This Week in Anime
Baki the Grappler Gets Distressingly Sexy

by Michelle Liu & Andy Pfeiffer,

This new anime adaptation of classic fighting manga Baki has returned to Netflix after a few months of hiatus, but this time our hero is more of a lover than a fighter. This week, Micchy and Andy gawk at Baki's truly bizarre experiments in lovemaking.

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

You know Andy, I'm from the Midwest, so I can't say I had the greatest sex ed in high school, but apparently sex is what happens when two horrifying skeletons mash their faces together, according to the new Baki anime. Baki is back, and now he fucks.
As a fellow midwesterner, I was equally shocked to learn how much extra bone Baki includes in sex, but I also didn't know that the better fighter you are, the better you are at sex, so clearly the public school system has failed us all.
There's also something about wrapping up the death row convicts arc from last time, but who cares about all that, Baki fucks in this one.
After a needlessly long break, Netflix has decided to grace us with the second half of Baki, and man am I sad to say that they got rid of the best convicts first.
Yeah, that's the short version. The first half starts out strong with murder Santa and Smiley's indiscriminate flexing on the Statue of Liberty, but this half of the show comes nowhere near that level of hype overall. The fun of the Spec and Dorian fights was always how, just when you thought each fighter was backed into a corner, they brought out a new trick to turn the tables. Like explosives! Or hidden piano wires! Or just plain ole goddamn tenacity.
It also helped that getting paired up with random fighters was novel at that point. By the second half, our poor convicts are getting paired up with people we get less chance to care about and they totally punk them.
Though honestly the Russian deserves that for pretending to be a threat when his superpower is to just limply hang from shit.
We seriously went from Spec refusing to age and breaking the Statue of Liberty, to Murder Santa who was a mystical kung-fu master that fought like a drunken hobo, to a guy with strong fingers. And they're not even used in combat! There's no kung-fu grip action going on, he just hangs out in a public bathroom.
Hey, it was pretty cool when he climbed ten stories using nothing but his fingertips and sheer force of will after getting yeeted out a window, you've gotta give him credit for that.
The first time it happened sure, but then he climbs like three more buildings, and at that point I still have fonder memories of Spec just living in the police station.
I guess it was nice to finally see the title character in action, beginning the grand tradition of busting Sikorsky's balls.

Yeah, otherwise Sikorsky's arc basically amounts to "gets owned by progressively more overpowered opponents that you're supposed to remember from previous arcs of the manga." And therein lies possibly the biggest weakness of this arc—when it runs out of inventive ways to establish the current antagonists as threats, it just gestures at previous material, as if saying, "Remember these guys? You like them, right?"
Unsurprisingly, we really don't! Because new viewers watching this on Netflix never saw that old material. I must admit that this actually made me want them to go back and animate the Maximum Tournament in this style though. There's literally a 30-second clip where Baki stops by to say hi to his YETI FRIEND from those salad days, and I'm still shook that such a character exists.
That flashback comes toward the end of a steady decline in this show's run, and the contrast between "Yanagi the poisoner gets unceremoniously offed by a guy who showed up two minutes ago" and the Literal Yeti is certainly something. Dammit guys, now I just want to go back and watch all the stuff you skipped over to get here, but I can't.
Yanagi is probably the most wasted potential. We get teased that he's the deadliest fighter, but he arguably goes out the easiest after many failed attempts to be taken seriously. Maybe that's Baki's idea of humor, but it felt weak as hell. I really wanted the grandpa showdown between him and Shibukawa. Instead we get playtime with Biscuit Oliva, which admittedly was cute and fun since it was early enough that you still expected something to come of it.

Yanagi's defeat wasn't even comical though? The fight lasts just long enough to resemble an actual conflict that you're supposed to take seriously, but then it's resolved easily when Baki's dad shows up for a minute to talk him down. So now I'm disappointed by both Yanagi's lame-ass end and the way he ruined my boy Doyle's happy ending with his karate boyfriends.
How did I know you would like this?
I'm sorry, his eyeliner game is too strong.
He's also the closest thing we get to the arc having a point, which is just this:
And yes, he's asking this of a US military general who was just hanging out with him for no reason, after he blew up his own chest to own this dude.
For real though, Doyle is the closest this second half ever gets to matching the heights of the first half. He has knives in his elbows! Grenades in his chest! Stilettos in his stiletto heels! He's the only one to really shake up the punch-punch pattern of the other characters' fights, and he's a surprisingly upstanding guy to boot!
Doyle manages to make himself distinct from Dorian by not simply using weapons, but also by taking a fight to mean just straight-up murder. He eventually has this beaten out of him, but the path it takes to get him there is pretty fun to watch. I especially like when he gets a new boyfriend that walks on water for him, and then he decides to blow everyone up because he doesn't know how to deal with these new emotions.

This also brought back Baki science facts!
I missed those.

My guy feels bad about leaving an incapacitated Retsu to the muggers and crows, so he decides to stand watch all night while getting owned by birds like a murderous Prometheus.
And then Retsu returns the favor by nursing him to health and feeding him lunch, because they are boyfriends and I will not hear otherwise.
Retsu handing Doyle his ass after they both run into each other buying books is great. It's almost like knowing him from the first half makes us care! He's also the perfect foil because we think he has some honor after all the Dorian stuff, and boy were we wrong. That Doyle somehow internalizes this to mean friendship is some Grade A Baki logic.

Doyle just saw that he could walk on water and decided he was Jesus.
"Let he who has not set another man on fire nor stabbed him with many knives nor nearly beheaded him with a katana throw the first stone".
It's all the more unfortunate that both Sikorsky and Yanagi come right after that, cementing the show's trend toward the uninspired. I suppose it was kinda funny when Sikorsky and Jack decided to duke it out in a phone booth while it was in use, but that's about it. It's all downhill until we reach the compelling story of Baki's sex life.
It's super weird to go from Doyle making friends by getting his ass handed to him to replaying the same exact arc with Sikorsky but with zero compassion.

Basically, the convict arc goes from martial artists learning that fights can exist without rules, and then turns to the convicts learning that martial arts is about winning fights no matter if they have rules or not. It sure doesn't help that the numbers game going from two convicts in the first lesson to three in the second really makes it heavy-handed, especially when Baki's Dad is the one delivering the final blow over our heads.
Yup, there's just a few too many characters to juggle elegantly. The show partly handles that by pitting Yanagi and Doyle against each other for two seconds at the last minute, before unceremoniously sweeping all three remaining convicts - Yanagi, Doyle, and Sikorsky - off the table.
Speaking of Baki's dad though, Yujiro Hanma sure has some ideas
about doing the sex.
I've actually recommended that episode and no others to friends so that they can see the greatest Birds n' Bees talk in the history of visual storytelling.

My god, the subplot about Baki getting laid is the funniest shit in the world. Homeboy's about to get it on with his girlfriend when his dad just appears to yell at him about how sex is the ultimate expression of masculine prowess.
He's just there. In the room. And he's like "YES MY SON! FUCK AWAY!" as if a true man wouldn't let his presence kill the vibe.

And this is after several of Baki's rivals offered him unsolicited relationship advice!
Yup, this is an entire plotline. Our good boy Hanayama is still missing his face and decides to be like "Yo Baki, fuck already".
He shows up just to tell Baki to get on with it. Like it's not even an addendum to a conversation they were having before; Hanayama just pops in to be like "just fuck already geez". But possibly the best part of all this is how Baki himself handles things, by telling Kozue they're going to do the sex—but like, next week.
Ah yes, the long awaited...
And if you thought you weren't gonna get weird Baki bodies smushin, then you thought wrong! Somewhere in the distance, Baki's dad is sagely nodding about damage application.
I really like the line where Baki accidentally suggests he's fucked dudes before.
If Baki hasn't been about dudes doing everything they can to not fuck each other against all odds, then I'm not sure what I've been watching.
By equating fighting to sex, the implication is that he's metaphorically banged every opponent he's ever faced, and I'm not sure if I like that idea. It also means that his dad fucked Muhammad Ali, which I definitely don't want to think about.
Oh god, the Ali episode. Also, that line of thinking is very unfortunate considering his half-brother.
Oh yeah, we should mention that the convict arc ends with two episodes left in the show, so those last two episodes are devoted to setting up another arc that doesn't happen. One of those episodes is this extended flashback about a fictionalized Muhammad Ali and his affair with Baki's dad back in the day.
It's super weird. Not only does it come out of nowhere, but it also straight up contradicts everything we know about Baki's dad up to this point. The dude is a one-man Apocalypse who believes personal strength lets you dictate all rules. He looks down on the weak in every aspect, and yet here we have the author waxing poetic through him about the Civil Rights movement.
Hey, maybe in his younger days Yujiro was more enamored with social justice?
It's such a curveball to throw us in episode 25 of a 26-episode series. Now I know this series adapts the middle of a long-running manga, but there had to have been some better way to conclude a season. Perhaps by reworking the convict arc's resolution and not starting a whole new story arc? Maybe?
It might be because of the Netflix split, but I honestly believe whoever was in charge of this has no concept of pacing. We start blindly in a new arc and rather than get us up to speed, we spend the entire season getting pelted with characters out of the blue. In between the big encounters with convicts, we have comically weird explanations for things, and then everything ends with a whimper and we're supposed to be excited that Muhammad Ali Jr. is here. I assume this is his first introduction, but it feels no different than any other jobber we've met.
Oh yeah, and I almost forgot that Baki doing some sex gave him a literal power-up.

So he fought poison guy for a bit like six episodes ago, and while our boy Doyle went instantly blind after getting touched by him, Baki's coital afterglow has downgraded that effect to this, which I guess is supposed to look emaciated but it's still weird muscle Baki body.
So that's where we are now. End of the season, Baki's protagonist armor has afforded him a different variety of horrifying proportions, and I guess we're supposed to wait for a second season. I'll probably end up checking it out, but frankly, this half let me down enough that I'm not sure I want to.
My dim light of hope says that if they go forward into this China arc, then everything will be new so we won't have all the weird callbacks.
The downside: awful unintelligible Chinese that'll drive me bonkers if I have to listen to more than the one line that was in the last episode.
Bless my uncultured ears.
Either way, it's gonna take a lot to get me unconditionally enthusiastic for more Baki, which is not what I expected after the first half blew me away. But at the very least, I can now say that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is anime, and also God.
I feel ya. I had fun with the first half and looked forward to the second, but after this? Well...

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