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, kicked crotches and bloody noses then you're literally going to be in testosterone muscle bound heaven. A lot of fighting shows showcase the muscles and such of their warriors, but Baki The Grappler takes it one step further. You can't get through a single episode without seeing some dude in a thong or flashing mutant-like muscles this way and that.
Ever since he was a kid, Baki Hanma aspired to be as strong, if not stronger than his father and now finds he is beefier 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. After a ton of battles and a few rounds of head butting with his father Baki is all grown up now. The series has taken a jump forward in time and our hero is no longer the snot nosed brat that he once was.
He has become a member of an underground fighting tournament similar to Jean Claude Van Damme's film Bloodsport. Actually, scratch that, Baki doesn't become a member; he becomes the freaking champion in no time flat. His fighting style and family heritage have given him an unlimited supply of opponents to practice against as warriors climb out of the woodwork to take a swipe at the kid. Of course with this newfound stature and new Japan Baki has made some acquaintances with some powerful fighters. They have coached him and supported him, but mostly it has to do with their desire to see his father fall.
In the last volume the few final frames featured Baki in the middle of the underground arena and his father stopping by for a surprise visit. There I was thinking "Oh, this is it!" I actually thought that Baki stood a chance of at least hitting his dad, but boy was I wrong. He throws one punch as this volume starts and gets rendered unconscious by a single touch from one of "the Ogre's" fingers. At this point in the show I'm really starting to feel Baki's frustrations over not being able to do anything against his father. I mean, I understand that his dad is the strongest guy in the world and all that, but come on!
Anyways, as the volume progresses Yujiro announces his entrance into the fighting tournament much to the glee of the weird little guy that operates it. He arranges a fight for Yujiro against Doppo who is another one of Baki's new friends that carries a grudge against his father. As that match is getting set up Baki has his own fight to contend with. If you have been watching then you'll remember the cord-cutting technique guy from the last volume. Well, Baki now has to face that guy's brother. The tricky part with this fighter is that he is a doctor as well so he knows his anatomy. He also happens to be really strong and fast; not to mention oddly effeminate looking.
I'm not going to spoil what happens towards the end of this sixth volume but let's just say that the outcome to both fights wasn't quite what I expected. Baki The Grappler is proving more and more that it's the type of show that likes to leave you guessing what's going to happen next. The nature of each release is set up so you are always left on the edge of your seat and this one is no different. I'd like to point out that yet again it almost appears as if two separate animation studios worked on these episodes. You can tell just by looking at the art style that the first two episodes here are different than the last two. I noticed this earlier in the show as well. It's not that it's generally such a bad thing; it just makes me raise an eyebrow is all.
If you like big sweaty guys who love to make each other bleed then this is probably the anime for you. I don't think I have ever been witness to so many broken bones, cuts, and agonized screams before. This volume feels a little more oddly paced than previous ones with some cooling off time and then a non-stop barrage of fighting. Yet again you get the feeling that he series is building to something with every step. I just hope it doesn't fizzle out.
Baki the Grappler is presented with a 1.85:1 non anamorphic widescreen transfer, which is what it originally produced with in 2001. While the presentation is very clean at times, there is some noticeable grain, artifacts, aliasing and jittery animations. Overall this is a great looking show with a lot of bright colors and action. However, I do still find it hard to accept the art style at times. I understand that the guys all have to look beefy and tough as nails, but do the girls need to look that way as well? I swear that the girl Baki lives with now could almost be a borderline body double sometimes.
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.
This time around the supplemental material is pretty much the same as it has been for the series. There are some character profiles, some still shots from the episodes, textless songs, trailers, and an episode from Mr. Stain on Junk Alley. The best feature yet again is an audio commentary. This time around it's for episode 21 "An Unlikely Challenger" and features ADR Director Chris Cason and voice actor Greg Dulcie (Doppo). Just like the previous commentaries this one was pretty funny and only mildly informative. I think I've enjoyed the tracks with Jeremy Inman more, but Chris and Greg have some good banter.
I have to admit that I'm starting to get sick of seeing Baki get smacked around by his dad like a ragdoll. I'm really wondering what it's going to take for him to actually inflict some damage on the guy. Well, actually I'm starting to wonder what it would take for ANYONE to hurt Yujiro. The guy is just too freaking strong for his own good and he appears stronger in this volume than in previous ones (if that's even possible). Still, this is an action packed installment in the Baki series and another that fans will undoubtedly gobble up.