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Baki The Grappler, or simply Baki for short, is an anime and manga series created by Keisuke Itagaki that first released in 1991. The series revolves around the titular character Baki Hanma as he gets into various fights with powerful opponents. The driving force of the series is Baki continually finding himself facing increasingly stronger opponents, often against very large and physically imposing figures. The general plot of the series follows a cyclical pattern: introduce a tough, powerful figure, then show them doing a great display of strength, followed by setting up the reason for Baki to fight them, ending with a long and climactic fight.
The series first began in October 1991 with its first manga run. Though the first run ended in 1999, the series itself has received multiple continuations and is still in print today. Due to the age of the series, over 137 volumes of the manga have been written, making it the sixth-longest-running manga series by volume count.
Aside from the manga, there have also been multiple anime series made from Baki, with the first being an OVA released on August 21st, 1994, and the most recent released on June 4th, 2020, on Netflix.
Much of the online presence for Baki comes from the continuous nature of the series. As new chapters are released that continue the story, older chapters are animated and released as a new way for people to get into the story, helping Baki reach wider audiences across the internet. One such example is the /r/Grapplerbaki subreddit, which was created on December 20th, 2012, accumulating over 18,500 members in eight years.
Upon Netflix releasing the Baki anime series for its streaming platform in 2018, the series saw a notable resurgence online, especially in memes, which had a newfound source for high-quality animation stills and GIFs. There are two primary forms of Baki memes: ones that are from the anime and those that come from the manga. Typically, such memes take panels from the manga with new words photoshopped into them. An example of this can be seen in a post from Redditor BakiHanma18 on April 9th, 2021, which received 256 upvotes and 38 comments in five days (shown below).
The other variety of memes that stem from Baki come in the form of either still images or GIFs from the anime series, usually the Netflix version. Due to the sheer size of the characters and their physique, memes of this nature are typically either used with subverting expectations via a bait-and-switch (such as an imposing character being used for a cute meme) or the opposite with the intent being to show a strong character in a humorous situation. An example of the latter can be seen in a tweet from Twitter user @weebslush on December 19th, 2020 (seen below).