What They Say:
Get ready for more extreme UFC style tournament fighting! The ultimate showdown is at hand. Baki steps into the ring, and the agreement is made that only one fighter will walk away. As devastating blows fill the arena, Baki’s opponent begins to twist and gnarl into an unimaginable moster. Suddenly, the terrifying truth surfaces…Baki may not survive the fight!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With far too many episodes that felt like we were spinning our wheels even though progress was made, Baki the Grappler got back on track as we got closer to the end. Bringing us through the semi-finals and now into the finals, it has all come down to the last real fight that will determine just who has the right to go after Yujiro. The revelation along the way that both fighters are blood relatives has only made it all the more intense and personal.
The character of Jack has not been one that I’ve cared for much which is saying a lot when you consider his competition. A good number of the characters aren’t unsavory or anything but something about their designs and personalities just don’t sit well. His fights have been some of the uglier ones which when combined with his minimal but brutal personality has made him the kind of champion that you root against. Naturally, Baki is someone we’ve followed from the start and he has a bit more charisma to him so you don’t have much of a problem hoping that he’ll win as the finals play out.
In an amusing twist of honesty, a couple of the episodes here have some extra text in Japanese across them at the start where it indicates that the stories diverge in some ways from the manga. As Raijin petered out far too early and this manga never got picked up I have no idea how wildly it diverges but the final fight plays out well. The brutality of it all goes back and forth for three episodes as the pair are really just at the top of their game at this current state of their lives. With seeing how Yujiro has become over the years you know that they both have far more progress to make but there’s a beauty in the brutality that they currently exhibit.
The show doesn’t diverge much from the traditional path of fighting series however as it brings us a bit more history in the midst of all of this. We’ve seen several histories throughout the show, from how Baki’s parents met to aspects of Yujiro’s life. We’ve also seen assorted portions of a lot of the other fighters including Jack’s rise to power. What is new however is that this dip into the past reveals how Jack came to be born. Going back to when Yujiro was just sixteen and raising hell across the world by taking down entire regiments in war torn areas, we see him come across a fairly psychotic woman who finds herself attracted to his power and skill. She’s got experience behind her so she believes that she’s got the drop on him in general but he proves just how different they are. It’s a stark contrast to Baki’s parents which had a mixture of more refinement mixed into the brutality but it fits well for the age that Yujiro is at.
Getting this glimpse into Yujiro’s early life is rather welcome at this point since it helps to set the stage for the next fight. With one of them coming out on top to take him on, seeing a bit more of what makes the Ogre who he is goes a long way. What surprised me the most was just how much they made him look like Baki does now but with some obvious nods to the differences in the hair. If anything speaks volumes about destiny and history repeating itself, it’s these scenes as he gradually gets stronger. It was also interesting to see Yujiro at a stage where his complete understanding of combat isn’t what it is now nor was his general lust in violence. He’s actually a bit more self contained in how it displays across his face.
Of course, even with all the progress the show has made there isn’t any sort of true and final conclusion to the show. It’s meandered a few times as Baki has worked to figure out what he wants out of life, but as it gets to the end here we do see the successful closure of the tournament. What’s left to tease with though is the next confrontation with Yujiro himself. Looking back across the series, the first season before the tournament and just at the start of the tournament is the best material. Once it hit the tournament and lost its momentum by going through each and every match it just started falling in on itself. Early on in the show I loved the open brutality as we saw not just Baki’s growth but also how Yujiro was influencing events. Once we spent more time watching other fighters get down and dirty and knocking each other out of the competition it lost a lot of its allure.
When Baki first started I was excited since the manga turned into such a tease before its cancellation. Its clean artwork and brutality translated well into the show even if the authoring on the video side left a lot to be desired. This final batch of episodes brings a large chunk of the series some closure but leaves more than enough open for more. With Baki being so young still and having seen how Yujiro progressed from the same age to where he is now, it’s easy to imagine some very lengthy tales ahead. It’s been an interesting ride but one that could have been laid out much tighter.
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: February 27th, 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.