If you’re a fan of martial arts and anime, you need to check out the series Baki. I watched the first season on Netflix during the summer and was immediately hooked. This is something that was completely new to me, considering I never read the manga. That could be sacrilegious for many anime fans, but what can I say? I enjoy watching martial arts masters fighting each other on my TV, not reading about it. If you do like anime, but don’t watch too much Netflix, then I suggest you search for Baki on it. Just imagine a more grounded version of Dragon Ball Z, but not very kid-friendly. It’s certainly farfetched, as most anime is, but this can get seriously bloody. The characters in the Baki series hang on the border between skilled fighters and invincible superhumans. They take more punishment than the Terminator does, but they can be killed. In fact, just when you think they are killed, it turns out they miraculously survived. Hey man, don’t expect serious injuries to permanently incapacitate these martial arts masters. Since when does logic hinder the action of an awesome anime? Never, that’s when. That’s why Baki is so awesome and it doesn’t hold back.
This series comes from Baki the Grappler manga written by Keisuke Itagaki and serialized in the ’90s. The main character, Baki Hanma, is in his late teens and constantly trains to hone his martial arts skills by fighting the worst of the worst. This includes taking on escaped death row convicts, his own brutish father, and even the son of Muhammad Ali. And yes, we do get to see the legend himself in the series. He’s retired and past his prime, but his very presence demands respect and he still packs that devastating punch. He almost took the young Baki Hanma’s head off. That alone should get any fighting fan interested. If that’s not enough, just think about how many other martial arts-related shows portray their art. We’ve seen the flashy stuff done dozens of times over, but do they really do in-depth about the techniques? Well, Baki is that one of a kind series that does exactly that. And believe me, it explains literally everything.
You want an example? Well, I can think of what Baki did in the latest season that was just added to Netflix. Hanma Baki – Son of Ogre (his father’s nickname), opens up with the young and hungry Baki preparing to take on one of his toughest challenges, Biscuit Oliva. One of his training methods is by sparring with a metaphoric man-sized praying mantis. This seemed like an illusion, but Baki formed the oversized insect in his mind and it certainly gave him a tough time. But why a praying mantis? Why not a big tiger or gorilla? Well, Baki himself explained in specific detail on why an insect would give him a tougher sparring match than an animal. Heck, they even add the images to better explain it all. Baki explained that a tiger can use its mouth to carry a dead carcass heavier than its own bodyweight. It does, however, get tired before it makes it back to its home. Now an insect like an ant, on the other hand, can lift up to twenty times their own body weight. Ever see a trail of ants lift up food that’s bigger than they are all the way back to their hill? They do that all the time without taking breaks, as do the other insects. For such small creatures, that sure is an impressive trait.
Baki gave a great explanation as to why the man-sized mantis is a stronger sparring partner than your typical predatory animal. He even got into the origins of the Praying Mantis style of Kung Fu. Ever wonder if a praying mantis could defeat a sparrow in a fight? Neither would I, but according to Baki, that’s where it all started. Sounds like a cool story and you can be skeptical, but I think we should appreciate how the series commits to explaining the techniques and backstories of martial arts. Have you seen any other shows do that? It’s pretty rare, but Baki covers quite a lot. You can even go back to the first season from 2018 and you’ll hear karate master Doppo Orochi (voiced by the awesome Steven Blum) breakdown his particular style of karate. Now his style is fictionalized for the series, but when he talks about it, it sounds very similar to the Kyokushin style of karate. This is all done in a flashback when one of his students battles the psychotic death row inmate Dorian on a moving rollercoaster. Master Orochi explained to his student that the style was most useful for fighting in a tight environment like a phone booth. There are techniques designed for that kind of situation and that style of karate trains its students for that.
So the Baki series is a lot more than just flashy kung fu action. This is much appreciated as it commits to explaining martial arts, rather than just flexing it for show. Granted, it’s anime style to explain things on top of showing it, but boy, I do deeply enjoy listening to the explanations of Baki. This protagonist is even voiced in the English dubbed version by the legendary voice actor Troy Baker. His voice acting is once again stellar and he makes the Baki the sarcastic and cocky, but well-meaning fighter. His journey in the latest season is just pushing his training further by taking on one of the world’s dangerous fighters just to prepare for his father. Sounds like Rocky turned on its head, but there’s a lot of killer action and colorful characters to make this series stand out. And with that, if you dig martial arts, check out Baki Hanma on Netflix. If you’re already an anime fan, then you’ve probably already heard of it, but if you just read the magna, give the show a try.