What is Baki even about? The manga and anime explained

By Kenneth Williams

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Oct 13, 2023

Reading time: 2 min

With so many weird memes and screencaps floating around the internet, what the heck is Baki even supposed to be about?

Thanks to the Netflix anime adaptation and brand-new series, Baki is once again exploding in popularity. The fighting manga has combat at its core, but unfamiliar anime fans may think of it as some strange action-absurdist comedy hybrid. While somewhat true, the actual case is more complicated than that. Here is a brief explanation of what Baki is actually about and how the stranger parts of the story fit into the main narrative.

Baki is first and foremost about fighting, but what sets it apart from other series is its emphasis on the fighting itself as opposed to the fighters. Baki’s characters are defined by their martial arts, with their preferred karate, jujitsu, kempo, boxing, and wrestling techniques introduced alongside their fighters. Author Keisuke Itagaki is famous for going absurdly in-depth on the strategies fighters use and how they develop their skills.

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At the core of the story is the leading man Baki Hanma. He’s the son of Yujiro Hanma, the strongest thing on the entire planet with nobody else even close. Baki is the one exception to the rule stated above, blending several styles together based on the various fighters he meets. His eventual goal is to surpass his father and avenge the death of his mother at Yujiro’s hands.

What about all the weird stuff in Baki?

To anime fans who are unfamiliar with the series, Baki can seem impossibly strange and obtuse. While absurdism is definitely a part of the appeal, a lot of the stranger moments are eventually explained in the story.

As an example, let’s take a look at the following panel from the manga. Even with context, it’s extremely absurd. Without it, it seems borderline randomly generated. However, there is actually an explanation for what’s going on. 

Baki tetrahedron

The man trapped in the middle is fighter Jun Guevara (often mistaken for Che Guevara,) and he’s locked in a prison fight with a trio of identical inmates. The three corner Guevara with two on either side and one above hanging on a wall. The gang refers to this as a tetrahedron formation due to its shape. To distract the ruffians from attacking, Guevara starts urinating on the floor, as none of his attackers want to get pee on their clothes. After he runs out, he takes advantage of the situation with a sucker punch.

It’s ridiculous even by Baki standards, and the same arc includes the protagonist groping an impossibly obese woman to antagonize her incarcerated boyfriend into fighting. Baki is all about these kinds of outlandish scenarios and relating them back to the core theme of martial arts. Itagaki is an extremely strange writer, and the off-the-wall storylines aren’t for everyone. However, for shonen fans who relish in absurdity, there’s nothing else quite like the Baki series.

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