When Baki the Grappler was first released on DVD in the US, it had four episodes on each disc. When I purchased the series, it was part of a box set that condensed the entire 48-episode anime to seven discs.
After the Yasha fight, I got to keep watching like it was nothing. Somewhere out there, there’s a person that watched Baki the Grappler four episodes at a time over…several years, maybe?
At the end of the last episode, Baki foolishly jumps off a cliff because…training reasons. Thankfully, his mom, who is somehow mind-watching all of this go down is able to shed some light on the situation for the audience.
“When faced with death, it is said that a grappler’s entire life flashes before his eyes. That focus greatly augments their motor skills — a phenomenon referred to as Near-Death Focus. Unless you attain it, you’ll never be a true grappler.”
After what must be a three minute sequence of Baki endlessly falling to his death, he finally gets his shit together and starts flipping around. Now that Baki has the Near-Death Focus he’s able to turn his would-be suicide into a sweet freestyle dive into the river.
How deep is that water that he doesn’t bottom out and break his neck? How does he make it out unharmed after hitting several sharp rocks along the way? These details are not important in the Baki the Grappler universe. Logic is overcome by screaming really loud about how strong you are and not being a bitch.
Baki can’t die. Not here. Not yet. He still has to spend an entire secret manga volume fucking his girlfriend. Also, remember that this is technically a flashback arc in a series that was about 50 volumes deep at the time this aired. So…yeah…Baki will be fine.
The Baki/Yasha fight comprises most of the episode. Giving a play-by-play of the action would be ridiculous, so I’m not going to do it. In the middle of the fight, Ando shows up to help with a shotgun, but Baki tells him to stay the fuck out of his business.
Baki wins the fight, but struggles with the moral implications of beating the shit out of a wild animal with his bare hands for personal gain. Ando — a man’s man — tells Baki that it doesn’t matter because it was a sweet fight, but if he’s going to be a baby about it, he should go apologize. Then he gives Baki the Yasha Ape’s address.
The Yasha Ape’s crib is like if Pimp My Ride was about caves and it was hosted by the Crypt Keeper. That is to say that the walls are lined with the skeletons of dead apes. Baki apologizes to Yasha for beating his ass and hands him an ape skull.
According to Baki, its the skull of Yasha’s dead wife whom Yujiro killed six years ago. In exchange for the skull, Yasha gives Baki one of his fangs that came loose during their fight. They share a laugh; they’re best friends now. I told you this would happen, and you didn’t believe me.
As the episode concludes, Baki ponders the meaning of life and considers the one opponent that a grappler will never truly defeat — time.
I NEED YOU TO TRUST ME, ANDO
The Fang and the Tears has my favorite line of dialogue in the entire series — including the manga. Early on in Baki’s fight with Yasha, Baki gouges out one of his eyes. To show Baki that he’s not a total pussy, Yasha eats his own eye. When Ando shows up later to help, Baki uses this example as one of his 13 Reasons Why Ando should fuck off back to the cabin.
ANDO’S HOSPITAL BILL
Ando must not have been too seriously injured because they air drop him in front of his cabin the next day. I’m not sure how the health industry works in Japan, but I have to imagine that two helicopter rides and emergency surgery are expensive as fuck. How is an unemployed mountain hermit supposed to pay for that?
PUTTING BAKI-DOU INTO CONTEXT
I haven’t read much of Baki-dou, but I’m pretty sure it’s about Baki and Friends™ fighting a clone of Miyamoto Musashi. In the Baki the Grappler anime — and probably the manga, as well — it’s implied that Musashi was murdered by the Yasha Ape. If Baki was able to beat the Yasha Ape when he was 13, how scary could Musashi really be?
The “first disc” of Baki the Grappler has to be one of the craziest opens I’ve ever seen in anime. In four episodes, our hero goes from fighting 100 street punks, to getting knocked out by a world boxing champion with honor that would rival Kuwabara, to becoming friends with a monstrous mountain ape after challenging them to a death-match.
What a fucking ride it must have been to watch this when it was coming out.