Baki the Grappler Vol. #04 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen Letterbox
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Baki the Grappler

Baki the Grappler Vol. #04

By Chris Beveridge     November 29, 2005
Release Date: November 29, 2005


Baki the Grappler Vol. #04
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
Tension is high as the big showdown approaches. Baki gathers with friends and former foes from his past to engage in some last minute training before his father, Yujiro, arrives.

It's Baki vs. Yujiro in a no holds barred grudge match to determine superiority once and for all! Or is there much more at stake than meets the eye? Whose side will Emi choose: The man she loves or the son who desperately wants to love her?

The Review!
The opening arc to Baki comes to a close, a prelude of what's to come really, and the stage is set for the real fight.

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 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.

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 full color characters this time make up a family shot of Baki, Yujiro and Emi. 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 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.

Extras:
Continuing to surprise me as I figured this would be a series with hardly any extras, the fourth volume gets a bit more new material. This comes in the form of another director and actor commentary by the English crew that covers the fourteenth episode of the series. Rounding out the extras we get more character profiles and the standard textless songs section.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Baki's fourth volume brings us to an interesting point in the series as we get the final two episodes of the opening arc as we deal with the fallout from the last fight and go into the next one with Yujiro. We then have a bit of recap as things are explained before shifting ahead two years to the next storyline with our young fighter. The reminder that Baki has been thirteen years old for everything that's come before is very necessary as is the material that goes into the strange way this family relationship is built.

After the way things have run through their course with the fights that led up to Hanma and Baki fighting against Yujiro and Baki doing his extra training with those who are quite powerful, the time has gotten close for the real fight between Baki and Yujiro. Baki's still convinced he needs more training as the hour approaches and he finds himself going up against all sorts of powerful folks and styles in places where they'll be safe from any real interference. Watching Baki continue to push himself with the thoughts in his mind of only pleasing his mother is interesting since his revelations about how he's fighting for her love now are things that haunt Emi's thoughts. Her past has certainly caught up with her and her own desires over wanting to give Yujiro whatever he wanted has led her to this place and the conflict that it's now creating is a bit predictable in some ways but the way it's set up makes it much more interesting.

The series has set itself up for what you would think is a problematic issue in that Baki's goal being the defeat of his father is both a simple goal and one that sets Yujiro up for a status so high that it's ridiculous. This is a common problem in many tournament shows but I think they deal with it just right here, first by already giving Yujiro such an unbelievable background and then introducing Baki at the age of thirteen so that he's not at his prime to defeat him but at a point where he's just right to be molded for going forward. He's managed to fight and win over some very tough opponents like Hanma and he's made some real progress with Yujiro but his goal is still truly far away. The need to elevate Yujiro even higher comes into play though and this gets us close to where the manga was when Raijin released it here.

With two years under his belt in traveling the world looking for someone to fight so that he can get stronger, Baki finally gets a lead that takes him to Brazil first and then back to Japan where he's at the start of his bigger journey and the show moves into tournament mode. The changes in Baki over the two years come across more as a visual thing than any real growth in his combat style since you can't imagine him finding anyone tougher than Yujiro so everything has been just to keep him in shape and spirit for fighting. He's learned more about how to deal with his opponents and sizing them up while apparently rushing in less but his confidence is still there with everyone he fights outside of Yujiro. The setup for what's to come is well done here and after the recap that brings the focus back to Baki and what he's really accomplished, seeing where it's going is exciting.

In Summary:
Baki the Grappler continues to be an appealing series though it's had its misfires so far with things I haven't cared about, particularly the Yasha Ape, but as the show brought the focus more squarely on Baki's long term goals of defeating his father, winning his mothers love and proving what he can do it's been a great ride. Particularly since it doesn't shy away from the headlong violence and having these characters really take a beating, feel the pain but still stand up and try to kick some more ass. It's not a pretty show (except for Emi) with it's ugly characters, brutal fight sequences and dark settings but it is a very fun and exciting show for just those reasons. Baki fills a certain need and void that's out there very well and seeing it get closer to a more familiar section is very welcome. While not as outlandish as some fighting shows nor is it filled with all sorts of styles and names for them, Baki is a solid entry in the rough and tumble violence filled action world that's definitely recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Director of Baki Commentary,
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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