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Netflix Anime Review: Baki

Another one of Netflix's originals, Baki is an anime with a very simple concept: fighting. As a fan of Dragonball Z and Hokuto no Ken, I thought I would love this anime as well. Unfortunately, that didn't work out as well as I had hoped.

I could only access the first season, which has 12 episodes on Netflix. We follow Baki, a 17-year old underworld fighting champion, a fact which we find out through flashbacks and does not occur in this anime. He is dating this girl Kozue, whom was basically the Adrian to his Rocky throughout his fight to the top as we can see in flashbacks. We start this anime out with five death row inmates over the world that have nothing to do with each other that escape from prison all saying the same thing, 'I want to feel defeat'. Synchronicity, is what Tokugawa, the underground martial arts organizer, calls it. He is the one that calls out Baki, our main character, to explain to him about this in the first episode. They are all headed for Tokyo, to come fight Baki, presumably.

From left to right: Yanagi, Spec, Doyle, Sikorsky, Dorian

No one can stop these inmates because they are so incredibly strong, not even the police and bullets can stop them. So they can just do as they want. After they all arrive in Tokyo, they are drawn to the arena where the underground games were held. Tokugawa having anticipated this, waited for them there and was ready with some martial artists of his own.

 Tokugawa, and his passion for men that beat each other to a pulp

 The five convicts ready to fight each other when Tokugawa stops them. Tokugawa kind of looks like Krillin here.

The fighters Tokugawa had gathered. Retsu, a Chinese kung fu artist on the upper left; Doppo, the karate master of the Shin Shin Kai in the middle; Hanayama, a yakuza boss on the right. The guy on the left has a history with Yanagi.

The convicts vs the underground fighters

Here is where they decided on how to fight each other. There are no rules: everyone can attack anyone at any given time using any tool. Be it at school, during dates, on the toilet, whatever. This setting seems extremely promising, and we get to see the different death row inmates, starting with Spec, fight with different martial art masters in Tokyo.

 Spec vs Hanayama, the yakuza boss aka my favourite up until now. Those tats tho!

Even after his face is blown off Hanayama still manages to kick Spec's ass

Hanayama be kickin' ass in his undies tho.

After this fight there are like 5 episodes that are about the Shin Shin Kai, a martial arts organization founded by Doppo (whom I kinda like). Then it's about Dorian versus the Shin Shin Kai people, he beats one of them to a pulp and then the rest come to avenge him etc. Nothing really interesting but eventually he is beaten as well. I preferred the Hanayama fight.

The problem I had with this anime were two things: pacing and interruption. During the fights we were frequently interrupted with background stories which also sometimes had background stories. Like the inception of flashbacks. By the time we were back to our actual fight I was like 'oh yeah, this was happening'. I didn't mind the exaggeration, the whole 'IT'S OVER 9000!!!' kind of thing we had all the time. I also missed brutality, it tries to be brutal but then no one major really kicks the bucket. I wouldn't mind a death here and there, if they are really all ruthless fighters. Als our main character Baki, we hardly know anything about him. Only a few things: he has a girlfriend, is a champion of an underground martial arts game, and has a father whom is probably one of the strongest out there. I am actually most curious about this father. Baki seems a bit aloof and not really present, until the 12th episode, where his girl is taken by the Russian convict Sikorsky, and he seems to kind of wake up and willing to fight. 

 Kozue getting kidnapped by Sikorsky

Baki finally waking up and getting into the action

This is where season 1 on Netflix ends. Oh no they also devoted almost a whole episode to this supposedly badass guy called Mr. Oliva. Way too much effort to introduce a character in my opinion.

Bullets and swords don't work on this convict who comes and goes out of prison as he wishes. But they want to recruit him to do something about the situation in Tokyo so the Japanese police officer Whatshisname went to the U.S.A. to check Mr. Oliva out, whom was already expecting him somehow.

As I have only seen the first 12 episodes, I will continue watching this. Style wise, I didn't think it was anything special, and the 3D animation effects I believe were present during some of the fights is also not my thing. The action scenes could have been animated smoother but it's the story that messes this up with the frequent interruptions. We haven't seen much of our main character Baki, and how he's supposedly the best fighter around. After talking to a friend, I found out we literally started in the middle of the story, and apparently there was an anime series covering the tournament part which I will check out next. I went into this anime totally blank, and it did pique my interest. Let's hope Netflix makes the rest of the story worthwhile. 

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