Baki Hanma Season 1 Anime Series Review

Baki Hanma Season 1 Anime Sequence Assessment

 

Baki Hanma, occasionally and erroneously referred to as Hanma Baki — Son of Ogre, is strange! It’s extravagant. It’s heterosexual. It’s stupid, but in a ‘dudes rock’ way that becomes both a criticism and a celebration of masculinity. Is it decent? Would I suggest this season to a stranger on the street, even though I liked it just a little bit less than the previous one?

Definitely not! Before I even think about saying that I like the program, you’ll need to pass a few vibe tests. The fact that this anime is not for everyone is one of the things I admire most about it. There is nothing quite like Baki Hanma, though, if you are like me and you have no trouble suspending your disbelief and spending a lot of time considering subjects like fitness, gender, your relationship to your body, self-improvement, and karate. This season is still enjoyable even though it is less strong.

But you won’t get immediate enjoyment from this treat. The first two episodes primarily serve as a recap of Baki’s history and his quest to overthrow his father. To do this, many of the common shonen clichés are employed, such as changing the viewpoint to allow supporting characters to express their awe and adoration for Baki. Even a young child from elementary school befriends Baki! And this youngster is just skilled enough in combat to convey to the viewer how awesome the anime’s main character is.

Although the first two episodes covering this material aren’t particularly poor, they do feel gratuitous given that this multi-part anime has been running for several seasons and that viewers are used to following Baki’s antics. Baki’s battle with a gigantic, fantastic praying mantis in this animation is just as entertaining as the smaller battles, and it contrasts beautifully with Yjiro’s battle with a real, enormous elephant. But it lacks the same element of surprise and spectacle that most fans have grown to associate with the show.

Then, in the following episode, as the president is attempting to show how much better the Secret Service has gotten since the Kennedy assassination, Baki kidnaps a legally distinct George W. Bush.

No other series that I can think of has kept me interested after almost losing me like Baki Hanma has. From here, the franchise is known for its maelstrom of surprising revelations and unexpected turns. These include the debut of a Che Guevara impersonator, the revelation that pirate martial artists have penetrated the American government, a close look at the romantic life of America’s strongest man, and an intensifying prison yard brawl.

The last item is my particular favorite since Baki really sleeps with Biscuit Oliver’s girlfriend to make it apparent to both of them that they should stop acting like men and start fighting instead. I’m not sure if this was meant as a critique of toxic masculinity or as a jab at other action shows that rely on fabricated plots to make character interactions more interesting. To me, though, it felt gloriously subversive!

Compared to their fight before this encounter, Baki and Biscuit’s fight seems like an afterthought. The anime does a passable job of capturing Biscuit’s change into a sphere of muscle and, shortly after, a human Pac-Man, but this meeting is nonetheless entertaining. The voice acting in Baki Hanma is likewise completely adequate, and I appreciate that Black VAs are cast to portray Black characters in the English dub.

The portrayal of Biscuit Oliver by James Mathis III is excellent, and I much like it to Hch Tsuka’s more sillier approach since it is more grounded. Even the most ludicrous occurrences in this season are given weight by the music and sound design, but the opening is a step down from the Kung-fu-inspired banger of an OP from last season.

In a nutshell, Baki Hanma’s current season is another installment in the wacky and fantastic Baki franchise. If you’ve moved on from earlier seasons, it doesn’t address any lingering issues, but if you connected with former cast members, it’s still fun. The kindest thing I can say about this season is that it has made me ready for more. The final image of a prehistoric caveman punching a T-rex while frozen in ice has made me anxious to start the upcoming episodes.

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