Sometimes, there is beauty to be found in brutality. And as a fan of Shonen anime, I am often swept up in the thrill of a fight a combination of animation and character development leading to battles that leave a heavy impact on me long after the dust has settled. But in the archives of this genre, deep underneath the surface level appeal of your Hero Acas and Narutos sits violence of the highest accord, knots in your stomach and screw up your eyes levels of fighting that will either make you look away or keep staring. This is not a series for the faint of heart and ordinarily, it’s not a series for me but in the same way, I often get swept up in the thrill of a fight I often found myself swept up in the beauty of this animes brutality heavy flaws and all. My name is Isla and this is my review of TMS Entertainments Baki. From a first viewing, I can see how Baki could be intimidating. It’s 2018 iteration has been 16 years in the making and picks up where its second series left off back in 2001. I had no prior knowledge of the source material going in and if you’re like me then this is both advantageous and detrimental. On the one hand, we can look at Baki as it stands today and judge it as such but I do feel like you’d get much more from this series if you had read the manga or just finished the Maximum Tournament arc of season 2. That being said you can still enjoy it without knowing anything but some further information would have helped me understand Baki as a character and the people that surround him. Plot-wise Baki 2018 focuses on our lead of the same name and takes place just after he has been crowned the winner of the tournament. Upon hearing of his victory five death row inmates from across the world break out of prison on the same day and head to Japan in order to taste defeat at the hands of this young grappler. During the first half of this 26 episode anime these criminals face off against a range of other fighters who are all versed in violence and as the show progresses the fights become utterly ridiculous. From being set alight by gasoline to doing battle on a rollercoaster to regurgitating grenades this anime is laced in insanity and lacking in any narrative There is no plot, no story, no grander mission but there is a great sense of philosophy and you’ll find that behind each of the fighters and their chosen martial art. They have crafted their abilities over the years and this is made obvious to us through numerous flashbacks and monologues. Often these scenes can feel a bit overzealous and detract from the fights. One moment I’m ready to be hyped up only to listen to a character meticulously why he’s using piano strings as a weapon. These cutaways slow down the pacing making what should be an exciting event more of a history lesson however this is Baki’s way of showing you it’s more than just a free for all beat ‘em up that there is a deeper purpose to its characters. And these characters land into bone-crushing situations which should render them dead but two episodes later they are rising from a wheelchair ready to strike the final blow. This is the madness of Baki and you can either roll with it or reject it. For me, I could roll with it to an extent I appreciated how crazy it felt but it could have been better reflected in its animation. Barely an episode goes by without blood flying everywhere or fingers jammed in eye sockets but often these are just clever tricks with camera movement than they are actual animation. There are no grand sakuga moments to speak of and the fighting flits between 2D and bad 3D renders. This switch was jarring at the best of times and cringe-worthy at the worst I would have loved to have seen what the animation team could have done with the wacky martial arts in the series rather than just in its OP. But when the fighting does hit it’s brutal and enjoyable, I could feel myself tensing up as fists flew into faces and fights came to a fraught conclusion. This was accentuated by the bold lines used to draw each scene giving the anime an old-school shounen vibe but it did seem to decrease in quality as the show developed. Despite that, each character looks distinctive and this art style allows every curve of the muscle to be shown in all its full glory. Usually, I wouldn’t be one to marvel in that glory and if you’ve been following me for a while you’ll know I’m a fan of cute girls and the magic of the mundane, not coarse guys and the madness of mavericks but along my journey with Baki I realised that there is something compelling about its violence even if it’s not a world I would want to return to. So, Baki wasn’t made for me and that’s fine but I think it’s important to visit shows outside of your usual norm and to remember that sometimes… there is beauty to be found in brutality.