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.