Baki the Grappler Vol. #08 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B-

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Info:

  • 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: 24.98
  • 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. #08

By Chris Beveridge     July 31, 2006
Release Date: July 11, 2006


Baki the Grappler Vol. #08
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
Baki has fought his way to a new level in the circuit where legendary fighters are gathering and the only rule in the ring is fight or fall. Every warrior thinks they're ready. But with Yujiro's protege making his debut, the Tigerslayer's return and the arrival of the toughest man in the world, the challenge won't be just to fight... but to stay alive.

Throughout the tournament, all fighters have been pushed beyond the threshold of pain. Now, physical strength is no longer enough as combatants are forced to master their emotions when friendships and even the bond of brotherhood are put on the line.

Contains episodes 29-32:
User
The Tigerslayer Returns
Fighting the Past
Era's End

The Review!
With Yurjiro now overseeing the tournament, another series of fights move the show along as the combatants and tactics only get more insane.

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 artwork for this piece is heavily filled with the Baki and a mix of other fighters that appear in this volume. 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:
Keeping in tone with most of the volumes in the series, this round has more of the basics such as a character profiles section and the clean songs. A series of character stills are included as well which is basically just a quiet slideshow of shots from the episodes on this disc. This volume also brings us a new commentary which I didn't check out after the last one proved to have so little to really talk about. By this point in the series and with it being mostly focused on the fights with little real change, there isn't much to talk about..

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of the things about a series that shifts heavily into a tournament mode is that there comes a point where the fighting doesn't seem to introduce anything new and that it's just making the motions through the different rounds in order to get to the key rounds where the characters you're interested in are participating. Some series handle this well by holding a lot of those other fights off screen but others want to revel in the fights and showcase a variety of fighting styles.

Baki is falling into that category right about now with this volume as the four fights here have some minor and interesting connections to Baki and the others who make up the core of the show, but a lot of it is new fighters mixing it up with each other or with those who've come back for more, such as Toba who gets a shot at fighting again. Some of the new fighters are interesting, such as the Brazilian characters that show up with their wild style and lack of language that is used to help showcase the "fighting spirit" that men like this seemingly all share. There are some really brutal moments as the guys go back and forth between each other with their styles and it happens right from the start.

In fact, the opening fight so impresses Yujiro that after the initial opponent is out of the way, the Ogre leaps into the ring to take him on right there as he's the kind of challenge that he really wants to find in this tournament. There's a huge tease in this since it doesn't actually happen and some whispered words pass between the two fighters but it does have an amusing moment when Baki jumps in to try and stop it since it's disrupting the order of things only to have his father effortlessly toss him aside. The relationship between the two of course is essentially non-existent but it was surprising to see that Baki was taken down so easily by his father, either from lack of skill or not paying attention, since Baki had seemingly grown a lot over the course of the tournaments and his rise as "king" of the event.

Some of this may be explainable though as when Baki's own fight starts later on he's taken down so quickly before the match even starts. As he's told while the audience is furious about the turn of events, there are no real rules here and even though they do follow a certain decorum of starting and ending matches, this isn't a hard and fast thing and his being taken down is certainly legitimate. This really hits Baki hard since he has lost in so long that he takes everything to heart and utilizes the lack of rules to suddenly turn the match into something of a best two out of three against the Brazilian who is almost feral in his attack style. It's a great turn of events that's actually fairly short in how it plays out but it brings back some of that unexpected style from earlier in the series.

One fight that was probably more interesting than others in terms of the character issues involved is the one between Shingo and his brother. The cord-cutter has some serious issues with his health obsessed brother that go back to their childhood when he seemingly could never live up to his brother in just about any way, from physical to education to anything else. The pairing of them as opponents in the tournament is a bit of a twisted nature by the twisted little dwarf that's running things and it has the intended result of turning at least one of the participants into an emotional wreck and almost regressing him in personality. If not for the bizarre look of the older brother and his health obsession making him looking like a weird hermaphrodite, it'd probably have more impact. His visuals just don't allow it to work though.

In Summary:
Baki's sort of in a holding pattern with this set of episodes but it does move things forward slightly as some of the secondary fighters and their relationships and arcs start to come together. It has a number of small but interesting moments throughout and I have to admit that I'm still enjoying the show purely on a fighting level. As much as I adore and praise shows like Fighting Spirit where there's so much emotion and development behind it, a series like Baki allows for the bloodier and uglier side of fighting with its varied styles has its place, especially considering how few fighting shows are really out there anymore. This show continues to really fill a need that's not being served elsewhere even at its weaker moments, something that this volume essentially is.

Features
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, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, 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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