Special exhibition recreates Underground Arena to celebrate the martial arts series’ 30th anniversary.

Even though we’ve flipped the calendar page over to March, there’s still a bit of winter’s chill left in the Tokyo air. But on his recent visit to the Tokyo Dome City complex, our Japanese reporter Ahiru Neko quickly realized he had no need for a jacket, not because of the spring weather, but because of the sheer force of the hot-blooded, bare-chested machismo that he found himself surrounded by.

Saturday was the opening day for the 30th anniversary exhibition for anime/manga franchise Baki the Grappler. Hosted by Gallery AaMo, the first area guests come to after entering the venue is a collection of 180 original artwork pieces from creator Keisuke Itagaki, showing major events that have taken place in the long-running martial arts saga since it began running in Shonen Champion in 1991.

As impressive as these are, though, it’s artwork that loyal Baki fans will have already seen in the pages of the manga. But as Ahiru Neko rounded a corner, he came face to face with something he hadn’t ever seen before…

a statue of Jack Hanma, Canadian half-brother to protagonist Baki.

The statue is billed as “life-size,” but even by the standards of martial arts anime, Baki’s cast is drawn with some very stylized musculature. Seeing Jack’s proportions rendered in three dimensions, he looks as much like a monster as he does a man, and Ahiru Neko had no idea how he’d mount an attack against an opponent who’s built like this.

But Baki’s main character wasn’t going to be upstaged as this 30-year retrospective event.

After passing through a doorway, Ahiru Neko found himself inside a full-scale replica of the octagon ring of Baki’s Underground Arena

…and standing on one side of the fighting floor, ready and waiting in his combat stance…

…was Baki Hanma himself!

Baki might not be quite as bulkily buff as his half-brother Jack, but he’s still got a rather ripped physique. His calves, in particular, have a superhuman level of muscle mass.

Baki isn’t one of those series where the hero and his adversary exchange dozens of punches to the face, but the loser ends up with just a few dusty scratches on his face that disappear after he ribs his cheek. The series’ calling card is the brutality of its fight scenes, and sure enough, when Ahiru Neko looked down at the dirt floor of the arena…

…he found some fake teeth and finger nails, serving as testaments to the ferocity of fights in the Underground Arena.

▼ At least he hopes they’re fake.

Much of the crowd here is made up of illustrated panels, but one special attendee, Mitsunari Tokugawa, is also represented by a life-size figure.

▼ Ahiru Neko pauses for a photo with the manager of the Underground Arena.

After seeing the Tokugawa figure, Ahiru Neko thought that maybe the event’s organizers were done rendering Baki’s freakishly swole fighters.

He was wrong, though, because after exiting the Underground Arena and moving on to the remaining sections of the exhibition, he found Baki’s dad, Yujiro.

Yujirois often referred to as having a “demon back” because the rippling contours of his back muscles seem to be forming some sort of monstrous face.

And while it may not be life-sized, the statue of assassin Biscuit Oliva is basically a block of biceps, quadriceps, and several other muscle groups.

Other highlights of the exhibit include a detailed model of Baki’s rundown home

…the detached arm of Kaiou Retsu

…a recreation of the Hanayama syndicate office

…a championship belt…

…and even more artwork.

The exhibition runs until April 17. There’s no word as to what will happen to the Underground Arena after that, but fans can keep their fingers crossed that the real-life Tokyo Dome will decide to create a basement level 6 and install it there to mirror its location in the Baki manga/anime.

Related: 30th Anniversary Baki Exhibition in Tokyo Dome City official website
Photos ©SoraNews24
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