I'll say this first: I didn't hate Grappler Baki, nor did I enjoy it very much. Nevertheless, it's a really flawed series and I feel like ranting.
''There is not going to be much to say about it'' - this thought crossed my mind as I finished Baki's first episode. And I was obviously right.
Do not by any means expect anything original. It is your typical, average story about a buffed up brat whose dream is to be the strongest man in the world. In order to attain so, he pushes himself through over-the-top training, life-or-death situations or brawls against a hundred thugs, a 2.5 meters tall kid or some kind of mutant ape. As a result of this, he keeps getting stronger, meeting stronger dudes, beating them with stronger blows, and so on.
Normally I'd just tell you to go watch Hajime no Ippo instead if you want a really good tale about a young man going down the path of strength, but I'm going to rant for a bit.
This anime is chock-full of CHEESE. Sometimes god-awful, hard-to-digest CHEESE. You can expect the typical cliché characters too full of themselves with their manly nonsense, long and tiring speeches during fights between the combatants explaining their techniques/remembering their oh-so-touching pasts/spouting some pseudomanlyphilosophical garbage, or the typical useless side characters commenting the fights by doing some insipid observation or getting impressed over the most childish tactics ever.
I definitely think Grappler Baki would have potential as a genre parody since I laughed quite a bit in parts I wasn't supposed to.
So in a nutshell, what Baki's story has to offer is an unoriginal, uninspiring, unsubstantial tale about the pride of a manly man and outdoing oneself, with beating the crap out of everyone in your way often seen as something positive. That, and two messy, badly executed time skips with nothing much happening in them except Baki being stronger and changing his hairdo (thank god!!).
Truth be told, I love manly stupidity in anime because it is cool if you don't take it too seriously and you can laugh your ass off with some stuff, but Baki might have been a bit too cheesy for my taste. Since the ''plot'' doesn't really have anything else good enough to overcome this shortcoming, the score was bound to be low.
Let's get this straight: the character designs are effing ugly. Not Kaiji/Akagi-kind-of-ugly. I mean really awful designs one might find difficulty to look at. Total lack of detail aside, the eyes are too big, the lips look just like sausages and there are wrinkle-ish thingies a plenty all over the characters' faces (allegedly to reinforce their manly aura). Their hairstyles usually contribute to make them look all the more stupid, being Baki's dyed orange lawn the most offensive.
Don't think this only applies to men (who, on the other hand, represent the 98% of the active cast), because Baki's mother looks almost as ugly with her disproportionate, round head. And she's supposed to be a beauty, huhuh...
Anyways, faces aren't the only issue here. Muscles are nearly disgusting. They're so exaggerated and poorly-drawn, that rather than muscles you might think some kind of giant bugs are bulking the bodies from the inside, trying to get out through the flesh.
Also, character proportions don't seem to be consistent when it comes to height. Hanayama Kaoru could be compared with the Big Foot when seen beside other people, but he seems to grow or shrink a few decimeters every so often depending on the producers' mood.
Fights aren't that greatly coordinated either and recycled animation is an often ocurrence. But at least these are usually amusing to watch, and that's pretty much what saves this score slightly.
This anime's OP is one of the most unfitting themes I've ever seen. While the song itself is not terrible, the pop vocals create a clear disharmony between music and video. I couldn't help laughing when I first saw Baki and Kaoru in the OP, readying their fists to hit each other led by a campy pop pace.
The ED is not the big deal either and it is really forgettable.
The show's actual OST lacks variety and excels in annoying synthesized instruments. I may be wrong on this, but I'd swear the whole thing used up only the same 5 or 6 tracks over and over again, all of them unmemorable and trashy. I'd rather eat beans with chocolate than listening to these on their own.
Voice acting was decent, but not especially remarkable in any way, and the lame script didn't exactly help to the cause.
... Huh? Ah, oh, yeah, well, I guess there was something like that attached to the mass of muscles.
Let's be brief here: the characters of this anime aren't nearly as deep as a baby's pool.
Most of them are there for just one thing: getting beaten by Baki or his father, talking during the fights or simply filling some spare airtime. Besides, quite a few of them were completely disregarded as the series kept going - probably because they had already accomplished their unique function as cannon fodder. The anime usually tries to add some poor drama-ish flashbacks during their fights as a vanal intent on making them look falsely profound or minimally likeable. Needless to say, they achieve nothing but having the viewer scratch his head in boredom.
We learn essentially three things about Baki's father, Hanma Yujirou: He is very strong. He is a former soldier. He is a true bastard. Yes, good sirs, our dear protagonist's badass daddy is as plain and one-dimensional as that. He is very full of himself just because he is exaggeratedly strong and hence thinks he can do whatever he fancies. No wonder, in an imaginary world where every Japanese man is huge and/or has muscles bigger than their heads and a person's value seems to be indicated by how cocky and brutish he can get.
Baki's mother is equally as insulting as a character - maybe even more, since she isn't even useful in fights and everything we learn about her can be summarized in a sentence just like this: A sadistic bitch head over heels for Hanma Yujirou. As the anime progressed this woman became steadingly annoying and obnoxious.
Baki himself also starts off as a detestable brat who won a male lead role in a lottery. He is selfish, childish and violent. Soon after, though, the character suddenly feels more polite and bearable, and at least there are a few things which make him likeable to a small degree. Overall, though, he is really plain, just like the rest of the bunch.
I don't understand why I spent so many words on describing this thing... Oh well.
I found Grappler Baki to be mindless, yet mildly amusing entertainment. 'Nuff said.
-Enough uncalled for laughs to write a book!!
-Manly overload for the die-hard fans of GAR.
-Except for bad animation and lack of fluidity, the fights might prove somewhat enjoyable.
-Again, manly overload. Depending on the person this is also a huge shortcoming.
-SO. MUCH. CHEESE.
-Unlikeable and unimpressive characters you'll probably forget about in half a day.
-Very boring and not very well used background music.
-The lack of a true ending. You'll most likely have to watch S2 for that.
Notice: This review includes both seasons of this title. There aren’t that many differences to begin with.
If you have watched a few shounen series, you probably have noticed how most of them are always about hyperactive 8 to 12 year old boys training endlessly in order to become the best in the world in a specific field. Well guess what; this anime is exactly like that too. Α boy that wants to be the best fighter and surpass his father, the top macho around the globe. The catch is, it bends around the formula and creates an atmosphere most of its counterparts really lack.
1) Dirty fighting
In almost every fighting shounen out there, the opponents never hit at a nasty spot or never use cheap moves. Scratching the eyes, biting the ears, kicking in the nuts and so on are no-no even if there are no referees around or no honor in defeating the other guy fairly. And that usually applies to the villains too, even if they are merciless killers.
Heck, I was never a brute myself yet in the unavoidable brawls during high school with several bullies, I was winning most of the times by pulling the hair of the ass I was fighting and sticking my thump in his eye socket. It was quite painful but the same bully never tried to mess with me a second time because of it. Well, Baki actually shows all that for a change and it makes the whole deal a lot more enjoyable, if not realistic. It’s a literally eye popping experience.
2) No blabbering
A more painful element in most shounen is also how the opponents keep talking and talking and talking during their fights instead of … you know; fighting. That effectively makes a normal 25 minute episode to have around 3 minutes of actual fighting. I was never discussing my morals with my opponents during high school. I was never chatting during fights, never tried to make them see the error of their ways and never did I manage to convince them of my superiority by telling them the story of my life. I was just … brawling. Because I wasn’t a zen master, a karate gran metre, or a pacifist saint. I was a normal teenager with skyrocketing hormones and full of unnecessary anger. Well, Baki is like that too. The opponents don’t lose much time in chatting about the weather. They storm in and just kick the shit of each other right away. Marvelous.
As long as you can fancy the above two elements, then this show is for you. If not, stop caring right now because that is all you will get out of this. For you see, there is nothing of interest in it besides the dirty action and the mute fighters during fights.
STORY SECTION: 4/10
Analysis: Premise 1/2, Pacing 1/2, Complexity 1/2, Plausibility 1/2, Conclusion 0/2
- The story is way too simple and linear to care about much. It’s just muscular guys training and fighting each other just to see who is better. Although each one has a different reason for fighting (money, fame, revenge) it all comes down to who is the biggest badass on the block.
- The setting DOES change eventually, from street fighting, to underground tournament, to a war zone, which makes sense in the upscale of things, as the lead keeps growing more powerful. And all the training and fighting he does really show how he is slowly learning and improving.
- But besides all that, it’s all too simple. No plot twists, no character development other than having the defeated opponents becoming friends with the lead… Which is a major cliché of shounen by itself. Weird how they never messed with this one. I sure never became friends with any of the asses I almost gushed their eyes out. Heck, we never greet each other when we meet on the street today.
- And of course it also hurts how the story is left unfinished. The lead doesn’t defeat his father (the strongest guy around) and thus never becomes the best in the world. And heck, since his father is established to be stronger than anyone, you just know there is no chance of NOT knowing who may win if he is around.
CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10
Analysis: Presence 2/2, Personality 2/2, Backdrop 1/2, Development 1/2, Catharsis 0/2
The characters are somewhat interesting for the dirty way they fight and the fact their muscles are usually bigger than a bull on steroids, but other than that they are not memorable for any given reason. All of them follow the usual archetypes and none gets such a focus on his personal life in a way that makes him stand out from any other series around fighting. Baki is the hyperactive teenager, his father a cocky bastard, etc. They sure are bold enough to stand out for whatever simple role they have in the story but it is all too simple and eventually not complete, since the story is left open.
ART SECTION: 5/10
Analysis: General Artwork 1/2, Character Figures 1/2, Backgrounds 1/2, Animation 1/2, Visual Effects 1/2
- Animation is good in its action but otherwise doesn’t excel in atmosphere. The characters look cool with all their muscles and the choreography during fights has an internal logic that half the times follows the principles or actual martial arts.
- Other than that, the character look… weird. Not mainstream and in a way ugly. Which is not a bad thing by itself yet it may alienate you at points. I don’t say I prefer those gay bijins that have overrun the recent shows but just pointing out how the mangaka draws faces and animals … weird. That’s all.
- Plus I keep telling you how brutal the battles are but down to it they are not bloody brutal most of the times. You’d thing a normal guy’s scull would crack with all the power these guys have yet all you see most of the times is a little blood or a bruise. It is messy but not THAT messy.
SOUND SECTION: 6/10
Analysis: Voice Acting 2/3, Music Themes 2/4, Sound Effects 2/3
Sound is… just nice. Most songs are pop sang by a woman, which feels rather off in a series around machoness. And the dialogues are cool but hardly go beyond “I want to get stronger” and some very undermined slice of life aspects around a person’s life.
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 8/10
This anime is not bad. It looks better than most shounen in terms of action but it’s also average to poor in everything else. It is very enjoyable while watching it and great if you fancy action anime.
VALUE SECTION: 4/10
Analysis: Historical Value 0/3, Rewatchability 1/3, Memorability 3/4
But the chances of rewatching it drop significantly since there isn’t anything in it besides the fights, the characters are rather forgettable, and the ending is incomplete.
Heck, there hardly is anything in it worth talking about. Most shounen are full of side stories and weird magic superpowers people talk about for years. Here, there really isn’t anything to speculate or analyze, which unfortunately places this anime in the not-all time classics category.
Baki the grappler is such a great anime sometimes you tend to forget how young the character is haha.It has alot of drama and ALOT of action if you like fighting animes this is one of the best and is a must watch