North Star [1943]

One of the first anime features, Fist of the North Star was based on a popular manga series set in the not-too-distant future, when Earth has been devastated by a nuclear holocaust. The scattered survivors huddle in ruined cities, awaiting an enlightened warrior-hero worthy of the title of "Fist of the North Star," who will start the planet on the path to recovery. That mythic hero arrives in the person O, who looks like a caricature of Sylvester Stallone drawn for an American Saturday morning cartoon show. The relatively simple story is burdened with many subplots involving evil brothers, betrayals, kidnappings, and murders, all needing endless expository scenes. Director Toyoa Ashida borrows shamelessly from the Rambo and Mad Max films, along with Frank Frazetta's illustrations. Fist of the North probably ranks as the most violent film in animation history, but after the fourth or fifth head explodes in gobbets of red paint, the effect becomes unintentionally comic. --Charles Solomon

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