Image source: 舞台『北斗の拳 -世紀末ザコ伝説-』公式 on Twitter

In Fist of the North Star, lackeys have it the worst. But, you’ll be shocked with the new stage play, Butai Hokuto no Ken –Seikimatsu Zako Densetu-, because it shows us what the mooks’ lives are like—before being brutalized by the hero Kenshiro, anyway.

In the year 199X, the world was ravished by atomic war. Now, in this desolate world, might makes right. And the mightiest of them all is one martial artist named Kenshiro. But, he’s not the hero of this story. The “heroes” are the mooks in their time before their encounters with Kenshiro. And we see them in all their cannon fodder glory before they die.

One of the most amazing aspects of the new Fist of the North Star play is we get to see a lot of different mooks—mooks who’re dealing with their own unique issues. This gives us a wonderful sense of these characters daily lives before the hero, Kenshiro, kills them. It’s rather sad seeing this, but adds an entirely new layer to the franchise. In other words, we’re seeing what bad characters do when they’re not being bad—when they’re just being normal.

When the play opens, we’re actually treated to a little recap that reminds us the mooks are indeed bad people. But, when we get into the first act, the play takes on a very different tone. Instead of seeing the mooks pillage, plunder, and cause general chaos, we see a mother telling her lazy son named Paruko to do something with his life—despite it being the post-apocalypse. It’s a strange thought a grown man would still be lazy in such a world. Yet, it gives us a sense of where the character is coming from. Paruko wants to survive, but really doesn’t want to put himself in any real danger. Think about this for a minute. We’re seeing a character who, for the most part, doesn’t want to kill other people and just wants to live his life in peace. So, what makes him change his mind and become a mook?

Image copyright: Cameraman:鏡田伸幸 ©武論尊・原哲夫/NSP 1983, ©北斗の拳-世紀末ザコ伝説-製作委員会2017 版権許諾証GP-907

Of all things, it’s Paruko’s mother who inspires him to try out for an army called “Raoh’s Army.” Here lies an interesting fact about this narrative. All the mooks are bad, but when some of them are asked what it is they want to protect, the answer is their mothers. We actually see this play out too. As the mooks are introducing themselves, they talk about the horrendous things they’ve done. Paruko, though, talks about how his mother made the clothes they wear and how she raised him single-handedly. Thus, while the mooks are bad, Paruko’s impassioned speech leaves them wanting to join the Raoh’s Army because of their thoughts for their mothers as well. This creates a bond between all the characters and an understanding they’re doing bad things to protect someone they love. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last long because the entire group begins chasing after an unseen Kenshiro.

But, when we get to the core of the play, it’s about camaraderie. These mooks live, breathe, and die together. It’s just that in the main story of Fist of the North Star they’re the bad guys. Yet, the mooks in this play don’t revel in the death and destruction they sow. They’re looking for comrades and a place to belong. It just so happens that place is with an unsavory group. So, outside the context of the main series, the mooks are normal people who want have a good time with their friends. For instance, we see in the middle of the play the story of a musically inclined mook named Heath.

Image copyright: Cameraman:鏡田伸幸 ©武論尊・原哲夫/NSP 1983, ©北斗の拳-世紀末ザコ伝説-製作委員会2017 版権許諾証GP-907

The story of Heath is fascinating because we don’t think of the franchise’s mooks as anything but brutal and cruel, much less musically gifted. However, when we peel the cruel layer off, it becomes clear Heath wants to reclaim some semblance of life as it was before the nuclear apocalypse. Granted, it all starts because he stole a guitar off a man he killed. Yet, from that act, we see a passion he thought he never had.

Thus, in an instant, Heath goes from heartless killer to a sympathetic character. We want to see the type of joy he can bring to the world, even if it’s to his mook buddies. In an odd way, he’s reclaiming normalcy by playing the guitar. And the moment we see Heath and his friends enjoying themselves, we realize the mooks aren’t all that different from normal people—in fact, they are normal people. Heath even takes it one step further by creating a band with his mook friends. Let that sink in for a moment.

It’s not as though they’re bad guys who don’t have hobbies. Therefore, creating a band and trying to put on a live performance is Heath’s way of recapturing a sense of sanity in his insane world.

For the mooks in Fist of the North Star, being cruel and dying is a given and we take pleasure in that. But, we can also appreciate the mooks struggles in this play as well.

Check out our exclusive photos of the play here.

11 Exclusive Photos of the New Fist of the North Star Stage Play

Hokuto no Ken –Seikimatsu Zako Densetu– is running from September 6 to September 10, 2016 at Theater G Rosso in Tokyo, Japan. Tickets are available through the official website.

A DVD release is planned for February 2018 and will be available though the CLIE TOWN website.

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