Anime 
TL;DR
Baki the Grappler Season 1 (2001)
グラップラー刃牙 (Gurappurā Baki)

Synopsis

Baki Hanma is a young fighter who yearns to follow in the footsteps of his father, Yujiro and become the strongest fighter in the world. Through that, he trains tirelessly and fights constantly to hone his skills and develop his body to achieve these goals. Many intense battles lay ahead of Baki as he goes about his quest to be the best and ultimately take the title of “King” from his father.

The story begins when 13-year-old Baki Hanma faces 100 opponents in a martial-arts battle! He manages to defeat 37 of them but is disgusted with himself for not beating the rest of them. He goes home and fires his trainer for not doing a good job. He then sets out to fight with tough guys such as Yu Lee, the junior welterweight champion. Baki has set himself on this tough path of self-discipline because he wants to be a tougher man than his father, Yujiro Hanma.
Directed by
Written by
Screenplay by
Music by

Rating

  • The overall rating of the show.

Poor < Fair < Good < Great

Animation

  • Animation quality and consistency for that time. 

Poor < Fair < Good < Great

Story

  • How well the story flows and keeps you engaged.

Poor < Fair < Good < Great

Pros

Cons

Character development
Plot
Slow-pace

PROs CONS

Overview

A 24-episode anime series aired on TV Tokyo between January 8, 2001, and June 25, 2001. It faithfully follows the original manga series. Notably, the anime was produced by Free-Will, a music record label.

The series was licensed for a North American English release by Funimation Entertainment. Funimation’s English version was one of the launch-shows on their own television channel, Funimation Channel, which debuted on June 19, 2006.

Alternative title

– Grappler Baki
– باكي الخطاف
– グラップラー刃牙
– Grappler Baki (2001)
– Baki The Grappler
– グラップラー刃牙 (2001)
– Baki
– Dövüşçü Baki
– Grappler Baki TV

TL;DR Review

Grappler Baki (Japanese: グラップラー刃牙 Hepburn: Gurappurā Baki), known as Baki the Grappler in North America, is a manga series written and illustrated by Keisuke Itagaki.

The animation is fair for 2001 and the art style is distinct and over the top. Human anatomies are exaggerated to the point of ridiculousness. People of such mass would likely be unable to stand up properly. I would say the art style match the series pretty well, where everything will be insanely overblown. Unfortunately, the combat animation is uninspiring. Streetfight is essentially trading blow with each other until someone drop.

All of the series’ music was written and composed by “Project Baki”, and all the theme songs performed by Ryōko Aoyagi. The first anime’s opening theme is “Ai Believe” (哀 believe), while its closing theme is “Reborn”. The Funimation version used the opening theme “Child Prey” by Japanese metal band Dir en Grey, who is signed to Free-Will.

Having seen the other version of Baki from the 1994 OVA to the 2018 version, I am not quite a fan of the TV version. In the beginning arc, Baki’s a rich spoiled brat with a parent complex. He takes everything too seriously and his rashness causes others harm.

In the later arc, Baki’s personality changed after a five years jump without any explanations. Not only that, other tropes were added to make him feel more a fantasy character than before. We see him living as a tenant with a girl that happens to be in his same class, giving you that neighbor school girl fantasy. He also turns super secret about his fighting for no reason, giving the I am secretly superpowerful but I don’t want people to know fantasy. It feels like the five-year jump was a reboot of the character and the series may have been better off starting when he was 18 years old.

This TV season also suffers from a pacing issue. The first two-thirds of the series meanders about when Baki was 13-year old. It then time jump to five years later and continue with its slow pace. Personally, I find Baki did not become any stronger after the jump. In fact, he seems to be weaker.

The TV version is less gory and tamer than the OVAs. Some cringy scenes are left to the imagination and are not actually shown. Take the episode where Baki fight Shinogi, which the 1994 OVA also covered. The fight just feels dull when the gore got toned down for the TV version. I can’t believe I actually want more gore, as this show doesn’t have anything else going for it.

I would only recommend this series to fan of over the top combat competition anime, who don’t care about plot or character development. This is a niche series and isn’t for everyone. If you like this type of show, I would highly recommend watching Air Master instead. Baki the Grappler contains graphic violence, tobacco usage, and suggestive themes/dialogs. Intended for young adults.

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Music

Opening Theme

– “Ai Believe” (哀believe) by Ryoko Aoyagi
– “Child Prey” by Dir En Grey (Funimation version)

Closing Theme

– “Reborn” by Ryoko Aoyagi

Credits

Photo

All images are copyright to their respective owners.

Photo by Nicolas LB, Jon Flobrant, and Yvette de Wit on Unsplash.

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