‘Baki Hanma’ Review: A Relentless Quest For Strength

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Fans of the hard-hitting saga chronicling the adventures of the son of the ogre based on the iconic manga series created by Japanese artist Keisuke Itagaki can now rejoice as a new season titled ‘Baki Hanma’ is streaming on Netflix from October 1. This comic book has been in production since 1991 and boasts over 143 volumes to date, so if the anime is going to be a regular thing, then there is plenty of material to adapt.

The season spans through twelve episodes and continues the story of the son who is looking towards taking over the title of the world’s strongest man from his father and features some of the most iconic battles in the saga.

In the previous season, which also streamed on Netflix, Baki and his friends handled all kinds of face-offs from escaped prisoners to sea kings of China and various other contenders in a bid to test their physical tenacity. In this new entry, though, Baki faces some of the most insane challenges since the franchise started, and they come in all shapes and forms.

There is a colossal praying mantis and even the iconic boxer, Mike Tyson, as he gets ready once again for a one on one with his father. Other notable appearances include former United States President George W. Bush and Che Guevara.

It is interesting to note that manga creation definitely runs in the Itagaki family. Keisuke’s daughter Peru Itagaki is the creator of the anime series ‘Beastars’ which has also become a fan favorite on the streaming giant. And while there hasn’t been a crossover between the two universes yet, one can’t be ruled out, and only time will tell.

There is no doubt that the Baki franchise is a great martial arts anime. While it is far from being realistic, it is an excellent source of adrenaline-pumping action. Netflix realized considerable success with the saga between 2018 and 2020, which picked up where the 2001 anime ‘Baki the Grappler’ paused by adapting the second part of the original ‘Baki the Grappler’ manga.

‘Baki Hanma’ adapts the third part of the classic series with season one exploring the growth of the young fighter, Baki, as he trains intending to overthrow the reigning champion, his father Yuujiro, so as to become the most muscular man on earth eventually.

RELATED: 20 Strongest Baki Characters Ranked

In the first few episodes of the series, Baki’s power and abilities are portrayed through the eyes of an elementary learner who is bullied into challenging Baki for a fight. This technique works pretty well, showing how far the protagonist has come to achieve his current status and showcase his impressive martial arts skills.

The quest to be the strongest is among the most popular themes in the shonen genre. While it is not a must for a feature to have this aspect in order to qualify for the genre, it is prevalent. Take ‘Dragon Ball Z’ and ‘My Hero Academia,’ for instance, where the thirst to be the best is a universal desire. Sadly, Baki Hanma does not offer a unique twist from this common theme, making it just another basically fantastic story in the shonen category. 

Anime has the capacity and capability to accommodate larger-than-life characters. However, this show takes this expression too literally as the characters are depicted as muscled mountains of men portrayed as people. This tactic is used as an attempt to impress audiences with the characters’ unrealistic and all-able physiques. But this design doesn’t manage to sell the characters as something that is impressive. While the visual appearances of the characters aren’t that appealing, their personalities barely do anything to make them better.

This first season concluded with a bang with Baki bringing Biscuit Oliva, the infamous fighter who has been a mainstay on the show since season 1 and the strongest man in America, to his knees. This victory earned him his freedom from the Arizona State Prison, which he got himself into in the fast place so he could land a duel with the reigning champion. This epic fight also earns Baki undeniable recognition from the world’s most invincible person and Baki’s father, Yuujiro. 

The plot is pretty standard, and the thrill comes from the fighting. There is a thread of intriguing characters that Baki must face inside the prison, and they do come in all forms and sizes as the aspiring champion forges his way through the lower and mid-level wannabes before reaching his main target Oliva at the end.

Visually, most of the art style that is accustomed to the franchise’s past featuring plenty of muscles shown in slow motion as well as colorful panels is prevalent throughout the season. There is also the use of extreme closeups, still not new to the saga, to emphasize moments of intense pressure or display surprise. These techniques of course pronounce some sort of familiarity amongst the fans of the anime of those audiences who have already seen previous seasons. 

However, fans anticipating the epic battle between Baki and his father will be disappointed as this moment that has been highly advertised since the beginning of the series does not materialize in this leg. This automatically teases another series where the big battle will probably go down as things are complete as they are, and Baki still has a point to prove and finally show his father his worth. 

RELATED: Baki Anime Watch Order (Including Baki Hanma)

In summary, ‘Baki Hamna’ does not really hold any surprise. Despite coming across as a colossal dump wrangler, there is no doubt that it is an absolute guilty pleasure. The show knows exactly what type of program it wants to be and what content it needs to feed its audiences.

There are plenty of muscles, fighting, and brawling, which makes this series great fun to watch. ‘Baki Hanma’ is indeed not a perfect show, and the theme doesn’t run that deep. However, this is definitely a must-watch if one is a sucker for ridiculously great fighting action and hugely shaped men.

SCORE: 6/10

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