Baki the Grappler Vol. #09 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: C+

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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. #09

By Chris Beveridge     September 14, 2006
Release Date: September 26, 2006


Baki the Grappler Vol. #09
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
The championship begins as dark revelations and untamable rage fill the arena. In a tournament for honor and glory, a horrifying force rises that fights for neither. The Chained Patriot has arrived.

Contains episodes 33-36:
Measure of a Man
Robe of Death
The Chained Patriot
Survivor

The Review!
The series hits a bit more of a lull as the tournament doesn't seem to gain much new ground but then everything is set up for a rather enjoyable twist.

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. The full color artwork for this piece is heavily filled with the characters that fight in this volume with a bit more vibrancy to their colors. 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 by the ADR director and voice actor. The last couple of commentaries haven't been all that much to listen to so I ended up skipping this one. 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)
Some of the early episodes of this series were just plain funny in their own way, notably the giant ape stuff. The show had some really solid fighting scenes and I had been hooked on the material since being familiar with what little of the manga had come out. As it moved into the tournament aspect, which was more familiar, it had some intense fights but it started to lag more as the key characters were no longer on screen quite as much.

This volume mirrors that a fair bit as during the first couple of episodes we get to have some of the second stringers go through their fights. Some of its interesting but when there's a fight that isn't all that interesting, or at least the characters aren't appealing, it becomes a bit more tedious to get through the match. The fight between Hanayama and the younger Orochi is pretty good since we've seen a bit of history with Orochi and his rise in his fathers organization and we're definitely familiar with Hanayama. The elder Orochi's fight is also very well done when it really gets going and it sets the stage for where the show is going to turn against Yujiro. His fight is also really nice because it adds his wife as a spectator and he's got a certain level of confidence that he gives off. Part of it is to reassure his wife but it's also just where he is in his mastery of skills, something the younger Orochi realizes from a few choice phrases he's heard his father say.

Where the show loses me is in the fights with characters such as Shiba, a ridiculous looking "street hoodlum" type that fights in the standard biker punk outfit. It's the kind of character that stands out as being a distraction to the otherwise more serious looking fighters. At the same time, he's going up against Xamma who is another in the long line of boxer/wrestler types that are paraded through this ring. They seem to be way too numerous and there are too many of them that have these superior body tricks that would have had them causing trouble in regular matches long before. While some of them in earlier episodes were interesting and had some good character to it, by this point it feels like it's nothing more than filler in order to round out the matches in the three blocks. These are the kinds of fights that should be done quickly and mostly off screen.

The fights do take a bit of a twist later in the volume when Amanai and the elder Orochi really get going at things going on. Orochi has been a great character throughout and since his death experience has become even more lighthearted and fun to watch. His skills really shine through here as he fights against Amanai and the visual of the skull cracking move just makes you wince. But it's Amanai who gets things to change here in the fight as Yujiro uses him as an example of what's wrong with Baki's method. Baki for his part is very minimal in these episodes which really hurts the show I think. And when we do get him on screen for any length of time, it has him explaining to Kozue about his mother and the background of the earlier part of the series. It's a fairly decent recap in a sense since it reinforces some of his motivations but it feels like it's been too long since he last fought.

In Summary:
While some of the fights here are good and there is a good setup at the end for the next volume, a good portion of these episodes featured fights that would have been better off being done off screen. The show does stand out for its brutality and is unlike most other shows out there right now. The overall appeal of it isn't gone and I'm looking forward to the next volume to see how this new twist plays out but parts of this volume and most of the last one have left me less excited about it in general. Baki the Grappler is still a show that isn't for everyone though but it does fill in a need in this genre and in its fight scenes they do excel at it, even if the fighters aren't all that interesting at times.

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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