Baki adopts a classic martial arts setup for its third season to bloody, bone-crunching effect.
This recap of Baki season 3: The Great Ratai Tournament Saga is spoiler-free.
Netflix’s bloody, bone-crunching, steroidal original anime Baki returns today, with another 13 half-hour episodes devoted to pugilism and family drama in all its many complex forms. Whether this is Season 3 or Part 3 or whatever seems to be undecided on by virtually everyone, but no matter — the run of episodes is collected under the helpful subtitle The Great Ratai Tournament Saga, and that gives away virtually everything you need to know about it.
Yes, Baki Season 3 — that’s what we’re going with — adopts the classic setup of a martial arts tournament, this one held in China as a once-every-hundred-years affair as China’s noble “Sea Kings” defend the country’s honour against foreign invaders. A ministry presides over the whole affair, and it’s a pleasure to watch their dismayed reactions as the show’s foreign martial masters consistently whoop the home team as they go about their own complicated interpersonal dramas.
Despite being named after the 17-year-old fighting pride of Japan, Baki is consistent about developing other characters — as it to prove the point, in The Great Ratai Tournament Saga, Baki doesn’t even get into a scrap until the second episode. And even then it’s a redemptive affair since he’s severely emaciated and spewing blood after early developments left him cripplingly poisoned. Nobody, especially not his girlfriend Kozue, wanted Baki to fight in the tournament, but he had no choice since his father, Yujiro, also decided to compete.
Lots of time is also spared for Mohammad Alai Jr., son of a rip-off whose hybrid boxing/MMA style he believes he has perfected. Bundled up in this character is a raw enthusiasm for the martial arts and the history of combat sports that continues to be reflected in the entire show, with a varied range of fighting styles being lovingly displayed in the over-the-top but well-realized animation. This is nothing new, obviously, since previous parts had a similar if less formal structure, but it’ll delight fans all the same.
And that’s what matters, isn’t it? Baki could never be said to be a sophisticated anime, but it is a fun and reliably enjoyable one, especially for fans of martial arts and over-the-top action. There’s a pretty simple way of determining how into this latest installment you’ll be. In the first fight of the tournament, a man gets his face ripped off. Sounds good? Then enjoy the show.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.