Grappler Baki, known as Baki the Grappler in North America, is a manga series written and illustrated by Keisuke Itagaki. It was originally serialized in Weekly Shōnen Champion from 1991 to 1999 and collected into 42 tankōbon volumes by Akita Shoten. The story follows teenager Baki Hanma as he trains and tests his fighting skills against a variety of different opponents in deadly, no rules hand-to-hand combat.
The series was followed by three sequels in the same magazine; Baki, which was serialized from 1999 to 2005 and collected into 31 volumes, Baki Hanma, which was serialized from 2005 to 2012 and collected into 37 volumes, and Baki-Dou, which was serialized from 2014 to 2018 and collected into 22 volumes. A fifth series, also named Baki Dou but with Baki’s name written in katakana instead of kanji, began on October 4, 2018.
A 45-minute original video animation (OVA) was released in 1994. A 24-episode anime aired on TV Tokyo between January 8 and June 25, 2001, and was quickly followed by a second 24-episode series from July 22 to December 24, 2001. An Original net animation (ONA) was released on Netflix between June 25 and September 24, 2018, followed by a second season that was released on June 4, 2020. The third season is scheduled for 2021. The OVA was the first to be licensed and released in North America, in 1998 by Central Park Media, followed by the original manga series in 2002 by Gutsoon! Entertainment (incomplete), and finally both anime series in 2005 by Funimation Entertainment. Media Do International began releasing the second manga series digitally in August 2018. As of 2018, the first four Baki series had over 75 million copies in circulation.
Original video animations
A 45-minutes original video animation (OVA) was released in 1994. The story is a close adaptation of the first few volumes of the original manga, adapting the Karate Tournament arc (not adapted in the later TV series) and Baki’s fight with Shinogi Koushou, later adapted in the episode 18 of the Baki the Grappler TV series. It was licensed and released under the title Grappler Baki: The Ultimate Fighter in North America by Central Park Media on VHS on December 1, 1996 and on DVD on December 1, 1998. Manga Entertainment later released it in Australia and the United Kingdom.
A 15-minutes original animation DVD (OAD), referred to as Baki: Most Evil Death Row Convicts Special Anime, was included with the limited edition of the 14th volume of Baki-Dou on December 6, 2016. However, it adapts the arc of the same name from the second manga series, which is titled simply Baki. Created by Telecom Animation Film, it was directed by Teiichi Takiguchi and focuses on five inmates who break out of prison from around the world and travel to Japan.
A 24-episode anime series aired on TV Tokyo between January 8, 2001 and June 25, 2001. It faithfully follows the original manga series, but changes the order of arcs, and does not adapt some of the chapters adapted in the preceding OVA. Notably, the anime was produced by Free-Will, a music record label. A second 24-episode series, titled Grappler Baki: Maximum Tournament as it tells the story from that part of the manga, aired from July 23, 2001 to December 24, 2001. All of the series’ music was written and composed by “Project Baki”, and all the theme songs performed by Ryōko Aoyagi. The first anime’s opening theme is “Ai Believe”, while its closing theme is “Reborn”. For the second series, “All Alone” is used as the opening and “Loved…” as the closing. Baki the Grappler: Original Soundtrack was released on March 27, 2003.
Both series were licensed for a North American English release by Funimation Entertainment. They released both series as one on 12 DVDs, each with four episodes, beginning on June 14, 2005 with the last released on February 27, 2007. Two box sets were released on January 23, 2007 and March 25, 2008, the first included volumes 1-6 (1st series), while the second included 7-12 (2nd series). A set including every episode was released on September 2, 2008.
Funimation’s English version was one of the launch-shows on their own television channel, Funimation Channel, which debuted on June 19, 2006. Baki was broadcast on weekends at 11:30pm, switching to the 10:00pm slot on September 4, 2006. Dubbed in English, the episodes were edited for time but do not appear to have been edited for content. The opening theme is the song “Child Prey” by Japanese metal band Dir en grey, who is signed to Free-Will.
In December 2016, it was announced that the “Most Evil Death Row Convicts” arc of the second manga series would be receiving an anime television adaptation. Titled Baki, like the second manga series, the 26 episode series is directed by Toshiki Hirano at TMS Entertainment with character designs handled by Fujio Suzuki and scripts overseen by Tatsuhiko Urahata. It began streaming on Netflix on June 25, 2018 in Japan, and started streaming on December 18, 2018 outside Japan. The series then started airing on several Japanese television channels beginning with Tokyo MX1 on July 1. Its opening theme song is “Beastful” by Granrodeo and its ending theme “Resolve” is performed by Azusa Tadokoro with lyrics by Miho Karasawa.
Netflix renewed the series for a second season on March 19, 2019. On March 5, 2020, it was announced that the main staff TMS Entertainment would be returning to produce the second season with the addition of a new character designer and art director. The 13 episode second season covering the “Great Chinese Challenge” and the Alai Jr. arcs was released exclusively on Netflix on June 4, 2020. Its opening theme song is performed by Granrodeo and its ending theme is “Dead Stroke” performed by Ena Fujita.
In September 2020, it was announced Hanma Baki – Son of Ogre will be adapted as the third series and the sequel to the second season of the Netflix series. Netflix is releasing it in 2021.
There have been a few video games based on the series. A fighting game developed by Tomy was released for the PlayStation 2 as Grappler Baki: Baki Saikyō Retsuden in Japan in 2000 and as Fighting Fury in the United Kingdom during 2003.
- Baki Hanma
- has been training in martial arts since the age of three, and has trained under various teachers and coaches throughout his life. At the age of thirteen, he decided to take his training into his own hands and left the coaches to perform more intense training in the footsteps of his father, Yujiro Hanma. He later meets with his father and becomes disillusioned as to his father’s true character, and afterwards, aims to defeat and kill him. Baki first fought in the no-rules arena run by Mitsunari Tokugawa at fifteen, and went on to become its champion without losing once. Including techniques from many different martial arts, he does not adhere to any specific style. Fighting once a month, Baki thoroughly studies his opponent leading up to their match. He eventually develops the ogre/demon face on his back when fighting his brother, Jack, but manages to suppress it. Unlike Yujiro, Baki chooses to control his killing intent and fight his battles fair and honorably no matter what the outcome. Baki has encounters with all the escaped convicts in the second manga series. He is then faced with a new foe from the prehistoric era, Pickle the caveman, after Retsu and Katsumi are defeated by him. The outcome of the match between Baki and Pickle could be considered to have gone either way: Pickle was the one who was left standing after the fight with Baki, but inadvertently used a “weapon”, in the form of a martial arts technique, to beat him. As stated by the onlookers a “weapon” is a tool used by the “weak” against the “strong”, which would make Baki the true winner of the fight for having cornered Pickle. Subsequently, Baki’s wish to have dinner with his father like a normal family is granted. Yujiro Hanma goes to his house and eats the dinner prepared by his son, dispensing never before seen knowledge with class and proper mannerisms. As thanks for preparing the meal, Yujiro invites Baki to a dinner “in his own style” at Tokyo’s best restaurant. At one point during the dinner Baki asks Yujiro why he had to kill his mother; Yujiro refuses to explain his motives “to a resentful brat” and Baki grows confrontational. This triggers their final conflict, and the final part of the manga. The gruesome fight that ensues leaves Baki a broken mess despite using remarkable techniques that earn him the praise of his father. However, Yujiro recognizes Baki’s unique fighting spirit and acknowledges that he can no longer be so selfish as to call himself the strongest creature on Earth. To thank Baki he starts using imaginary cooking to prepare Miso soup. Baki plays along but says the soup is a little salty, which angers Yujiro, but when he “tastes” it himself he discovers that the miso was, in fact, salty. Baki claims the moral victory due to being able to get his father involved in his own fantasy. The conflict ends in a tie, both fighters recognizing each other’s greatness. In the fourth manga, he is still seen participating in arena fights and engaging in regular intensive training, but has become bored with his day-to-day life.