Baki the Grappler Vol. #12 - 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. #12

By Chris Beveridge     March 01, 2007
Release Date: February 27, 2007


Baki the Grappler Vol. #12
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
The ultimate showdown is at hand. Baki steps into the ring, and the agreement is made that only one fighter will walk away. As devastating blows fill the arena, Baki's opponent begins to twist and gnarl into an unimaginable monster. Suddenly, the terrifying truth surfaces... Baki may not survive the fight.

Meanwhile, Yujiro is navigating through the South American jungles and a deadly plan is devised by Strydum to stop him. The cunning foe sends a merciless prisoner with unequalled ferocity to unleash his primal rage upon Yujiro and finish him off for good.

Prepare to bear witness to the wrath of two brutal and cataclysmic wars. As both father and son face the possibility of their end, only one question matters: who will draw last blood?

Contains episodes 45-48:
Blood Battle
Soldier's Misfortune
Final Strike
Public Enemy Zero

The Review!
The series draws to a close as the final round is battled out but the entire thing just feels incomplete overall.

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.

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)
With a couple of volumes that felt like we were spinning our wheels even though progress was made, Baki the Grappler got back on track with the previous volume. Bringing us through the semi-finals and now into the finals, it has all come down to the last real fight that will determine just who has the right to go after Yujiro. The revelation along the way that both fighters are blood relatives has only made it all the more intense and personal.

The character of Jack has not been one that I've cared for much which is saying a lot when you consider his competition. A good number of the characters aren't unsavory or anything but something about their designs and personalities just don't sit well. His fights have been some of the uglier ones which when combined with his minimal but brutal personality has made him the kind of champion that you root against. Naturally, Baki is someone we've followed from the start and he has a bit more charisma to him so you don't have much of a problem hoping that he'll win as the finals play out.

In an amusing twist of honesty, a couple of the episodes on this volume have some extra text in Japanese across them at the start where it indicates that the stories diverge in some ways from the manga. As Raijin petered out far too early and this manga never got picked up I have no idea how wildly it diverges but the final fight plays out well. The brutality of it all goes back and forth for three episodes as the pair are really just at the top of their game at this current state of their lives. With seeing how Yujiro has become over the years you know that they both have far more progress to make but there's a beauty in the brutality that they currently exhibit.

The show doesn't diverge much from the traditional path of fighting series however as it brings us a bit more history in the midst of all of this. We've seen several histories throughout the show, from how Baki's parents met to aspects of Yujiro's life. We've also seen assorted portions of a lot of the other fighters including Jack's rise to power. What is new however is that this dip into the past reveals how Jack came to be born. Going back to when Yujiro was just sixteen and raising hell across the world by taking down entire regiments in war torn areas, we see him come across a fairly psychotic woman who finds herself attracted to his power and skill. She's got experience behind her so she believes that she's got the drop on him in general but he proves just how different they are. It's a stark contrast to Baki's parents which had a mixture of more refinement mixed into the brutality but it fits well for the age that Yujiro is at.

Getting this glimpse into Yujiro's early life is rather welcome at this point since it helps to set the stage for the next fight. With one of them coming out on top to take him on, seeing a bit more of what makes the Ogre who he is goes a long way. What surprised me the most was just how much they made him look like Baki does now but with some obvious nods to the differences in the hair. If anything speaks volumes about destiny and history repeating itself, it's these scenes as he gradually gets stronger. It was also interesting to see Yujiro at a stage where his complete understanding of combat isn't what it is now nor was his general lust in violence. He's actually a bit more self contained in how it displays across his face.

Of course, even with all the progress the show has made there isn't any sort of true and final conclusion to the show. It's meandered a few times as Baki has worked to figure out what he wants out of life, but as it gets to the end here we do see the successful closure of the tournament. What's left to tease with though is the next confrontation with Yujiro himself. Looking back across the series, the first season before the tournament and just at the start of the tournament is the best material. Once it hit the tournament and lost its momentum by going through each and every match it just started falling in on itself. Early on in the show I loved the open brutality as we saw not just Baki's growth but also how Yujiro was influencing events. Once we spent more time watching other fighters get down and dirty and knocking each other out of the competition it lost a lot of its allure.

In Summary:
When Baki first started I was excited since the manga turned into such a tease before its cancellation. Its clean artwork and brutality translated well into the show even if the authoring on the video side left a lot to be desired. This volume brings a large chunk of the series some closure but leaves more than enough open for more. With Baki being so young still and having seen how Yujiro progressed from the same age to where he is now, it's easy to imagine some very lengthy tales ahead. That will unlikely appear in anime form which leaves this show feeling incomplete in a lot of ways. It's been an interesting ride but one that could have been laid out much tighter.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Episode Summaries,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Photo Stills

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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