One of the most notorious anime titles of all time, particularly due to its extreme, gory violence, has received a new installment this year, based on the homonymous arc of the second manga series.

The events follow the end of the tournament, with Baki, who is considered as the strongest fighter, functioning as a plain teenager, attending school and spending time with his (kind of) girlfriend. However, five of the world’s most violent and brutal death row inmates are gathering to face Baki, driven to escape from their impossible prisons by their will to taste defeat. Old man Tokugawa, the head of the underground tournament, seems to have something to do with the escape, and soon brings in some of his most beloved fighters to fight by Baki’s side: Kaoru Hanayama, Gouki Shibukawa, Retsu Kaioh, and Doppo Orochi. In a rather intense meeting at the underground arena, the convicts and the fighters agree that their fights can happen anywhere, thus erasing the chance of another tournament. As soon as their roads are split, the fighting begins, and no one is safe anymore.

Toshiki Hirano directs a story that focuses on the difference between fighters and plain criminals, with the fact that the latter are willing to use any trick in the book to win being highlighted a number of times. This aspect puts a direct dichotomy between the known characters and the newly-introduced ones, thus characterizing the first as the “heroes” and the second as the “villains”, with the fact stressed even more by the role the police adopts in the matter.

The first part of the series focuses on two of the criminals, Speck, who ends up fighting Kaoru, and Dorain, who faces off with Dopo’s team, while Yanagi has to fight Baki and Shibukawa, although for a brief time. During the ending of the series, Sikorsky also makes an appearance, while another character, Oliva is also introduced.

As expected, the battles are as brutal as possible, with blood and destruction dominating the screen a number of times, with the tendency extending to non-action scenes, where the former inmates just torture the people around them. Baki does not appear as much as one would expect, but the new characters are interesting enough to keep the anime going for all of its 13 episodes. The shonen characteristic of the prolonged battles, where flashbacks shed light to the people fighting are also here, and quite well presented, with the editing being in a very good level.

Most of the characters are huge and extremely bulky, with their images dominated by their extreme muscles. However, in his effort to incorporate this huge size, I felt that Fujio Suzuki spared much detail, ending up with a number of characters that look coarse, at least most of the time. Furthermore, the CGI during the battles do not work particularly well, with the movement of the characters occasionally looking quite unnatural, with Doppo suffering the most from this issue. The problem becomes more evident as the show progresses for some reason, with the last fights occasionally looking bad, although the violence, gore and the characters compensate to some point.

“Most Evil Death Row Convicts” is a fun to watch anime, particularly for the fans of extremely violent titles, while the ending of this part definitely leaves the spectator wanting more. However, a better attention to the details of the animation and drawing would have definitely benefitted the action, and subsequently, the whole title.

My name is Panos Kotzathanasis and I am Greek. Being a fan of Asian cinema and especially of Chinese kung fu and Japanese samurai movies since I was a little kid, I cultivated that love during my adolescence, to extend to the whole of SE Asia. Starting from my own blog in Greek, I then moved on to write for some of the major publications in Greece, and in a number of websites dealing with (Asian) cinema, such as Taste of Cinema, Hancinema, EasternKicks, Chinese Policy Institute, and of course, Asian Movie Pulse. in which I still continue to contribute. In the beginning of 2017, I launched my own website, Asian Film Vault, which I merged in 2018 with Asian Movie Pulse, creating the most complete website about the Asian movie industry, as it deals with almost every country from East and South Asia, and definitely all genres. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter.