This Week in Anime
The New Baki Anime is Criminally Insane

by Michelle Liu & Andy Pfeiffer,

Baki the Grappler has come to Netflix for his first new anime adventure in over 15 years! This week, Micchy and Andy break down the first half of the Death Row Convicts arc to find out if this hyperviolent slugfest holds any appeal for newcomers.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. Not Safe For Work warning for content and language.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


Andy
Hey Micchy, it's now 2019 and I've got a question for you!
Micchy
Oh boy, what is it?
Why, in this new year, am I still cursed with everything I watch having clowns?
Hey, be glad they're not erotic clowns! I mean, they're only erotic in that super-masculine way where it's hard to pin down, I guess. That's not weird at all, nope nope.
What do you mean weird? All I saw was Baki going on nice dates while grandpa has fun at the amusement park. It's a perfectly normal show.
Unless you mean the part in the first episode where Grandpa was executed by hanging in a Washington state prison, survived, murdered all the guards, and then SWAM TO JAPAN.
Yup, we're ringing in the new year with the recent Baki anime on Netflix, an adaptation of a middle arc of that long-ass manga that seemed to float around anime fandom some ten years ago. What a way to start off 2019!
I guess during the parts it's skipping, the writer had already gone through every martial art he could think of, because holy shit does the premise of this make zero sense. And I fucking love it. The arc is literally named "Most Evil Death Row Convicts", and apparently all five of them have some psychic connection that motivates them to escape their insane prisons and converge on Japan with the desire to lose a deathmatch. Which yeah, #2019goals. Live your best worst life and all that.
Isn't it absolutely bonkers? I imagine earlier parts of the manga were still pretty ridiculous, judging by the characters that came back for this arc, but man does this no-holds-barred free-for-all clusterfuck of an arc go places. I mean, it starts with convicts breaking out of underwater prisons, destroying missile-proof boxes, and surviving the electric chair, and it doesn't ever let up after that.
My only past experience with Baki is that I once saw the old OVA during high school. I remember there was a fight between Baki and a dude who tore out optic nerves with his fingernails, so maybe not much has changed, but it sure feels insane for a Netflix anime!
Like let's not forget the VIOLENCE in all of this, because hoo boy. You do not want to be a security guard, police officer, or convenience store clerk in this show.
I squealed like a little girl through that whole sequence, the hyperviolent nonsense made me so happy.
Look at them! That blood spatter! Isn't it beautiful? Baki is the sort of thing where you breathlessly rattle off absurd plot points from it at high school lunch between bites of a peanut butter sandwich until your friends tell you to shut up.
Honestly, it's super-weird that for a fighting show, the best parts are not when they're fighting? The generic slaughter or freeze frames on the damage after the action are way more entertaining than the PS3 3D models they use when things are actually in motion. Or the equally insane cutaways to explain what just happened in a "check out this cool wikipedia article I read" way.
Oh, the tangents are absolutely the best part of the show. Do they add anything to the story? Not really, but I'm not sure people watch Baki for the story. What we're here for is gratuitous violence and inane digressions that explain the characters' techniques with bullshit science.
Fun Facts I learned from Baki (2018):
- History of shipping Nitroglycerin
- Stressful training will ruin your teeth
- Oxygen is the most dangerous poison gas
Oh, and then there's that made up story about the treasure hunter. What does this have to do with weird muscle beasts tearing chunks of ketchup out of each other? Who knows! Who cares! It's dumb fun.
Now oxygen poisoning is a thing, but as it's described in Baki (breathing 6% O2 air will incapacitate you), that's wildly inaccurate. But who cares! The brazenness with which the show presents silly concepts like synchronicity is half the charm. I mean, this is the kind of show where people get their hands sliced clean off with microns-thick wire and then surgically reattached in a matter of days. Nobody's looking for realism here.
Don't forget that magical 6% oxygen is formed in a vacuum in a man's hand, which he also uses to blow holes in missile-proof glass, but we didn't actually get to see much of him. In fact, the only person we probably see less of is Baki himself. I wasn't kidding earlier when I said we mostly get to see him on nice dates, and then almost completely fail his high school fitness exam.
It's a damn funny sequence that's wildly divorced from everything else going on.
Y'know, I'm not sure why there was an episode dedicated to Baki literally being too cool for school, but it was a riot so whatever. The only other relevant thing about him in this arc is whether he fucks or not.
Baki may be strong, but in 13 episodes he just can't manage to finish. Still, I have faith that by the climax of the show he'll be able to come around.
I dunno, the girl next door got kidnapped, so that's gotta put a halt to any romantic development for the time being. Now it is weird to not have the titular character figure much into the story, until you realize this is the middle of a huge-ass manga where he's already gone through plenty of shit. The show doesn't waste time catching us up on what happened before, only briefly mentioning that so-and-so fought in such-and-such tournament. So exactly two audiences will get much out of this adaptation: prior Baki fans and people who wanna see roided-up anime men punch the living daylights out of each other.
So far it just seems like the author really liked some of the jobbers Baki defeated in the past, so he largely made this arc about bringing them back so he can show how badass they are fighting against the super-convicts, which does work out pretty well as entertainment.
I don't need to know much more about these crazy-looking guys, I just need to see them do incredible violence to each other.
I just hope any of the remaining convicts are as fun as Super Hobo Santa, because I loved every second he was on screen.
Smiley was pretty fun too!
I loved the extended gag of him living in the police station and the chief getting more and more concerned each time he came and went.
That was the friggen best, like he could easily break out but chooses not to because why would he?
OH and the part where he nearly punched the Statue of Liberty apart.
It also acts as the bluntest metaphor for his fight with Hanayama. These consecutive shots are comedy gold.

It's beautiful.
The only reason the Statue of Liberty thing comes up is to show us the extent of Spec's capabilities. It's not relevant to the conflict or anything. Though I suppose there was that whole crosscut sequence where the NYPD tries to tie the statue back together while Hanayama makes a comeback...
...only to get a mouthful of rifle rounds. Oh my god how is this show so much fun?
Hanayama truly goes through some shit.
Talking about this is making me regret that so much of it was passing through my brain, but I think that's also praise for the turbo hobo so completely capturing my attention.
Hey, it's hard to outdo vomiting a grenade.
Smiley was all about punching and kicking first and then pulling out some tricks when necessary. Murder Santa is ALWAYS pulling out something wacky and insane between fits of crying, or my favorite, singing about finding the one true love that will finally murder him.
I want to protect this smile. I mean, I don't think he needs my protection, but I will protecc him anyway.
I'm not going to spoil everything, but here's a short list of some shit he does: - Drinks gasoline to become a human flamethrower - Vomits up a bottle of acid - Garrotes with super-sharp fishing wire - Deploys Mystical Kung Fu
And of course, the ultimate fighting technique:
He's so memorable that it's really a shame all the guys he fights kinda blur into one generic buff karate dude. Dorian basically runs a one-man show when he's on screen, which is a shame when you compare that to Hanayama and Spec's one-on-one brawl.
It's his own fault for beefing with the 10,000 strong karate mafia. The scene where a horde of totally unintimidating jobbers show up was straight out of Durarara!! or something.
Correction: it was a million karate men. Thanks, inaccurate Netflix subs.
Wow. And here I thought the problems were limited to horrific spelling errors. Seriously, Netflix this is pathetic.
I would be down for making a drinking game out of this. Take a sip for all the weird Baki stuff and then finish your drink every time one of these errors shows up.
dear god are you trying to kill us all
You're right, that might be a bit much. Swap the two.
That's not an improvement! Anyway, I think it's easy to tell if nu-Baki will be for you or not. If you like to watch hyper-masculine beasts thrash the shit out of each other, like pro wrestling with all the restraints off, then you'll dig the shit out of this series. If excessive gore makes you queasy, then you might want to skip this one.
I'm not so sure about the wrestling fan part though.
Well, that's why he's an antagonist! Baki's supposed to give him a beatdown to put him in his place. Rescuing the girlfriend? Pft, who has time for that trope in this day and age?
This day and age is exactly why she's gonna be just fine. She's super-thirsty, and she's already standing up to murderers just to get her some Baki.
As a side note, I'd really like the show to keep to dudes punching each other and not suddenly remember that women exist if it's only gonna throw the female characters under the bus. It's been pretty good about that so far, but this kidnapping thing has alarm bells going off in my head.
True. I also hope Baki works through whatever the hell this is supposed to mean.
Look, there's a lot to unpack about the show's obsession with male eroticism and subsequent confusion with ladies, but I'd rather not go down that rabbit hole.
Instead, enjoy this image of Baki's baby head on his overgrown body.
I look forward to seeing what horrible things will happen to his tiny head whenever Netflix gives us the second half of the season. Until then, I'll have to make do with screencaps of happier times.
Bless your heart, Murder Santa, we'll return soon.

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