Thursday, April 18

Things To Know About Baki The Grappler

As modern wrestling fans know, it’s not uncommon for the anime world and the pro wrestling world to cross over. In the West, there are a number of wrestlers who have sported anime cosplay gear for special matches, while in Japan fans have seen various instances of cross-promotion involving big companies like New Japan-Pro Wrestling. Naturally, there are also anime that feature pro wrestling, including Baki The Grappler, sometimes known as simply Baki.



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Fans with Netflix in both Japan and the West are able to watch Baki any time they want, but there are likely many that don’t know much about this series. Let’s take a look at 10 things to know about this violent fighting franchise, including its history, which dates back a few decades.


Baki Follows A Fighter Out To Surpass His Father

Baki’s Father Is The Strongest Fighter On The Planet

Protagonist

Antagonist

Baki Hanma

Yujiro Hanma


Like many anime and manga centered around physical combat like Dragon Ball Z, Baki’s centered around a hero who trains to become an even better fighter, defeating progressively stronger foes along the way. That said, Baki provides a unique twist on the trope, as protagonist Baki Hanma’s great defining rival is his own father. Nicknamed “The Ogre,” Yujiro Hanma is a cruel, ruthless warrior who ends up killing Baki’s mother during a fight between father and son, which adds an element of vengeance to Baki’s quest.

Based On A Manga

The Original Baki Manga Debuted In 1991

Manga Run

Volumes

1991-Present

149


Like many anime, Baki is based on a manga, and a long-running one at that. Created by writer/artist Keisuke Itagaki, Baki The Grappler made its debut back in 1991 in the magazine Weekly Shonen Champion, lasting until 1999. From there, several follow-ups ensued: the simply titled Baki (1999-2005), Baki Hanma (2005-2012), Baki-Dou (2014-2018), the modified title Bakidou (2018-2023), and finally the most recent, Baki Rahen, which started in 2023 and continues to this day. Despite the title changes, the series all continue the ongoing saga of the title character.

A Baki Anime First Came Out In 1994

A Full Series Followed In 2001

Title

Year

Episodes

Grappler Baki: The Ultimate Fighter

1994

1

Baki The Grappler

2001

24

Grappler Baki: Maximum Tournament

2001

24

Baki: Most Evil Death Row Convicts Special

2016

1


The year 1994 brought the first-ever Baki anime, a 45-minute OVA (original video animation), a direct to home video release titled Grappler Baki: The Ultimate Fighter in the West. This release only adapted a chapter from the middle of the series, but a more full-fledged adaptation dropped in the following decade

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Debuting in January 2001, Baki The Grappler adapts the manga from the beginning, albeit with some modifications. After 24 episodes, a new series titled Grappler Baki: Maximum Tournament replaced it in July 2021, running until late December. From there, the next Baki anime project would arrive in 2016 as a 15-minute short included with a special edition of a Baki-Dou manga volume.

The Current Baki Anime Continues The Story Of The Original

The Newer Anime Starts With The “Most Evil Death Row Convicts” Storyline

Series

Run

Episodes

Baki

2018-2020

39

Baki Hanma

2021-2023

39


After 17 years, a new Baki anime finally debuted. Streaming on Netflix in 2018, Baki picks up where the original anime left off rather than adapt the manga from the beginning. The series first tackles the “Most Evil Death Row Convicts” that kicks off the second manga series, Baki, which involves a quartet of otherwise unrelated imprisoned fighters escaping their respective prisons and making their way to Tokyo. After the initial two-season run of Baki, a new series followed: Baki Hanma, adapting the third manga series, which went for two seasons from 2021 to 2023.

Features Numerous Wrestlers Inspired By Real Life

Numerous Wrestling Icons Have Been Fictionalized In Baki


Character Name

Inspiration

Mount Toba

Giant Baba

Jack Hanma

Dynamite Kid

Rikigouzan

Rikidozan

Antonio Igari

Antonio Inoki

Andreas Regan

Andre The Giant

Roland Istaz

Karl Gotch

Sam Atlas

Brock Lesnar

Mike Quinn

The Ultimate Warrior

Yujiro Hanma

Masahiko Kimura


Baki features all manner of fighting styles and takes inspiration from the history of those styles, so there’s no shortage of not only pro wrestling in the series, but also characters based on actual pro wrestlers. Along with wrestlers based on Japanese wrestling icons Antonio Inoki, Giant Baba, and puroresu godfather Rikidozan, there are some crucial main characters inspired by wrestlers. Along with Jack Hanma, Baki’s Canadian half-brother who’s based on Dynamite Kid, Baki’s own father Yujiro is based on Masahiko Kimura, pro wrestler and judoka practitioner for whom the Kimura Lock is named.

Baki Specifically Shouts Out Ali vs. Inoki

The Fight Is Recounted Pretty Much Verbatim As Fans Know It

Fight

Date

Location

Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki

6/26/1976

Tokyo, Japan


As part of Baki’s approach to depicting various fighting styles, as stated, the history of fighting is also a factor in the series. At one point, the anime and manga even go over the infamous fight between the aforementioned Antonio Inoki and legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, which happened between the fictionalized versions of the two, Antonio Igari and Mohammad Alai. While the real-life fight was poorly received, the battle in Baki serves as important background ahead of the battle between Baki Hanma and Alai’s son, Mohammad Alai Jr.

Spawned A Few Video Games

Baki Is Perfectly Suited To The Medium


Game

Release Year

Platform

Grappler Baki: Baki Saikyou Retsuden (a.k.a. Fighting Fury)

2000

PlayStation 2

Hanma Baki – Baki – From Yahoo! Mobage

2013

Browser Game

Typing Grappler Baki

2014

Browser Game

Grappler Baki: Ultimate Championship

2017

Android

Baki: King of Souls

2022

Android & iOS

Given that it’s a long-running franchise focused on fighting — and an absurdly violent depiction of such — it’s a no-brainer that there would be video games based on Baki. Shockingly, however, the number of games mostly amounts to browser and mobile games that aren’t always fighting games.

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The only non-mobile or browser Baki video game ever released to date was 2000’s Grappler Baki: Baki Saikyou Retsuden, which was for PlayStation 2. While the game wasn’t particularly well received, it did manage to make its way to the West in 2003, where it was released in Europe under the generic title Fighting Fury.


Baki Inspired A Unique Live Action Show

But Not An Adaptation Of Baki

Show

Run

Episodes

Notes Of A Girl Who Kept Thinking Baki The Grappler Is BL

2021

7

In 2019, a sociologist named Junko Kaneda wrote a book about Baki in which she recontextualized the manly fighting manga as a BL (boys’ love) story. Surprisingly, this book managed to spawn a live action series in 2021. Rather than follow Kaneda, however, Notes Of A Girl Who Kept Thinking Baki The Grappler Is BL follows a woman who works at a stationary company who’s secretly become obsessed with the manga in her free time, shipping the characters.

The Creator’s Daughter Also Makes Manga

Paru Itagaki Created Beastars

Beastars Run

Volumes

2016-2020

22


Pro wrestling fans are more than familiar with the concept of second-generation performers, and even the world of manga has a few creators whose children followed in their parents footsteps, including the creator of Baki. Paru Itagaki, the daughter of Baki’s Keisuke Itagaki, was born in 1993 and in 2016 debuted a major work of her own in Beastars. Adapted into an anime in 2019, Beastars takes place in a world populated by anthropomorphic animals and follows a murder in a boarding school.

There Are Lots Of Spin-Offs & Side Stories

These Are All In Addition To The Main Series

Selected Titles

Release

Grappler Baki Gaiden

1999

Baki Gaiden: Scarface

2005

Yuenchi: Baki Gaiden

2018

Baki Gaiden: Gaia to Sikorsky ~Tokidoki Nomura Futari Dakedo San’nin Kurashi~

2022


Like many popular manga, Baki The Grappler also spawned a number of spin-offs and side stories following other characters from the series. One of the earliest was Grappler Baki Gaiden, a full-volume release capturing a bout between wrestlers Mount Toba (the Giant Baba character) and Antonio Igari (the Antonio Inoki character). While some of these are side stories involving Baki characters, there are also other releases including a comedy strip called Baki Domoe and an isekai story. Some of these comics have Keisuke Itagaki’s involvement while many are handled by other writers and artists.

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