Baki, a great grappler needs to live up to his name being the son of the the greatest grapplers of all time: Hanma Yujiro. At the Shinshinkai Organization's private arena, anything goes and the odds are always stacked against you. Current champion of the urderground tournament he fight to defend his title against the worlds strongest and best martial artists, including "the beast" his own father Yujiro.
In terms of story, what you see is what you get. It’s a tournament so it focuses exclusively on that. But what makes up for limited but effective and reasonable plot in a singular environment is being a character centric story arc. We get to learn about a certain fraction of the new characters and what they sacrificed to get to where they are. They are portrayed in ways once again where you can get to know and sympathize with them. They all have likable qualities even though they may seem like savage animals. And the development is pretty much predictable in this kind
of genre. Win or lose, if you put on the best fight you ever had, it’s only going to make you stronger, etc. In further addition the pacing that I liked from season 1 is still there for the most part except near the end where it pulls somewhat of a Kishimoto. I don’t want to spoil how it does but for those who have been frustrated with Naruto recently, you’ll get what I mean when you get to that part or if you have seen it before.
Art style wise, nothing much to really add from season 1. So what I said art style wise in season 1 applies here as well. Now on to the fights. Good news is, there is more emphasis on grappling which I do like, but still isn’t really the main base for the most part. And I don’t think styles such as the Sambo and Brazilian Jiujitsu weren’t accurately represented. How the hell does Kung Fu kill Sambo? What kind of crap is that? Especially when the strongest fighter in the world right now, Fedor, is primarily a sambo fighter. Kung Fu died in the old UFCs. Hell, Royce Gracie killed kung fu during the era of the Gracie challenge. And guys like Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, and Tito Ortiz only made it worse. To get an idea of what I’m talking about, look them up on youtube. Then again, maybe Kung Fu is making a come back with Cung Le with his recent victory over an over the hill Frank Shamrock. But I gotta give Frank credit for backing up that he’d stand up with Cung Le. Then again, Cung Le I hope fights Anderson Silva or Paul Filho later to prove his kung fu. Plus, sumo wrestling beats traditional jujutsu? After how they built up Motobe in season 1, I thought it was bullcrap he’d lose like that! Look at the big name sumo wrestlers who fought in MMA competition. Akebono who was one of the most legendary Yokozunas ever lost to Bob Sapp for crying out loud! And Sentoryu is a bum.
I think grappling is underrated outside of the Mixed Martial Arts world, and I’m primarily a stand up fighter! I took up wrestling and judo in my youth and learned some catch wrestling on the side and started to see how grappling had its use first hand. Plus, the way Baki finishes his final fight in this story arc was how I beat a football player in 8th grade except I pulled guard like how Nogueria did against Tim Sylvia. I think it’s pretty bizarre the story arc represents styles such as bouncers and motorcycle gang members. Like how Bob Sapp’s style is listed as NFL, in consideration he had little to no career in the NFL. I really liked how Vale Tudo was represented in this anime. Plus, they used the name of a real life Vale Tudo fighter, Zulu, based on Rei Zulu who was feared until the legendary and awesome Rickson Gracie defeated him! And Zulu’s son, Zuluhino a few years back lost to Fedor in like 10 seconds. But despite that, the fights in Maximum Tournament are original and high octane.
If you’re a martial arts enthusiast, you may get a majority of who the fighters may represent. Like Yamamoto Minoru, the shoot fighter, is of course based on Suzuki Minoru, co-founder of King of Pancrase, one of Japan’s original MMA organizations. But he really didn’t do much. And the anime also has a catch wrestler. They explained the principles of catch wrestling very well, but execution wise, considering his opponent, really couldn’t shine. Shoot fighting is essentially catch wrestling, but with strikes added. Plus, Jack Hammer portrays pit fighting decently. Tank Abbott represented pit fighting and he was twice a finalist in the UFC. And he beat the mystic arts of kung fu and ninjutsu. Speaking of ninjitsu. Where was the anime representation of Frank Dux in all of this? C’mon! He was the originator of these kinds of movies! Plus, Bloodsport is a true story! It’s not fair they didn’t get Frank Dux in this showing off his ninja moves he used while as a CIA agent.
I can’t really add too much to the voice acting. But I thought the new actors did well. Another personal favorite of mine, Fujiwara Keiji does a great job of playing Kasumi, the son of Doppo. He does a great job as usual of playing someone being a smart ass, and yet so serious. The background music from season 1 is still retained so nothing much to say. But I don’t like the new opening and ending themes. So how do I explain this? OK, to those who play DDR. Are you the kind of guy that can handle very fast songs on SSR or Maniac or Expert or whatever you wanna call it and yet hate the slow songs? That’s how I feel about the newer opening and ending themes.
Anyway, the plot is linear, but for its intentions, there is nothing wrong with that. It’s very exclusive to the underground tournament environment for the most part, which may turn off some people. But if you want brutal martial arts action, then you’ve come to the right anime. Anyway, I am aware of more manga stories going on after this one and is still in publication. I hear the manga is excellent and trying to get my hands on it. I really like the characters. Even though some may have limited screen time, they all bring in their own kind of personality and charisma. Even though I disagreed with how some of the match ups ended up in very inaccurate ways, in comparison to my criticisms of History’s Strongest Disciple Ken’ichi for being too one dimensional, the reason why I’m not that critical with this series in that aspect is because the original manga of Baki was made from 1991 and MMA didn’t really become mainstream yet. So I feel because of the age of the manga in comparison to Ken’ichi’s which I believe was between 2000 and 2002, I feel I can leave Baki off when kung fu had its myth-ism.
Grappler Baki II is the second season to the action/shonen show, Grappler Baki.
Story: Well, one interesting aspect about the storyline in this anime is that pretty much all 26 episodes take place in one day. As far as the story itself goes, it's nothing too special, it's just a tournament of 30+ fighters, with some plot twists and flashbacks thrown in to broaden the storyline and characters. Having a tournament in a shonen show is a terribly overused technique, but I cannot refrain myself from admitting that it is a very effective cliche. A tournament is thrilling to watch, since you wonder who will make
it to the later rounds and who will not. The tourney in Grappler Baki II is, thankfully, not too predictable, so, while the story is a bit bland and uncreative, it is still marginally effective.
Art: It's ok. I'm tempted to simply leave it at that. Character designs are ok, the animation is...ok. Overall, the art department is exceedingly average, not bad not good. The art won't amaze you, but it will not bother you either.
Sound: The soundtrack in the show is done quite well, the songs fit the action well, but towards the end, i found myself wishing for a larger selection of music, since the songs tend to get very repetitve. Pretty much each background piece of music is used in almost every episode at least once. The opening and ending songs were fairly decent in my opinion.
Character: This could have been much worse. There are lots of characters in this anime, and we actually get a decent background about most of them. The problem is that none of them are particularly interesting or genuine, and i found it hard to care for any of the numerous supporting characters. But what about the main cast? Nothing too new, Baki is hellbent on defeating his father, while simultaneously failing to advance an oddly uninteresting romantic subplot that the creators couldn't decide whether to flesh out or not. His father is still a complete bastard, who loves fighting, grinning cockily, and apparently interrupting the tournament whenever he feels like. So, nothing too outstanding in the character department, but again, could have been worse.
Enjoyment: In the end, i had the same basic problem with this season as i did with the previous season. It all just comes down to a bunch of badass looking badasses that fight each other in a badass fashion. It's entertaining to watch, as long as you keep your brain turned off. Admittedly, the fight scenes are well done, but a show can't thrive on just the action segments, it also needs a strong plot and characters, which is the area where Grappler Baki stumbled for me. The show is comparable to an average action film, moderately enjoyable to watch, but rather unimpressive as a complete work. If you are a big fan of shonen shows and action in general, add 2 points to this score, if you have a general dislike for the genre, subtract a couple.
For those who love tournament fights only! Preferably with aberrant and gore-ish martial prowess among masters. Because there is nothing else to it. Well, almost.
You have a story, a script the size of a matchbox, but fairly right for the purpose it serves. Characters' backstories easily fill that purpose too, being side stories on their own, keeping us entertained. It only stretches a bit much around the end, otherwise, there's nothing to get bored of: plenty of fights!
On the artistic side, Grappler Baki is a failure. Everything from the chara design to the animation is cheap to the point even Baki doesn't look the same
from one one scene to another. Thankfully, he has red hair, but you should see him trying to smile: it's sometimes dreadful! The only thing worth saving is the tension, the grim side of the show. The savagery accommodates well with the poor design and animation and the good but unremarkable music.
Oddly enough, the flaws are nothing much compared to the enjoyment procured. You can forgive easily when you seek fights and the show offers you fights. There is a scent of Bloodsport, backstories with the assumed flavor of 80s' american action movies, mixed with chinese kung fu flicks. It doesn't promise much, but it delivers.
(Like an undertalented Morricone-like, but taken as a compliment.)
I'm a huge fan of the first season of "Grappler Baki", and the second season, which covers the Maximum Tournament saga, is a continuation of the same theme.
If you didn't enjoy the first season, you won't like this.
Every single episode is devoted to the 38 fighters in the tournament and their encounters with one another, and God, what encounters. As viciously brutal, bloody, and uniquely choreographed as the fights in the first season are, they pale next to the fights in the Maximum Tournament.
I have watched thousands of action movies, but there were instances of the Maximum Tournament where my head jerked back, and then
slowly shook in disbelief that such a simultaneously awesome and violent scene was filmed.
As with the first season, every fighter is different, and has their own peculiar personality and style.
There are Japanese pro wrestlers, world champion boxers, Greco-Roman wrestling Olympic champions, judokas, karate practioners, Vale Tudo and streetfighting experts, kung-fu guys, Brazilian Jui-Jitsu experts, and a dozen other styles and hybrids.
Virtually every characters is at least interesting, and some are especially likeable and cool, such as Orochi Doppo, a heavily-scarred old man who resembles a jolly old uncle, wears an eyepatch, has a physique that would make Arnold jealous, and constantly cracks jokes.
Karou Hanayama is another favorite, a stoic, gigantic crime boss, wearing an elegant suit, glasses, and stab and bullet wounds along his face and upper body. His calm, understated personality and ruthless effiency would make Ogami Itto proud.
Watching these fighters having their skulls shattered, their windpipes smashed, and repeatedly beaten to bloody pulps in graphic detail is a sight to behold, since the show takes the time to make one genuinely care about each fighter.
The season peaks at the perfect time, too; Baki, the hero, gets more vicious, focused, and intense in each episode, and the fights become more and more spectacular every time.
It all comes to a head in Episodes 22 and 23, with a gritty, emotional battle royale-style final that truly defies the imagination.
At one point, one of the tournament organizers wants to stop the match, as it has gone from life-threateningly brutal to downright grotesque.
At that point, the 70 year old, 3 foot tall patron of the Underground Arena, Tokugawa Mitsunari, largely comic relief until then, pulls out a dagger and holds it to the organizer's throat, making it perfectly clear what will happen if he goes through with that decision.
Finally, Episode 24 is a neat bonus, as it offers more backstory for Yujiro and his experiences fighting in the jungles of Central and Southern America, as well as introducing the unbelievable badass known as Biscuit "Oly" Oliva (who plays a huge role in the manga continuation).
After watching these two amazing Baki seasons, I can only hope that they eventually make an anime of the Convict and Chinese Tournament sagas.