"Baki the Grappler: Maximum Tournament," also known as "Grappler Baki: Saidai Tournament-hen," is an extension of the original series, offering more intense battles and martial arts showdowns. Here's my review, taking into account the story, animation, sound, characters, and an overall rating of 6/10:
Story: 6/10 The story in "Baki the Grappler: Maximum Tournament" continues to follow the journey of Baki Hanma and his quest to become the world's strongest martial artist. This installment focuses primarily on a martial arts tournament that gathers fighters from around the world to compete. While the tournament format introduces a variety of fighters with unique combat styles, the narrative remains centered on action and combat. Character development and plot intricacies are secondary, with the anime prioritizing the thrill of the fights. This may leave viewers wanting more depth in storytelling.
Animation: 7/10 The animation quality in "Maximum Tournament" is generally consistent with the original series. The highlight of the animation remains the dynamic and visually impressive fight sequences. The battles are well choreographed, showcasing different martial arts styles and techniques. Character designs continue to be bold and distinctive, and the exaggerated muscularity of some characters is still present. While the animation maintains its quality during the action scenes, non-combat moments may exhibit some inconsistencies.
Sound: 6/10 Sound plays a crucial role in enhancing the excitement of the martial arts battles in "Maximum Tournament." The impact of punches, kicks, and grappling moves is effectively conveyed through sound effects. The soundtrack complements the intense action sequences with suitable music, but it remains unremarkable and tends to be overshadowed by the fights. Similar to the original series, the frequent and prolonged battle scenes can lead to repetition in the soundtrack.
Characters: 6/10 The cast of characters in "Maximum Tournament" includes a diverse array of fighters, each with their own martial arts specialties and personalities. However, character development remains minimal, with the focus primarily on showcasing their combat abilities. Motivations and backstories are briefly explored, but viewers looking for in-depth character exploration may find the series lacking in this regard. The interactions between fighters and their rivalries continue to drive the narrative, emphasizing the theme of martial supremacy.
Overall: 6/10 "Baki the Grappler: Maximum Tournament" delivers more of the intense and action-packed martial arts battles that fans of the series have come to expect. While the tournament format introduces a variety of fighters and combat styles, the anime remains centered on action at the expense of storytelling and character development. Viewers who enjoy thrilling fight sequences and the competitive spirit of martial arts will find this installment engaging. However, those seeking a more well-rounded narrative experience may find the series limited in its exploration of characters and plot.
Comparing "Maximum Tournament" to the manga, the anime closely follows the source material, adapting the tournament arc faithfully. Both formats capture the essence of the "Baki the Grappler" series, emphasizing battles and martial arts rivalries. However, as is often the case with adaptations, the manga provides a more comprehensive exploration of character backgrounds and motivations. It offers additional depth and context to the events depicted in the anime, making it a valuable companion for those looking for a richer storytelling experience.
All spoilers have been marked by a strikethrough. Caution advised while reading.
The second season of Grappler Baki pretty much continues the spirit of the first season. The animation and sound are substandard for the time of production and the theme songs are just as bad if not worse. If I honestly had the choice of listening to one of the songs used in the anime or Baby by Justin Bieber, I would definitely choose to listen to 'Baby' instead.
However, the major differences between the first and second seasons include the following:
In season 2, a few years have passed since Baki decided to join the underground tournament. He's now the undisputed champion of the league with everyone gunning for his position. That is, until the announcement of a new tournament which gives Baki the opportunity to fulfil one of the goals of his life: defeat his father in mortal combat. The new tournament not only a huge cash prize but more lucratively, the opportunity to fight Hanma Yujiro, Baki's father and the strongest person in the world.
Season 2 of Baki The Grappler is much crazier in season 1 when it comes to all the action and events occurring. The action is much more brutal by a huge margin as you have martial artists that don't hesitate to cut out your nerves, break your spine, crush your bones till they are dust, gouge your eyes out, rupture your stomach, or fold you in half and break you. Baki still prefers his trusty kick to the groin to get the job done. Simple tricks work best, I guess... Luckily, there are also amazingly potent doctors in this piece of fiction that can perform miraculous surgeries which can fix nearly everything short of bringing back the dead.
There are a lot of characters in the anime, all of which are participating in the tournament for a shot at Hanma Yuujiro. This included people from all walks of life including professional wrestlers, Aikidoka, Karateka, Vale Tudo fighters, practitioners of mystical Kung Fu, and much more. The anime features all fights which take place in the tournament, shifting the focus from Baki to the tournament itself. The part which I admired the most is that the author of the manga went through the trouble of researching and collecting information about how different martial arts systems work and how each move is performed to the desired effect, even though some of them are exaggerated beyond belief and a few of them are actually exaggerations of myths and legends, which make them appear nearly inhuman. Nonetheless, as a person who has been practising martial arts for the majority of his meagre life, it all seemed very fascinating, true, and interesting to me.
The anime remains ever more brutal than its predecessor and it only gets darker. Even Baki's character has changed quite a bit as you can now see him older with longer hair. His fighting style is also quite refined and less wild than it used to e. he has even found a girlfriend of sorts who is actually the daughter of his landlord and is unaware of his participation in the league until towards the end of the anime.
The story of the second season is even simpler and can be wrapped up in a sentence:
All participants of the tournament fight it out until Hanma Yujiro arrives with his own special wildcard candidate, fueling Baki's motivation until Baki has to face Jack Hammer in the finals who turns out to be Baki's half brother (Hammer = Hanma?) since their father was a sadistic, murderous lunatic who couldn't keep his snake in his pants and Baki wins the finals since Jack Hammer based his power on magic steroids which couldn't match the power of a Hanma.
In case you're wondering, no, Baki does not get to fight his father in this season either.
The anime also consists of the backstories of almost all characters depicted in it including the minor ones and the secondary ones. If two people are fighting it out, you can get to learn the backstory of both fighters before they actually try to tear each other's throats out. This also includes the back story of how Jack Hammer dreamt of being the strongest in the world and making his father proud so bad that he traded his body and his lifespan for all the power that he could muster and overtrained himself to the very limits of his human existence.
The final parts of the anime show the life of Hanma Yujiro when he was on a special mission to protect the island of Japan against American soldiers and ends up meeting a woman who turns out to be a spy sent to track Hanma Yujiro but ends up falling in love with him instead. So Yujiro rapes her and tosses her aside and out pops Jack Hammer after a period of nine months, ready to avenge his mother.
There does, however, seem to be a greater level of subtlety to Season 2, especially in the character of Hanma Yujiro. It would seem that Yujiro merely wanted Baki to awaken the Hanma powers inside of him and put him through the misery of watching his mother and his precious Yasha ape friend die just for the sake of it and that he actually cares for the people around him more than he lets on. This is especially evident when he seems to save his wildcard candidate from having his eyes gouged out by Doppo Orochi by seemingly cutting him in half with his bare hand instead. He also has a chance to kill his son Jack Hammer after he fought with Baki but chooses to spare his life instead.
All things said and done, Season 2 is more action-oriented with a very little story behind it. However, the action is more or less entertaining, even though it may be brutal in nature. Baki still carries his optimistic attitude and charm which turns all his enemies into his friends. I would say that despite all the flaws with the anime and the lack of a clear story, the anime is actually good for a casual watch. For me personally, I liked all the martial arts content as displayed in the anime. Even if it was grossly exaggerated, the content is much tamer as compared to other anime of the same genre, and is an accurate representation of how martial arts are really meant to be used. The anime still contains very dark and violent undertones with rather single-minded philosophies. At least the flow is better than season 1 in this case...