Based on the long running manga by Keisuke Itagaki, Baki tells the ultimate tale of old school mixed martial arts as many masters want to prove their manhood and their fighting style. Considering that the original manga debuted a decade before MMA found its identity as a sport, its base concept may come across as a little outdated but still exciting with non-stop action. A lot of the inspiration comes from Itagaki’s personal experiences in martial arts. When he was in high school, he studied Shorinji Kenpo and he was a boxer during his brief enlistment in the Japan Self Defense Force.
After receiving a medical discharge, he decided to become a manga artist towards the end of the 80s and hasn’t stopped making Baki stories since. Many characters featured are largely inspired by real life martial artists such as Kyokushin founder Mas Oyama, and Japanese wrestling icon, Antonio Inoki. Though the original Baki manga debuted over 25 years ago, the third anime installment hit Netflix during the summer 2018 season. So in addition to this crazy series that would never pass a World Anti Doping Agency test, what other crazy fighting anime titles would you like to check out? Read our list to find out!
Similar Anime to Baki
6. Megalo Box
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 6, 2018 – June 29, 2018
Megalo Box pays homage to Tetsuya Chiba’s original boxing manga, Ashita no Joe. As opposed to taking place in a post-World War II/pre-economic bubble Japan, it takes place in a steampunk future where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The sport of boxing is modified as Megaloboxing, where it has 3-minute unlimited rounds (meaning the fights can only end by KO) and fighters wear augmented gear to enhance their speed and punching power. Thankfully, it’s governing body allows all card carrying citizens to compete without any regards to age limits, experience, disabilities or weight classes.
As for our main character, Junk Dog, as an outcast of society, he isn’t allowed to compete since he’s not a citizen despite his true potential as a boxer. Since he needs to prove his manhood against Yuri, the heavy favorite of the upcoming tournament (and to help clear his trainer’s debts), he gets a fake ID under the name Joe in order to compete. So what makes him special compared to the other competitors? He refuses to wear augmented gear to prove that will and skill can overcome the odds. Though this anime isn’t as roided up as Baki, it certainly shares a lot of qualities in context to proving one’s masculinity through fighting.
Like Baki, Joe doesn’t fight for fame or money, he simply wants to prove his self-worth and defeat his rival. Beyond the fighting, Megalo Box shows that no matter where you come from, if you put in the hard work, you can achieve anything.
Megalo Box trailer
5. Hajime no Ippo (Fighting Spirit)
- Episodes: 75
- Aired: October 4, 2000 – March 27, 2002
Also based on a long running manga, Hajime no Ippo tells Ippo Makunoichi’s journey from bullied teen to Japan’s undisputed champion. Though the action is not as intense as Baki’s, many fans appreciate it for its realistic portrayal of the sweet science. Like Baki and most of the anime listed here, Hajime no Ippo proves that fights in anime don’t have to be about explosive energy attacks or punches with wind effects that can cause tidal waves. A boxer trying to find his rhythm by sticking and moving to set up his cross can be equally as appealing. What Hajime no Ippo does best in the world of fighting anime is demonstrating that the fight game is more mental than physical, and that applies in the real world as well.
To a whole bunch of people, getting punched in the face whether in the ring or on the streets is undeniably a scary thought. However, this anime shows even better than Baki is that the real scary thing about fighting is not getting punched or kicked, but when you can no longer breathe. Cardio is everything in combat and when you can’t breathe, you can’t move - and when you can’t move, you can’t fight. Finally, just like how Baki features characters based on real fighters, there are some characters in Hajime no Ippo based on real life boxers. Ippo is based on Mike Tyson, Sendo is based on Donovan Ruddock and Rocky Marciano, and Mashiba is based on Thomas Hearns. So if you want style and substance, Hajime no Ippo is a solid recommendation.
4. Karate Baka Ichidai (Karate Master)
- Episodes: 47
- Aired: October 3, 1973 – September 25, 1974
Karate Baka Ichidai tells the story of Ken Asuka, an anime representation of Mas Oyama, the founder of Kyokushin Karate, a style of full contact to its maximum extreme. Speaking of Mas Oyama, Doppo Orochi from Baki happens to be inspired by Oyama. Karate Baka Ichidai largely takes place between the 1940s and 1960s as Ken tries to find meaning in his life through karate, which he has practiced since his childhood. Though Doppo in Baki made his fame by defeating tigers, Ken makes his claim to fame by chopping off the horns of bulls on national TV just like the real life Oyama. While Ken does not keep himself underground like Baki, he travels around Japan and the world to not only test himself, but to spread the gospel of karate.
Though Baki isn’t educational in relation to the realities of modern mixed martial arts, Karate Baka Ichidai does a great job of educating viewers on karate both physically and mentally. Whenever Ken uses an attack, the shows pans to an actual footage of Oyama or another karate practitioner demonstrating that same technique to prove its authenticity. In the end, both Karate Baka Ichidai and Baki show that fighting and martial arts are not simply just a hobby, but a way of life.
Any Anime Like Baki ?
3. Koukou Tekken-den Tough (Shootfighter Tekken)
- Episodes: 3 (OVA)
- Aired: January 31, 2002 – April 26, 2002
Don’t be fooled by the official English title because it has nothing to do with the Namco fighting game, nor are we listing its awful anime adaptation. Tough, its original Japanese name, is based on a long running manga by Tetsuya Saruwatari, who made his break out through Rikioh. Kiichi Miyazawa, aka Kiibo, is training under his father in his family’s style of MMA, Nadashinkage-ryu, and he competes in underground MMA fights to prove his skills. In the same vein as Baki, Kiibo fights some opponents who take inspiration from real life martial artists. Just like how Kanji Igari from Baki is a spoof of Antonio Inoki (who fought Ali to a draw in a shoot fight), Kiba, Kiibo’s rival, also takes inspiration from the very same Japanese wrestling legend.
While the fights in Tough do get brutal, they are more technical and accurate to real life MMA in comparison to Baki, which mostly emphasizes on the insanity and intensity. The fights do come across as extreme for someone not used to action, but not to a point where you see joints dislocated and skin getting torn off. What you see in a modern UFC fight is pretty much what you see in this anime so if you love authentic MMA, then Tough is the anime for you.
2. Street Fighter II V
- Episodes: 29
- Aired: April 10, 1995 – November 27, 1995
Based on the OG of fighting games, Street Fighter II V portrays Ken and Ryu as teenagers as they travel the world to improve themselves after getting their butts royally kicked by Guile. As they progress on their journey, they encounter other characters from the game, fight drug cartels, and stop international terrorists hell bent on ruling the world. While the game is famous for gimmicky moves like the Hadoukens and Sonic Booms, the series doesn’t emphasize too much on that and instead focuses on hand-to-hand in its purest form. Just like how Baki features characters with bodies that make you think they’re on every steroid people can get from the former Soviet Union or Mexico, Street Fighter II V also has its share of cast members that make will make you feel the same way about them.
As presented in Baki, the fights in Street Fighter II V do get extreme. Every punch and kick you see is thrown with bad intentions. The fights excellently demonstrate that Ken and Ryu are black belts but when they fight Guile, it shows that Guile has superior experience when it comes to actual combat outside training or competition. This not only applies to the anime but in the real world where a street fight requires a different kind of mentality regardless of one’s accomplishments in the martial arts. Just like how Baki faces character from every style you can think of, Street Fighter II V stays true to the spirit of the game by featuring characters of various fighting styles to create exciting action sequences.
1. Shijou Saikyou no Deshi Kenichi (Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple)
- Episodes: 50
- Aired: October 7, 2006 – September 30, 2007
Coming in at number one is Shijou Saikyou no Deshi Kenichi, based on the manga by Syun Matsuena. Though the action isn’t as insane as Baki’s, Kenichi is still certainly for those that are interested in old school mixed martial arts. While this anime doesn’t exactly portray characters based on real life martial artists like in Baki, the presentation of the action does an excellent job of showing how one fighting style measures up against another. When Kenichi has his first fight against a karate practitioner, as opposed to striking against him, he beats his opponent by countering him with grappling, which was largely demonstrated in the first UFC events. Or when he fights a boxer, as opposed to exchanging punches, he stops his footwork with leg kicks, which are largely emphasized in Thai kickboxing.
While the action in Baki is more focused on the extreme brutality, Kenichi emphasizes more on the flashiness and techniques of martial arts like you would see in a Jackie Chan flick. While Baki has a much darker humor, Kenichi’s humor is more in-tune with what you see in your typical shounen series so it’s a bit more family friendly. Though they are similar in terms of foundation, their executions are distinct and fresh for fans to enjoy.
Shijou Saikyou no Deshi Kenichi trailer
We’d like to make some honorable mentions to Ashita no Joe, Fighting Beauty Wulong, Tiger Mask, Ayane’s High Kick and Hokuto no Ken. If you’re someone who loves old school martial arts flicks like Bloodsport or Enter the Dragon, Baki embraces the spirit of those classics but the anime feels like it’s on every banned performance enhancing drug you can think of (along with some tainted supplements). While some of the anime titles we shared don’t go to the same extremities as Baki, we promise you’ll get something exciting with the action portrayed in them. So what are some of your favorite titles like Baki that emphasize on pure hand-to-hand combat? If you have any, give a shout out in the comments!