Baki the Grappler Vol. #05 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A-

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  • 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: 70
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85: Widescreen Letterbox
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Baki the Grappler

Baki the Grappler Vol. #05

By Chris Beveridge     January 19, 2006
Release Date: January 24, 2006

Baki the Grappler Vol. #05
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.

What They Say
Baki has become the champion of an underground circuit known for employing some of the best fighters in the world. Tokugawa, the commissioner of the circuit, throws the best competitors he can find in Baki's path, to no avail: The Champ seems invincible! But two incredible adversaries await.

A battle against an opponent with an unusual fighting style takes Baki to the limit of his abilities. With his arm disabled early on in the fight, Baki has to push through agonizing pain to survive the bout of his career. Should he make it out in one piece, he will face a wresting icon of mammoth proportions. Will Baki have the strength to bring victory to his name?

Contains episodes 17-20:
The Cord-Cutter
The Right to Fight
An Honorable Loss

The Review!
The Underground Tournament gets seriously underway as new players enter the game and one of the most evil cliffhangers hits the series yet.

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 the full color artwork for this piece is of two of Baki's opponents as well as a shot of Baki himself. 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.

The extras continue to be about the same as we have a round of stills from the show, the basic character profiles section and the continual inclusion of the clean songs which I enjoy. This volume also brings us a new commentary episode for the first volume on the disc and like past ones it's enjoyable enough to listen to while working on the review as they do point out some plot bits that may not be entirely visible at first.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Bringing the series up to episode twenty, this set of four episodes solidifies the world that Baki now lives compared to how he used to be. It's considerably different and his entire lifestyle and attitude has changed just as much. Getting to see him in this new setting while his opponents slowly fall into place according to the manipulations of Tokugawa is a lot of fun to watch but all the while you know the reason he continues to fight as he does.

The central focus in this volume has the eighteen year old Baki as the champion inside the underground fighting tournament who is undefeated. He's become something of a real icon and hero of the tournament and those who come to see it because of his style and generally positive outward nature. While he does provide a great deal of entertainment for the audience and gives Tokugawa the kinds of fights he wants to see, what Baki really gets out of it since there isn't any money or prizes involved is that instead of traveling the world to find the best fighters they come to him. He gets to meet a wide variety of opponents and styles and face them off, all for the grander purpose of being able to take on his father one day. But one has to wonder, even as he does all this training through the fights like this, is it really working or is it making him soft as he starts to get more into the performance and the applause?

These episodes hit up the storyline that we started in with on the Raijin Comics manga release as one of the first people we see Baki fight in this volume is Shingo the Cord Cutter, one of the creepier and deadlier opponents that have come along in some time. This is played out with the arrival of Kato, a former member of Dappo's Shinshinkaikan dojo who has left the gangster world he participated in so he can find a real challenge. He's far different than others in the dojo since he has no qualms about going further than he should which leads to a trail of bodies behind him. His arrival is timed nicely though as Tokugawa is at Dappo's dojo as he wants to take Dappo, a former tournament champion himself, to see Baki perform while looking for new warriors for Baki to face. Kato's able to tag along for this and to see first hand exactly the secrets of the Tokyo Dome and the power behind Baki. It's always amusing to see people's reactions to Baki when they first meet him since he does have that runt feel depending on what he's wearing but once the clothes come off and he gets into fight mode he's just stellar.

There is a slew of great fight moments throughout here as the various opponents show up and their intertwined histories start to become apparent as Tokugawa plays them all perfectly. It's all fascinating to watch it come together and the fights themselves, such as the Cord Cutters and eventually the pro wrestler Toba's fight, are very well done and provide some great challenges for Baki. It's Baki's time off of the tournament floor that proves to be interesting as he's renting a room from a woman whose husband used to be in the tournament so she knows what Baki is going through and has an attraction to him of sorts based on that, though she honors her dead husband well. It's more a setup for the daughter, Kozue, who doesn't know her father's true past to play more of a part. She's been very interested in Baki but can't figure out the right way to approach him, especially since he's either gone for fights or off training. He rarely even attends to school.

When he does attend school it really helps to reinforce just what a runt Baki really is as he's puny against the usual array of school bullies and thugs. Since Kozue gets him to attend a bit more often it lets her bring out some different areas of his personality but also lets others play up the obvious attraction she has to him that she can't quite admit to herself. Just the general growth of Baki as a character since we first met him when he was a smaller mop top type with some truly awful hair and a really bad attitude about everything to what he is now is great. He's got that new level of confidence and a very different perspective of how things go in life that really suits him more but is a very natural outgrowth of what he's been through.

And then, of course, the last minute of the last episode here proves to be one of the most frustrating scenes in any series I've seen recently. That alone makes the next volume not arrive soon enough.

In Summary:
Baki's world and that of the tournament are expanded heavily here as new characters are introduced, pasts explored and a whole lot of great fight sequences are played out. If it hadn't been for reading some of the manga before I would have turned my nose up at this series right from the start but with it now reaching an area I'm familiar with, it's one of my favorite series out there that just goes for the brutality of it all but still with a sense of honor. The first arc of the series which was all new was definitely enjoyable since it was a prequel to what I knew and it helped expand my understanding of it all quite a lot. But now that we're at the real meat of it that I've been looking forward to it's just fantastic to see it all flow so well. Fans of this series are going to scream at a lot of this volume and probably throttle their TV set at the very end of it.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Director of Baki Commentary,Character Profiles,Textless Songs,Still Gallery

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI set to 480p, 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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