Baki Hanma is a young fighter who yearns to follow in the footsteps of his father, Yujiro, and become the strongest fighter in the world. Through that he trains tirelessly and fights constantly to hone his skills and develop his body to achieve these goals. Many intense battles lay ahead of Baki as he goes about his quest to be the best and ultimately take the title of "King" from his father.
The synopsis of "Grappler Baki" couldn't be more boring and unoriginal; a teenager seeks to become the most powerful fighter in the world.
However, the execution of this hackneyed concept is what's extraordinary.
For starters, there are hardly any monologues or emotional flashbacks, and absolutely no cute, "funny" scenes of the main character being hit by a girl. Instead, each episode is filled with brutal, highly entertaining fights, most of them featuring the hero, Baki, getting the absolute piss beaten out of him.
Getting multiple bones shattered, having one's ankle exploded, one's eye nerves severed, being thrown out of a window on the third floor, swallowing glass, having
one's mouth torn apart by a giant beast-ape, being hung execution-style by a rope, or having one's bloody, unconscious face repeatedly stomped by a fist or foot are all a part of a typical episode for Baki.
Most appropriately, there is almost a complete lack of "good" and "evil" in this series; every character (with the possible exception of Yujiro), even the most brutal and dirty, is shown to have a good, friendly, honorable side, and similarly, even Baki has a vicious, uncomprising part to his personality.
In a comical but oddly appropriate twist, Baki befriends the Yasha Ape whose eye he gouged out and which almost tore his mouth off, or Yakuza boss Hanayama, who almost killed him on several occasions.
In fact, he becomes friends with almost everyone he fights in the series, showing that these fights are simply the tool for him becoming better and stronger, not the product of his desire for violence.
Thus, on a pure entertainment level, the series is great; gritty fights featuring original attacks, unique fighting styles, and non-stop action mixed with a peculiar sense of humor.
With all that said, "Grappler Baki" works on a deeper level also.
While the show revolves around fighting, it's really a metaphor for the struggle and sacrifice anyone faces in achieving the absolute pinnacle in their field of interest.
Through Baki's non-stop training, fighting, and overzealous desire to improve at the risk of his own life, the hero is someone that a viewer can emphasize with, as he attains his ability more through practice and physical sacrifice than natural ability.
Despite all this, Baki is repeatedly beaten down by his invincible father Yujiro, the king of fighters. Thus, rather than being a simple story of a fighter's rise to the top, it's the story of a typical human giving everything to achieving his goals, succeeding, but ultimately, not being able to fulfill his greatest desire.
In addition to this, there are a number of refreshing "real" aspects for an action anime here, such as the lack of female fighters, and the "dirty tactics" (biting, eye-gouging, kicks to the groin, attacks from behind) that every single fighter utilizes, including Baki. (Once again obliterating the "good" and "evil" that so many animes rely upon)
Finally, another reason I love this series so dearly are the unforgettable characters; while Baki is a unique, macho badass in his own right, Orocho Doppi and Karou Hanayama are some of the most unique, likeable, and downright cool characters in any anime ever.
This can be extended to most of the characters on the show too; they all have their own quirks, sense of humor, fighting styles, and contrasting outlooks on life.
This feels a lot different than most animes, where there are essentially only two or three character prototypes which everyone is modeled upon.
Thus, Grappler Baki is not only a great series for anyone who enjoys fighting and combat, but anyone who wants to see something different and unexpected in an anime.
What's great is all the characters have a back story and even though they want a piece of Baki, they are portrayed in ways where you can sympathize with all them including Baki and I feel you can sympathize with Yujiro to some extent. They are people that are portrayed with reasons of what they do. And what’s also good about this anime is that it’s very fast pace. You can watch like 4 episode and you feel like maybe 15 to 20 minutes have passed by. But what I really didn’t like is in the last 45% of the season with the time skip,
some of the characters like the cop that was watching Baki and Emi’s assistant who also watched over him are now written out and I thought they had very significant roles.
With the art, I really like the character design a lot. Especially 13 year old Baki. He has this cut physique and yet he does have an innocent look to his face. Especially the eyes which I like about it. But what’s disappointing is that Baki’s scars from the oav are not at all drawn in this version though they are briefly talked about in the anime itself. And Yujiro comes across as a clone of the mixed genes of MMA juggernaut Fedor, Violence Jack, and Brolly from DBZ. And the other characters who come in later on in this anime are based on real martial artists and pro wrestlers such as Mas Oyama, the founder of Kyokushinkai karate, Japanese pro wrestling legends Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki, and Jiujitsu legend Rickson Gracie. So martial arts enthusiasts should be able to love this for those influences alone.
Once again, before I get into talking about the fights, I will protest the use and definition of the word grappler and how I felt it doesn’t at all apply to a majority of the fights and Baki’s fighting style, which looks like a mix between Shotokan Karate and Muay Thai like you see in the movie Kickboxer with Van Damme. I don’t like how there is very limited emphasis on grappling. But every now and then, we’ll see a rear naked choke that does little to no damage, and an arm bar attempt which does nothing as well, and typical wrestling suplexes. But there is the Hanayama character who grips the person’s arm and destroys their bicep and blood vessels which I think is a bizarre move and is nothing more than a fictional Indian burn. But I would like to see techniques like the omoplata, the triangle choke, and the guillotine choke.
I think if a true grappling element was implemented than it would be more exiting in my point of view. I practice grappling arts and striking arts. I have black belts in judo and in Tae Kwon Do, and I currently practice kickboxing, brazilian jiujitsu, and mixed martial arts, and there are times I’ve seen in the fights of this anime that I think true grappling you see in brazilian jiujitsu, kousen judo, and in catch wrestling could have applied. I think seeing an effective submission is just as fun as watching a KO punch or kick, or a vaporizing kamehameha.
But other criticisms people may have it how crazy these people can take pain. I swear, to do half of the crap they’re doing, you got to take serious steroids, PCP or some performance enhancer. Since the characters are not fighting in officially sanctioned bouts, they are free to take such drugs. Yujiro probably took serious roids and PCP. Hell, Nick Diaz beat Pride lightweight champion with a beautiful gogoplata while testing off the charts on weed. The closest I can back up this assumption to some extent is when Baki fights Gaea. Who can manipulate his own adrenaline. Which is bizarre but I guess that’s a cool concept. He brings new definition to adrenaline junky.
The music I really like in this one. The opening them Ai Belive and I forgot the name of the ending theme are really cool in my point of view. I think the style and execution of the songs fit more for Initial D, another favorite anime of mine with one of my favorite soundtracks, but I think it’s enough to represent the fast pace and explosive nature of Grappler Baki as well. The background music itself also invokes and entices the mood and really pulls you into it. Some of the tracks reminds me of an old school Virtua Fighter game which makes it cool in that kind of way, I guess.
The dub is ok. I think it has intensity but I don’t think it compares to the Japanese version at all. Surprisingly, despite how awesome the Japanese cast is, there are little to no big names in the Japanese version. The only big name I could recognize is of course Baki’s seiyuu, Kikuchi Masami, who is most known to some of you as Tenchi from Tenchi Muyo, and Keiichi from Ah My Goddess. I think this gives Kikuchi a different kind of approach to his other characters that are losers, while this time his character has a tough exterior with a soft heart and I think he portrays that very convincingly where you feel his character.
OK to conclude my review, I’ll get back into the subject of drugs and fighting. In case some of you don’t know, 10th Planet Jiujitsu chief instructor and my cousin’s instructor Eddie Bravo, who beat reigning Abu Dhabi champion Royler Gracie in the 2003 quarter finals happens to be a marijuana advocate and he’s the reason why Fear Factor host and UFC commentator Joe Rogan is also a weed dude. He claimed he invented his techniques such as his rubber guard while under the influence. Considering Nick Diaz’s victory over Gomi, I am starting to believe him, but in no ways am I advocating the use of drugs, nor am I consider taking up drugs. I just say after watching this anime, I am starting to reconsider how these guys fight like crazy ass mofoss. But putting that aside, I strongly recommend this anime despite my criticisms of it based on my passion and experience with the martial arts today thanks to MMA. It is high paced, explosive, has drama, and an excellent cast of characters. If you love extreme brutal action, then this is foryou.
This is an anime everybody should see. The story may not be as deep as keshin or love hina but still this is a good anime. If you ever want to see a cool anime give this one a try. It may seem like a bad anime at first but it is sort of like the anime berserker. You will defintely want to see more. An anime with figting scenes all the and a nice story line. What more can you ask for. Yeah!!!
Although many have said similar ideas to what i am about to present to you, i believe it really is true with this anime.
What i love about this anime is how each character has its own background story, from the great Yasha Ape, Baki himself, to Yuri and Hanayama. All these characters make up the base of Baki the grappler. But lets not forget our favourite devil (Yujiro Hanma), yes you all hate him at first, but you actually end up actually liking him, the way he breaks up fights, his annoying weird voice and his devilishness :P
The story is about baki, a 13
year old kid, training martial arts since he was 3 years old, and having his father (yes that messed up psychotic bastard) as an idol or a goal for his life. But at 13 years old, he left his controlled training and started running his life by himself, however coming to realise that his father is really a psycho and not some loving person, he aims to defeat him.
Baki then goes through several stages of his life, including defeating a 20Ft Ape with his bear hands, fists, and feet.
The funny thing i have to say about this (and i know someone already mentioned this in another review but its so true), everyone here takes steroids. Its like DBZ almost but not with the rapid unexplainable expansion of muscle and the sudden change in hair pigment colour and random yellow lines of supposedly fire that doesnt seem to burn the skin.
I mean, the one scene where baki (when he has orange hair) sitting on the river hillside, he is so big for his size and age, its pretty obviouse hes on roid rage. And lets not start on Yujiro. Dude that guy takes the pain like its nothing, and his face.... I swear he pumps roids in his face too... Just looking at his neck and how thick it is...
But even then, people like Hanayama, Baki too, they all take so much pain yet they dont suffer much for it. Do you think you will still live if you got kicked against a tree, and due to its impact the tree split in half at the base? I think you would die most definately.
A funny part of this anime that i remember was when Baki was climbing up a hill (this is on one of the earlier episodes), and has numerouse experiences of hormones or adrenalin or something. It reminded me of something we all do when we are very excited, and we are with the opposite sex (unless we are homosexual where its the same sex, or bi where its either sex) and we rease alot of white sticky stuff... Yes, do you go "UHG" when you have a sudden climax of hormonal release? I dont think so.
However, with all the steroid crap, climaxes and paracetamol they take, it still is an amazing anime. What i love about it is that it was so seriouse, and had a true fighting spirit within. It never got into comedy (which isnt bad, but for this anime, comedy would have probably sucked, baki would have turned out to be some dense weirdo, and it would have been something like hajime no ippo or historys strongest diciple kenichi, which arnt bad, they are also my favourite animes :) )
The sound, well the music are all pertty good. If you watched the english dub version you know what im talking about, that OP gets stuck in your head and it is an awesome OP.
As soon as i finished this anime, i just had to go to the second season... and i would reccomend the same for you to do also.
Martial arts are an expression of power, showcasing the potential of the human body when pushed to its physical limit. It also makes for exciting anime, and allows animators and directors to showcase their prowess as things get heated.