Everything shifts towards the finals where the winner will then face the real fight with the Ogre.
What They Say:
Baki’s father pays a daunting visit as the next round of the tournament begins. Baki will have to fully utilize his hidden talent if he is to have a chance against his opponent, a master of the sacred Kung Fu discipline. Summon all your strength for the final battle to crown the strongest grappler in the world. The only sure way to live is to win with a monster standing on the other side of the ring! It will take everything Baki has to defeat Buren’s experiment.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This batch of episodes of Baki the Grappler finally returns to some of the better fighters so they’re able to finish out the semi-finals. A good chunk of the tournament has been lost to watching less than interesting fighters go at it, but it was done to showcase the growth and destructive nature of those who have climbed this far and all that they’ve achieved. It made for some uninteresting episodes, but as we get down to the semi-finals it does have some value to all of it.
Thankfully those that have made it to the end, with the exception of Jack Hammer, are all fighters that have a bit of style and personality to them to make them appealing. The opening match between Shibukawa and Dappo is very fun to watch because of who these guys are. Dappo has been a hoot since he first came on the screen and has had such a resilience to him considering what kind of abuse he’s suffered, right down to losing an eye. There is a beautiful moment that shows the kind of dedication that he has where we see him in his youth writing out 9’s until he passes out, convinced that it will eventually turn over to a new number. The same can be said for Shibukawa, a very light and nice “old man” stereotype with some real power behind him. Seeing what drove him to his level of training all those years ago gives him much more depth that’s really needed as he gets close to the end here.
Another very enjoyable round to the semifinals brings Baki back into the ring. This time he goes up against Retsu and both of them are quite well matched for what they have to deal with as a background issue. Both men, though through different means, have essentially inherited their status because of what’s come before them. Baki because of the sheer brutality that his father the Ogre is, but Retsu as well because of the 4000 years of history that’s behind his fighting style and the master from whom he’s inherited his title. Like most of those who are shooting for Yujiro though, they tend to not really look at what’s in front of them but rather their end goal of fighting the Ogre. This doesn’t give Baki that much of an advantage since those who have made it to this point are powerhouses on multiple levels, but it’s a continual flaw among all of them, even Baki.
The semifinals also bring Jack Hammer back into play and he’s the only one of the group that’s made it this far that I really don’t care for. The last two episodes deal with his fight in the semifinals and starts into the preparation for the finals, which itself is only a sideshow really until the true fight with Yujiro kicks in. To my surprise though, Jack gets a bit more interesting towards the end here as we get a revelation about him that goes far beyond explaining the past that we’ve seen. The last episode is something of a recap episode, but unlike the previous one where there was barely anything new in it, they did a rather good job of mixing together new footage and previous fights to show the growth of some of these fighters. Combined with the revelation about Jack and his true place in the scheme of things, this sets us up for a very interesting final round that seems to be capturing some of the spirit and charm of the early part of the series.
Baki’s had a couple of lackluster fights in its second half as it got completely into the tournament mode but this batch of episodes is getting us back to the really good stuff. The fights are brutal, there isn’t a lot of outlandish material or characters that just make you roll your eyes. Though they’re completely built up, the giants are gone and those with gimmicks and tricks to their styles have long since been defeated. The brutality level goes up a few notches as well as these guys are playing for keeps and some have the very old traditional thoughts when it comes to honor and how to finish out a fight. It started to look like Baki the Grappler would end on a less than interesting note, but this set of episodes has me anxiously wanting to see the finale.
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: January 2nd, 2007
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.