I recently finished the Netflix anime series Baki. Recommended by the good guys who run the Manime panel at Anime Weekend Atlanta, my girlfriend picked this one out for us. She picked this right after we finished Kengan Ashura, another stellar combat anime series I recommend.
With that being said, Baki has its ups and downs. But I will say those downs don’t really hit until the end which I’ll get to shortly. For what it’s worth though, this anime kicks ass. The animation, the music, the character design, and even the narrative history on martial arts and other tidbits of trivia hit a high note.
For those wondering, this adaptation of Baki does not take place at the beginning of the manga. This anime begins with the Most Evil Death Row Convicts arc. The previous tournament arc is essentially recapped right in the opening.
With that being said, I would love to get to the point on why I recommend Baki.
What to Expect from Baki
Baki the Grappler is a martial arts shonen manga released in Japan in 1991. It features the young martial artist, Baki, who seeks to defeat his father, Yujiro Hanma, also known as the Strongest Living Creature. Having murdered Baki’s mother, he seeks revenge while training and fighting against many powerful martial artists.
Compared to your contemporary shonen anime, however, Baki is a great deal more violent and geared towards a more mature audience. Think more like Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure in terms of violence because it pushes on horror levels of gore. On the flipside, Baki also offers insightful trivia on martial arts, history, as well as some grossly exaggerated anatomical feats such as surviving bullets to the face.
The Netflix arc focuses not just on Baki but on a myriad of fighters. The Most Evil Death Row Convicts arc features five fugitives who escaped the death penalty and traveled to Tokyo in order to seek defeat. These convicts fight against Baki as well as his fellow martial artists including Doppo Orochi, Kaioh Retsu, and Gouki Shibukawa, among others.
Stellar Work of Animation and Narrative
Being released in 2018, Baki features some of the most cutting-edge animation. Many of the fights feature some incredibly hard-hitting blows and fast-paced fighting. Along with the stellar character detail, I can’t say enough good things about it.
Every fighter in this series is a true badass. Fighters like Biscuit Oliva and Jack Hanma are among the most intimidating people introduced alongside the already frightening Death Row Convicts. Not to mention some of the convicts are just downright sick in the head, like Spec, who will surely disturb you.
Baki brings a wonderful notion of dread especially throughout the first part of the Death Row Convicts arc. The villains are seemingly unbeatable at first and the fights involve a number of grotesque sequences. For a martial arts series, I daresay the level of violence might blow your mind.
A Couple of Drops in Writing
However, Baki isn’t a perfect anime. I feel there were a few studders here and there with the writing. Naturally, whether it’s the same as in the manga or not, I’m not sure. I certainly don’t fault the anime production team for bringing this to life. Regardless, the writing dips once during the first arc and essentially the second half of the last arc.
For starters, Dorian’s defeat egged me a little bit. He was soundly defeated by Doppo Orochi. Yet he retaliates in a sneak attack against Orochi only to be defeated quickly by Kaioh Retsu. As such, he loses his mind and regresses to a childlike persona. I don’t know why that was ever necessary when it could have ended at Orochi.
This problem also extends similarly to my least favorite arc, the Muhammad Ali Jr. arc. While the manga pays great tribute to Ali, his son initially starts off as an incarnation of Ali, but younger, in the Baki series. Beating down tough fighters using Ali’s skills, Ali Jr. quickly becomes a dominant fighter. Where does that lead us?
I will say, however, that the series pays tremendous respsect to boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
After his utter defeat, he is rematched by and loses to the 3 competitors he previously defeated. Suddenly, he’s going to challenge Baki Hanma and expect to win? After his inevitable defeat, he’s reduced to a crying mess. While I’m all for an arc where a powerful character is humbled and grows from it, nothing came of this ass-whooping that Ali Jr. received. It felt like a pointless direction. And to make matters worse, the arc ends on the cliffhanger of Baki and Yujiro finally going to battle.
The Ali Jr. arc in itself wasn’t terrible. But it didn’t live up to the Raitai Tournament and certainly not the Most Evil Death Row Convicts arc which I found epic. It still had plenty of gorgeously animated visceral scenes but it lacked the tension of the previous arcs as well as building up a prominent fighter just to drop him like a basket of eggs.
I especially enjoyed the Most Evil Death Row Convicts arc. I loved the premise of a life-or-death tournament where a battle could happen at any time. These frightening convicts with superhuman strength were fighting to kill and the series wasn’t afraid to gross you out with it. The latter arcs were endearing with their fights and animation but nothing quite hit like the first one.
With that being said, Baki isn’t perfect but it’s certainly worth watching. For shonen and martial arts enthusiasts, definitely give this one a watch. If you’re interested even further, seek out the manga or the older anime series to catch up on what happened before the Netflix series.
If big muscles, hand-to-hand combat, and gory deaths excite you, Baki will surely deliver. While I would disagree with the direction of writing in a couple of places, I still found myself entertained throughout. The Death Row Convicts and Raitai Tournament arcs were surely exciting.
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“I’d rather be dry, but at least I’m alive, rain on me.”
Fewer statements better encompass the overall sentiment of 2020 better than this one.
“This is about an analog of tears being the rain. And you know what it’s also a metaphor for, is the amount of drinking that I was doing to numb myself. I’d rather be dry.” Lady Gaga explained via Vulture
In Lady Gaga’s second single from her sixth studio album Chromatica, she gifts us with her first ever collaboration with pop princess Ariana Grande. The team up, in their twinsies fetish wear, elicit a sentiment that while they both share powerhouse pipes in the same genre of music, that is where their similarities end as they each have unique expressions of their musical personas. Together they demonstrate through their complimentary/contrasting vocalizations and personal style attributes that not only is there room for more than one fierce femme in the pop game, they would rather be pop sisters rather than rivals.
Musically the song is soft and upbeat, a contrast to the stormy lighting and set design of the music video. Yet Gaga/Grande conjure color in naughty neon pinks, lusty pastel lavenders, combining a sexy fusion of leather and latex punk with “pretty girl” fashion. By the end of the video Gaga/Grande appear as doppelgängers reminiscent of characters from the HBO series Euphoria, cool gals from the neighborhood that know how to get into dance clubs with fake ids, sexy outfits, lots of eyeliner and molly.
While many fans have been long awaiting a return to the avante garde Gaga we saw in the Fame Monster and Born This Way era (especially after the stripped down rawness of Joanne)Rain On Me is probably a bit more “mainstream music for the masses” than some would prefer. However considering Chromatica comes after a four year long hiatus between albums, returning with easy to digest, feel good tracks -is a smart move towards a sustainable comeback.
One must always remember when it comes to Gaga that while her sound passes as mainstream her intentions have always been to subvert the industry from within. Lady Gaga is a Queer, hard femme and judging by the esthetic choices in Stupid Love and Rain On Me she clearly doesn’t want you to forget it. Punk, leather and fetishwear all have their intersections in the queer community’s efforts to subvert gender norms and Gaga/Grande standing side by side as the hard and soft sides of the same femininity coin, owning their sexuality while defying expectations, certainly deliver subversion successfully. Futuristic fun was a fabulous choice in regards to makeup and hair styling, as Gaga/Grande’s flawless faces were BEAT to the gawds while they flipped and swished inches upon inches of rain slicked, gorgeous hair, stylishly serving dirty pop glamour.
Despite the somberness within the song’s message, the video invokes jubilation in its choreography, laden with some of Gaga’s (a former gogo dancer) signature moves. From arms waving over head and jumping up and down, to pelvic thrusting and hip grinding, watching Grande dance á la Gaga, was more adorable than any of us could have imagined. Clearly Chromatica is a place of great diversity as we see a broad spectrum of back up dancers in Rain on Me, just as we did in Stupid Love. It is almost as if the storyline of Chromatica is that of a planet within the universe Gaga presented us with in the Born This Wayvideo, as a continuation of the narrative (pertaining to unconditional acceptance and radical self love despite societal hardships) she started with it nearly a decade ago.
Back to the song itself, while some might find the repetition basic and blatantly reminiscent of Stupid Love, it gives both tracks a “song stuck in your head” quality that all hit songs have. In the case of Rain On Me, that repetition represents a mantra, a thought for meditation to recenter yourself and breathe. That’s what this song is, a reminder that no matter how difficult life is right now -if you are alive to learn and grow through it- you are winning.
This makes a truly powerful statement alongside a few others that resonate deeply to a millennial (born the same year as Gaga) like myself. In the opening verse:
“I didn’t ask for a free ride
I only asked you to show me a real good time
I never asked for the rainfall
At least I showed up, you showed me nothing at all”
There is a sense that the stereotype of the ‘entitled millennial’ is being confronted here with the sentiment of our generation’s reality; we were told we could accomplish anything if we just pulled ourselves up by the bootstraps and worked hard enough (while being held to the highest expectations) regardless of being abandoned to fix a broken world left behind by our predecessors with no support. While Gaga has been able to break through using the Boomer method, this feels like an acknowledgement of how challenging it is for the rest of us to do so as well.
Then we get to Ariana Grande’s verse which brings up some intriguing implications:
“Livin’ in a world where no one’s innocent
Oh, but at least we try, mmm
Gotta live my truth, not keep it bottled in
So I don’t lose my mind, baby, yeah”
These words really evoke an admission of being complicit in the systems of oppression that we are all guilty of perpetuating and the struggle to freely express yourself in a world of “cancel culture”. What makes this verse especially poignant being sung by Grande is the fact that the singer’s career has endured ongoing contention since her striking transformation after the cancellation of her Nickelodeon series “Sam & Cat” and the debut of her first studio album “Yours Truly”. Many critics of Grande have accused her of being a “Blackfish”, or a white woman profiting off her racial ambiguity, exploiting the “exotic” appearance of minorities who regularly face discrimination. Though Grande has repeatedly refuted these claims, not all fans have been swayed by her responses. Perhaps this verse is meant to serve as a reminder to leave room for her humanity along with our own as we all make mistakes on the path to finding our identity.
Regardless of how one might feel about the controversial careers both artists have held, ultimately this song with its accompanying music video is a showcase of the endurance these two women have acquired to maintain successful careers while navigating the pain of heartbreak, tragedy and loss in both of their lives along with the beauty that comes from releasing those tears while dancing joyously in the cleansing rain.
About the author
A proud Puerto Rican, sex positive sex educator, queer rights activist, burlesque performer and cosplayer, she enjoys playing D&D and light saber dueling while being stuck in quarantine. Follow her on Instagram if you enjoy geeky shenanigans.
I’ve actually lived half a life that if I wanted to learn about the latest music, I go to YouTube, Vevo, or Vimeo. ‘The other half before, I would go to MTV, VH-1, or BET. This isn’t one of those “yesteryears articles,” so don’t worry. You’ll be spared of any stories. I thought I’d talk about some of the ladies of YouTube that I’ve been occupying my time with, lately.. .If you haven’t heard of them, you might be glad you just did. Each one of them are very unique, even amongst themselves, so I think you’ll be entertained by my choices These are my Guilty Pleasures: Divas of YouTube.
Yeah…I know. You try to find a better word for “woman who musically vocalises or stylises well.”
Well, it worked! Lion Babe is actually the duo of Jillian Hervey and Lucas Goodman, and I thought it was a diva that liked to show off her handsome boyfriend in her videos. Jillian Hervey is the singer/dancer combo we have all come to know and love in entertainment, and Lucas Goodman is a producer. I think that he plays guitar and some other instruments, as well as handling sound quality, but there is not very much written about him.
As a style, I would describe them 2 parts Erykah Bahu, 1 part Beyoncé at her funkiest, and a big pat of Doja Cat for thickening and smoothness.
“I have been kicked out of my home for being gay. I felt that.” –Brooke Candy
Brooke Candy is a straight up succubus that found YouTube and said, “Bet! I’ll never go hungry for souls and sex again!” Background-wise, Brooke Candy is a rapper/singer, songwriter, fashion stylist, and director from LA.
According to Zheani, she was a fan that was contacted, groomed, and then lured to South Africa to meet Ninja (Watkin Tudor Jones), where he gave her drugs, alcohol, and performed strange sexual and mental acts both with and against her will at times. This was a part of his conditioning to make her a convenient human sex object.
According to Die Antwoord, Zheani has been called everything from a former girlfriend, a fan, an employee, and even a satanic prostitute looking to come up. Ninja said he had her flown to see him, but felt “catfished” when she arrived. Even though he was displeased with her, he had sex with her, became friends, and even hired her.
I’m not going to get into the controversy anymore. I felt that I had to touch on it for her background. As for the rest of it, much of the money she got for her career she got as investments from crowdfunding and what she might call “creative marketing.”
What can I say about Zheani’s style? Zheani sort of reminds me of an anime pixie with an angel’s voice, and a sailor’s vocabulary. She likes to sing and rap about having a good time and screams about the bad ones…but it ALL sounds great! Of course when she vocalises about lighter and happier things, the melodies of the music fit; it’s almost two different great styles. However, I think she really shines when she’s angry or excitable, like in “Powder Tuff” and “The Question.”
I get the feeling that her name is more telling than people realise, in the fact that the personality is somewhat of a product. When I look at the total package of Snow Tha Product, I get the feeling that she and several individuals sat down to think of the best YouTube personality that she could become…and that is the brilliance of who she really is.
Snow Tha Product is just as entertaining and addicting to listen to when she spits English or Spanish. She’s sexy. She’s bold. She’s even cute when she wants to be. (not nearly as often as I wish she was, BUT…that could be a part of her charm that just isn’t meant for me)
Trivia: I believe that she is a mother of one son (about 11 years old), and said she wanted to be a social worker when she was growing up.
We are all products of our times, in some aspects. They try to mold us by their rules. ‘What’s acceptable for race, sexual, sex, professional, as well as so many other relations. As we grow up, we push, ignore, and create our own norms. The distance we travel and the morals that we establish, much to the dismay to the ones that came before us, become the new times that contribute to, and judge the new future.
I’m sorry, I tend to wax didactic. ‘Back to Ashnikko. None of the artists that I’ve mentioned in this article can really fit in a box. No style of anything should really be absolutely uniform or predictable. Ashnikko practices this concept very well. She raps. She sings, but what is her style? That’s hard to explain, because not only would Ashnikko not be able to exist 20 years ago, (Such fusions of styles and images would be far too unfamiliar and incompatible.) but her style is understood without words, as her image is almost cliché…for the times. (Am I the only one that could see her dating Oliver Tree for a second, only to have him stalking her for the rest of her life?)
Ashnikko is a sign of the times. She is an avatar. She is Hip Hop with a Punk aesthetic, an weeaboo frame, a digital coating, and creamy inside that has a slightly more refined and aged taste than you would expect. Oh, and she smells female. She smells extremely female, which of course attracts other females. This seems to give her some amount of pride as well, despite not really trying for any male attention, except as a target for her rage for being mentally inferior. (“Stupid”)
Ashnikko: She’s NOW! Try some! You just might like her!
“I don’t have to fake it. Real recognise real. They already know.” –Jessi, “Who Dat B“
Ho, ho, ho! I had to write about this lady! She is the antithesis of many of the other ladies on this list! She is from the East, heavily dipped in music and culture from the West, and her love is serious! ‘Don’t understand? Just how Zheani surrounds herself in otakukawaii in “LULU,” Ashnikko is portrayed in “Tantrum,” and Snow Tha Product gets down in her kigurumis in “NoWhere To Go,” Jessi immerses herself in the Hip Hop culture…However, Jessi can argue that Hip Hop IS her culture, and her claim to it is legitimate in almost every way. Let me explain…
Jessi was bourne Jessica Hyun-ju Ho, and as you might have guessed, is a Korean-American rapper/singer and songwriter. In fact, Jessi was bourne in New York, raised in New Jersey, and moved to South Korea when she was 15…Yeah, she was pretty much USAmerican when she moved.
I don’t know how attitudes are in South Korea, but I heard that North Koreans have a serious problem with Korean-Americans, and that would-be idols have suffered for it in the past.
Just like her Western counterparts that adopted music and culture from their opposite hemispheres, Jessi is attracted to the more flashy and attractive attributes of that music and culture.
“It’s been difficult releasing music, but I remind myself that everything made in love must permeate and keep us bonded together in strength.” –Whitney Tai, April 13, 2020
I have been enjoying this woman’s music for some time, now. I have listened to her music break through the mold of time and trend, and become something truly timeless. Even songs like “To Be Loved” seem to have matured and evolved, when listen to, in recent performances. Whitney Tai sings with heart, soul, feeling, and true talent, separating her from a sea of synth and autotune in her own atoll of sonic beauty.
If this was 4,000 years ago, Whitney Tai would be sunning herself in shallow waters luring mariners into the foamy depths with her beauty and song.
While Whitney Tai definitely deserves the lion’s share of credit for her growth, she has worked with many people along the way, including an inner circle of similarly talented musicians and professionals in the biz. Men like Tim Janssens, aka Sunfreakz, and Andrew Kingsley have worked with her for years on many occasions, forming a perfect synergy both on stage and in the recording studio.
In fact, Whitney Tai and Andrew Kingsley also have their own group, that like Lion Babe, is a full partnership in music, completely different from Whitney Tai in feel and style: The 1905
Whitney Tai dropped her latest LP, “Apogee,” a couple of weeks ago. Her single, “Surrender” is enjoying rotation on some impressive playlists at the moment, and is receiving great reviews from critics and fans of music everywhere. Her single, “Righteous,” comes out May 12, 2020.
These are some of my ladies of YouTube. There were quite a few others that I enjoyed to some degree, yet didn’t quite find them entertaining enough to feature in this article. I even contemplated making this a two or three part article, but in the end, I just wan’t feeling them enough. If you want to check them out, feel free: Alice Chater, Nitty Scott, Bebe Rexha, AleXa, SoRi, Ängie, Qveen Herby, and Kerli.
Some of them like Alice Chater and Bebe Rexha sound somewhat dated and ordinary, while acts like AleXa, Ängie, and Qveen Herby should probably work well on paper, but also seem ordinary. I guess at one time, they would have been a little edgy, but you can’t just say “pussy” and expect be shocking anymore. You also can’t depend on trendy directing in a cool music videos to carry a song, either.
The one honourable mention that I wanted to be on this list was SoRi, but there just wasn’t enough recent stuff from her released. From what I understand, she had some small amount of success about 5 years ago, and she is in the middle of her comeback, but two songs are not enough to get a good idea of her.
I should say that I was impressed by what was out there, and both songs and videos were very different from each other. This speaks to me of hopes that her style is very versatile and that there will be different sides to her as an entertainer.
So what do you think? After you get a chance to check out some hyperlinks and listen to some songs for yourself, please come back and and share your opinions. Share and start some discussions. We would love to hear what you think.
Okay. Way back in November of 2019, when I was revamping the site and didn’t know what direction I would be going in, I decided this new article series be bi-weekly, but I’m going to publish it somewhere between when I can and whenever I want. ‘Don’t like it? Tough.’ Anyway, enough of that. Let’s get on with the goodies, shall we?
I came across Rico Nasty looking at Doja Cat videos. She was featured in a song with her called “Tia Tamara.” I didn’t really like the song, and video was just odd;not even cool odd. I guess I didn’t think their styles mixed well.
Anyway, from what I gleaned about her, her mother is Puerto Rican and her father a Black rapper from the mainland USA. Rico Nasty has been a maverick from an early age, getting kicked out of boarding school for possession of marijuana and developing her own style of rap based on listening to her father.
What I enjoy about Rico Nasty is that her songs are filled with energy, personality, and varying styles. I don’t get bored with her songs, and there is no gimmick to them. Where it is the rule of female MCs to use their sexuality in some way and in varying degrees, Rico Nasty could be a man and her flows, beats, and rhymes lose no cleverness. They also lose none from her being a woman. I think she might be one of the best MCs in the business.
I’m sure that most of you have heard about Poppy, but I never really wrote anything about her, and I thought it would be a good time to. For those of you that don’t know, Poppy (originally “That Poppy) is a living meme girl that originally spread on YouTube. She is the joint project of Moriah Rose Pereira, the person who performs as Poppy, and Titanic Sinclair (Corey Michael Mixter), and YouTube personality.
Looking at what Poppy’s channel has been putting out, I think that Poppy has something planned. Her videos have seemed a little “Illuminated” lately, and forbode almost planned cryptic symbols in them. Yeah…don’t mind me. Sometimes I just say weird shit, but this time it’s because I saw weird shit.
***When I originally wrote this article, it was in November 2019. Don’t ask me why, but rather than rewriting something when I find out new information, I like showing the process of thought and production, and favour amendments to articles…
Anyway, it appears that Titanic Sinclair has repeated past behaviours and has fallen out with Poppy as well. Poppy has stated that Titanic Sinclair used mind games and strange tactics to get what he wanted not only in the studio and project vision, but with Poppy’s heart as well. ‘What kind of tricks? How about threatening suicide when he couldn’t get his way and even physical, mental, and emotional abuse? (The physical abuse is supposedly public record as he was actually arrested for it with at least Mars Argo.)
Dr. Diablo and the Rodent Show
At first I thought Dr. Diablo and the Rodent Show might have been something cool, but the more I look and listen, it seems like a case of a famous couple that built some sort of media empire, broke up, and one of them tried to keep it up with a new partner.
I’m not sure who Dr. Diablo is. He’s out there for looking up. (Who am I kidding. I’m going to look him and provide a link somewhere in all of this. It’s what I do.) The most important part of this duo is “the Rodent,” aka Ratfink of Alien Sex Fiend, whom’s last project was something called “Vince Ripper and the Rodent Show.” (‘Seem familiar?)
Dr. Diablo almost seems forced into his position of replacement. In promo ads and pictures, it looks like his best attempt at looking fiendish and evil is looking constipated or being fucked by a gorilla with a giant corkscrew dick.
In the end I think the imagery is pretty cool, a throwback to the great rock shows of old.
***Yeah, I looked for info on Dr. Diablo, but I couldn’t find diddley. Who knows. Maybe he’s the money behind this act.
Duckie L’Orange is a fucking weirdo, but like most weirdos, she’s also a genius. Duckie L’Orange is a performer that not only specialises in entertaining children, but adults in adult fashion. Hailing from Germany, she is known for her strange and unorthodox style of comedy
I’m going to cross my fingers and hope she performs here in The States.
Bonsai Pop is a group of guys (Grant, Mike, Tyler, and Ryan) that write retrospectives on anime and their influences on pop culture. Their pieces are very insightful, and the a part of the reason that I watch YouTube more than actual television and cable.
Bonsai Pop does a great job at disassembling their subject matter not only by plot, language, or other aspects of literary storytelling, but by explaining other intangible feelings that most of us felt watching these anime, as well as what the creators might have been trying to express.
Another part of their appeal is that they do not just pander to new anime, but anime from the turn of the century and before. (I find many new anime lacking in many areas.)
Other than that, I wanted to also share some new media. (Well, it was a lot newer in November, but I’m sure some of this is new to some of you.)
Midnight Pulp is a streaming service for “All Things Strange.” Right off the bat, I gotta tell you that this reminds me a lot of the vibe I used to get from watching Night Flight late at night and being introduced to Indie films as well as the strange in Hollywood.
Well, while I don’t think that Midnight Pulp is as big on the Indie tip as Night Flight was in the day, they showcase some great gems from all cult corners of cinema, including sci-fi and kung-fu.
Their collections are even grouped by innovators in acting, writing, and directing.
If you do not know what Tubi is, then you are missing out. Tubi is a streaming service that shows great movies, television series, documentaries, and mockumentaries for free.
Their video selection reminds me a lot of when Netflix was new, not featuring new movies from the last couple of years, but they do have some great ones from 3 or more years. Tubi has a lot of horror and great B movies from the 70’s-10’s.