What They Say:
Baki Hanma returns to the Supreme Fighting Circuit to defend his title against a sea of contenders. The quest to find the most supreme grappler in the world moves forward with unimaginable results.
Contains volumes 7-12 (episodes 25-48)
For this viewing, I listened to the English 5.1 dub. The English dub is also offered in 2.0, as is the Japanese track. The mix is pretty decent, with some nice directionality during the battle scenes to really help immersion in the moment. Nothing too complex, but enough to be noticeable. There is also nice balance across all the tracks, which is particularly nice with so much going on. Many times with shows featuring differing amounts of music, effects, and dialogue, I find myself having to adjust my speaker channels to balance it out, but I did not have to do that for this release.
This release is offered in letterbox format, which looks nice on an SDTV, but can be awkward for widescreens. The quality is uneven, as there is no cross coloring or pixelization, but the whole show looks a little hazy. For a show with such attention paid to detail of the character’s bodies, this was a little bothersome. To be honest, I was not a big fan of the character design either, as the minute attention paid to the fighter’s muscular structure made them look deformed. That, however, is more personal preference.
This packaging for this collection is just the individual releases put inside an art box. The box that houses the six discs has full color images of some of the characters set in front of other monochromatic images done with dot pattern. Along the bottom side of the box are some images from the show, along with some technical details. Each of the six boxes have pictures of some of the characters making appearances on that disc. The backs have images from the show, summaries, episode and extra listings, and other technical details. Overall, the packaging is decent, but I was irritated that each volume was individually sealed as well as the box, meaning that each volume had to be unwrapped and de-stickered on both the top and bottom. While that is not a huge deal, it was bothersome.
The menu’s are fairly well designed, and have a fair similarity to the look of the packaging. The main menu plays the main theme and has some character art across a dark background. The selections are displayed in an off white square, allowing for easy reading, and the highlighted selection is easy to see. There’s nothing particularly fantastic about these menus, but they are easy to use, and that’s the most important thing.
While there were quite a few extras on the first season set, they have scaled things back a bit for this season. Besides the textless songs, each disc has stills galleries, character profiles and episode summaries. There are also director/actor commentaries for episodes 25, 29, and 33 through the first three discs. It is not a bad haul for the whole set, but definitely a step down from what was offered over the course of the first season.
This collection contains the second season of Baki the Grappler, and it pretty much picks up where the first season left off. This season sees even more of a focus on action as the first season provided just about the entire backdrop for the events of this one. Since I was not too enthusiastic about the overall story, I found this to be a welcome change; however, this season suffers from a major flaw that keeps it from being better.
The entirety of this season takes place during a tournament in the Supreme Fighting Championship, the underground fighting league that Baki had joined late last season. This tournament is single elimination and consists of thirty-two fighters, some already seen and some new. Each fighter is placed within one of four groups of eight and paired up, and each fight is shown in totality. As is fairly normal for action shows, each fighter gets at least one flashback during a fight depicting the reason that they have entered the tournament, which not only offers the chance for a little character development but also for the fights to take up more time than it really lasts.
As furtherance to her questions from last season, Baki decided to let Kozue in on his secret and invites her to the SFC tournament. Kozue’s reaction to the fighting league is at first fascination that something like that could exist, but later turns to revulsion as she witnesses Baki’s first fight and the brutality that accompanies it. Yet, she continually returns to the arena and witnesses each fight, whether Baki is involved or not.
In a “surprise,” Yujiro makes an unwelcome appearance at the tournament, but actually declines to enter it. Instead, he now has a protégé; Yu Amanai is a member of the US Secret Service and has an almost split personality. When not in a battle, Yu is one of the nicest people one could meet, almost sickeningly so. However, when fighting, Yu displays much of the same ferocity for which Yujiro is famous. His viciousness causes Baki to consider him almost more psychotic than his father.
As stated before, pretty much the entire season is wrapped around this tournament. When not concentrating on a battle, the series directs its attention to setting up the next one. There are no extended training sessions, no lengthy periods of camaraderie between the fighters, and not a whole lot involving plot development. A few of the later episodes have some flashbacks that show how Yujiro became the person that he currently is, but even that is more character development than plot development.
This, however, is not so much a problem. For the most part, I found the first season to be more entertaining when they left the story behind and just focused on the fighting. The story really was not that interesting, but the fighting scenes were fun. What I really liked about the fighting in this series is that it is mostly realistic. None of the fighters had any unrealistic powers or abilities, and that made for a nice change from some other shonen series, and since this season was nothing but fighting, I found it to be fairly fun to watch. However, season two has a fairly major flaw that ultimately ruined the whole thing for me.
The next paragraph will contain some major spoilers, so if you do not want it ruined, please skip down to the summary.
SPOILERS: While I did not care so much about the plot of this series, I found it very irritating that they never gave us the final fight between Baki and Yujiro that they had been building towards since the very first episode. Considering that Baki the Grappler was given two full seasons, and that the second season was nothing but Baki fighting stronger and stronger opponents while developing more and more abilities, I really do not understand this. The finals of the tournament pits Baki and Jack Hammer, who it is revealed to also be Yujiro’s son, and who has also spent his entire life training to one day defeat Yujiro. So the finals become a de facto fight for the right to battle Yujiro. Instead, the OVA that acts as the final episode delves more into Yujiro’s past. While this was interesting, I would much rather have seen the fight. As such, it really ruined an entire series that had slowly built well for me. END SPOILERS
Baki the Grappler was a series that I was really starting to enjoy by the end of it. It started slowly but picked up as the plot took a back seat to the fighting. However, one bad decision on the writers’ part ruined what would have otherwise been a solid show, though others might not have the same reaction that I did. Despite that, Baki the Grappler has a lot of really good fight scenes and would probably be a good addition to any fight fan’s collection. Just pretend that the plot does not exist. Mildly recommended.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Episode Summaries, Textless Songs, Stills, Character Profiles, Director & Actor Commentary for Select Episodes
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: C+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: March 25th, 2008
Running Time: 576 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Letterbox Widescreen
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System