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Souten no Ken, or Fist of the Blue Sky, is a Prequel to Fist of the North Star by Tetsuo Hara (with plot supervision by original writer Buronson) that was published in the Weekly Comic Bunch from its debut issue in 2001 and throughout the magazine's final issue in 2010.
Kasumi Kenshiro was a bumbling, bespectacled literature professor in 1935 Japan, playfully teasing and flirting with his students in the Towa Women's College at Tokyo...
...or so he seemed to be. The unusually large yet mild mannered scholar was invited to a restaurant by an aging Chinese gentleman called Li, who served as a poison taster for the Last Emperor of China. Just as the duo started to remininsce on old times spent amongst The Triads and the Tongs, said-Chinese Emperor's Assassins held Kenshiro at gunpoint, "inviting" him to fulfill his "centuries old duty" as the Emperor's bodyguard...
...only to have their heads painfully and literally popped open from the inside as he gingerly struck hidden points across their faces with but a single finger.
It turns out that Professor Kasumi is none other than Yan Wang, the "King of Hell," the 62nd successor to Hokuto Shinken and the future uncle of Kenshiro, the Century's End Savior who will bring peace to a world torn apart by nuclear fire many decades later.
Back in 1935, Kasumi Kenshiro returns to Shanghai where he tore a bloody swathe across the Chinese Underworld a year ago by the side of his Peng-You (Friend) Pan Guang-Lin, Dai Lo (Big Brother) of the Ching Bang (Turquoise Brotherhood) Triads; to wipe out the Hong Hua Hui (Red China Organization) Triads for murdering his sworn-brother Guang-Lin.
Since his departure to protect Guang-Lin's little sister from bloody feuds of Hokuto-Shinken's legacy, the corrupt Hong Hua Hui, allied with the French Government, has all but wiped out the Ching Bang. The Hong Hua Hui leaders have been rendered grotesque Clock Punk cyborgs after being disfigured by Kenshiro yet living to gloat about it.
Kenshiro did warn them to "get out of Shanghai" after literally popping their arms, jaws, spines and legs open. Crime bosses, however, are just too proud to listen.
Soon upon returning to the infamous "Devil City" of the 1930s, not only does Kenshiro have to contend with the warfare of The Triads and the Tongs, he will clash head on with three rival Hokuto branches (each inheriting the names of the Sun, Cao and Liu factions from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms era), jealous with the superiority of the master branch, Hokuto Shinken.
Centuries of hate clash with brotherhood and honor as Shanghai is set to explode with the flames of open war.
Though superficially sharing thematic elements of the Martial Arts from North Star, Blue Sky is first and foremost a Crime Drama with jet black humor and occasional martial arts thrown into its rich, dark, smoky mix.
This show provides examples of:
- Adolf Hitler - This being a World War 2 Manga, the dictator makes a cameo; and is portrayed frankly as the pathetic loser he really is.
- All Jews Are Ashkenazi - Subverted. Charles DeGuise may not be and Yasaka is Yuezhi.
- Amnesiac Lover - Pān Yù-Líng. Not only did Máng Kuáng-Yún erase her memory, he put a Booby Trap in her brain so that Kenshiro cannot directly tell her about their shared past.
- Arrogant Kung Fu Guy - Kenshiro is very prone to doing everything on his own and belittling his opponents at every turn. Zhang Tai-Yan even notes, that when Kenshiro stands in the pool of his own blood, and his opponent is completely unharmed, he probably should stop acting like he's invincible. Kenshiro's habit of talking down to his opponents might be justified, as a way of provoking them into attacking rashly, but his overconfidence bites him in the ass a couple of times, when he avoids death only through factors beyond his control.
- Authority Equals Asskicking - Liu Zong-Wu (Gestapo Captain) and Zhang Tai-Yan (Sub-Boss of the Hong Hua Hui Triads), both Grand Masters of their respective Hokuto schools of Martial Arts.
- Badass Bookworm - Kenshiro is a Literature Professor at a Women's University, after all.
- Badass Israeli - Yasaka. Holy crap, just Yasaka.
- Berserk Button - Crime bosses tend to be homicidally sensitive about the freakish appearance of the cybernetic replacements to the limbs Kenshiro mutilated off them, or their inborn deformities. In particular, do NOT remind Zhang Lie-Shan, the giant boss of the Hong Hua Hui just how tall he is if you value your skeleton intact. See I Am Big Boned below for more details.
- Black and Gray Morality - Though innocent people don't (usually) die in the crossfires of the Shanghai underworld's civil war, one still has to remember that Kenshiro is helping a Drug Lord rise to supreme power, beloved Peng-You or not. See Easily Forgiven for more details.
- Notably, Kenshiro does realize that Pan Guang-Lin and his underlings still are evil, albeit a lesser evil than their opponents, and this is one of the reasons he quits Shanghai before the start of the series.
- The founding master of Hokuto Shinken killed off the practitioners of Seito Gekken, many of whom would have been his future in-laws, after studying their martial art and blending their fighting techniques with his own simply out of the fear that Seito Gekken could potentially be abused by external interest groups in the future.
- Blood Brothers - The whole concept of the Peng-You relationship is very much akin to this.
- Blood Knight - Kenshiro in his youth, picking fights with other martial artists for no reason and nearly dying at least twice as a result. He becomes much more level-headed by the time the main story begins.
- Boring Invincible Hero - Kasumi Kenshiro actually is less suspectible to this trope than his nephew, as firearms make Mooks a more credible threat, and all serious opponents use versions of Hokuto Shinken as well.
- If you've got a problem with Kenshiro's Catch Phrase... tell it to him! *asskicking ensues*
- Clock Punk - The technology through which arrogant 1930's crime bosses can be given arms, legs, jaws, spines and hair blown off by Hokuto Shinken.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass - For all his boisterous and jolly disposition, one has to remember that Kenshiro is still a master of the head-popping martial art Hokuto Shinken.
- Cultured Badass - Professor Kasumi can speak and read half a dozen languages, play the piano, dance, cook, grade your university thesis AND pop you head open with Hokuto Shinken. Henry Jones Junior, eat your heart out.
- Cut Short - The manga went down with the sinking ship of Comic Bunch. And although it didn't exactly end on a cliffhanger, it didn't really dovetail nicely into Fist of the North Star either; lots of questions were left unanswered. How did Ramon/Ryuken become successor? Did Yan Wang die (or become Koryu)? Who was the Old Taoist? The introduction of Jukei (the future Hokuto Ryuken successor) never led to anything interesting either.
- Darker and Edgier - Since Souten no Ken was published in a Seinen (mature readers) anthology, it covers several adult subjects such as drugs, rape, prostitution, and misogynistic disfigurements stuff that the comparatively campy Hokuto no Ken would not dare touch with a ten foot pole.
- Dragons Up the Yin-Yang - The Five-toed Imperial Dragon appears in the final battle between Kenshiro and Liu Zong-Wu.
- Easily Forgiven - If you thought Kenshiro the 64th successor is bad with this trope, his uncle Yang Wang is arguably worse. For a last minute sob-story of a traumatic childhood, Professor Kasumi is willing to embrace drug dealers (Pan Guang-Lin) homicidal sociopaths (Liu Fei-Yan), serial rapists (Zhang Tai-Yan) and Nazi Captains (Liu Zong-Wu) as dear Peng-You and beloved Blood Brothers.
- Expy: Liu Fei-Yan is a dead-ringer for Rei from the original series, and the bandage-bound Ye is based on Darkman played by Liam Neeson.
- Kasumi Kenshiro himself is based on three previous Tetsuo Hara protagonists. He's essentially Hokuto no Ken's Kenshiro with Keiji Maeda's (of Hana no Keiji) sense of humor and Rintaro Nakabo's (from the detective manga of the same title) sense of irony.
- Fork Fencing: Kenshiro loves to use a variation of this trope wherein cutlery is rapidly launched like machine gun bullets, after being launched off the table with a hefty slap.
- Generic Handsomeness/Beauty - Kenshiro and his friends, ex-villains who renounced their evil ways, and even punch clock villains with reasonably good intentions are all portrayed as handsome or beautiful whereas fundamentally-dishonorable personalities are disturbingly intimidating at best and comically ugly at worst; but Tetsuo Hara is not for judging people's characters by their appearances- rather he is for judging people's appearances by their characters, with Zhāng Tài-Yán being perhaps the best example. The viewers know it's the same person with the same visual features, but Zhāng still managed to look significantly different before and after he made the transition into an Atoner.
- The Gump - Kasumi Kenshiro has literally slapped-up The Last Emperor of China, not to mention clashing with the Kuomintang, then ruling party of Nanjing's republican government and China's nominal seat of power.
- Considering who said Last Emperor is... doesn't sound that hard.
- And Kuomintang, seeing it as a matter of Chinese honor (and prestiege of the National Revolutionary Army in such a time of turmoil as Kenshiro killed one of their generals- even though every Kuomintang official agrees that the said general had it coming) and not really an act of war, have refrained from just employing army troops to gun him down and insisted on defeating him fair-and-square with the best Chinese martial artist they can find. Therefore Chiang Kai-Shek and company got their Generic Handsomeness treatment.
- Guns Akimbo - Ye's primary fighting style.
- Holier Than Thou - The corrupt clergyman who takes confessions of criminals BEFORE they commit crimes and forgives them for exorbitant amounts of money so they can go rape, steal, and kill without guilt.
- Hollywood Cyborg - The grotesque, rusty and creaky Clock Punk Hong Hua Hi crime bosses, original disfigurements courtesy of Kenshiro.
- I Am Big Boned: Boss Zhang Lie-Shan of the Hong Hua-Hui Triads is a darkly funny version of this trope in action. He is a man gifted with "exceptional stature"... as in "literally the height of a three stories tall building exceptional stature. However, Lie-Shan is incredibly sensitive about being out of the ordinary, and gets very unhappy about being called "too big"... as in "smother his tree sized cigar into your face and drown you with his car-sized shot glass of whisky" unhappy.
- Identical Grandson - Or rather, Nephew. Kenshiro Kasumi is basically what happens if you give his nephew a chain smoking habit and a jolly sense of humor.
- Liu Zong-Wu, the Hokuto Liu Family Fist successor, is a dead-ringer to Raoh and his brother Kaioh. While its yet to be established whether his actually related to Raoh and his siblings, it should be noted that the Liu Family Fist later becomes Hokuto Ryuken, the same style practiced by Kaioh and Hyoh.
- Identity Amnesia - Pān Yù-Líng believes herself to be a Manchurian nomad named Lǐ Xiù-Bǎo.
- Large and In Charge - Zhang Lie-Shang, Boss of the Hong Hua Hui triads, literally the size of a building. Don't remind him about it though, just don't.
- Last of His Kind - Yasaka. His Yuezhi people were supposed to have died out after being double-crossed by the founding master of Hokuto Shinken in the 2nd century AD.
- Manly Tears - This is a prequel to Fist of the North Star after all.
- Meaningful Name (Qing Bang = blue; Hong Hua Hui = red)
- Mighty Whitey - French Colonel Charles DeGuise, who somehow manages to be a Master of the "Hokuto Sun Family Fist" after under a decade of study.
- His Hokuto techniques aren't very good, though, and he eventually gets killed by Fei-Yan.
- Mood Whiplash - The black humor involving the disfigurements of the bosses is quite jarring when placed next to the rather serious Martial-Arts combat and genuinely touching drama.
- Not Worth Killing - Liu Zong-Wu could have killed Adolf Hitler (the man for whom he betrayed the Chinese Warrior World to join the Nazis) himself if he wanted to, but spared him instead. Not that he did this out of any decency or compassion mind you; he held the tyrant in such unadulterated contempt that it would dirty his fists to stain it with his pathetic blood.
- Only Known by Their Nickname : Luo Hu-Cheng's troops only know that he is Shogun Luo, but they dont even know his real name. This actualy become a rather... significant plot point
- Prequel - Set in 1930's Shanghai, around 60 years before the nuclear apocalypse.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality - Professor Kasumi is presented as a hero through and through in spite of forgiving and befriending rapists and Nazis, not to mention helping to protect a massive shipment of opium that will poison Manchuria from being contaminated with Black-Death because it is his Peng You's base of financial power.
- Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs - A staple of all four Hokuto Schools of Martial Arts, it seems.
- Red Baron - Kenshiro has earned the notorious nickname of Yan-Wang ("Hell's King") a year prior by massacring a sizable portion of the Hong Hua Hui, while leaving its leaders disfigured cripples.
- Reincarnation - Towards the end of the series, Kenshiro starts getting Visions of Another Self after encountering a mystical statue. In one past life he brought Hokuto Shinken to Japan with his two older brothers (a pair of Toki and Raoh lookalikes) and Kukai. In another he honorably executes Oda Nobunaga (who coincidentally got his own manga by Tetsuo Hara after the end of Blue Sky). This concept brings up the obvious question of whether Kasumi is the past-life incarnation of Hokuto no Ken's Kenshiro.
- Liu Zong-Wu, Yasaka and Liu Fei-Yan were all speculated to be past-life incarnations of Raoh, Toki and Rei respectively due to their resemblance to their respective counterparts.
- Retcon - One of the series' attractions for old fans of Hokuto no Ken is its promise of how it will finally justify the continuity travesty that is "The Land of Shura." Yet in the first ten pages Hara has already dug himself a new hole to jump into by making the Kenshiro we have known to love be a baby born in Japan again. Which is he? Chinese or Japanese?
- The original Hokuto no Ken series had Kenshiro, the 64th Hokuto Shinken successor, be the very second Hokuto Shinken praticioner to perform the ultimate Musou Tensei art, the first was the Hokuto Shinken founder himself, and the third to use it was Raoh. Comes Souten no Ken and Kenshiro's uncle Kasumi, the 62nd Hokuto Shinken successor, performs the Musou Tensei against Liu Zong-Wu.
- Schedule Slip - Fist of the Blue Sky only enjoyed sporadic and unannounced releases since 2005 due to Hara, its illustrator, becoming blind in one eye from a condition suffered by one in a million. Having lost depth perception, all his panels have to be re-drawn and inked by an assistant; the fact that his insisted style is realistic and intricately detailed does not help to alleviate the problem.
- Shout-Out - Liu Zong-Wu performs Steven McQueen's famous motorcycle jump in The Great Escape onto the fleeing Bence Mercedes of his father's murderer. A nice ironic touch considering that whereas Mc Queens was fleeing from Nazis in his jump, Zong-Wu is a Nazi.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: More cynical compared to the sequel, Hokuto no Ken, in spite of being set in a shiny city of Shanghai. The Hero is helping his best friend - a drug lord, to take over the entire city by eliminating a gang that is even worse than theirs. There are also much fewer villains who receive redemption than in Hokuto no Ken.
- Smoking Is Cool - And therefore so are all the men of Ching Bang, Kenshiro included.
- Tear Jerker - When Mang Kuang-Yun aka Ling Wang spares the life of Yu Ling, his fiance, who has fallen in love with Kenshiro, upon seeing her tender kindness towards a dying baby girl. Instead, he wipes her memories to give her a new start at life, free of persecution from the Hong Hua Hui.
- Tender Tears - Shed even moreso than in Hokuto by women and men.
- The Triads and the Tongs - The primary genre of this manga series, ties to Fist of the North Star notwithstanding.
- Those Wacky Nazis - If you thought a garden-variety Nazi is nasty enough, meet Liu Zong-Wu, the Nazi Hokuto Ryukaken Master.
- Wuxia - Stylistically closer to this genre than its post-apocalyptic predecessor; being set in Classical China in its twilight years helps.
- X Meets Y - John Woo's A Better Tomorrow meets Fist of the North Star
- You Are Already Dead: Yup, just like the original.
- Zeerust Canon - The birth of the infant Kenshiro at the opening prologue is established to be sometime during the 1970s, keeping in line with Hokuto no Ken's "199X" setting.