I managed to get through the first season in just under a week and am about to begin season 2. Like many newer shows such as Naruto, Bleach, and Gundam 00, season 1 and 2 of this show are seamless. They more merge into one big series. The benefit to that is that now we can bring you 2 reviews of this show here instead of one! Now who wouldn't want that?
So...lets get to the show. Baki the Grappler follows Baki who spends his entire life training to become a greater hand-to-hand combat fighter than his father Yujiro Hanma. Yujiro is called The King in the show because of his demonic ability to fight and complete decimation of anyone who gets in his way. He pretty much disowns Baki for being weak and not being able to surpass him in strength. After the death of Baki's mother, Baki (who is at the time 13) sets off to train around the world in order to become stronger and defeat his father.
About half way through the first season, Baki returns to Japan to fight in the underground arena and subsequently becomes the champion. Much of the second half of this season is spent watching Baki defend his title. Although the outcome is pretty obvious, the fights are still very exciting to watch. Yujiro also makes many appearances and also has a match in the underground league. I should also point out that Baki has spent what seems to be 2 years in Japan fighting underground since his return at 15. Much like Hajime No Ippo. We all expect Baki to win, but the fights are intense and there are many moments where victory looks bleak.
There are other elements to this show besides the unique exhibitions of martial arts that make this show well worth the time to watch. One such element is the development of Baki's character. Although he is a powerhouse, Baki still manages to develop compassion for others and a respect for their abilities as martial artists whether they win or lose. I tended to find that this humbleness was something that made him such a likable character. This humbleness tended to also allow us to see many of the other fighters as people and not just machines set on damaging others. This was helpful in reminding the audience that martial arts is an art and a discipline, not glorified fighting. In retrospect, Yujiro is developed to display the counter opposites to Baki in terms of philosophy and compassion. By having these two opposites appear, it leaves one to wonder if strength is based on compassion or hatred since both fighters are so strong.
By developing Baki's character from early to late teens, there is a change in the art as well. He has gone from being a young looking punk to a mature and disciplined fighter. The level of understanding for his fighting ability and appreciation for it is seen in the character design.
The music in the show is nothing too special. Very typical for what you would see in a tournament style martial arts anime. You can notice it is there, but it doesn't stand out much at all. The intro theme is also nothing I will be spending a great deal of time listening to. It isn't the catchiest song (if you can even really call it a song).
As a whole, the first season of this show was really well done. I would have to recommend it to anyone who is a fan of martial arts, specifically hand-to-hand combat style shows. I don't believe that you will be disappointed with this one. Stay tuned for our follow up review on season 2 shortly...