The 1930s were a time when many societies hit economic depressive lows, Black Tuesday might have been the start of the Great Depression, but it reared its ugly head and took hold of the lives of many people in the 30s, leaving them desitute and struggling to make ends meet. Yet, there were those lurking in the shadows that made it big and continued to live in luxury, a luxury entangled in blood, deception, and sometimes just by the luck of the draw.
Yes, I'm speaking about the original gangster: three-piece suit, gun-toting, aspiring rebel youths with an ambition and a resolve towards their respective families and causes. And they weren't simply that. If you've ever seen "The Godfather"; "Road to Pertition" or "Once Upon a Time in America" you would know that to step into the arms of the "family" meant unyelding support but also uncertain, relentless death. So bloody, twisted, and sudden that it made death seem like it wasn't the worst thing that could happen.
Baccano! is perhaps the first anime series that I've seen that takes the period of the 1930s and dives into the hearts of several gangsters, all with very distinct personalities - something that makes this stand uniquely from its peers. A pair of effective con-artists, a man with a lust for blood, a young man welcomed for the first time into a mafia family, a man with a secret, elongated past, a woman who fights alongside her "supposed" father, and even a young boy who faces torments worse than death itself. Put it all together, and you only have a part of the story that Baccano showcases.
Baccano's execution may throw some off a bit to start - handing 17 characters already suggests this series is devilishly ambitious, but yet it presents a rather looping story revolving around these characters that seem to "crash" into each other, whether knowingly or just by situtational connections. The storyline jumps back and forth between the years of 1930-1932 primarily, though there are treks to both the past and present in brief context. There's definite story here: it's mainly driven by the characters, and it's also driven by thematics that drive this beyond a traditional gangster story.
Does it execute well? On most points, a definite yes. The story starts along with enough of a blood bath of violence to capture attention on one hand, but also mixing humor, action, and intelligent swagger to appeal to those who like traditional gangster stories. However, there's a catch - there are elements of this series, which I won't spoil, that twist the tale as the progression comes forward-and revolve around the character identities that ties them all together-you can say it deals with alchemy, superstition, and a lust for power/domination. There's not just one story in Baccano, there are several, and they're all occurring in fragmented conjunction, some are precursors to certain events (the first episode, as confusing as it may be, is a good example of this), while others occur in sequence with other events. If this seems overbearingly confusing, then chances are that you may be the wrong audience for this series, as the fragmented method of storytelling is sequenced in each episode in pieces, some of which are expanded upon in further episodes and pick up "in medias res".
The definition of the characters helped the story along, but I found myself sometimes saying that the format also, somewhat, took away from the progression. Fragmented stories tend to fragment characters in a manner of snapshots, and thus backstories can find themselves, though told, awkward in presentation. With a series with so many characters, this can become a problem. Example, while Miria and Issac are two wonderfly comedic characters this side of a mentally skewed Bonnie and Clyde, there wasn't much to readily develop them. Then again, this series isn't so much about character development as it is about character definition. Those who take that into consideration may enjoy this series a lot more.
The ending of the series was all action driven, and leaves many threads bare which was something I didn't always like, but I liked the resolution in some of the relationships, some of which I could see well from the first of the series, while others...had only begun to surface in the latter half.
Baccano's animation is actually quite well done for a modern adaptation of a mafia based story. The setting backdrops accurately reflect Depression/Prohibition era America among other plot settings, yet one might find the character design a bit inconsistent in some points. I'm probably one of the few who really did enjoy the character design as it reflects the characters in a more realistic manner than most anime series.
I'd argue that the action sequences aren't nearly to the level of gun-toting seen in series like Gunslinger Girl or the characters as "pretty", but they feel realistically portrayed.
Baccano's soundtrack is one I would highly recommend to those who love Jazz music. Gun's and Roses "Paradise Lunch" is a nice "big band" opening that I loved watching with the opening of the series, fitting the style and sequence of the series to a tee. Noting the era this series takes place, it's relevant to the backdrop of the anime. The ending theme is a beautiful ballad: Kaori Oda's "Calling" fits the ending sequence quite well, and it's one of the best ending themes I've heard this past season. In-series music stands strongly rooted in the era, appropriate in both the comedic scenes as well as dramatic contexts.
The Japanese voice acting couples the effect of the overall cast by giving it much stronger hold than it would otherwise have. Coupled with the distinctive prescence of each character, their voice actors (particularly I have to give credit to Luck's VA, cool but quite mature) shape them well, but as I'll note in the character section, some of these characters didn't really have roles to fill enough for their VAs to help them.
There were characters within this series I really enjoyed watching, and others that I felt fell off the ladder because they were never really given a due chance other than standing in the pale shadow of other characters. It was something within Baccano I feared coming into the series about with the sheer number, yet, if you watch this series for more character definition than development, it doesn't necessarily take away from the experience.
Take Miria and Issac for example, off the wall, terribly hilarious duo of petty thieves and con-artists, and probably two of the characters that really drove Baccano for me in its overall course. They pretty much seem like a duo that's lifted right from a old comedy sketch routine, but with a certain backwards logic that makes them seem smarter than they actually are. Either by dumb luck or just clever wit, the two seem to avoid danger and live life on their own terms. Some may view them as a bit over-the-top, but for me they really carried the series in terms of enjoyment. You learn to love them, even if they don't have much backstory because that's not what brings out their characters, their sheer definition does.
Now compare that duo to Ladd and Lua. Ladd is a very defined character, no doubt a sadist that almost makes you want to chuckle at him at first..makes me think of a younger horror Jack Nicholson role (most people probably won't agree with me on that though) with tongue in cheek statements that make him seem cool and at the same time show how seriously insane he is in his lust for blood. Then put Lua into the picture, a female who doesn't really have much of a mark on anything except being the one Ladd pledges "to kill first"...in an almost twisted display of affections. Lua's character doesn't amount to much, she's just...there.
Compare Lua to Ennis, a woman with a mysterious past and connections within her mafia upbringing that lends Firo to look into her identity after a chance encounter. Ennis, I would argue, is one of the female characters that really stands out more than the other females, not necessarily for her combative specialty, but her characterization. In the scheme of the series, we get snapshots of her character. I actually really liked Ennis and Firo's chemistry, and considering how they meet and the events they face together, that made them also a duo that I really enjoyed. Jacuzzi and Nice were pretty much in the same way: Jacuzzi is a seeming crybaby who becomes a leader of a gang, and he becomes more respectable when he puts his best face forward, that by the end, I really did like his character. Nice is a kick-butt female character whom you can tell has an affection for Jacuzzi, but sometimes shortchanged because you don't see "enough" of her to balance her character with Jacuzzi.
Among the other "good" mafia members is Maiza, probably the only character with the strongest sense of backstory and the thread that ties all of the characters presented in the series together. His role has much to do with the hidden plot, and in one particular arc of the series, you find that he's not only a partner to Firo, but also one with a dark past and secrets of his own.
Other strong characters included Luck, well defined particular to his roles in his set arcs, Silzard, who plays the central conflictive role in the series in thematic and in identity, and Czes, whom one might dismiss as a bitter kid, but the series provides a bird's eye view into his experiences to see his reasoning.
Eve's pursuit of her brother Dallas was an interesting arc with its backdrop characters (particularly with Luck), yet I found Eve and Dallas' roles to be stronger when in conjunction with the stronger characters (i.e. a nice scene with Eve, Miria, and Issac later on in the series provided a few laughs).
Baccano! is a series with definitive class and style that is unique to most anime series in the present year, and one that I think many will enjoy for those factors. I would say it's among the strongest I've seen in it's respective action/period genre, yet there were some holes and characterization parts of the series that I felt weren't as strong as they could have been. There's a potential of depth this series could have achieved both with its storyline and even with the chance of "playing around" more with the period elements. Yet, I enjoyed this on quite many levels, and would recommend it. I definitely hope there's a second season to this, if the award-winning manga is any indication.
Baccano is a 12 episode action seinen anime set in 1930’s America. The narrative of this anime reminded me of the Tarantino movie, Pulp Fiction. It’s non-linear and follows a variety of characters, each with their own individual stories that converge at one disaster of an event, on the Flying Pussyfoot train during a cross-continental journey across America. My prior expectations were low, I didn’t think much could come out of a simple train journey, but the intro alone got me excited. And soon I realised what a masterpiece of an anime this is.
EDIT: Must watch with special episodes for extension. Extended review here
The quality is immaculate for a 2007 anime. There’s quite a lot of action, fighting, explosions, shootouts. I never noticed any hitches in the animation, though occasionally I noticed that the lip sync was off, the mouths didn’t move enough for all the words to be said, irrespective of language. I watched it in glorious 1080p of course. The minor complaint aside, animation style was also first class. Not completely unique, but it did what it meant to and managed to depict the atmosphere and essence of the 1920s/30s staunchly. The character designs are not all common and it reminded me a lot of Full Metal Alchemist, where is almost didn’t seem like an anime at all. Of course, a few characters like Maiza, Firo and Ennis are designed in such a way that seeing them reminds the viewer that this is an anime made in Japan. There’s quite a lot of blood and gore, from all of the action, I’d say they go overboard, but it was actually just fine. There are some scenes that may be shocking to some viewers. Things like torture and mutilated corpses. But then again, this isn’t exactly aimed towards the faint of heart.
Damn, the intro is so dang catchy. Very smooth and sets the 30s atmosphere for the anime itself. The outro is a bit different, chilled out and it reminded me of some other chilled out, yet containing sinister sub-tones, outros. The rest of the soundtrack is perfectly thematic, a lot of jazzy stuff that sounds like it’s from the 20s/30s. I don’t really need to say how much it fits the mood, they even have slightly comical jingles playing at the appropriate moments and thus sound design is immaculate here. Thing is, I don’t really listen to music of that era, as cool as it is. Thus I didn’t get the soundtrack.
Now the voices… first a quick rant. I’ve mentioned this in a recent review, but don’t be arrogant, childish dub vs sub fanboys (or girls). Especially those who absolutely refuse to watch any anime with English audio, they seem to be especially common and especially unreasonable. There are some anime out there, which the Japanese version is better and others where the English version is better. And there are some where both are equally as good (or bad), in which case no point watching the Japanese version, unless you have another reason for doing so (i.e. you understand it without subs). This is one of those rare gems of an anime where the English dub blows away the competition.
If you hadn’t gathered by now, this anime is available in English and Japanese. I watched it in English. Why is it so good? Because of the appropriate language used, the characters talk like they’re actually from that time period, using terms like doll and dollface (used to refer to women). The accent helps too. This anime is set in America, so I can absolutely forgive the American (butchering of the English language) accent. There are also some non-American characters which also have appropriate accents.
Wow, I haven’t written a sound section this long in a while. There are a ridiculous number of characters one could consider to be main characters. I was surprised to find out that Chanet Laforet was actually voiced by Monica Rial, might have something to do with the fact that she doesn’t speak much. Known names in roles include Brina Palencia as Ennis, Todd Haberkorn as Firo Prochainezo, J Michael Tatum as Isaac Dian (instantly recognised their voices), Jason Leibrecht as Luck Gandor, Caitlin Glass as Miria Harvent, Colleen Clinkebeard as Nice Holystone, Carrie Savage as Lua Klein. I’d mention the Vas for the other characters, but this section is already long, even without the usual list of VA roles in other anime.
The characters are the best bit of this anime and give it a unique charm. Among the many characters, my favourite (pair) has to be Isaac Dian and Miria Harvent. This couple of jokers (remember the intro?) are the comic relief in this anime and it doesn’t just stop with making the viewers smile either. The two look for riches at first, starting off digging for gold in a mountain. But they soon become a couple of costumed thieves, stealing all sorts from museum doors to cars. What’s mind boggling is the fact that they haven’t been caught after several dozen ‘jobs,’ especially since neither of them seem to be very bright. Their silly suggestions echo as Miria often repeats what Isaac says (usually that way around), though sometimes Miria gives Isaac suggestions. They end up stealing to help people and make them happy. They really are a couple of nice and caring folks.
Where to go next? Firo Prochainezo (pronounced ‘proc-en-zo’) is a young man who has just joined the mob. He’s a very nice guy, not the sort to punch first and is very skilled in melee combat. It seems to me that he has a crush on Ennis. Maiza is his best bud and the guy he had to beat in a knife fight to get accepted into the family.
Ennis is a mysterious stoic woman, who seems to work under the ruthless old man, Szilard Quates (pronounced ‘zil-erd’ and ‘k-wait-s’ I think). Szilard is part of a group of old men who wish to develop the legendary alchemist’s elixir, which is said to grant immortality and prevent aging. He also has an interesting history with the other characters and is most knowledgeable about this immortality.
Maiza Avaro is a man who is part of the mob which Firo has just joined. He is also somewhat mysterious and it is discovered that his skill in melee combat and his mystifying ability to heal quickly makes him the best choice to test out the new members. But of course, his story goes much deeper, and much further back…
Czes, short for Czeslaw Meyer (pronounced ‘chez’ and ‘chez-law’) is a young boy with the shocking ability to ‘not die.’ In other words he is immortal. For child, he seems awfully calm and secretive. Perhaps he knows something or is hiding something. He seems to be friends with the senator’s daughter, Mary Beriam. Though it looks like they are the only two kids on the train.
Next up, the nice conductor of the train, a man named Claire Stanfield. He seems to know the Gandor family fairly well. Working with a smile on his face, he offers the story of the terrible monster ‘the Rail Tracer’ to his passengers. The elderly man conductor taught him everything he knew about his job. Just a simple conductor or is there more to him than meets the eye?
Jacuzzi Splot is a wanted criminal. This young man runs a gang along with Nice Holystone (pronounced ‘neese’), a young woman missing one eye thus wearing an eye patch, who he has known since they were children. Jacuzzi is a shy young man and cries quite a lot. He always has a look of fear or sadness on his face, as if he’s about to cry. He also has a sword tattoo on the left side of his face. Despite his crying, he is a surprisingly capable leader and is able to wreck shops with Thompson machine guns, all the while bawling his eyes out. While he is a gang leader, he is a surprisingly kind individual, willing to take in folks with nowhere to go and even being willing to put his own life on the line for others. Nice loves explosives and is skilled in making/using bombs, particularly ‘cherry bombs,’ the archetypal spherical cartoon bombs just like in old TV shows and cartoons. She also has what is either a very large tattoo, or burn scars (I thought Jacuzzi’s tattoo was a scar at first). The two seem to care for each other too. These two characters are my favourites after Isaac and Miria.
Next up is Ladd Russo of the Russo family. This big blonde guy is a skilled boxer and decent with guns. It helps he’s part of the Russo family, since he gets many opportunities to kill people. He loves it, the bloodthirsty, sadistic guy can’t even properly show care towards his fiancée/girlfriend Lua Klein, as he claims that she exists solely for the purpose of being killed by him one day. He’s hot-headed and loves a fight, it seems apparent that he must have some sort of mental illness with his unique behaviour. He’s also funny at times too. Him and his gang aim to hold up the train, the flying pussyfoot and cause some chaos.
Another group of characters are the siblings of the wealthy Genoard family. Only Dallas and Eve remain, after their both their father and older brother were killed by the mob. Eve is the youngest and really looks up to her brother. She is going around looking for him and she even asks for the help of the information broker company. Dallas on the other hand has developed into a delinquent thug, going around being mean to people, both causing trouble and finding it. Dallas is wanted by two different mobs including the Gandors.
Speaking of which, the most prominent of the Gandors, in this anime at the very least are the three men, Luck Gandor, Berga Gandor and Keith Gandor. For mobsters, they seem to be nice guys who only mess people up if they get in the way or do something to annoy them. They’re after Dallas for some reason or other.
So, there’s two main events being depicted in non-linear fashion, jumping between the two. The first is the doomed journey upon the train, the flying Pussyfoot during 1931. I won’t spoil what happens, but there’s a lot of blood, gore and death. Various characters are onboard including senator Beriam’s wife and daughter, a prime target for hostages. Then a year later there are the events in the city of… erm Brooklyn? I can’t remember, so I’m making a guess. During this period is when the whole thing with Dallas Genoard, the Gandors and Szilard Quates occurs.
There are some mysteries early on, which do get revealed later. These are depicted well since they aren’t particularly predictable, though it does give a few clues here and there. Of course the overall story is rich and goes in a variety of directions, I’m amazed at how they managed to successfully involve so many characters in this one plotline.
This anime features some minor supernatural aspects, as alchemy and immortality are themes present. It’s not an easy story to grasp, I went at it with a slow pace and I’m still kinda clueless about a few things, though no fault to the anime itself. I probably need to watch it again, since the story happens in a fractured way. Thus this story is not aimed at a younger audience, due to the difficult and complex plot and I guess the extreme themes (though these days kids are fine watching gory movies). That's the onl;y negative I can think of, I founf the conclusion satisfactory, even though there's a 3 episode OVA sequel.
Baccano is one of those excellent anime that almost doesn’t seem much like an anime at all. If you don’t like anime or are looking for something that isn’t typical anime BS (aimed at a younger audience), then this is one to go for. I’d also recommend it as a first anime, early anime to folks getting into the media, since this shows what sort of interesting and unique experiences that anime can offer. I saw FMA in the recommendations and I’d definitely recommend this to folks who enjoyed FMA. However, this being a seinen anime (even if it isn’t officially designated so), it’s a bit difficult to watch, particularly for younger members of the audience or those who have difficulty getting their head around things. Maybe not the best anime to start with if you are younger or get easily confused. Thus it, just comes shy of a perfect score (no point in having the score if nothing can reach it).
BUT, stay tuned for my review of the extended anime, with the (sequel) special episodes.
Family-friendliness Rating: 4/5 Extreme themes and difficult narrative (lower is better)
Overall Rating: 9.5/10 (higher is better)
Secret Santa Review
Baccano! isn't the easiest thing to assign a genre to, so I'm going to go ahead and call it a "period action mystery." I mean, it's set in Prohibition-era New York, there are crazy fight scenes in every episode, and you have no idea what the heck is going on for the first half of the show, so it seems fitting. This is one of the shows that I've heard about for many years, but just hadn't made the time to actually get around to watching it until now. It's a critical darling, for sure, and now that I've seen it, I think I can understand why.
The show aired in 2007, and was animated by Brains Base. This was really their first major work, though nowadays they're known for Natsume's Book of Friends and Durarara!! as well (the latter of which is often compared to Baccano! since both of them are adapted from light novel series by the same author, Ryougo Narita). The Baccano! novel series has 21 books, and the first 4 are covered by the anime. Sort of. There were 13 episodes that aired on TV, and those cover the first 4 books. An additional 3 episodes were released on DVD later, which cover the events of book 14, which was released after the anime. So maybe that book adapts the anime... These three episodes are basically a coda to the rest of the series; the main plot wraps up in episode 13.
Story - 5
The year is 1930. A new kid is about to be inducted into a New York mafia family. A rich family's son is going around stirring up trouble. A couple of free spirited thieves start out on a quest to rob as many targets as possible. And a group of old men have gathered together to discuss ancient secrets.
The year is 1931. The Transcontinental Express train Flying Pussyfoot is on its way from Chicago to New York. A group of mafia goons are about to hijack it. A group of cultic fanatics are about to hijack it. A group of street thugs are about to hijack it. And passengers start disappearing one by one, leading some to believe that the "rail tracer" has appeared.
The year is 1932. Rival New York mafia families are shooting up each others' turf. A rich family's daughter is looking for her brother, who has been missing for years. A mafia family is looking for the same man, to exact there revenge on him. And reporters at the Daily Days are looking into the strange events that happened over the past several years.
All these three story threads are woven together throughout the course of the show, with the story's focus jumping from one year to another multiple times per episode. Slowly, all three plot lines converge towards their respective conclusions, and prove to be more interconnected than it seems... Baccano is apparently the word for ruckus in Italian, which is shockingly fitting. Not only is there quite a bit of commotion going on in each storyline, but the show itself causes a bit of a racket in your mind as you watch it being told so out of order.
This show is probably the finest example of achronological storytelling that I've seen since Memento. The stories from 1930, 1931, and 1932 are separate from each other, yet still completely dependant from each other. I haven't read the source novels, but from their descriptions on Wikipedia it looks like the books were told in chronological order, which would explain why each of the stories has their own distinct climax and conclusion. However, the achronological way the anime presents the stories is so exquisitely crafted that I would bet it transcends the books. The show has extraordinary pacing, with the lulls in one story broken up by the high action in another. And when they all reach their climax at the same time, it has three times the impact. It can't be easy to plot out three stories at once, but Baccano! never drops the ball.
Characters - 5
I love these characters. They're brimming with personality, they're visually distinctive, and some of them have awesome names. Like Jacuzzi Splot. How cool is that, right? It's really hard to pin down who Baccano!'s main character is, and the show knows it. At the beginning of the show, a couple of outside characters discuss who the main character of this story might be, and come to no conclusion. I tend to agree with them. The cast is quite large (which is immediately evident upon watching the opening), and everyone gets their moment to shine.
I suppose some of the characters do end up with more screen time than others though, so I'll give a brief rundown of them. First up, we've got Isaac and Miria, the happy-go-lucky thieves. They're not really the brightest, but they're very successful as thieves for some reason, and love dressing up in costumes. Next up is Firo, the up-and-coming mobster. He's good at fighting, and he's someone who's willing to put himself on the line to protect those he cares about. Ladd Russo is a psychopath with amazingly blue eyes. He enjoys murdering people in the most gruesome ways possible, and consistently threatens his fiancee with death. And finally we have Jacuzzi Splot, the really, really nice leader of a group of street thugs. He's also quite the crybaby, which only makes it easier to like him.
I'd just like to take a moment to discuss the background and secondary characters as well. Honestly, I think they're what contributes to the show's realism the most in my eyes. Plenty of people on the internet have asked "Why do all anime characters look like they're white?" and it's not entirely unwarranted of a question. Baccano! laughs at that trend, and then slits its throat. There are characters who are very clearly African-American, and who are very clearly Caucasian, and who are very clearly Asian even. The show is set in Depression-era America, and the racial diversity of the time and place is fairly accurately portrayed. It was nice seeing an anime set in America that looked like it was set in America.
Visuals - 4.5
Like I just said, I really like how the characters are portrayed as being from a realistic variety of ethnic backgrounds. On top of that, I'm just a fan of the character designs in general. Jacuzzi has a tattoo of a sword on his face, which actually comes from an awesome backstory. Ladd is shockingly blond with Elijah Wood's blue eyes. Isaac and Miria have their costumes they wear to do their thieving (mummies, priest and nun, etc.). Firo has his fedora and suit. The passengers of the Flying Pussyfoot are all fancy in their three piece suits. Everyone looks good, and most importantly looks like they belong in the 1930s. Even with the large cast of characters, it doesn't take too long to recognise them all by sight.
As for the backgrounds, there's nothing too exciting. They're certainly not bad, but there's no eye candy, that's for sure. Most of the show takes place either in the alleys or mafia dens of New York, or on the Flying Pussyfoot, usually at night, so any shots of the outside terrain have no detail, because it's so dark out. Brick buildings and wooden floorboards aren't that interesting. There were no problems with the background art; it got the job done. The major compliant that I have with it is how dark the lighting was throughout the show. I imagine that it was a form of minimal censoring, since bloodstains don't show up as well in a dark room as they do in a well-lit one, but it often made it hard to see what was going on. (-0.5)
On the flip side, the animation was phenomenal. For a show that can't go a single episode without a blowout action scene, they certainly never let the quality drop. All of the fights were smooth and (save for the aforementioned lighting problem) easy to tell what was going on. The hits felt powerful, and they weren't afraid to show them connecting. The everyday motion of the characters was nothing remarkable, but I never found it lacking. But man, I've just got to go back to those fights. I placed this show in the "action" genre for a reason. This is a violent show, and the animation really helps convey that. There's not very much CG used, and it doesn't stand out too much. The only time that I remember noticing it was when the Flying Pussyfoot was featured, so it can be forgiven.
Sound - 5
It's the 1930s, and it sounds like the 1930s. So much jazz. I mean, it sounds exactly like how I would expect the 1930s to sound. For some reason, the music that it reminded me the most of is from the Professor Layton series of games. I guess they use similar instruments or something. It's heavy on the brass and the piano, which is fitting for a jazz score. I don't think that there were really any standout tracks on the soundtrack as far as background music goes. I can't really picture the soundtrack very well by itself. I'm sure it's not bad for listening to, but I found that it wasn't very memorable aside from the general jazz aesthetic.
The opening of this show far outstrips its ending. Unlike most shows, Baccano!'s opening is entirely instrumental. The song is "Gun's & Roses" by Paradise Lunch, a band that I've never heard of before (though I guess that's not all that surprising, since I don't listen to instrumental jazz very often. Or ever). The accompanying visuals are quick shots of the various cast members doing their things (like Isaac and Miria dressing up as Santa and robbing a candy store). As the characters go about their business, the scene will pause and the character's name will appear next to them. A couple of characters get left out, but most everyone gets their time in the spotlight. The ending is "Calling" by Kaori Oda, which does have vocals. Unfortunately, it's really boring. The song is very chill, especially compared to the tone of the series, and the visuals are just the camera going down empty train tracks at night with headshots of the characters appearing. The episodes are so high energy, it just feels out of place.
Another place where this show really shines is the sound effects. Yes, I suppose they're subtle as well, but I feel like they're really effective, especially during the fight scenes. Like I've mentioned already, this is an action show with several fight scenes in every episode, so they really needed to put the effort in there, and they did. The sound design matches the animation very well; almost unnaturally so. Because they show attacks without cutting away, the sound has to make the listener feel the power behind each connecting hit. Not only do the punches and jabs and kicks and headbutts sound like they really deliver the pain, but the various weapons that are used sound great too. The guns sound deadly, the knives sound sharp, and everything sounds like it will deliver instant death. If you can't already tell, I was quite impressed.
Now of course we come to the question of dub vs. sub. Is the dub any good? Well... yes. It's actually very good; one of the best dubs that I've ever listened to. I think what really makes the dub for me is how in English, they're able to convey accents much better than in Japanese. At the very least, I can pick up on them better. It's the same reason that Hetalia should be watched dubbed. It's set in 1930s New York, so the characters should sound like 1930s New York mobsters. Major props to Todd Haberkorn as Firo for nailing the accent and to J. Michael Tatum for giving Isaac the necessary energy and insanity. The dub does struggle with casting for little children, as per usual, but it's not too much of a problem. I don't really have any complaints about the dub performances or script, and I actually prefer it quite a bit to the sub. There aren't really any problems with the sub, but the show is set in America, so the characters should be speaking English in my opinion.
Content - 4
Let's just get this out of the way right off the bat: Baccano! is a very violent show. It got its R rating for a reason. Just to give you a brief rundown of what to expect, here a some examples. Someone's fingers are cut off on camera. Human bodes in various states of mutilation are featured. Someone is beaten for information on camera and threatened with bloody torture instruments. Someone is shot in the head on camera. A shop is shot up, and people riddled with bullets on camera. Someone gestures around with their bloody stump of an arm. And that's all just from the first episode!
The violence only gets more intense after the first episode, somehow. A man is beaten to death on camera. A man is choked to death on camera. A man's throat is slit on camera. A man's body is ground away by the swiftly passing rail ties as he is dragged along by the train. A room is quite literally painted in blood: all four walls and the ceiling. This show is steeped in death and murder and pain. (-1)
There's pretty much no sexual content. A female's dress is almost pulled off, but it stays on and nothing is seen. Lecherous males ogle at the "dolls" around them. A couple kisses. There's even very little romance.
Several people are injected with a mysterious serum. Quite a bit of alcohol is consumed.
All language used is PG-13 appropriate. S***, H***, D***, that sort of thing, nothing stronger.
The main characters are all unabashed mobsters and rum runners and murderers during Prohibition. Most characters lie to each other, and a fair amount of extortion goes on as well. Ancient alchemists draw cultic symbols in order to summon a demon. A character talks about the coming judgement day of God. One character tells another to "stop that stupid praying" because "only stupid children believe in God."
Conclusion - 78
Baccano! is a solid show. Its chronology is an art form, its pacing is beautiful, and its characters feel like they're alive. Unfortunately, despite all my praise for the show, I can't give it a universal recommendation because the violence is just too much. There's a lot of death in this show, which is not inherently a problem. No, the problem arises when all this death is shown in graphic detail, without the camera blinking. This level of violence is not for everyone, and that's perfectly alright. Squeamish need not apply.
Reserved Recommendation (Violence)
I watched the streaming version on Funimation's website, both sub and dub. In America, the show can be found on Hulu as well.
When searching out anime with violence and decent plots I stumbled upon Baccano, what has to be one of the most original concepts in anime. Set in 1930’s America on the train the Flying Pussyfoot (Hardy-har-har) it is replete with awesome characters, great dialogue, a neat plot, and a neat way of telling the story that doesn’t actually confuse as much as it should. The series ability to portray so many varied characters, give us a compelling plot, and have absolutely no part that makes me cringe or groan, makes this a true staple for all anime fans.
The story jumps around a lot, but it doesn’t take a lot of brain power to understand the plot despite this jumping. There are about fifteen characters that are focused on to some degree and each one somehow has backstory and somehow comes across as different from the next due to the excellent writing. The story centers around the Immortals, a group of people who made a pact with some sort of devilish entity to have eternal lives. This is while they are onboard a ship, presumably heading to the New World during the 1700’s. The story moves to the 1930’s and focuses mainly on a train ride that goes nuts. There are mafia on board, there are assassins, there are immortals. It’s a hell of a set up and makes for some awesome action. The idea of an anime centered around this time period in America is pretty fresh, and it is completely different from a lot of the typical anime fare. This is, of course, based off of a light novel series. The ideas are just so cool though and you want to see this keep going and going as the plot comes to a satisfying conclusion, but there is so much more that could be told.
The story is just fantastic and one of the main reasons to stay onboard (I made a joke!) for the whole series, including the OVA’s. The show is relatively short at sixteen episodes, but it delivers with more story than a hundred episodes of Naruto can provide, and more compelling characters than pretty much every cookie cutter shounen out there. And with so many stories to watch play out, it’s hard not to find one that interests you.
Quality animation, that’s for sure. The character models all look good and the backgrounds look especially good. New York, Chicago, and the train all have an old timey feel that really helps create a mood and ambiance. Not that the thirties feel is pitch perfect, but I don’t completely expect it to be. It still has a lot of good detail. Fluid fight scenes also help the score.
When talking about awesome anime intros, Bacanno’s can be right at the top of the list. An awesome opening song along with a great intro animation makes you just want to watch it more. The ending song is meh. The music during the show is awesome once again and really fits with the time period. The voice actors are all good and the sound effects are good as well. No complaints here.
Isaac and Miria are the stand-out characters, though Ladd Russo is also pretty spectacular. All the other characters are great, but some just stand out above others. Every character is connected, though you don’t see this sometimes until later on so at first it feels like the Tad Williams Otherworld series. The characters don’t all seem to be connected, but as it progresses we see the connection. None of the characters are really emotionally attachable, none are seen for a long enough portion for you to care that much, but they each have great back story and some will draw you in more than others. You get to choose between young lovers, idiot thieves, mafia, insane killers, torturers. All kinds of good people. They add copious amounts of humor, violence, depravity, and awesome to the series.
This is not a perfect anime, as I may be sounding like it is. Chicago apparently has a lot of signs in Japanese, American books are apparently read Japanese style (backwards), and Times Squares biggest sign apparently advertises cup noodles. I digress though. It’s a great anime, but I will state that it will appeal to a certain crowd over others. Some may not like the setting nor the plot which can be a bit convoluted at times. It’s A-OK. Reviews are opinions of the author, not opinions of everyone as a consensus. But this does have a lot of excellent qualities to it. There’s a lot of gore, a lot of violence, and a lot of fun characters to stick out the series with. I can’t really complain about a lot because it appeals to me greatly.
Baccano is a 9/10. That’s right. Another nine in a one week period. I need to watch something crappy and quit giving good reviews. Readers are probably bored with me.
Next Review: Black Lagoon
Howdy fellow anime viewers. Its RandomRedneck again, offering my opinion on another show I've seen. You hear the words "Great anime" tossed around a lot. And every time someone brings up one of these great anime's, some jerk will swoop in and call it trash...bad news for you, I'm one of those jerks. And in this review, i give my thoughts on the supremely overrated spectacle that is Baccano. Let us begin shall we?
The story as it is, is some kind of confusing, leap back and forth through time deal. And due to way too many characters, some kind of stupid plot about immortals, and general bad writing, its a jumbled mess. And don't get me started on the flashback episode on the ship, that served very little purpose, and just introduced a couple of plot lines that are never explained or resolved. Creepy shadow demon guy? Yeah, he never comes up again.
Its passable at best. Nothing that wowed me (nothing about this show wowed me, but that's another matter). You aren't gonna be staring slack jawed at this shows animation, lets just leave it at that.
Its alright. That opening theme is a pretty catchy piece of work...ending theme not as much, but its not terrible. The rest of the score i heard is some typical, 1930's noir sounding stuff. Again, not great, but not terrible either.
Oh boy, this is the section of this review i was looking forwards to. If you've seen me talk about this show before, you know what the bulk of this part will be devoted to. But that will come in a moment. Characters in this show, excluding Ladd Russo and Graham Specter(Yeah, he's in the specials, but i didn't feel like writing two reviews, so i mentioned him here) are this shows big weak point. We have Firo, who i guess is kind of the protagonist...except he doesn't really do anything. He just kind of...is. He is such a bland character i honestly forgot about him sometimes. Jacuzzi and his gang...god, i hate that guy. Nice is actually another passable character, but not enough to really impress me. Chane...she's mute and has a knife. That about it for her. Ennis...just as bland and uninteresting as Firo. Creepy immortal kid and creepy immortal old bad guy...boring. Now then, the part I've been waiting for. Notice who wasn't mentioned up there? Yup. Isaac Dian and Miria Harvent...never have i seen two characters who can so effectively ruin what could have been a good show. These two serve NO purpose other than to be annoying, unfunny space wasters, who do absolutely nothing during the whole show. Comic relief characters are an easy thing to screw up, and boy howdy did they screw up with these two. Every scene with them made me wanna rip my monitor off my desk and toss it through the nearest window. And the kicker? Warning, this is a spoiler...they become immortal and don't realize it UNTIL 2001! And they actually don't realize, they are such morons, they assume they've been reborn several times...good lord, someone shoot me.
Boring, tedious, unfunny comic relief, bad story lines, characters that put you to sleep with how uninteresting they are...Baccano is best avoided if you like entertaining shows. That is all. Thank you.