Series Review: Baki season 1

Baki somehow wastes Troy Baker as it’s titular character in a mediocre show.

Netflix has recently made a big push to make anime a significant part of their future, securing distribution rights to Neon Genesis Evangelion as well as at least a dozen other shows. Baki is one of those shows, and I had heard some things about the show being “crazy” so I decided to check it out.

The first thing that stood out to me is the voice cast. Troy Baker voices the titular character Baki, and he’s one of the best voice actors going today as he’s shown with his roles in Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us, Uncharted 4, and so on. Steve Blum voices Doppo Orochi, one of Baki’s associates, and Johnny Yong Bosch who voices one of the antagonists. Unfortunately, Baker and Yong Bosch are wasted, with Baker basically on “What in the world?!” duty and showing almost no emotion at all, and Yong Bosch is in maybe ten total minutes out of a little over four hours of run time. Blum really gets to sink his teeth into the role and portrays this menace in Orochi that even though he’s portrayed as a good guy in this season, you can tell that he has something more sinister going on in the background.

I’m getting ahead of myself though. Baki is about a seventeen-year-old Japanese high school student who is considered one of the strongest fighters in the world. After winning an underground fighting tournament, five death row inmates from across the globe travel to Japan to “taste defeat” at his hands. It’s your basic fighting anime plot, and there are really no frills to it. Every single fighter is covered in muscles, so much so that it almost delves into self-parody, and every fight basically features both fighters slowly losing more and more clothing to show off more muscle.

This brings me to the animation, which is more than serviceable when the fighting isn’t happening. However, when the fighting starts, it still remains the same quality until inexplicably, the animation changes to more of a computer generated style. I don’t understand the sudden changes for certain shots and sequences to this more obviously computer drawn style. It took me out of the fight every time it happened and really brought down my overall experience.

That’s not the only issue with the fights. Anime does this thing where the fighters don’t stop talking during a fight, and I’ve come to accept that. However, Baki does something unforgivable where it basically pauses the fight to explain why a character is doing a specific technique and gives the backstory to it. It’s incredibly clunky and makes the fights take far too long. The fights are also extremely bloody and gory, with characters losing comical amounts of blood and some even lose parts of their body.

Overall, Baki as an action anime is pretty bad. Baki is this one-note character that doesn’t let someone as talented as Troy Baker flex his voice acting muscles, the fights are interrupted by non-sensical  backstory inserts and complete style changes, and the first 3 episodes are nothing but exposition and set up about how evil these criminals are and how they’re very dangerous to Baki. I nearly stopped after those 3 episodes because of how absolutely bored I was. After another 3 hours of watching, I wish I had stopped and watched something else on my list on Netflix.

2/5 stars