Baki the Grappler Vol. #11 - Mania.com



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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. #11

By Chris Beveridge     January 10, 2007
Release Date: January 02, 2007


Baki the Grappler Vol. #11
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
Baki's father pays a daunting visit as the next round of the tournament begins: the lethal semifinals. Baki will have to fully utilize his hidden talent if he is to have a chance against his opponent, a master of the sacred Kung Fu discipline.

When Baki pounds his way to the finals, he comes face-to-face with Doctor Buren's serum-powered man-beast. As the two prepare for their titanic clash, events are set into motion that will reveal the unbelievable.

Contains episodes 41-44:
Doppo vs Shibukawa
Warrior's Legacy
Monster
The Finals

The Review!
The semi-finals come to a close and everything shapes up for the final match, the winner of which will then face the real fight with the Ogre.

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 keeps to the fighters who populate this volume and they all have their mean face on and ready for action. 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. The cover does list a feature of "Episode Summaries" but nothing is included by that name in the extras section. 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.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The penultimate volume of Baki the Grappler finally returns to some of the better fighters so they're able to finish out the semi-finals. A good chunk of the tournament has been lost to watching less than interesting fighters go at it, but it was done to showcase the growth and destructive nature of those who have climbed this far and all that they've achieved. It made for some uninteresting episodes, but as we get down to the semi finals it does have some value to all of it.

Thankfully those that have made it to the end, with the exception of Jack Hammer, are all fighters that have a bit of style and personality to them to make them appealing. The opening match between Shibukawa and Dappo is very fun to watch because of who these guys are. Dappo has been a hoot since he first came on the screen and has had such a resilience to him considering what kind of abuse he's suffered, right down to losing an eye. There is a beautiful moment that shows the kind of dedication that he has where we see him in his youth writing out 9's until he passes out, convinced that it will eventually turn over to a new number. The same can be said for Shibukawa, a very light and nice "old man" stereotype with some real power behind him. Seeing what drove him to his level of training all those years ago gives him much more depth that's really needed as he gets close to the end here.

Another very enjoyable round to the semifinals brings Baki back into the ring. This time he goes up against Retsu and both of them are quite well matched for what they have to deal with as a background issue. Both men, though through different means, have essentially inherited their status because of what's come before them. Baki because of the sheer brutality that his father the Ogre is, but Retsu as well because of the 4000 years of history that's behind his fighting style and the master from whom he's inherited his title. Like most of those who are shooting for Yujiro though, they tend to not really look at what's in front of them but rather their end goal of fighting the Ogre. This doesn't give Baki that much of an advantage since those who have made it to this point are powerhouses on multiple levels, but it's a continual flaw among all of them, even Baki.

The semifinals also bring Jack Hammer back into play and he's the only one of the group that's made it this far that I really don't care for. The last two episodes deal with his fight in the semifinals and starts into the preparation for the finals, which itself is only a sideshow really until the true fight with Yujiro kicks in. To my surprise though, Jack gets a bit more interesting towards the end here as we get a revelation about him that goes far beyond explaining the past that we've seen. The last episode is something of a recap episode, but unlike the previous one where there was barely anything new in it, they did a rather good job of mixing together new footage and previous fights to show the growth of some of these fighters. Combined with the revelation about Jack and his true place in the scheme of things, this sets us up for a very interesting final volume that seems to be capturing some of the spirit and charm of the first couple of volumes.

In Summary:
Baki's had a couple of lackluster volumes in its second half as it got completely into the tournament mode but this set of episodes is getting us back to the really good stuff. The fights are brutal, there isn't a lot of outlandish material or characters that just make you roll your eyes. Though they're completely built up, the giants are gone and those with gimmicks and tricks to their styles have long since been defeated. The brutality level goes up a few notches as well as these guys are playing for keeps and some have the very old traditional thoughts when it comes to honor and how to finish out a fight. It started to look like Baki the Grappler would end on a less than interesting note, but this set of episodes has me anxiously wanting to see the finale.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Character Profiles,Textless Songs Still Gallery

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 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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