Baki The Grappler- An Anime Review
Baki the Grappler is a 48 episode series focusing on a young boy with a tragic family dynamic. Baki Hanma, the son of Yujiro Hanma, who is widely regarded as the most dangerous man in the world, was conceived and raised for the sole purpose of becoming a one man army. He is relentlessly trained from birth to fight, forced to exercise and take on countless opponents bare handed in the hopes of his mother showing him the merest ounce of affection. Unfortunately she only has eyes for Yujiro, raising her son at the behest of the man she loves.
Yujiro is a bare-fisted combatant who’s killed thousands. The nations of the world fear him, and so cater to his every whim. All he wants is to find his equal when it comes to bloodshed. When he realizes that no one comes even close to standing up to him, he decides only his own flesh and blood has the slightest chance of beating him.
The entire story revolves around Baki persevering, growing stronger with each day in the hopes of bringing down his bloodthirsty monster of a father. Perhaps the most disturbing part of this series is the depiction of an underage child having the living snot beaten out of him every episode. This follows the anime concept that being hurt and almost killed somehow makes one stronger. Baki reminds me very much of Rocky Balboa, this kid can take one shot to the head after another. Of course the question of brain damage is never raised, though I can’t help but wonder what kind of shape he’ll be in a few years down the road. One has to remember that it’s entirely fictional; in reality what doesn’t kill us can leave us a broken pile of flesh, paralyzed, and lying in a puddle of our own waste.
With that said, there isn’t really much of a storyline. There is some attempt at a love interest, but this, like the whole series, peters out to an unfulfilling and unsatisfactory end. The major strong points of Baki the Grappler are the fight sequences. They are well animated and varied, depicting many different real martial arts forms in blow-by-blow larger-than-life action. There’s no DBZ style blurring or speed lines to suggest combat without actually animating it. Nor does it have the drawn out soap-opera quality either.
Despite this, you may find yourself wishing for more character development and back story to make the series more meaningful. Personally I began to dread the upcoming fight scenes; the synthesized repetitive soundtrack that kicked in is truly painful. All in all, watch it if it’s on TV, but don’t go out of your way to find it.
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