Funimation // 2001 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // July 21st, 2005
Seize the moment!
Baki Hanma is a thirteen-year-old boy who strives to match, and possible exceed, his father's skills as a fighter And that's about it for the plot of this series. Baki wants to be the world's greatest fighter, so he spends most of his time fighting. Trust me, it's even more boring than it sounds.
The first four episodes of Baki the Grappler are presented on this disc; here's a summary of each:
* Episode One: "Stirrings of Destiny"
Baki gets into a street brawl with a thug named Kitazawa and 100 of his goons. Baki takes down 37 of them before the tide turns and the remaining goons start kicking his butt. A detective named Kido stops the fight; he and his partner then take Baki home. Kido's partner is shocked to learn the boy lives alone. Baki, feeling he can accomplish more on his own, fires his trainer. He wanders into a local gym, sees world welterweight champion Yuri in the ring, and offers to spar with him.
* Episode Two: "Those Who Squirm"
Ignoring the objections of his trainer, Yuri agrees to spar with Baki. Yuri realizes Baki's potential and, not wanting to insult the youngster by holding back, begins beating the living hell out of the boy. Baki waits for Yuri to lower his defenses, jumps on the older man's shoulders, and then begins pummeling him about the head. Yuri concentrates, sharpens his focus, and knocks Baki on his ass. Baki returns home to find Kido waiting for him. Baki's mother pulls up, kisses him full on the mouth, and tells him to keep honing his skills. Kido falls asleep in Baki's home; the following morning he finds a note from the youngster, who has decided to go into the mountains to train.
* Episode Three: "The Beast of Yasha Crag"
Baki arrives at the mountain cabin of Keeichi Ando, one of his father's old friends. Baki tells Ando of his defeat at the hands of Yuri; Ando offers to train the boy. Baki decides to spend a night alone on Yasha Crag, which is home to a pack of large, dangerous apes. His father killed one of the apes a few years back, and Baki thinks he can prove his mettle by doing the same. Ando tries to warn Baki against going to the crag, but his words go unheeded. Baki is attacked by one of the apes; Ando is injured when he attempts to rescue the boy. Baki scares off the ape by breaking a kerosene lamp over its back, setting the creature ablaze. Ando is taken to a nearby hospital; Baki becomes more determined than ever to defeat the ape.
* Episode Four: "The Fang and the Tears"
Baki heads for the ape's cave. He waits outside until the beast appears, then challenges it to a fight. Baki injures the ape's left eye; the ape rips the eye from its socket and eats it. Baki kicks the ape in the testicles, and the ape picks him up and tosses him into the air. Ando returns home, sees that Baki has eaten every scrap of food in the cabin, and realizes where the boy is. He grabs a shotgun and heads for the ape's cave. When he sees what is happening, Ando fires a warning shot at the ape; Baki tells Ando not to fire again, begging the older man to allow him to continue the fight. Baki punches his way through the ape's empty eye socket and hits the animal's brain; he then reaches into the ape's mouth and crushes its windpipe. Baki thinks he has killed the creature, but the ape soon gets to its feet and wanders back into its cave. Baki and Ando return to the cabin, where Baki starts to regret attacking an animal that only wanted to be left alone. Ando asks Baki to return to the ape's cave and offer it a gift. Baki treks back to the crag, enters the cave, and presents the ape with the skull of the ape his father killed. The ape then gives Baki a gift: a fang the boy had knocked from the ape's mouth during their fight.
I laughed quite a bit while watching Baki the Grappler, but I don't think it's meant to be funny. It's full of awful dialogue and ludicrous situations; it's also incredibly dull and poorly animated. Given that the series exists primarily as an excuse to stage fight scenes, you'd think the action sequences would be more accomplished than what is presented here. The thing is, the fights are largely composed of still shots to which motion blurs and speed lines have been added. This might have worked in the manga on which this series is based, but it won't cut it in the anime. The rest of the animation also looks a bit crude, and the large number of similarly-designed, thick-necked brutes makes it difficult to keep the secondary characters straight. Oh, and you should see the Yasha Crag ape. It looks like a gargantuan version of the crate monster that eats Adrienne Barbeau in Creepshow, and it moves by bounding from side to side (imagine Burgess Meredith playing the Penguin while constipated). And the way Baki's mom kisses him is just sick.
The letterboxed transfer is a disappointment. It's plagued by edge enhancement, and shimmering, jagged lines are visible in almost every shot. Colors are fine, but that's the only plus. The audio tracks aren't anything special either. Both stereo options come across more like two-channel mono; the 5.1 English dub spreads the sound across the three front channels, but there's no surround action. The most notable (and I use that term loosely) extra is a commentary on the first episode by the English version's director and the actor who supplies the voice of Baki. As with so many of these commentaries, it's not terribly interesting or informative, and it's hampered by the participants' constant stream of painfully unfunny wisecracks. You also get some character art stills from both the anime and the original manga, as well as brief character sketches and episode summaries. Finally, there's a short text piece on the rules of Muay Thai boxing, which is the style employed by Yuri and Baki during their bout.
Other than a few unintentional laughs, there's nothing worthwhile about Baki the Grappler. In fact, I'd rather beat myself about the head than sit through another episode.
Review content copyright © 2005 Mitchell Hattaway; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Muay Thai Boxing
* Episode One Commentary
* Episode Summaries
* Manga Art Stills
* Baki the Grappler Stills
* Character Profiles
* Official Site
* Anime News Network Page