Welcome back to another cartoon recap and review. Today’s cartoon was suggested by a buddy of mine, Drunk Irish Jay who came across this show while at the gym and thought I’d be interested in it.
It’s called Baki and is another Netflix show that was based off Japanese manga (I had to look up “manga”: basically it’s a Japanese comic book) which revolves around the title character of Baki and his quest to be the best underground Martial Arts fighter in all the land.
Just off that description, it sounds like some kind of hybrid of Bloodsport and Street Fighter so if that’s what it actually ends up being, then Jay was probably right and I’m here for that.
Usually, the things I write about here have some kind of connection to my childhood or something I’ve been interested in for a while, but with this series it is the ultimate clean slate. I have literally no idea what we’re getting into, but I’ll check it out and see where we go from here. Sound good? Yes? Cool. Let’s roll.
Season 1, Part 1, Episode 1: Synchronicity
Looks fun, right? OK, let’s check it out.
The opening title sequence starts off and right from the jump, I’m in. It’s a lot of clips of intense fighting sequences with a Japanese metal song layered over it and if your adrenaline is already pumping for this, then you need to head to your primary doctor’s office to get a testosterone enhancer.
We meet Baki Hanma who apparently is so strong that everyone around him is shook as fuck just being around him. Baki seems to be high school age and even his teacher and classmates are shook just being in the room even though money is asleep at his desk and posing no threat.
Baki is brought to the principal’s office because he has a visitor. Mitsunari Tokugawa is a highly respected elder who happens to run the underground fighting arena. He informs Baki of an upcoming event in Tokyo in which some “very dangerous men will converge.”
We’re then shown a prison in Tacoma, Washington of all places where a prisoner transfer is going on. Kaioh Dorian has been sentenced to death and will be hung right here. Jeez, OK, this is not for kids. I mean, maybe I should have figured that out from the whole Bloodsport-like theme, but a hanging is where I draw the line!
His last words are, “I wish to taste defeat,” and Dorian is dropped from the gallows and squirms until he’s lifeless. A doctor is brought in to confirm, but it was all a ruse as Dorian was playing possum! He murders all the guards and leaves each one strung up by the neck as he escapes and heads toward Tokyo.
We cut to another prison where Hector Doyle is strapped to an electric chair. Another death-row inmate, he offers his last words: “I want to taste defeat.” Doyle is fried right before our eyes, but once again, the inmate is able to break free once the prison staff’s guard is down and he kills these guards before heading off as well, to Tokyo.
Sikorsky is another prisoner who has apparently broken free and is now on the road to Tokyo. He seems to be a Russian who was a great athlete at one point and could have brought home a shit-ton of gold medals, but decided becoming a murderer was more in-line with his life’s goals.
At this point, I want to see that they’re not doing an overly great job at introducing characters. These bits are very quick and I’m only catching names uttered maybe once and then having to Google them to kind of put things together. If I was just watching this without writing, I could probably handle it and wait for things to be expanded upon as the show opens up, but right this second, it’s a tough follow. Look, we’ve got bad people and they’re all breaking out of prison to go fight in the Kumite.
Tokugawa is explaining this all to Baki still in the principal’s office while these events unfold and Baki’s pretty calm about the whole thing, very much like, “oh, well that sounds shitty, but not my chair, not my problem.”
Spec is another prisoner who’s kept in an incredibly secure cell. He’s not being led to the the gallows or anything, but a counselor has been sent in to talk to him, only Spec has already escaped his cell and is hiding in the vents above. He reaches down, kills the counselor with quickness and now he runs off since he too wishes to taste defeat. Spec has a pretty uncanny resemblance to Sagat from Street Fighter.
Oh man…I hope this means we get a Chun-Li rip-off! Yep, yep!
The fifth prisoner is Ryuukou Yanagi and he is kept in a fortified glass chamber like the government held Magneto in during the X-Men movies. He seems very calm and stoic, but he’s obviously some kind of serial killer so he too is able to break free, kill his guards and grab an Uber to Tokyo.
Tokugawa has been well-aware that all these prison breaks were coming and is basically using them as a sales-pitch to get Baki to come fight in his arena, I guess. He finishes up after explaining that all five of these guys will be coming to Tokyo by saying, “You know what that means, right?”
There’s a bit to unpack here. First off, this was fun and goes very quick. Because of the nature of the story and just trying to introduce all these bad guys in such quick succession, it becomes difficult to figure out names and such, but the basis is there’s bad guys and they’re all breaking free so they can assemble in Tokyo and fight in this tournament.
It’s literally the worst of the worst and I guess Baki is going to be the only one who can stop them.
I’ve never really delved much into Japanese anime of any kind, but obviously I’ve been a fan of things that have inspired it (the original Thundercats, for instance, has a lot of anime traits) so it’s not completely foreign to me, but the style of animation and storytelling is…let’s say “outside of my comfort zone.”
That’s not a bad thing. It’s good to try something new and I liked this enough to keep watching. My biggest complaint is the crash-TV style of everything happening in such a short span where you didn’t have time to let things process, but for excitement, it was great. I know I’m not the target audience here and honestly, wouldn’t have even heard of this without being referred to it, but I’m going to stick around and see how this plays out now.
Going forward, I’m hoping for a bit more depth with the character development, an expansion upon just all of these bad guys broke out of prison to fight. But that’s me and I appreciate a nice backstory. We’ll come back tomorrow and see how they follow-up, but if you like action and some really intense animation (artistically, this episode was really good) then this is for you.
Until next time.