Baoh: Armed Phenomenon

Many years ago, Viz released several small manga titles for short runs in the US, among them a minor work called Baoh. With a run of only 10 issues or so, it certainly wasn't a really popular title, but it was still OK for a story filled with psychic powers and strange, secret organizations. AnimEigo eventually picked up the video version, created in the late 80s or early 90s by the look of the animation. Unfortunately, Baoh is a schizophrenic show, filled with extremely graphic violence meant only for older audiences but also containing a few goofy moments that any self-respecting adult will snicker at. It's not terrible, but a rental at best.

When Baoh begins, we meet a young psychic named Sumire trying to escape the clutches of an evil organization called Doress. As she alternates between captivity and freedom while racing through a train, she manages to awaken Ikuro, another guinea pig that's just been exposed to a strange parasite. The two of them wind up evading the bad guys and getting off the train. As it turns out, Ikuro is a pretty normal fellow until he is hurt or enraged, at which time he engages the parasite, becomes Baoh, and turns into a blue-skinned monolith that can kill with barely a thought. Ikuro and Sumire develop a friendship, and when Sumire is eventually captured and used as a lure, it will take all of Ikuro's power as Baoh to rescue her and take down Doress for good.

Baoh is essentially Akira meets The Incredible Hulk. It's by no means original. However, it gets off to a good start, and because the animation is reasonable for its time, it's engaging. However, for this review, the immense amount of graphic violence made this a hard watch. Lots of animals (and humans, for that matter) get destroyed in intensely gory sequences reminiscent of the worst Fist of the North Star has to offer. It's not that I mind violence per se, but most of it here is gratuitous and unnecessary. It lessens the impact of the show because it eventually winds up over the top.

Meanwhile, about halfway through, Baoh does something incredibly stupid--it starts subtitling the attack moves and freeze frames them. It's beyond cheesy. It makes the viewer laugh during these intense action sequences, and it is just wrong. After that point, the show takes a turn for the worse. The ending becomes just a fight between giant warriors, and that's just not entertaining to me any more.

Baoh is a show that is competently made and faintly exciting, but it fails to engage on any meaningful level. I've probably given worse shows better ratings in the past, but those shows actually tried something new and different. Baoh is so familiar that I can't give it much of a rating. For those who like high-octane action and megaviolence without much thought, you'll get a rise at of Baoh. For me, it's one that will stay on the shelf.

Baoh: Armed Phenomenon -- graphic violence, disturbing cruelty to animals -- C