- Grappler Baki (1994: Knack Productions) 1/1 ep.
Staff and Background
This OAV is based on the enormously popular manga of the same name by Keisuki Itagaki, who is only really known for Baki as it has been running forever. There have been plenty of other Baki adaptations and one of the upcoming Netflix series is yet another adaptation of this series. The OAV we are talking about today was directed by Yuuji Asada who is pretty much only known for directing Queen Emeraldas and a butt ton of Pokemon
Story and Characters
There isn’t really a whole lot of story to this one. We start of at a karate tournament where a mysterious stranger is easily winning every match and so the host school’s top fighter feels compelled to fight the stranger for the school’s honour. The stranger turns out to be our boy Baki. The fight goes about as you’d expect. Then we head down to the underground fighting ring where we watch another of Baki’s fights, this time he fights a dude who’s technique involves him poking his fingers into people and ripping out their nerves and tendons. So, there isn’t really a story there, just two fights. The first fight isn’t all that interesting as there is no real tension, because it is obvious Baki will win easily, and because Baki’s opponent just isn’t interesting. On the flip side, the second fight is pretty dope for the exact opposite reasons. That second fighter is a real threat and has a fun personality to go along with it. Baki himself is a pretty fun character as he is that cocky loose cannon type, you are never sure if he is lucky or actually amazing at fighting. To be honest, there isn’t much more to say here, there isn’t a story so much as two fight scenes put one after the other.
Audio and Visuals
The music is pretty pants and most of the voice actors are mediocre. However, Baki and nerve ripping dude both have quite fun VAs that really help you engage with them, though given the VAs are Kappei Yamaguchi and Kaneto Shiozawa that shouldn’t be a surprise. Visually it is a mixed bag. The art style is that very typical early-90s OAV look that is quite flat in many ways with a muted colour palette. In addition, the animation in the first fight is quite stilted at times; but, as with everything else in this show, the second fight is a different beast. The animation gets much smoother and the choreography is pretty damn good, making the fight very fun to watch. There is a noticeable shift from that first fight to the second one, it leaves somewhat of a sour note in my mouth to be honest. It should also be noted that this OAV does not shy away from gore. You see bones breaking through skin, nerves being ripped out in graphic details, and flesh being cut. This is not a show for the faint of heart.
In general, it feels like they only really wanted to make that second fight but had to make the first fight to fill the time as well as to introduce Baki, but there was no real passion in it. This is a shame because if that first fight had been as cool as the second then this would have been a neat little show. As it is I’d have to say just skip to that halfway mark and only what the second fight.
Final Score: 5D