The protagonist, Baki Hanma, trains with an intense focus to become strong enough to surpass his father, Yujiro Hanma, the strongest fighter in the world. Five of the world's most violent and brutal death row inmates are gathering to face Baki. Their objective is to taste defeat -- their unmatched strength and skill have led them to grow bored of life itself, and they now seek out Baki in the hopes that he can overwhelm and utterly crush them. In this crisis, other underground martial art warriors gather to fight by Baki's side: Kaoru Hanayama, Gouki Shibukawa, Retsu Kaioh, and Doppo Orochi. An epic showdown between violent death row inmates and Baki and his friends begins!
Five men, all considered some of the most violent and dangerous criminals in the world await death row. Each one locked in high-security prisons across several continents unbeknownst to each other and, as if by sheer coincidence, break out from their penitentiaries and head for Tokyo Japan. Their goal: to challenge the fighting champion of the underground Baki Hanma in the hopes of finally tasting defeat.
Baki is somewhat of an anomaly when talking about the series in depth. On the surface Baki comes across as the stereotypical shounen following a teenage boy training to become the world’s strongest fighter, a label currently held by his
father Yujiro Hanma. However, when delving deeper into the story, Baki manages to encapsulate the concept of fighting and the themes that tie with such. The struggles, sacrifices and suffering felt when facing an almost unachievable goal, the unbridled enjoyment of experiencing your passion to the fullest and even the jaded, dreary perception that can set in when constantly at the pinnacle of one’s field of interest – all are just some of the core ideas the series is firmly rooted in and all remain prevalent in this adaptation of Baki.
This version is set shortly after the Maximum Tournament arc, acting as a direct continuation to the past TV adaptations of Baki almost 2 decades ago, but still serves a solid entry point for newcomers of the franchise. The first OP gives enough backstory on its own – Baki wins a fighting tournament and is crowned the world champion, but that title behaves more like a proverbial target on his back, attracting the group of convicts whose unmatched strength had led each to grow bored of life and now seek to challenge the young prodigy. This premise eventually leads to a showdown between the death row inmates and Baki alongside other underground martial artists prominent in past seasons; a 5-on-5 no holds barred match where fights are free to run amok between fighters anytime and anyplace, which would also include various other characters in this battle between discipline and technique against sheer brutality and ability. It’s an arc that easily creates excitement and anticipation as to how such a story will play out, but the execution of this turns out to be a mixed bag depending on your expectations for the anime.
The plot for this arc, while it may seem grand on paper is actually fairly simplistic; progression and development are both dependent on fights between martial artists with at least one character gaining something from each encounter, from a newfound strategy to beat an opponent if they ever fight again to realizing weaknesses that keep themselves from becoming stronger. One would think this approach would make each fight more meaningful and hold more weight, except that when reflecting back most fights in this show came off forgettable and even sporadic, the latter being the result of very poor structure and pacing. Baki has a habit of introducing new characters and flashbacks at random points in the story, with some flashbacks being as long as 10 minutes in the middle of a match. It’s a habit that seriously disengages the viewer from the tension and unpredictability that this arc is founded upon, to an unpardonable extent with how often this is bound to happen. This kind of storyboarding is what constantly brings down my engrossment of the narrative here as it continues onward, meanwhile the eventual outcome of this arc is seriously underwhelming given how each of the five criminals are written off so unevenly. The lack of a succinct structure results in some antagonists being beaten in quick fashion in order to build towards the next arc of Baki and thus required bringing past characters back into the mix to do just that. Narratively, it looked to be full of ideas and potential develop but lacked a clear direction and framework to present the arc in a carefully planned and orderly manner.
The character development for Baki is also lacklustre to an extent. Characters in Baki can often be considered embodiments of their chosen martial arts style, with the values and overarching philosophy of each forging the minds, bodies and souls of their practitioners. Through this understanding the show probably appears to be stacked with many distinct personalities to play with at the writer’s leisure, yet it remains difficult for many to leave a strong impression on the audience. Partly due to awkward plotting as stated earlier, but also apparent is a lack in clear focus and development to keep most characters important. The events are often made out as more vital than the characters taking part in them. This leads to not only a declining interest in the fights as the series continues, but also makes the majority of characters used here more likely to be lost in the shuffle and only used when convenient.
Baki as a whole has always been primarily about Baki Hanma, the protagonist, and his father Yujiro, the strongest creature on Earth both feared and respected by all. These two are constantly integral parts to the overall story as they should be, yet to witness so many side characters be treated so sparingly can be disheartening to say the least. However, my biggest problem with this adaptation when it comes to characters is with its handling of the main character Baki Hanma. This is a problem that I feel is more prominent to those who have followed the series from the beginning and have seen Baki grow from the hot-headed impulsive gifted brat to an exceptional fighter worthy of being called a champion. But in this arc, Baki appears…. different. Not only is his personality more laid-back but his train of thought and subsequent actions at times come off somewhat autistic. It’s a take on the character that I had never envisioned or pictured, not only acting as the cause for several awkward moments, but also frankly feeling like a betrayal of the character that I remembered watching and reading. Baki still receives his own development throughout this arc, moving from a reserved anxious style of fight to the spirited, confident attitude that made him such a force to be reckoned with. Except for when you find out this change and increase of strength is solely due to Baki losing his virginity.
I wish I was making that up.
If you were to read Baki in its manga counterpart, one of the first aspects that would catch your eye would be the artstyle. There is a keen eye for detail in not only making each technique such a crucial part of the series, but in making the character designs such exaggerated portraits of strength in the human anatomy. A clear expression of weight and power through this absurdist aesthetic creates a strangely beautiful sense of art that further pushes Baki from the standard shounen manga series. If you were to watch this version of Baki, the visuals would easily be the first part that grabs your attention. But unfortunately, the visuals here are kind of trash. It is certainly an improvement from previous installments, but comparing it to the quality of its contemporaries, this has so many glaring issues. Designs have a habit of appearing out of perspective on different angles, animation for the most part is cheap and the juxtaposition of 2D and 3D animation is so god awful it is near impossible for viewers to take most fights seriously. It also doesn’t help that the fight choreography makes the battles come across more turn-based than a Pokemon game. For one of the most jarring experiences I have ever had for watching an anime. I’m honestly surprised how I can say a show with so many technical issues can still be tolerable, but here’s the crazy thing: I actually enjoyed the show.
Earlier I called Baki an anomaly, and this entry in the franchise is no different. Baki (2018) is honestly an insane show that should not be so entertaining to watch, from both faults in production and writing. But here we are, with a series seemingly unbridled in taking action and martial arts to the irrational, all whilst taking itself absolutely seriously. This level of sincerity is almost palpable through every episode and makes it difficult not getting drawn into the bizarre logic of Baki, no matter how grating the lack of fluid animation and coherent writing may get. In this arc, Baki takes the leap of embracing its own ridiculousness to evolve into a genuine spectacle for the eyes that is hard to not take notice of, and with the finale acting as a teaser to a possible continuation of the story, I expect that the best of Baki is still yet to come.
There are few words that describe Baki (2018), the only one that comes to mind is “violent” which is both an extremely accurate and flawed description of the show. One one hand, the show is extremely violent, people are getting completely OBLITERATED in like three punches but sometimes it feels like it’s really going easy on us.
TL;DR I’d give this show an 8 (rounding down the 8.2)
Let me preface this by saying I haven’t watched any of the previous Baki animes, so I’m not too caught up with the Baki lore or anything. That being said, the show feels really basic… there’s not much
in terms of “story” from what I gathered. That being said, if you’re a fan of just fighting, nothing really tying the fights together beside a couple of words, this show is for you.
Story: 6 Story? What story?
In all honesty, I feel like I should give this a lower score, there’s honestly not much in terms of story AT ALL. But I also feel like it doesn’t really matter since the show doesn’t NEED a story either. That being said: one of the absolutely greatest parts of the show would be the surprise element: you have NO idea who’s going to win in a fight (save for a few individuals). This really stood out since most of the time, there really isn’t any sense of suspense when the main characters fight a secondary character or when a protagonist fights an antagonist. But in Baki, you genuinely have no idea WHAT’S going to happen, it really raises the stakes by making every character able to lose from the most hyped up guy to the thirdary character shoehorned in five minutes ago.
Art: 7 Baki is in this weird place where at some points the animation is GREAT! Someone gets kicked in the face and you can feel the impact… but then it flies back to a still image with camera movement to simulate action.
I’m in turmoil when trying to review its art because, on one hand, some of its animations seem lazy and half-assed but on the other hand you can really FEEL the impact of most of the hits. I can’t really give it an accurate review so I’ll just leave it with a 7
Sound 10: OOH The sound THROUGHOUT the anime was near PERFECT!
Going back to what I said in the “art” section, part of the reason why every hit felt genuine was the sound, from fracturing bone to explosions, everything had a certain weight behind it that I really can’t properly explain. The OST was also great, tracks were noticeably reused but still sounded epic no matter HOW many times they replayed it, and it also boasts one of the greatest endings of all time (in my opinion), the sound of Baki is almost as crazy as the show itself.
Character 8: I personally like it when an author writes a character with no intention of them being liked by anyone.
The characters in Baki seem relatively different from each other, but the major disparity between them would be their fighting styles. On one hand, you have the honorable martial artists, each with their own history and methods of fighting and on the other hand, you have the (mostly) despicable death row inmates who focus on more underhanded tactics to win (example, most of the inmates used explosives at least once).
Enjoyment: 8 Dumb fun
Baki is the true TOURNAMENT ARC anime and I LOVE it for that.
There’s not much else to say except: “wow, this show is fun to watch”
What triggered me the most, is that at the beginning, when they introduce the five criminals, it appears that they're as strong as Baki's father. And one of them fought Baki at the first few episodes, but Baki was nothing comparing to him. However, after few episodes the five criminals started to look so weak (like very very weak), which didn't make any sense. Even two of them together couldn't defeat Baki.
Also, during some of the fights the animation effect looks so weird and childish. It seems like if it's a video game or something, and it was too awkward to watch.
character "Baki" becomes so weird in this season and just cares about having sex and after he had sex, he became so strong, which is ridiculous. In the previous seasons he never thought about these stuff. he was just training. But in this season they wasted few episodes just for him being in love and wants to have sex. Also, he didn't fought a real fight in this season, so it was a waste of time.
From someone who just watched the previous seasons before this one, I can say that the writers of this season didn't even watched the previous ones, and they're just putting their trash.
You have to answer only one simple question in order to know whether or not you would enjoy Baki, since what the series offers is really simple. The question is: Do you enjoy violence and nonsense? It is genuinely the only thing that this series has to offer and the only thing that can keep you consistently entertained here. There is nothing else this series can offer you. If you want an engaging story about martial arts and how to develop as a person through martial arts or how to overcome the odds, not what you are going to get. If you want various character
studies through confrontations to study the varied mentalities needed to overcome certain odds, that's not what you will get here. It's not because these things are not attempted, but because the elements of what I described will fall flat, and as a result, the only possible reason you could have to watch Baki is entertainment.
To begin with, the series was not conceived for new watchers in mind. It was done as a continuation of the previous seasons already adapted of the series. So if you choose this specific season to be your starting point for Baki, be warned that, while enjoying violence and nonsense is gonna consistently keep you entertained if that's what you are looking for, there's a wide mass of characters that will be introduced at you that you will not know, and the series due to its pace and particular arc this adapts, will be a very sporadic and chaotic mess of an experience. If those are pet peeves for you, you might want to consume Baki first either through its manga or the prior anime seasons. The violence and nonsense I can guarantee will be there regardless of where you choose to start from.
Now, why do I think Baki is nonsensical?
Well, let me give you a bunch of examples of some of the milder things that happen in the series, since I want the big ones for you to see on your own: By punching a person, a man cleaves another man's meat off of his face right into a perfectly round meatball. Another man runs on water. While trying to do pull-ups, a man is propelled about 2 meters into the air, alongside the bar they were holding onto, because he is that strong. Another man vomits a grenade. Two men jump one entire floor's height, quite comfortably.
Welcome to martial arts, scrubs. You might feel spoiled, but trust me, these things are actually quite mild by comparison of some of the shit you can see while watching this series. It truly barely just scratches the surface.
Now there are two arguments that the series does attempt to make from what I have watched, and I would like to discuss both. A martial artist's true strength is equal to their capacity to adapt to every situation without prior preparation for that specific scenario. Your strength is only equal to how many chaotic situations you would be able to come out victorious at a moment's notice without being aware that they will occur. While I can actually agree and somewhat admire this mentality over strength, the way the argument is made is quite convoluted because it runs in parallel with the other argument this series tries to make. Victory and defeat is decided by the participants of a confrontation. Until both sides agree on who is the victor and who is the loser, the confrontation does not end. That makes the concept of strength quite a metaphysical and subjective term which can be applied to pretty much every style of confrontation conceivable.
Now how do these two arguments fall flat? Because in Baki, willpower and the initiative to want to get towards is a result is the only thing needed to turn what you intend into reality. If one of the core things you want to display is strength, in order to truly measure strength you need to portray situations in which characters are caught unaware and cannot adapt. The person that is caught the most offguard loses. But in Baki's universe, the truth is that the person that ends up to be willing to give up first loses. Regardless of how many times they have been overpowered, outwitted or outnumbered, in Baki's universe if there's a will, there's a way. Anything is possible, it's not even a matter of you believing it is possible or not. It just is. Being stubborn about what you want does not equal strength. It might motivate you to pursue strength, yes, but just because you want it enough, doesn't mean you will have it because of your limits.
As a result the battles don't end up being a battles of might, or battles of the minds. They are confrontations of each participant's willpower and perseverence. He who admits defeat first loses. Or dies. But don't worry since you can will yourself not to die. This ends up giving the series free reign to be as violent as it wants and the fact that willpower overpowers the physical realm in Baki, that's the source of the nonsense. These arguments are also played into the romantic subplot of the series and flatten its impact completely because the romantic subplot feeds into the willpower reliance that exists and that is its only purpose. So if you value romance to any degree in a series, this one's dumb. It's really dumb. But personally, I found it hilarious for that very reason. But I shall not spoil you by explaining why.
As far as I am concerned, I enjoyed Baki. I did not need Baki to be logical in order for me to be consistently entertained by big muscly men brutally trying to defeat each other in whatever ways they deemed apropriate that most people would not. I would've definitely thought higher of it if it had made logical sense. But I understand that's not what Baki as a series is about. As Baki is, it feels incomplete. It lacks elements that make me care about what is happening on screen. I could not care about the result of any of the fights because everything in the ongoing process was obvious that is gonna proceed until someone gives up. Regardless of how thoroughly destroyed their bodies ended up being. But when the only element driving your characters forward is their willpower, they feel empty. They are shallow representations and excuses to create confrontations. The result is irrelevant. Eventually the characters that best represent what the author thinks are gonna win because those characters will be willed into a winning position. I could enjoy what was presented, but not fully.
There are some elements that are obstacles to consuming Baki as an enjoyable experience, even if you enjoy violence and nonsense that much. The biggest is the fact that the fights are portrayed through both CG animation and 2D animation. Now think what you will about CG, be it positive or negative, but when you have a fight occur in both 2D and 3D, where a character is hit in the face by a choppy 3D texture and they react with a 2D close up shot, then the fight continues in 3D whenever the fighters aren't getting a close up, you will feel cheated out of the experience because what you see is continuously inconsistent. Another thing is the fact that Baki seemed to have a very limited budget and as a result, especially by the end of the series, it ended up having very long flashbacks to things that happen previously in the series, for as much as 5 minutes even. The fact that the series has very limited budget also resulted in the series having a very limited soundtrack, which ended up being reused in a number of situations. Due to how limited the OST was, the flashbacks seemed exactly like the same experience played in exactly the same way as in the prior episodes, minus the blue tint, and it was very obvious that they were padding for time. Plenty of the animation being composed of still shots with moving backgrounds or close ups with motion effects of the characters also make the limited budget quite obvious as well, which is a shame, because the events that occur in Baki with a higher budget could be quite a spectacle to behold. And some of the sound effects for how punches and certain body parts get hit got quite repetitive since they got reused a bunch. So take note of these faults as well while watching Baki. Not all episodes are like that, and some of its more crucial moments are delivered without these faults holding the series back, but, these faults exist in the series.
To sum up, watch Baki if you find appeal in violence and when you thoroughly enjoy when something that is nonsensical is presented to you. Avoid it if you need good production values and you need to think highly of the experience before you. You can end up liking Baki, but respecting its rationality is not something I see happening for any viewers whatsoever. Baki can be intriguing so long as you only choose to observe what is happening rather than think what is going on. It was crafted as an experience for you to enjoy. And the two elements I presented in the question at the start of review, are exactly what this experience is rooted upon.