|“||Even when I'm sleeping, sick or with a woman in bed... Throw me your best shot first and I won't even block it.||”|
– Kaoru Hanayama to Bunnoshin's Master.
Kaoru Hanayama (花山 薫, Hanayama Kaoru) is a major character from the anime and manga series of Baki the Grappler. He is known as the strongest Yakuza in Japan, and one of the strongest characters from the series. He is the second generation boss of the Hanayama Group. He has scars from multiple wounds on his body, and his full-back tattoo looks like a jigsaw puzzle due to the many scars.
Kaoru Hanayama is the 19-year-old leader of the Yakuza. He is a taciturn and proud fighter. His code of honor is to choose not to fall in battle even if it means his death; a family vow which has been held in the long tradition passed from generations. Even after 3 direct strikes from Katsumi Orochi, he still chose not to fall and chose to risk death. Katsumi even admitted that he lost the battle to him despite officially winning the match. Hanayama is also very silent and stoic ironically much like Yuujiro himself as he mostly only listens and only speaks what is necessary when confronting someone, especially during combat.
He is looked upon as an older brother figure to Baki Hanma, often appearing to comfort Baki and reassure him when needed. Originally seeking to fight Baki as a way to get Yuujiro's attention, and only after being beaten by him do they become good friends. This is best shown during the manga second series, wherein Hanayama ruthlessly grabs Spec by the face and forces him away from Kozue Matsumoto and Baki, who were having a nice romantic date. Despite his harsh and cold way of being, Baki is not the only person that Hanayama can show his affection and care for. During the Maximum Tournament, he met Chiharu Shiba, whom he began to respect because of his unusual style and insane fighting spirit. Not only does he start to consider him a friend, but he probably began working with him in the gangster sphere (it can be seen in the later parts of the manga). His long-time companion and diplomat is Kizaki, to whom Hanayama usually shows no emotions. However, it can be interpreted that he greatly appreciates his service as they have been accompanying each other for so many years. Kizaki has been with him since Hanayama was a child and always shows him boundless loyalty. Also, Kaoru's act of pouring a drink over Emi Akezawa's grave suggests a feeling of love, but it is not known (the scene was shown only in anime).
Hanayama loves and respects his mother very much. She was terminally diseased with cancer, making her a feeble shell of her former self. Hanayama visited her often. He revealed to Baki that she was 35 years old, but looked 90 because of the cancer, and that he was jealous that Baki's mother was still alive and well. Hanayama's attitude to his father isn't very well known since Keizou died when Kaoru was a young boy, so too many of their scenes were not shown in the manga, and Kaoru never talks about his father.
Hanayama is very intelligent, being capable of effectively leading the Yakuza despite his young age, and knows how to effectively use his strength in combat. However, he is still able to be extremely reckless. For example, in the first series, he attacked Yuujiro when he was extremely beaten up and tired after his battle with Baki.
Kaoru is incredibly large for his age and very muscular. He has black hair and many scars across his face. Kaoru also has a full back tattoo named the "Standing Man" (侠客立ち, Otokodachi), that is given to each member of the Hanayama family in honor of the man who saved their great ancestor.
Kaoru usually wears glasses when he is not fighting and is almost always in his white suit. He also wears a blue undershirt and purple (later white) tie. He had an infamous showdown with the convict Spec, who manages to place a handful of bullets into Hanayama's mouth and slam it shut, causing them to explode his cheeks which creates two large holes on Hanayama's face and exposing a part of his jaw muscles. Although Hanayama won the battle, he wears a facemask for most of the series. His appearance has almost not changed in the five-year gap.
Baki the Grappler
As a boy, Hanayama's father was the first head of the Hanayama Group (see: Baki Gaiden: Scarface). Though not an unkind man his father was fully indoctrinated as a Yakuza leader and was fierce and strong but highly honorable earning the respect and recognition of several other Yakuza family's. Kizaki, a close friend of Hanayama's father discovered Hanayama's strength witnessing feats of strength the boy demonstrated well beyond that of most trained adults.
Kaoru's father, Keizou Hanayama, discovered his son's strength before he died in a gang war. As he was leaving, Hanayama's mother begged him not to leave, but he would not be deterred and smacked her. Angered by the mistreatment of his mother, young Hanayama grasped his father's arm with great force, asking, "Is that all?" His father knew his son possessed the exact same incredible physical strength he did and encouraged the boy to tighten his grip. In doing so, he caused pressure to build and the arm to explode, impressing his father. He left for his fight, confident that his son would be a great successor to the Hanayama group's leadership as he knew he himself would likely die in this gang war. Until the time young Hanayama was ready, Kizaki stewarded the Hanayama group and cared for Kaoru and his mother's well-being. He helped educate young Hanayama on the ways of Yakuza after his father died.
When he finally felt ready to assume leadership of the group, Hanayama was welcomed with open arms by every member. Kizaki being closest to him and, still respectful of Hanayama's father, took to calling him "second" as he was the second generation successor to the Hanayama group. As is the tradition at this point Kaoru is endowed with the same tattoo on his back all male heirs in his family were given of the "Standing Man". The story of the "Standing Man", is that of a lone traveler who was offered shelter by a noble family in feudal Japan. On the same night, a group of assassins is sent to kill every member of the family in a bloody coup; the traveler attempts to flee carrying a large bell on his back, but is cornered by the bandits. They attack him, stabbing him, cutting him, beating and berating him, but the man is unmoved and stares at them aggressively. Many moments pass until the leader of the bandits realizes he has been long dead. Yet still, he stood there with the heavy bell on his back giving them the same threatening look, taking it as a sign the man has an incredible strength of spirit the bandits leave their bloody deeds done. The next morning the body of the man is found by the remaining servants of the deceased family still frozen in the same pose. It is then revealed that under the large bell he had been carrying he had hidden Yakichi Hanayama, the youngest heir to the Hanayama clan. As a tribute to this courageous act that spared their family, it is tradition for every male heir to bear the tattoo of the fearless man who saved them and is a symbol of kindness, hope, and great spiritual strength to them all. It's a symbolic example for them to live by even in the dangerous world of the Yakuza.
At age 15, when Kaoru Hanayama receives the tattoo from a traditional tattoo artist named Horitatsu, however, he was unsatisfied with it. As his subordinates attempt to calm down the tattoo artist who is furious about the criticism, Hanayama leaves without them knowing. Kizaki panics and has every available member search for him, finding his whereabouts to be in the territory occupied by the Yakuza group who had killed his father. Fearing for Hanayama's life, they rushed to save him, only to discover upon arrival the badly beaten and bloodied bodies of the rival Yakuza group. Finally, they entered the boss's office to find Hanayama having beaten the boss but now covered from head to foot with scars; the ones on his body caused by blades and the ones on his face by human hands as he strangled the boss of the rival gang. Upon returning to the tattoo artist, he reveals his tattoo as the true "Standing Man", showing that he needed scars to show his strength. In awe of such an incredible act and revelation of truth, the artist bows in acknowledgment that Hanayama was right and possessed an incredible strength.
Hanayama represents his own group in the fight against Tommy Carbine who represents the Yajima group. Hanayama allows Tommy to give him a series of intense boxing punches that have no effect at all, and after a while, the gangster performs a devastating blow against an American fighter. Tommy is easily defeated by Hanayama with and Hitoshi Kuriyagawa then asks Hanayama if he will fight Baki Hanma. Hanayama is uninterested at first, until he hears that Baki is the son of Yuujiro Hanma of course, and he then agrees to the request.
When Baki returns from training in the mountains Hanayama injures Yuri Chakovsky, a professional boxer and friendly sparring partner of Baki, on the way to his fight in the ring. Kizaki and other gangsters come with Hanayama to hold Yuri seconds, so that the young gangster can get beat the boxer in peace. During their battle, Yuri bombards Hanayama with his best punches, but the gangster makes it clear that surviving these attacks is not too much of a challenge for him. Hanayama attacks Yuri and brutally defeats him, first destroying his hand with the famous Vice Grip, and then violently punching his head against the wall, and the boxer loses consciousness even though he has done his best. This lures Baki into coming to Hanayama's Yakuza office where Baki kicks his desk out the window and then proceeds to land a powerful attack on Hanayama. This sends Hanayama into a fit of rage because he has never been brought to his knees before and he destroys his own car with his bare hands to vent his anger.
Later on, Baki is stalked by Hanayama to a nightclub where the two proceed to fight. They land multiple heavy blows on each other, and Hanayama performs his Vice Grip move upon Baki's arm. However, in the end, Hanayama pronounces Baki the winner because of the fact that Baki hid glass within his cheek to shock him back into consciousness after being knocked out and Hanayama cannot fight any longer as he has no energy left and can barely even stand, leading to Hanayama respecting Baki. Then Yuujiro Hanma ends up dropping into the nightclub via helicopter and taunts both Baki and Hanayama stating that their fight looks like it's only just begun. Hanayama then stands up and makes a desperate attempt to take on Yuujiro, but is severely beaten, ending up with several broken bones. Baki later visits Hanayama in the hospital after receiving a note which Hanayama wrote with his mouth. The note tells Baki that he wishes to see him grow even stronger than his father Yuujiro, and Baki promises that he will make it his goal.
After Baki's desperate pleas for love from his mother Emi Akezawa and is quickly turned down as she has no place in her heart for anyone but Yuujiro. Baki is seen walking the street distraught until he walks straight into some common street thugs, they begin beating him up and he doesn't fight back. Hanayama appears grabbing Ma, one of the thugs, by the head and chucking him away, he then kneels down and places his hand on Baki's shoulder, comforting him without even speaking a single word. Later that night they're sitting together in Baki's house, and Hanayama asks who bit Baki, to which Baki tells him about his strained relations with his mother. Hanayama states he is jealous of Baki, explaining to him that his own mother had cancer and passed away, mentioning how even though she was 35, she appeared as though she was 90 years old. He makes a joke about how thin she got, squeezing his face to be thinner in an attempt to cheer Baki up, and says that even if he wished she could bite him, her teeth would've fallen out. He tells Baki that he has to win the fight between himself and his father Yuujiro, stating that he still has a chance. Baki then stands up, taking ahold of Hanyama's hand, and bows to him, full of emotion.
When the big battle day comes, Yuri and Hanayama come to help Baki with warming up before the fight. Despite their earlier struggle, both fighters do not feel hate for each other. At first, Hanayama seems to be slightly disrespectful to Yuri, who wants to have a sparring with Baki, but the boxer tells him that he has fought seriously many times in his life, and the gangster even apologizes for his manners after a while. When it comes to Hanayama's sparring with Baki, it turns out that both Yuri and Hanayama have no chance with a young martial artist. At some point, they even start to fight him at the same time, but Baki surpasses them anyway. Hanayama then witnesses the great fight between Baki and Yuujiro, as well a the tragic death of Emi Akezawa at the hands of the Ogre.
Underground Arena Saga
Hanayama appears for a while in the Underground Arena Saga. He comes to visit Emi Akezawa's tombstone and pours it with alcohol as a mark of respect. Later, he is shown sitting in a car driven by Kizaki, who tells his boss that Baki Hanma probably returned to Japan. These scenes are shown only in the anime. In the manga, Hanayama never appeared in this saga.
Maximum Tournament Saga
Hanayama appears at the Maximum Tournament, which is organized in the Underground Arena by Mitsunari Tokugawa. His first opponent in the tournament is Bunnoshin Inagi, a master of traditional martial art named Nihon Kempo. Before the match begins, Baki meets Hanayama and wishes him luck. However, the young Yakuza responds with a militant attitude, saying he considers the tournament as a war between his brawling style and martial artists.
Hanayama's battle with Bunnoshin begins with a demonstration of the strength of the two competitors. Bunnoshin tries to give the yakuza a head protector for the fight, but Kaoru takes it and crushes it in his hands. The yakuza, on the other hand, wants to give his opponent a blade for the fight, but Bunnoshin takes it and breaks it in half by hitting it with his fist. Hanayama starts the fight with a powerful blow, but Bunnoshin counterattacks with a quick punch to the face. When the gangster tries to perform an uppercut, Bunnoshin blocks it with his leg, but after a while, it turns out that Hanayama's strength was too great and Bunnoshin ends up with a broken leg. The Nihon Kempo master blocks another blow with his guard, but the power is so destructive that seriously damages the spine of the traditional fighter, who wants to grab Hanayama's hand with an armlock technique. But after a while, his spine completely bursts when he tries to straighten his body and tighten the armlock. The Nihon Kempo master does his best in the match, but is overwhelmed by the brutal force of Kaoru Hanayama and eventually dies with a broken spine. When the fight is over, Hanayama is stopped in the arena by Bunnoshin's master. He challenges the yakuza to a duel and calls him a brute, who has no right to be stronger than traditional martial arts. Hanayama explains to him his specific and at the same time simple way of fighting. Bunnoshin's master gives up, the yakuza says goodbye to his dead opponent as a sign of respect, and then leaves the arena.
In the second round, Hanayama fights against Katsumi Orochi, a young prodigy of the Shinshinkai Karate. The gangster starts the fight in a surprising way for everyone because he uses a Roll Kick in the air. At first, Katsumi disregards the young yakuza and allows himself to take a few punches from Kaoru. Later, he uses a few special karate moves against Hanayama, but at some point he starts to losing with Kaoru's great strength. Katsumi starts to feel respect for Hanayama and stops being so patronizing and arrogant as before. However, ultimately the gangster is defeated by Katsumi's Mach Punch. At the end of the match, Hanayama began to taking multiple Mach Punches, but he didn't fell to his knees. He took his last blow by turning his back on Katsumi, who hit him straight at the tattoo of the "Standing Man", making it clear to the karateka that honor does not allow Kaoru to fall to the ground and that he's as fearless as the man from the legend. Hanayama lost consciousness standing on two legs. When the fight is over, Kizaki watches unconscious Hanayama and calls his boss a "wonderful" fearless man. After a while, the gangster wakes up in the locker room and meets Chiharu Shiba, who asks Hanayama to watch his battle.
Chiharu Shiba, a young gangster, and admirer of Hanayama asks his idol to watch his battle in the tournament. Chiharu wins his match, but he's barely getting away with it. After the fight, Hanayama walks up to him in the hallway and embraces him as a sign of pride and respect. Sometime later, Hanayama notices that Alexander Gallen beats a wounded Chiharu in the locker room. The yakuza challenges Gallen in a short match, but after a while, Kaoru is knocked out with a suplex that smashes him to the ground.
Most Evil Death Row Convicts Saga
Hanayama was present when Doppo, Retsu, Baki, and Mitsunari met the convicts Spec, Dorian, Doyle, Yanagi, and Sikorsky in the Underground Arena. He later saved Baki from Spec when the former was walking with his girlfriend Kozue in the middle of the night. He battles the convict through immense pain, even when the latter smashed him with a park bench and made him bite down on several handgun bullets, blowing away his cheeks. Despite this, he continues to wade into his opponent until he throws Spec into some power lines, shocking him and knocking out the convict.
Hanayama heads to the police station to drop off Spec and was about to receive a drive home when the convict suddenly recovers, kills several policemen, and steals several of their weapons. Kaoru comes on the receiving end of many attacks, including the Tameshi Wari skill, a common tactic used by karate practitioners to breaks pieces of wood and rock, which places said objects just a few centimeters above the ground and strikes them with deadly force. Spec then pulls out a gun and fires multiple rounds into Kaoru's body, but despite this, the Yakuza boss endures. He manages to save himself from getting his head blown off by twisting his head at the last second when Spec puts the gun in his mouth. Kaoru then wades into Spec in such a way, that the only witness to see this, the policeman who was to drive him home Sergeant Tsuneo Katahira, claimed that it sparked his fighting spirit. Suddenly, Spec manages to cover his eyes before pulling out a stun grenade, surprising Hanayama, but not actually stunning him. The convict then gets him in a prefect Rear Naked Choke, but this only makes Kaoru bring out his trump card, the Vice Grip. He uses his powerful hands to snap Spec's left arm in two but not breaking it entirely off, and while the convict was recovering, he pulls out a piece of muscle from Spec's calf, causing the convict to scream in agony. Hanayama then uses his Vice Grip on Spec's throat, despite the convict thrusting his entire middle finger directly into his left ear. Eventually, Hanayama is the one who gets up despite both knees being shot before, and Spec is no longer able to get up and almost dies.
Afterward, he is later treated for his injuries and covers his face with a mask for some time. Hanayama appears at a meeting of the five main fighters at the Tokugawa's house. When the old man began to criticizing Baki for losing the fight against Ryuukou Yanagi, Hanayama gets mad and catches Tokugawa, telling him to be silent. Tokugawa strikes Hanayama's face with his little fist and starts crying, making everyone understand that he cannot accept Baki's defeat because of his obsessive faith in underground fighters. Then Dorian, one of the five prisoners, suddenly appears and makes a big fuss at the Tokugawa's house. Hanayama and the others are attacked by Dorian, which eventually makes blow up the place with a grenade.
Hanayama is an immensely powerful gangster who mostly relies on his raw physical power and his grip. His grip is so strong that if he grabs an opponent's arm he can usually cause it to explode from constricting the blood flow as he did with Yuri Chakovsky. When he was a child, Hanayama could break a bottle, tear a thick magazine, change the shape of the doorknob and bench a bottle cap with his hand. When he grew up, Hanayama learned to tear a chunk from a deck of cards effortlessly with his fingers.
He is also a fearless street fighter with many scars all over his body as proof. He was born already strong and he almost broke the finger of his grandfather within hours of being born. Despite that, he trains hard to become even stronger but didn't train his whole life like some others. He always takes attacks "head-on" and is shown to be incredibly tough in that when a group of thugs shot at him with guns they left him no lasting damage at all and simply bounced off. He possesses a very high pain tolerance as he was able to take punches from the convict Spec who had previously caused extensive damage to the Liberty Statue just through the use of his fists. He was also shown to be able to catch a Musashi Miyamoto blade between his knuckles and his back muscles are strong and durable enough to withstand several of his sword attacks. Later on in the series, he was also able to give Yuujiro a bloody nose, even though the damage was near insignificant to the latter.
During a strength test with Pickle, Hanayama's strength was compared to that of a Triceratops, a dinosaur that can weigh between 6-12 tons. Hanayama also fought a Great White Shark with his bare hands whilst underwater, and he managed to kill the animal by crushing its brain. His physical strength is great enough that he's the first human that Pickle recognized as a rival, instead of food.
However, Hanayama's greatest weakness is his low speed. Despite being able to move relatively fast when it's needed, he more relies on his toughness and his brutal punches and grip rather than speed as most of his punches are powerful yet slow. Speed-oriented fighters relying on speed like Katsumi, Baki, and Musashi were able to win against him with the latter nearly killing him. Also, despite his toughness, he is more vulnerable to his stomach as it was the only place which Musashi was able to cut from ten slashes he landed on him.
- Destructive Force – Hanayama's signature move; used against Baki Hanma, for example.
- Vice Grip – another Hanayama's special technique; used against Yuri Chakovsky for the first time.
- Headbutt – used once against Baki Hanma.
- Feint – used against Baki Hanma.
- Roll Kick – used once against Katsumi Orochi.
- Tameshi Wari – used once against Spec.
- Pinch – used once against Spec.
- Iron Claw – used against Musashi Miyamoto.