Baki the Grappler Vol. #07 (also w/box) (of 14) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, May 12, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, May 02, 2006
What They Say
Baki Hanma returns to the Supreme Fighting Circuit to defend his title against a sea of contenders. The quest to find the most supreme grappler in the world moves forward with unimaginable results. A monstrous secret is about to be unveiled in the arena; one which could bring about the ruin of Baki and every warrior in the competition!
The plot thickens as Yujiro takes an unusual strategy to ensure all feel his presence. As expected, Baki is filled with mixed emotions as he is driven to distraction by his father's bizarre behavior.
Contains episodes 25-28:
Darkness From Light
The King Returns
The worlds most diverse and greatest fighters gather together below the Tokyo Dom to engage in a fight that chills even this bloodthirsty audience.
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 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.
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. 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 episode but unlike past ones it wasn't worth listening to all that much since it had a feeling that the people talking hadn't really seen the show before and were talking about it as if someone was coming into this for the first time. A lot of it just felt inane unlike previous commentaries which had some interesting background information on the show and its origins.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With its shiny new opening sequence that shows off some interesting CG character animation that would make for a really fun game but a very creep show overall, Baki the Grappler kicks off its second half which is heavily focused on the tournament side of things by bringing in lots of fighters with the simple goal of achieving the status of the worlds greatest fighter. With such people as the Hanma's being considered the people to beat in order to take the title, it's attracting a huge amount of attention with lots of entrants wanting a shot at it.
A lot of what has made Baki a really fun show in the previous half of the series is still very much evident here but it's shifted slightly by keeping the show mostly to dealing with the events inside the tournament itself. The organization of the event and the gathering of the numerous fighters is given all of a couple of minutes in the first episode and it culminates in Baki arriving with his "girlfriend" in the form of the girl whose house he's staying at since she's been spying on him. What we're left with after that is essentially four episodes of straight on fighting between the diverse set of fighters. Some of them are given a bit more background before their rounds start so there is more of a sense of who these people are and why they're fighting but it's the fighters that keep surviving round after round that become the most interesting as they approach things very differently.
Most people see Baki as their goal in the rounds as they go through them since he's the Champion of the place and has quite a history there. But others have much bigger goals in mind as they go through everything, particularly when it comes to Katsumi Orochi, the son of the big bad Orochi who got his backside handed to him in the last volume when he took on the Ogre after so many years of preparation. Katsumi has the double edged goal of not only surviving and taking down opponent after opponent in order to prove to his foster father that he's capable of taking over the Shinshinkai, but he also intends to prove that he's far more than what Baki is and that the real goal is to take down the Ogre once and for all.
Katsumi's style of fighting is far different than what Baki is like and with his goals being so far reaching he's got a more violent approach to it. Even as brutal and uncaring as Yujiro gets, Baki has grown up with a sense of honor about what fighting is about and he lives pretty strongly by it. When he sees others not living by it or going too far in just how brutal they are, it pushes something in him and it's something that sets him apart from Katsumi. The two form an interesting rivalry, particularly since Baki gets along so well with Katsumi's foster father, that it brings some amusing looks and motivations between them as it progresses and other fights raise issues. Baki's surprisingly involved in a lot of the other fights as they play out in their brutality as the "second stringers" are taken down so the primary players can get into position for the real fights.
The fights themselves continue to be really nicely done though they do stretch things once again with some of the stranger folks brought into it, particularly the overly tall and brutal wrestlers or the joint fetishist types. It's not altogether unexpected since we even seen variants of them in regular sports and fighting series but here they're able to be a bit more brutal and a touch more outlandish that almost pushes them into mutant territory which can take you out of the show. Then again, if you accept someone like the Ogre or the weak episodes that involve the Yasha Ape, this may not be much of a stretch. That said, a lot of the fights here are pretty diverse due to the different styles and they have amusing moments such as Yujiro flicking down an opponent with just his index finger and thumb or the talk about the purity of karate. The testosterone level simply does not dip during this new arc.
Being able to sustain the thrill of the fight across so many volumes isn't an easy thing and a lot of series break under their own weight from it but Baki has the edge in brutality to it that sets it apart. While you know the main characters aren't exactly going to get taken out anytime soon, there's enough of a chance of someone being so brutally taken down that it'll be a surprise. Baki's growth over the series to the kind of mature fighter that he is now who is still principled in his own way is something that stands out against a lot of the male leads in what's out there on the market now. Even in its primal base nature, Baki the Grappler has a lot of elements that appeal to those who want more than your standard harem piece.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Director of Baki Commentary,Character Profiles,Textless Songs,Still Gallery
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Toshiba HD-A1 Progressive Scan HD DVD 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.
Mania Grade: B+
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.
Running time: 70
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Baki the Grappler