Location: United States
The problem with Baki the Grappler
Keisuke Itagaki tries so hard to subvert shonen tropes, that's he's effectively painted himself into a corner.
Baki essentially threw its nose up at concepts like "honor", or "worthy adversaries", or the worth of effort. A guy loses a fight, and he could simply refuse to accept it and jump the guy who beat him. And THAT loss can be ignored and result in even more fighting.
The Prisoner arc was known for this. The problem with this philosophy, is you start questioning why even bother keeping the pretext of martial arts? If you follow the logic of winning at any cost and never losing if you refuse to accept it to its logical conclusion, then where do you draw the line?
Keisuke Itagaki himself doesn't seem to know. On one hand Baki will be scolded for refusing to accept a defeat in the ring, after his opponent refused to accept a loss and jumped him. Or Baki will be shame for a "defeat" by sneak attack. And yet Doppo and Shibukawa flat out refuse to accept a loss to Ali Jr. They don't merely avenge their losses, they claim they never counted.
This kind of thing keeps you from really being invested, because there are no real stakes. Why should I care about who wins or loses, or define what a win or loss even is. when the story itself doesn't?
Heck, why do these people even ban guns? Would they even enforce the rule if someone broke it, or would they bs rationalize a one time exception?
And then there's Yujiro. The strongest martial artist who somehow has zero discipline (How did he even get so strong? Who was his master?), zero code of conduct, and practically seems a nihilist. He stands for absolutely nothing, has no real ambition, and exists to tear down the latest final boss. Baki will never, ever surpass him, nor will anyone in the series.
Which makes him the dullest, most pointless badass ever. No growth, no arc, no real point to the character.
I used to love Baki, the early arcs were great, but it's become formulaic and predictable and stale. Ironically, given Itagaki's efforts at breaking new ground.