Anyone that has been a fan of anime for a while may recognize the name Baki as an OAV that came out in the 90's as well as a 40+ volume manga. If you're the type of viewer that can't get enough flying fists, cracked ribs and bloody noses then you're going to be in male muscle bound heaven. Seriously, there are more shirtless guys walking around in this show than you can (or would want to) shake a stick at.
Even though he's only 13 years old, Baki Hanma aspires to be as strong, if not stronger than his father and is more beefy than a baseball player on steroids. The kid knows how to fight too, but he keeps getting involved in battles where the odds are stacked against him to test his abilities. In the last volume Baki took on the monstrous fifteen year old Kaoru Hanayama, only to have the fight interrupted by his father (Yujiro). What's his dad's motive? How does his appearance change the course of the show? We find out a little on the third disc of the series.
Early on in episode nine, we learn just how horrible of a person Yujiro is. Needless to say, the Yasha Ape won't be down for breakfast, and because of that Baki swears to kill his father. Before he can get to work though, papa disappears and tells Baki to be ready for some action in exactly one month. So, what does that mean for our favorite muscle-bound thirteen year old? Yet even more training, that's what!
He finds out about a super secret militant group of five warriors who have been known to devastate entire battalions without ever picking up a weapon. Naturally Baki decides to pay them a visit, but he eventually runs into a guy named Gaia. The fighting is intense and pushes his skills to their absolute limit, but Baki learns a lot from what transpires. He is obviously much weaker physically than his father, but he has the ability to earn his enemies' respect, and returns it in kind. Something his father never does, thanks to his massive ego and blood thirst.
The showdown between father in son draws near and the third volume ends with only one more day until the bone breaking, blood spilling festivities. I can honestly say that the show and this volume in particular, do a great job of building up the suspense and giving both Baki and Yujiro their fair amount of screen time. The episodes here have a decent amount of action, but not as much humor as the series has shown up to this point. It proves to be a straight forward fighting anime with plenty of character development and intrigue, and is slowly getting fleshed out.
If you've been watching the show up to this point, then you've probably grown accustomed to the interesting art style that is used. The characters are all pudgy, but it's a muscular kind of fat with biceps, triceps, and whatever-you-call-them-ceps, bulging, twitching, and popping all over the place. This is a manly show, for manly people. Ok, not really, but there sure is a lot of testosterone flying around. I still don't really want to stare at some buff guy in a thong, but considering the show is a lot of fun, you have to take the good with the bad, I suppose.
Baki the Grappler is presented with a 1.85:1 non anamorphic widescreen transfer, which is what it originally aired with in 2001. While the presentation is very clean at times there is some noticeable grain, aliasing and jittery animations although the image looks slightly better in the second volume. There is a great use of colors and lighting with little saturation and even though most of the fighting animations are still, there are some nice effects to go along with them. I could have been hallucinating, but the animation and art style of the show appeared to be slightly different for the "Battlefield" episode. Overall though, this is a great looking show with a lot of bright colors and action.
There are three separate tracks to choose from, each with optional English subtitles. There are Japanese and English 2.0 stereo tracks as well as an English 5.1. The two stereo tracks are competent enough, but ideally you'll be using the 5.1 option even though it would have been nice for a Japanese 5.1 selection. The English dubbing is pretty good for the most part, even though there are a few performances that could have been better. The directional sound is used very effectively, especially with all of the action going on during the show.
On the third volume of Baki the Grappler there are a few extras that are worth mentioning. Aside from some trailers, production stills and textless songs, there are some character profiles to peruse. The previous two installments included commentaries, so why not the third? It's for the episode "The Division" and features the director of the English localization and also the actor for Yujiro (Matt Tompkins). Yet again the commentary proves to be more humorous than serious, but even so it's still very entertaining. A really screwed up J rock video is also included for the Dir En Grey song 'Child Play', which is also the show's theme song. Also for those of you that may have missed it from other FUNimation releases the first episode for Mr. Stain on Junk Alley is included here. Needless to say it's a rather strange looking show.
Baki and company come back for a third round that proves to be a lot of fun. The action is intense and seeing the red headed kid butt heads briefly with his dad upped the ante a little bit for the show. It'll definitely be interesting to see the next volume where the two actually square off and get down to business. The show provides plenty of character development, though now it seems to focus strictly on Baki and Yujiro. It's a lot of fun and definitely worth checking out if you enjoy fighting anime. Just don't say I didn't warn you about the muscular male thong thing. Recommended