A bit of a slog but it’s all to set up for a rather enjoyable twist.
What They Say:
Baki has reached a new Circuit level where the only rule is fight or fall. With the debut of Yujiro’s protégé, the Tiger Slayers return and the arrival of the world’s toughest man, the challenge is to stay alive.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Some of the early episodes of this series were just plain funny in their own way, notably the giant ape stuff. The show had some really solid fighting scenes and I had been hooked on the material since being familiar with what little of the manga had come out. But as it moved into the tournament aspect, which was more familiar, it had some intense fights. But it started to lag more as the key characters were no longer on screen quite as much.
This set of episodes continues that a fair bit as we get to have some of the second stringers go through their fights. Some of its interesting but when there’s a fight that isn’t all that interesting, or at least the characters aren’t appealing, it becomes a bit more tedious to get through the match. The fight between Hanayama and the younger Orochi is pretty good since we’ve seen a bit of history with Orochi and his rise in his father’s organization and we’re definitely familiar with Hanayama. The elder Orochi’s fight is also very well done when it really gets going and it sets the stage for where the show is going to turn against Yujiro. His fight is also really nice because it adds his wife as a spectator and he’s got a certain level of confidence that he gives off. Part of it is to reassure his wife but it’s also just where he is in his mastery of skills, something the younger Orochi realizes from a few choice phrases he’s heard his father say.
Where the show loses me is in the fights with characters such as Shiba, a ridiculous looking “street hoodlum” type that fights in the standard biker punk outfit. It’s the kind of character that stands out as being a distraction to the otherwise more serious looking fighters. At the same time, he’s going up against Xamma who is another in the long line of boxer/wrestler types that are paraded through this ring. They seem to be way too numerous and there are too many of them that have these superior body tricks that would have had them causing trouble in regular matches long before. While some of them in earlier episodes were interesting and had some good character to it, by this point it feels like it’s nothing more than filler in order to round out the matches in the three blocks. These are the kinds of fights that should be done quickly and mostly off-screen.
The fights do take a bit of a twist later in the volume when Amanai and the elder Orochi really get going at things going on. Orochi has been a great character throughout and since his death experience has become even more lighthearted and fun to watch. His skills really shine through here as he fights against Amanai and the visual of the skull cracking move just makes you wince. But it’s Amanai who gets things to change here in the fight as Yujiro uses him as an example of what’s wrong with Baki’s method. Baki for his part is very minimal in these episodes which really hurts the show I think. And when we do get him on screen for any length of time, it has him explaining to Kozue about his mother and the background of the earlier part of the series. It’s a fairly decent recap in a sense since it reinforces some of his motivations but it feels like it’s been too long since he last fought.
While some of the fights here are good and there is a good setup at the end for what’s next, a good portion of these episodes featured fights that would have been better off being done off screen. The show does stand out for its brutality and is unlike most other shows out there right now. The overall appeal of it isn’t gone and I’m looking forward to more to see how this new twist plays out. Baki the Grappler is still a show that isn’t for everyone though but it does fill in a need in this genre and in its fight scenes they do excel at it, even if the fighters aren’t all that interesting at times.
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: September 6th, 2006
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Letterbox Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.