In the world of Baki the strongest weapon is your willpower and imagination.
Baki Hanma: Son of Ogre is the fourth sequel of the 2001 series Baki the Grappler. The anime is about Baki trying to compete against his father Yujiro for the distinction of being the strongest fighter in the world. Throughout the season Baki tries to get his father to acknowledge him as a challenger.
To do that, he has to hone his skills finding the most impressive opponents possible. His first opponent is an imaginary 200lb praying mantis, that he shadow boxes. But Baki is so committed to the exercise that the praying mantis essentially materializes in front of him.
That is the level of realism you can expect from Baki Hanma: Son of Ogre. As long-time fans know, the anime is more than slightly ridiculous.
Baki’s next opponent is locked up in American’s most high security prison. So how does he get there? He also goes to a prison by kidnapping the president of USA. He demands to get arrested and to be put in the same prison that the “Strongest Man in America” and President George Bush obliges.
The anime is a fighting anime, but Baki is different from every single anime known. The fighting in the show makes it seem like the characters have superpowers, but they don’t literally. They are presented as essentially human people who just happen to be able perform ridiculously super powered physical feats. During the climactic fight, Baki has a moment on the floor when he goes into his memory to savor the feeling of meeting someone who can overwhelm him. When he comes out of his reverie, he seem to rise off the floor as if levitating. A guard marvels at face-shaped sweat stain he left on the floor.
What are we to make of the reality of this? Is it magic? Or just an exaggerated narrative style?
Baki is not the type of show you watch because it has good plot or good character. And the creator is a good artist, but I don’t know if he knows how real people talk. You watch it for its over-the-top fighting and humour. The show doesn’t make much sense but it’s funny.
Baki is a martial arts show, but the fighting doesn’t always make much sense. Baki learns how to fight like a praying mantis by simply imagining one and shadow boxing against it. Somehow this figment of his imagination is able to surprise him. That is a weird moment but not nearly as weird as what happens later when a character rolls into a ball like and armadillo or when another character claims that his foot is not just supported by the ground but is connected all the way down to the earth’s core, somehow. I was both laughing and was dying mentally. Superpowers would make more sense than the fighting moves in Baki.
The anime uses a mix of line work and screen shaking to make the punches and kicks looks like they have weight behind them. Sometimes the animation of Baki seems kind of bad. In one scene a character gets blasted into a wall. The animation looked like they went on PowerPoint put an image of him in the air, used the rotation tool to spin him and recorded that they moved the video across the screen.
The character design in Baki is all about muscular physique. While other animes may have a buff character, Baki takes muscles another level. The main character Baki looks like he weighs more than 200 pounds but only weighs 165 lbs. Some of the characters who are meant to be high schoolers look like middle-aged men and the face and back of Baki’s father have their own abs.
TMS studio has been the one in charge of Baki’s animation for the last two season. They also animated Sonic X and Bakugan, two well-known child friendly shows as well as others like Dr. Stone, Fruits Basket, and D.Gray-man.
While many animes series have awkward English dub translation due to the fact that some words get lost in translation, and that they have to match the English dialogue to mouth movements animated for Japanese, the English dub of Baki is actually quite good. It seems like they used mostly correct translations, so you could watch the dub and get the same information of the characters and their moves as you would get in English subtitles, which are typically more accurate to the original meaning. On the other hand, the actual voice acting in the dub is so-so. Some of the voice acting simply doesn’t fit with the characters’ designs, and often has an odd tone to it.
Baki Hanma: Son of Ogre is definably one of best seasons of Baki. You don’t actually need to watch all of the other seasons to understand what is going on. Some of the logic may confuse you or seem dumb, but actually this latest installment is less weird than the other seasons. When watching Baki you should expect seeing fighting moves that seem unrealistic and ridiculous character interactions. But the ridiculousness is a big part of Baki’s fun.
Image Credit: Netflix