Zap! Pow! Judge Mitchell Hattaway sucker-punches this cartoonish fighting anime.
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"
• Episode Two: "Those Who Squirm"
• Episode Three: "The Beast of Yasha Crag"
• Episode Four: "The Fang and the Tears"
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.
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