanently blinding it. In the manner of the other example above for Patra, his death is also, even by the show's standards, fairly graphic.
False Reassurance: Kenshiro and Rei just kill off a huge group of the Kiba gang, leaving the leader. Keshiro has this exchange after subjecting him to a technique.
Thug: (gets pummeled by Kenshiro's Thousand Smashing Fist attack) Huh? I'm not hurt, I don't feel a thing...
Kenshiro: Even so, you'll be dead in five seconds. (walks away)
Thug: NO! I DON'T WANT TO DIE IN FIVE SECONDS!!! (gets diced up by Rei's Nanto Shuicho Ken)
Faux Action Girl: Mamiya, particularly in the animated adaptation and to some extent Reina from the Legends of the True Savior movies. Subverted by Hokuto Musou, where gameplay-wise Mamiya's ranged powers make her one of the strongest characters; after Rei's death she disappears until the events of Hokuto no Ken 2, but in the manga she has one last hurrah as a fighter at the end when out of sympathy for Bat who's being tortured by an old enemy of Kenshiro's, she tries to sacrifice herself to give him a quick death.
Filler: Like any other manga-based anime series, the TV series featured original arcs and episodes between the main story in order to prevent the series from exceeding its source material. The most notorious example is the anime version of the Southern Cross arc, which puts off the final battle between Kenshiro and Shin by more than a dozen episodes.
Filler Villain: The purpose of Joker, Shin's anime-only right-hand man, was to serve as an informant between Shin and his numerous henchmen that he'd sent out to hunt Kenshiro.
Raoh: Come, let me see the face of the man who has defeated Raoh... You are magnificent, my little brother.
Kenshiro: Big brother...
Finishing Move: Practically everything the Hokuto Shinken users do is one of these, some of which go as far as involving an on-screen countdown until the victim dies a horrible death. The Fighting Game made by Arc System Works made the more notable and flashy moves into instant kill moves or Fatal KO's.
Forgotten Fallen Friend: A trademark of the series is that Kenshiro frequently reminisces about all his fallen allies and rivals. The only exception to this is Ryuga, who is never mentioned again after Raoh's death.
Freeze-Frame Bonus: During certain scenes of the Hokuto Army in the second series, viewers with a keen eye can spot various characters who died in the first series or didn't appear in the second. For example, in one scene where Bat is watching Kenshiro fight Kaioh in their final battle, Amiba can be seen holding Lin's puppy, Pell, in the crowd of onlookers.
Thouzer and Juda. Thouzer's was somewhat understandable since yes, it is traumatic when you accidently kill your own teacher, but what Thouzer did then wasn't a good way to pay his respects to him. But Yuda's on the other hand is just plain silly.
The insane motivations of many villains can be partly explained by the fact that the series take place After the Bomb: when you're already on the edge from the sheer, mind-blasting horror of nuclear apocalypse, even relatively minor things can push you over the brink and turn into all-consuming obsessions. This is especially the case when you've got a seemingly LOT of superpowered martial artists, and faced with the chaos After the End.
From Camouflage to Criminal: The Golan arc has Ken dealing with a former special forces unit who turned into yet another group of post apocalyptic oppressors. The guys were still led by their old commanding officer, known simply as "Colonel".
From Nobody to Nightmare: This is the way the people of Asura advance through the ranks of their society—in fact, until you have killed hundreds of people, you don't even have a name to distinguish yourself from others.
Gag Dub: Famous Gag Dub situation. While doing the official French dub of the anime, all the cast and crew working on the show were disgusted by the insane levels of violence - especially since they knew it had been bought for a morning cartoon show aimed at kids and would air alongside Sailor Moon. As most of the dubbers didn't think much of anime anyway, they demanded to be allowed to do whatever they wanted and therefore got to narm up the dialogues and add jokes. Basically, the French dub is an Abridged Series, only not fan-made, and has more Take That! moments to its source.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: The NES game (actually the second Famicom game) kept in the fairly gory exploding deaths of enemies when they die from being punched. Interestingly, the Sega Genesis (which normally had much less heavy-handed censoring than the NES) port of the Mega Drive game removed this, substituting the "fly off the screen" death used for kicking.
Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: Some of the more bizarre minor villains tend to show up without any foreshadowing. These include a pair of acrobatic thugs wearing claws and bat costumes, a random underling of Jagi who impersonates Hokuto Shinken so poorly, he ended up making his own head explode, and a giant crab man. The most blatant example is probably the group of monks Kenshiro encounters while racing to intervene in the Fudo/Raoh fight. They seem to be good guys on Kenshiro's side, but fight him anyway Because Destiny Says So.
Good Is Not Nice: After the bitter lessons at the beginning of the manga and in the backstory, Kenshiro almost never shows mercy to villains and bandits (a few borderline exceptions are people who managed to avoid hurting innocents on-panel, like Akashachi). He might shed Manly Tears for some of the major villains, but not before they are already dead. And some of his Hokuto Shinken applications are downright sadistic.
Good Scars, Evil Scars: Kenshiro, the hero, has seven scars on his chest in the shape of the Big Dipper, put there by Shin during the latter's Face–Heel Turn. The scars would be a plot point, as that was the only identifying trait Rei knew of his sister's kidnapper. Jagi has a brutally scarred face he keeps behind a helmet, and deliberately matched Kenshiro's scars in order to pass as him. Ditto for the manga's ending, when Bat inflicts them onto himself to pass as Ken as well — but unlike Jagi, to protect Ken.
Gonk: Physically incapable villains tend to be this.
Gorn: Probably the most ridiculous example occurs in the fight against the Colonel, where Kenshiro uses a technique that makes his opponent's muscles eject the intact skeleton from the body. To paraphrase SF Debris, the Gorn in this series is just sickening enough...to be hilarious.
Graceful Loser: Raoh, and to a lesser extent Thouzer. Thouzer's death was changed in the movie Legend of Raoh: Chapter of Martyred Love (which retells the Thouzer arc from Raoh's perspective), in which Thouzer takes a page from Shin's book and decides that it's Better to Die than Be Killed. In the original manga (including the events of Hokuto no Ken 2) there's quite a few more.
In the anime, there was a man named Garo in Ryuga's army who personally faces Kenshiro by himself. Knowing he would die, he keeps his promise by tellimg Ken where Ryuga is before dying. This particular death is the one time an honorable man dies by Kenshiro's hand without being a Dirty Coward and chose to face his death with dignity.
The opening song. YOU wa SHOCK!!! This is probably because "you wa shock" sounds a lot like "you are shock". It's become so prevalent that many don't even know that the song is actually called "Ai Wo Torimodose".
The other opening themes count too, with Silent Fighter's "DO SURVIVE!" and Tough Boy's "Welcome to this crazy time!"
Hokuto Shinken, the eponymous style of the series (used by protagonist Kenshiro and his brother Raoh) is the most powerful technique in the world, enabling Kenshiro to defeat the endless number of tyrants and savages in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, and allowing Raoh to ascend to position as ruler.
A notable subversion: a mook puts his back to the ground, claiming his particular style makes him invincible. Ken agrees, and does the only thing possible: he walks away. The mook, of course, abandons his posture and gets his ass kicked.
Guns Are Worthless: By the time the series takes place, firearms seemed to have become an endangered species, especially since ammunition is hard to come by. Being located in the region of a dried out ersatz Japan with similarly draconian gun laws and prevalence explains why there aren't many firearms in the first place. When they do exist, though, they're no match for martial arts.
Hannibal Lecture: Fudoh delivers one to Raoh so crushing that it destroys his confidence for the rest of the series. Blame Raoh for explicitly telling Fudoh beforehand that he was using Fudoh a tune-up fight so that Raoh could work the fear out of his system, vaccination-style. Like Fudoh wasn't going to take advantage of that overconfidence?
Harmless Lady Disguise: During Rei's introduction, he's disguising himself as a helpless woman with a cloak in order to attract bandits and kill them for their food.
Healing Factor: Most good fighters in the series have one to a degree, but the Hokuto and Nanto practitioners have it to a much greater degree. Doesn't stop them from getting VERY seriously hurt, though. It is also subverted in that it is not so much that they heal quickly, but that they know how to utilize their body's energy and accupuncture points to facilitate healing. If you're a mook, though, so sad for you.
Heel–Face Turn: A good number of villains perform these some moments before their death, usually only long enough to admit their remorse. Though once in a while, you get a villain who not only does this to atone for their sins, but lasts long enough to help Ken and gang along the way. The most obvious examples would be:
Raiga and Fuga, the gatekeepers of Cassandra Prison, who, after their supposedly unstoppable fighting style is beaten, they pledge loyalty to Ken, long enough to fight and defeat their master and assist Ken, Rei and Mamiya in freeing Toki from the prison. Sadly, they die keeping a crushing ceiling held up long enough for Ken and gang to escape.
Falco, who fights for Jakoh at first, though its revealed that he is working for Jakoh against his will due to the fact that Jakoh is holding the Tentei (the Celestial Emperor... or rather, Empress) hostage. Once Ken and the Hokuto Army frees the Tentei, its open season on Jakoh and Falco kills Jakoh in such an awesome way by incinerating Jakoh's head. Falco then jumps at the chance to help Kenshiro clean up the Kingdom of Shura...but sadly doesn't last long as he is viciously killed by a nameless Shura mook of all people.
In a flashback, Fudoh. He started out as a bandit who used his size and strength to terrorize and rob people, even causing a younger Raoh to tremble with terror. But after a run-in with Yuria (plus holding a newborn puppy on his hand), he ultimately turns into a selfless hero who will stop at nothing to protect those he cares about, particularly the children he takes under his wing.
Here We Go Again!: The manga ending. As the "credits" is shown, Kenshiro is again wandering the wasteland and making the world a better place, one exploding head at a time.
He Will Not Cry, So I Cry for Him: When Asuka, Ein's little adopted girl, was asked why she is not crying at her father's funeral, she replies "If I cry, Daddy won't be able to rest." Kenshiro promptly hugs her with warmth and kindness and weeps Tender Tears of sadness in her place.
Hidden Purpose Test: Shown in one of Kenshiro's flashbacks to when he was training. Kenshiro and Raoh were both tasked to fight a 400 pound tiger to see which of them had the best understanding of Hoktuo Shinken. Kenshiro was able to tame the tiger with a single stare. Raoh, on the other hand, was almost attacked by the same tiger but retaliated with a Death Glare that froze the tiger in fear just long enough so he could easily take its head. While Raoh gloated that he was the clear successor because the tiger didn't consider Kenshiro a threat, Ryuken mentally admonishes him. Kenshiro's aura was able to make the tiger submit from fear, while Raoh's aura was so incredibly hostile that the tiger attacked him in desperation to preserve its own life.
One villain, the Mad Sarge, even has a fighting style based around this, as he throws narrow, hollow needles. Although in real life these shouldn't be all that efficient at removing blood (he makes no attempt to hit any major veins or arteries), it is accepted that the main danger of this attack is the resulting catastrophic blood loss rather than being stuck full of needles.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Ironic deaths have a way of happening around Kenshiro, even when he isn't directly causing them.
A particularly satisfying death is that of Jackal, who goes out by way of his own dynamite, and with the hand of Devil Rebirth, who has just learned that Jackal was playing him for a fool, around him so he cannot escape.
Holding Out for a Hero: Justified. It's commonly demonstrated that ordinary people can do nothing to protect themselves from stronger opponents or armies. Numbers don't help, walls and gates don't help, and very rarely do weapons help. The few Action Survivor resistance fighters and armies that do exist all inevitably die off once the stakes are raised or the bad guys get serious. As such, most distressed citizens can't do anything but submit to the whims of the Arc Villain which conquered them and hope that someone shows up to help.
Hollywood Atheist: Baran the Emperor of Light, one of the villains from the manga-only final chapter, finds the idea of God absurd due to the fact that his dead little sister Yuka refuse to take a medicine he stole for her due to her moral upbringing, resulting in her death from a preventable disease.
Honor Before Reason: To be even a fundamentally decent person in a post-apocalyptic wasteland is to be this trope; and that's without going into the actual heroes of this universe.
Played for dark comedy in the Jagi/Kenshiro face-off. Kenshiro usually lets the Mooks he's about to deliver a thrashing to get in a couple before cruelly crushing their hopes.
A much more tragic version occurs in the Jyuza / Raoh fight, whereupon he gets no less than three of these.
When Lin is trapped in Shura, away from Kenshiro, and hunted by the many soldiers in order to send her to Kaioh; she is saved by Sayaka. Sayaka, being Kaioh's sister, commands enough authority to keep Lin safe. Sayaka allows Lin sanctuary out of the kindness of her heart and Kaioh murders her as part of another plan. The safety Sayaka provided was built on an illusion and Lin falls back into danger again.