Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Baki the Grappler Season 1 and 2|
Actors: Robert McCollum, Wendy Powell, Bob Carter, Bruce Armstrong
Director: Chad Bowers;Chris Cason;Jeremy Inman
Genres: Television, Anime & Manga, Animation
The brutal quest to be the best fighter in the world is a savage one and in a warrior's life, victory and survival are often one and the same. Baki Hanma has bled for this dream, harnessing in his fists the passion for pow... more »
Animated martial-arts heaven
trashcanman | Hanford, CA United States | 07/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Baki the Grappler" is 48 episodes of some of the best animated fight sequences I've ever seen. There is a story, but it only serves the purpose of propelling the characters into combat with one another. The simplistic story is kept alive by the wealth of interesting and fully fleshed-out characters that inhabit Baki's world. Each fighter has a unique persoality, backstory, fighting style, and motivation to be the world's strongest martial-artist. The battles are intense, the art is typically great, and the theme song really gets your blood pumping. This is the best show of it's kind and should really scratch an itch for MMA (Mixed Martial-Arts) fanatics.
Essentially, Baki Hanma is the son of the word's strongest fighter, Yujiro Hanma (aka "The Ogre"); a man who kills polar bears with his bare hands just for the fun of it, a man who can easily overcome a fully armed battalion of soldiers through sheer martial-arts prowess and cunning, a man so ridiculously strong...well you get the idea: he's a bad mutha (shut'cho mouth!). Baki's mother, desperately in love, wants nothing more than to be loved in return by this beast of man and she plans to use her son to make it happen. She figures if Baki can be the best fighter in the world, Yujiro will come sweep her off her feet and they can all live happily ever after rather than The Ogre's usual "knock 'em up and ditch 'em" approach to romance. Women have some weird logic sometimes. So Baki trains. A lot. We first meet him at age 13 challenging 100 gang members to a fight...all at once. He only gets 30 or so before going down (sissy) and decides that his state-of-the-art training facility isn't enough; he needs some real experience to become stronger. So begins our hero's journey through the brutal world of martial-arts, each opponent stronger than the last, each teaching him valuable lessons, and each becoming a valued friend.
Season one is the weaker of the two as it deals with Baki's childhood. I don't much care for his character model at this point and watching him fight a giant monkey (one who supposedly ate Mushashi Myamoto, no less) is just a little bit goofy. Still, the story gathers a lot of steam as it goes and culminates in a fateful duel with his villainous father that sets a brutal tone for the real attraction: season two.
The second season is truly outstanding. All attempts at standard story-telling are thrown out the window and the show truly becomes all about the fights. It takes place during an underground fighting tournament (think Kumite) that Baki -as the current champ- is favored to win. Every single match is shown beginning to end (no cheesy montages), every single character has an interesting style and has their story revealed to us bit-by-bit via flashback, and we even get the behind-the-scenes drama to boot. My favorite character, one-eyed karate-master Orochi Doppo, while being a man known for slaying tiger bare-handed, never misses an opportunity to wave at his nervous wreck of a wife with a big smile on his face. This is one thing I find very endearing about this series; the way even the fiercest martial-artists are shown as real human beings, not just obstacles for the hero to overcome.
The fights themselves are remarkably unpredictable and feature some great twists and brutal, blood-splattering action. While the action is obviously beefed up (this IS an anime) most of the moves are actual martial-arts techniques and the ones that are over-the-top are much more interesting than the DBZ nonsense most fighting anime devolves into. Sumo, judo, jujitsu, pro-wrestling, kenpo, karate, straight street-fighting, and more are all explored and displayed along with some history and philosophy lessons for each woven into the dialogue. Martial-arts fans will flip at how much respect is shown to each fighting style and at the conflicts that develop between them. Can modern Japanese karate defeat it's ancient parental Chinese art and finally claim it's independence? Can pure strength and technique defeat the heart of a true warrior whose only fight training was out on the streets? Baki and his new love interest get largely lost in the ensemble in season two, but with a cast this strong I really didn't care. I was absolutely riveted by the tournament unfolding before me. It took a lot of guts for the show to take the focus entirely off of the title character, but it worked out great and turned "Baki the Grappler" into something really special for fans of real fighting.
Baki is the consummate hero; powerful, resourceful, a ruthless and determined combatant, but kind-hearted and a respectful sportsman who never fails to befriend his opponent after the last punch is thrown. You can't not like this guy and his "Total Fighting" MMA style allows for great flexibility in how he tackles each opponent. I was a little bummed that the obvious finale of the show never happened -the final episode was an entirely stand-alone affair dealing with Yujiro's past (it did, however, kick total a$z)- but on the other hand an open-ended finish is a good finish. The fact is, there is no greater animated series for fighting fans. The first season starts off a little slow, but you will likely be cheering by the mid-way point of season two. As far as bonus features go: each disc comes with a list of character profiles and some art. Not exactly overwhelming, but it's something.
4 1/2 stars, rounded up to avoid the wrath of The Ogre!