Season 1 – Part 1
Dark Martial Arts
They’re Finally Here!!
The Battle Begins
Want Some More?
Sergeant Katahira’s Report
A Formidable Team
A Match VS A True Fight
Baki feels like the anime equivalent of a fighting game. It also has no right to be as entertaining to watch as it is, given the flaws inherent with the show. There’s a loose story connecting it all together and pockets of characterisation here and there but the real draw comes from the fighting itself with little regard for anything else. In that respect, Baki is a lot of fun. From hand to hand combat to weaponized fights, Baki sacrifices story nuance for an abundance of fighting and if that’s what you’re looking for in an anime, you’re sure to have a good time.
The story begins with high-schooler Baki fresh off his World Championship win. After nonchalantly brushing off a gang of thugs, Baki learns five incredibly dangerous criminals have escaped from prison and are on their way to Tokyo to fight him. What follows are a few episodes used to introduce key characters (heroes and villains alike) before diving headfirst into a dizzying, endless parade of fights and bloodshed for the remainder of the season. The story itself is simply used to justify the fighting, with Baki’s World Championship crown painting a very big bulls-eye on his back.
For this review, the UK Netflix had only uploaded 13 episodes with no mention over whether more are coming or not. If there aren’t, the series ends on quite a big cliffhanger; a suitably fitting punch to the face for one of the characters. While the various fights take up the bulk of run time here, those expecting an epic saga of fights with substance like Dragonball Z are sure to be left disappointed. Most episodes are simplistically constructed, used to show off the strength or weakness of that specific fighter. The fights themselves usually begin with a face off, followed by confident monologues before the eventual fight itself. Most of these resulting in one of the fighters under-estimating the other before regrouping and trying again.
While watching Baki I couldn’t help but feel this action-orientated anime felt like a fighting game. The colourful group of characters only further emphasise this, with each given a very distinct, specific skill set. From flame-wielding behemoths to scythe-spinning poison masters, the creators of Baki have done a wonderful job bringing an array of different fighters to the ring. While the aesthetic and design of these characters is unique, beyond the 5 minutes we get during the opening episode, there isn’t a whole lot of development with any of them. The exception here is Baki himself who’s given at least a little time to flesh out his character with both high school and relationships explored through the episodes.
Of course, if the action doesn’t interest you and you’re looking for something with a deep, involving story, keep searching. Baki embraces the ridiculousness of its premise, becoming even more outrageous toward the latter periods of the season. The fighting itself is well shot, spattered with thick dollops of blood and playing heavily on cliched anime tropes. Baki has numerous problems in both story and characterisation yet somehow I couldn’t take my eyes off watching another character being punched in the face. Stay for the fighting, look past the flaws and settle in for the craziest anime of the year.