a.k.a. Hokuto no Ken – Raoh Gaiden Junai-hen
In a distant future, after civilization has fallen and barbaric tribes roam the land, self-proclaimed Emperor Souther seeks to conquer all free people and rule the land as undisputed lord. Four legendary martial artists stand against him, like the brilliant fighter Kenshiro or the grim warlord Raoh. Raoh’s right hand and lover Reina seeks to unite all four of them in the battle against Souther, but that task proves more than challenging as they all have ambitions of their own…
summary by Taleweaver
Highs: Entertaining martial-arts action; beautiful music
Lows: Run-of-the-mill plot; lifeless characters; anticlimactic ending.
The Hokuto no Ken series have always been famous (or infamous) for gratuitous use of violence and gore, and Raoh Side Story is no real exception. The same old exploding heads, the same larger-than-life martial artists, the same classic Hojo Tsukasa character designs. So can this side story to the usual telling of Kenshiro’s heroic antics bring anything new to the universe?
Unfortunately, the answer is a strict no. The plot (if you can call it a plot) is run-of-the-mill Hokuto no Ken, up to the usual “Kenshiro’’s The Only Hope” cliché. Everything boils down to that one, final, huge confrontation that spans the last third of the movie, and Raoh, supposedly the protagonist of this side-arc, hardly plays a part in it. With the sole exception of Reina, all the characters are lifeless and stoic, even the stereotypical comic-relief kids, and neither Raoh, Kenshiro, nor any of the other heroes and villains are given as much as a shred of personalty. Add to that a botched, anticlimactic ending with one of the worst “villain secrets” ever and you have a fundamentally flawed movie.
It’s not all that bad, though. At least the action choreography is worth its dough and brings quite a bit of excitement on the big screen. The different combat styles of the legendary martial artists are easily distinguishable, and the art and animation are good enough to make watching the whole ruckus entertaining. Add to that a solid Kajiura Yuki soundtrack and you have at least something to keep your eyes and ears satisfied.
If you’re not a fan of the Hokuto no Ken series, Raoh Gaiden Junai-hen is not going to make you one. The movie has only a few redeeming qualities and all the flaws of a sub-par action flick, including embarrassingly bad dialogue and absolutely overused dramatic situations (like the most evil look from a horse ever). Unless you have absolutely nothing else to do, Raoh Gaiden Junai-hen is probably not worth your time.