Baki the Grappler Vol. #03 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

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: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Baki the Grappler

Baki the Grappler Vol. #03

By Chris Beveridge     September 28, 2005
Release Date: October 04, 2005

Baki the Grappler Vol. #03
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.

What They Say
Baki is back! And this time, he's faced with his greatest challenge yet... a head to head battle with his father. With impossible odds weighing against him, Baki knows that his father, the undefeated Yujiro Hanma, will do anything to win. Now, with only one month to prepare for the fight, he must push his body and mind to the limit or die by the same man who gave him life.

Contains episodes:
9: The Division
10: Battlefield
11: Gaia
12 Bite Marks

The Review!
Having survived his encounter with his father, Baki understands now just what kind of training he needs in order to meet his father in a fight.

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.

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 are 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.

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 characters we get in full color are of the soldiers that Baki has to fight as well as a small shot of Baki with them. 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.

The main menu for this series is a decent static piece that features a large head shot of Baki along the left with a mean look to him 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.

Continuing to surprise me as I figured this would be a series with hardly any extras, the third volume gets some good fresh material. One of the pieces is a new director and actor commentary by the English crew that covers the ninth episode of the series. Another new piece is a "Rock video" for the Dir En Grey song 'Child Play'. Rounding it out we get more character profiles and the standard textless songs section.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With images of the manga still in my head, I keep watching Baki with a sense of wonder as I try to figure out which events will lead us towards that particular future. This volume serves up a few things that put him on the road to the person that I was originally introduced to him as and it's an interesting setup that they use in order to achieve it. After the last volume's massive fight with Hanayama, this one doesn't exactly top it but they provide some solid action in a different vein.

Recovering from his fight with his father, Baki's given something of a talking to by his mother over the entire incident. The experience hasn't quite scared him nor does it have him running but what bothers him the most is the way his father took down Hanayama after going through an extensive fight with Baki. Hanayama was already so wounded that even though he knows he shouldn't use the word fair, it's the only thing that comes to mind. At the same time, the loss to his father has him in the strange position with his mother again. She knows she needs to raise a perfect warrior son for Yujiro as everything she does is for her husband but at the same time she can't truly bring herself to go against her husband and want him to lose. While she's raising Baki to the best of her abilities, there's got to be something in her holding her back from making him capable of defeating him.

Baki's issues grow in regards to his father when Yujiro comes to him and throws down a challenge that in one month's time they'll fight and get things settled. To give Baki even more of an impetus to fight him, he's gone and killed the Yasha Ape and brought its head in order to infuriate Baki, to show him his weakness and to exploit it to his advantage. This pushes him beyond and finally gives a clue as to what really lurks underneath the surface. With the help of Stomryde, Baki's sent off to experience the same kind of battlefield training that Yujiro gained years ago by going to Hokkaido where a group of five soldiers will give him the fight of a lifetime.

The fight is set up in an interesting way as Baki is parachuted in and not expected to live the experience when it's found out that the one leading the group of five is none other than Gaia, a master of the basics of physical violence who is considered second only to Yujiro himself though he's more often considered to be just about on the same level. With the five soldiers to go through, the show works through the remaining three episodes by having the various fights go on with it being like a see saw in terms of who is winning. There are some interesting revelations made during the fight about what constitutes skill and what is really allowed during a fight. With things taking place over the course of a month total, Baki is forced to grow up and train hard and fast in order to meet the challenge of his father while in pursuit of a very separate goal.

Similar to past volumes, the violence during the fights here is no different in that it's just that, brutal, fast and without mercy. Yujiro doesn't get to shine like he did in the previous volume with Hanayama or the flashbacks to his past but his presence here is still strong. Even when he's not on screen, his name carries a weight to it that inspires a good sense of fear into those that are within earshot. It doesn't carry over to Baki though when people find out he's his son but it does put others on guard when fighting against him. As he makes his way through the five soldiers and we get the amusing origins of Gaia, I was glad to see the possibility of how Baki will change and grow over the course of the series.

In Summary:
Baki the Grappler continues to be a title that manages to really fulfill a need I wasn't entirely sure I had when it comes to seeing violence carried out with wild abandon. The nice part is that there's a good plot behind it, interesting characters and a real sense of power and presence among some of the characters. As quickly as Baki does learn new tricks and is able to climb the ladder, he's still put through a severely rough time and still has a long way to go in what he has to learn. When this volume ended I was on the edge of my couch and just frustrated enough that I didn't have the next volume already which is a good sign in my mind.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Director of Baki Commentary,Dir En Gray Rock Video,Character Profiles,Textless Songs

Review Equipment
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.


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tedsalomon 4/9/2012 4:23:54 PM

I love your review. Thanks for posting.



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