Mania Grade: B+
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: B
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: B
- Age Rating: TV PG
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
- MSRP: 29.98
- Running time: 100
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Baki the Grappler
Baki the Grappler Vol. #02
By Chris Beveridge
August 28, 2005
Release Date: August 09, 2005
Baki the Grappler Vol. #02
What They Say
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
While studying up on his future competition, Baki soon discovers the true terror that is Kaoru Hanayama, a cold-blooded monster bent on the excruciating end of all who stand before him. Hanayama does not use weapons. He is a weapon! And now, events are set in motion that will bring the full might of the killer's colossal strength bearing down on Baki. However, what Baki doesn't realize is Hanayama means to fight this battle to the death! Finally, the answer to all of the build-up culminates in an epic battle between the two gladiators... waged on a very public battleground. Can even the best of Grapplers hope to withstand the flesh-ripping grip of an unstoppable titan like Hanayama?The Review!
There's few shows out there where the violence is so strong that I actually exclaim out loud when things happen but Baki's fights have caused that repeatedly now.Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The show has a very active stereo mix to it as there is a lot of action across the screen and its designed to have the blows whooshing in all different directions. This is nicely done here and while it doesn't have quite the depth or oomph of an original 5.1 mix does, it is an active mix and serves the show well. We took in the 5.1 track briefly and that had a bit more punch to it in terms of directionality. With both languages tracks, we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.Video:
Originally airing in 2001, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 but is not enhanced for anamorphic playback, just as the Japanese release was not. The series is fairly dark in nature with lots of night time sequences and in enclosed areas so there's a lot of shades of black and gray used throughout which are well represented and mostly maintain a solid feel. Some of the dark greens are bit shiftier but don't outright go into full macroblocking. There is a distinct amount of aliasing throughout this though; most noticeable during mid-range character shots and with some designs where the costume the character is wearing is full of tight lines. It's noticeable enough but is something that I'd wager most people really wouldn't notice. The transfer for the most part captures the look and feel of the show.Packaging:
Using the stitching style again for most of the cover with the heavily obscured artwork underneath, the background emphasizes the dark nature of the show while the foreground really draws your eye to the two characters, that of the unclothed and bulky Hanayama and the eager and spunky Baki. There is a lot of open space here but it's not truly open since it has all the artwork and I like the way it seems like the characters aren't taking over the cover. The back cover uses the same kind of collage of images with the same colors underneath everything but without the stitching or the tight layering. There's a few color shots from the show scattered around and the bulk of the text covers the episode numbers and titles as well as the summary. The discs features are nice and clear and with the inclusion of a technical grid, it's extremely easy to find all the necessary information for how the release is designed. No insert is included in this release.Menu:
The main menu for this series is a decent static piece that features a large head shot of Baki along the left in an action pose while the selections are on the right underneath a series of pictures that are taped to the screen. The background is fairly hard to discern but it uses a similar style to the front cover with the murky dark green images, all of which is set to a brief piece of instrumental music. Access times are nice and fast and the layout is easy to navigate and free of any real problems. With the way FUNimation labels and works their language layout, we don't use our players' presets since they never work. Setting it up via the menu works perfectly however.Extras:
The second volume gets a nice round of extras and more than I figured this series would in general. A new round of trivia is included here as is the standard character profiles. A series of stills showcasing scenes from the series and the opening and ending sequences as the textless songs is also included. The main new extra here is a director and actor commentary included for episode five of the series.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Watching Baki the Grappler is like watching a fighting championship match in person where you cringe and wince at every hit and when things go spectacularly violent you shout out loud in surprise that it went that far. Across the three main fights that in this volume, I was shouting out loud at the TV more times than I can remember doing for any other number of series combined. The violence, though not terribly bloody, continues to be brutal, ugly and disturbing. This is starting to make me wonder why I'm enjoying it so much.
Baki's return to civilization after fighting the giant white ape brings him right back into the fold with his mother as she wants to get him going on things again. Yuri has moved on from the welterweight level to the heavyweight and is aiming to be the strongest of them all but when she shows him the footage, Baki's not impressed at all and comments about how slow he is. The time he's spent in the jungle has seriously upped his skill level in those three months and he's surpassed his previous opponent by leaps and bounds. A quick visit to Yuri's training area bears this out as Yuri's opponents continue to be near useless for training purposes and their belief in boxing as being a true fighting sport only keeps them from progressing. The little demonstration that he puts on lets the light start dawning for Yuri though.
For Yuri, he has other problems first as Hanayama has decided that he's ready to fight him now and he intends to do it by his rules, which means no real match, just a fight when the two of them come across each other. This ends up being disastrous for Yuri as it happens just as he's walking to the ring to fight someone else in the heavyweight match and is completely unprepared for the grappler style that Hanayama employs. Yuri does his best to fight him but is so tied to his boxing training and style that he's barely able to get his hits to register on this child monster. It's a brutal fight and one that when Hanayama gets serious about is just awful for Yuri. It's hard to call any of the people here villains because they're all violent in different ways but it's easy to feel sympathy for Yuri after what happens.
While Baki isn't exactly upset over this since he was going to fight Yuri at some point, seeing the power that's behing Hanayama has him simply excited like a schoolboy and he heads right over the guy's organization and throws down a gauntlet of challenge right there by kicking his desk out the window. Even better, Baki's able to do what was previously impossible for others and caused Hanayama to be knocked down onto his hands and knees. The fight doesn't get underway though due to the arrival of the police but Hanayama is so completely beside himself that he trashes anything that gets near him and starts his quest to hunt down and deal with Baki when Baki least expects it.
Baki's aware of this over the next few days as he feels his presence around him as he goes to school and goes about his normal routine. What's interesting is the internal monologue that Baki keeps about waiting for Hanayama to attack and ensuring that it's done in the right place. A fight like theirs needs to be done in a dark place, but one with lots of people and life to it. Sensing that it's close, he heads into an upper level dance club and the two end up getting right into it in the middle of the dance floor. The DJ even gets into the scene by calling it as it plays out. This fight is just disturbing on a lot of levels as we see what's really behind Hanayama's strength as well as his origins. The revelation of the tattoo on his back and what it means to previous generations in his family builds up his character even more but even as good as Baki gives him here, Hanayama is still pining for the real fight, that with Baki's father.
The arrival of Baki's father brings us so much new information, showing us how he first met Baki's mother, what she was like all those years ago and just how she became to be the one controlling the Akezaka fortune, being a part of that level of society that is incredibly hard to reach. Seeing the early teachings Baki got by this incredibly powerful but controlled man is frightening but it pales next to the scenes in the present where even as old as he is now, he's able to handle a child like Hanayama like a toy on a string. Brutal truly doesn't even cover how this goes but you can't avert your eyes as the bones crunch and the bodies get twisted in ways you don't expect. I can't avert my eyes from this, it's simply far too fascinating and unlike most other series I watch to turn away from.In Summary:
It's certainly easy to say that Baki isn't for everyone but for those who are able to get into this with its extreme take on fighting and its grappler nature, it's a piece of beauty that doesn't shy away from the violence. It's done up just as it is and it avoids mixing the sexuality and sensuality of other shows like Ikki-tosen into it so that you get just the brutality of it without sugar coating it with something pretty in a sense. I wouldn't want to see a lot of shows like this come out but it's something that I'm enjoying far more than I expected and is such a great change from most other series that I'm watching that it stands out among them. You can't mistake this for anything else and that's definitely a positive in a sea of copycats and clones.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Director of Baki Commentary,Baki the Grappler Stills Gallery,Character Profiles,Textless Songs
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.