Baki Hanma VS Kengan Ashura Review

It’s not often that two wildly popular anime go head-to-head against one another in an animated film. Animated by TMS Entertainment, Baki Hanma VS Kengan Ashura is as advertised: a crossover movie where the fearsome fighters from one series square off against their counterparts from the other – key among them the eponymous Baki Hanma and Kengan Ashura’s brazen protagonist, Ohma Tokita. Although the movie has the potential to be the anime equivalent of Godzilla vs. Kong, its execution struggles to fully live up to its own hype.

Whereas Kengan’s cast is viewed as the away team of young gimmicky upstarts, Baki’s ensemble cast is presented as a scary veteran group of underground martial arts legends. This comes as no surprise, considering that Baki has more episodes and tournament arcs under its belt. Kengan still hasn’t finished its first tournament arc after two seasons, and Ohma has yet to realize his full potential. This results in a film that’s saddled with creating an even playing field, treating what could be compelling blood feuds as friendly exhibitions without stakes or intrigue.

Regardless, Baki Hanma VS Kengan Ashura teases the gravity of its main event with all the pomp and circumstance it deserves. Baki and Ohma encounter each other by chance during a morning jog, and when their eyes meet, it sets off an earthquake. Likewise, the rest of the film’s bouts do a serviceable job of hyping up each anime’s respective fighters with over-the-top flashbacks and letting each competitor have their moment in the spotlight (even if the outcome is a foregone conclusion). Every one of Baki VS Kengan Ashura’s dream match-ups is loaded with gruesome body horror, pop-off-worthy knockouts, and unorthodox technique. What’s more, each bout contains easy-to-follow action thanks to the exaggerated articulation of Baki Hanma’s titular fight choreography.

Although Baki Hanma VS Kengan Ashura wisely utilizes the former’s 2D art style and Kengen Ashura’s thrilling metal soundtrack, the rest of the film is stingy with a key ingredient that makes both shows feel special: their eccentric narrators. In lieu of the narrators’ pseudo-scientific exclamations and engrossing expository factoids, we get play-by-play and color commentary from the peanut gallery of fighters. While this provides some candid interactions between the assembled ensembles of each series, it staggers the ebb and flow of combat each show is known for. Coupled with an overabundance of cutaway gags – where characters critique each other’s physiques, engage in impromptu arm wrestling contests, and play a game of chicken in the bathroom – this deflates the revelry of Baki Hanma VS Kengan Ashura’s brawls, rather than accentuating them.

Worse, this culminates in the film’s main event feeling like a disjointed assortment of signature moves in quick succession without much connective tissue to make their impact feel cohesive. This becomes particularly grating when the film’s frivolous asides to side characters—whose comedic punchlines aren’t worth the effort put into them—cut into the three dream matches the film has to offer in its hour-long runtime.


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