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Uriel1988

  • Oldenzaal, The Netherlands
  • Joined Apr 9, 2008
  • 25 / M

Baccano!

Jul 23, 2011

Baccano! is a series with a huge fanbase who see in it as a wonderful ensemble of colorful characters, complex web of interwoven plots and wonderfully jazzy soundtrack.

If nothing else, they’re right about that last part.

To the series’ credit. It’s certainly ambitious and refreshing. A story taking place in America during the Prohibition Era and juggling the stories of around a dozen different characters spread across no less than 3 separate time periods, spiced up with alchemy, magic, urban legends and immortal gangsters. Definitely something you don’t see every day.

Ultimately though, the greatest concept still needs to stellar execution to really shine. It needs a compelling narrative that knows where its headed and why, it needs to be inhabited by characters worth caring about and the content generated from a combination of those 2 needs to be presented in a properly thought out fashion.

‘Baccano!’ fails miserably in those areas.

The first major failing is the narrative. Baccano! is a series that presents its events in a non-linear fashion while at the same time jumping between the points of view of several different characters. This is a style of narrative that some works have used to great effect. Baccano! doesn’t. There’s no rhyme or reason to the way the series juggles its narrative threads and it soon becomes obvious that the answers to the major running questions will only be answered towards the end while everything leading up to it is pure stalling. Bottom line is that Baccano! is convoluted for the sake of it rather than having a fitting thematic reason for it.

This is made worse by the characters. They’re all, to be blunt, horribly written one-dimensional  caricatures whose entire personality and motivations can be deduced from their first 5 seconds of screen time. A handful of them gets something resembling a back story and rather forced attempts at development but the majority of them is there to demonstrate their 1 defining quirk only to prance off again while the focus shifts to another character ad nauseam.  Worst offenders are Isaac Dian and Miria Harvent, an eccentric couple of energetic thieves whose every conversation follows the exact same pattern. Made all the worse by Miria’s awful shrieking voice. Jacuzzi Splot, a shy ‘gangster’ who cries over anything and everything, is yet another example of such a terrible character. Made worse by the fact that he’s eventually made to look ‘badass’ in a way that’s so forced it’s impossible to believe, seeing as there was no character arc building up to it.

What further hurts the characters is how interchangeable many of them feel. What fundamental differences are there between Clare Stanfield, Dallas Geonard and Ladd Russo? All 3 are violent nutcases who’ll murder someone for no reason at all. What fundamental differences are there between Chane Laforet, Rachel, Lue Klein and Enis? All 4 are emotionally subdued women whose role in the story is defined by an obsession over a single guy. Isaac and Miria? For all intents and purposes, a single character. The series’ blatantly covers up a lack of depth with sheer volume.  Similarly to how the narrative constantly shifts focus to prevent viewers from realizing how bland most of the content really is.  

The third and final major issue with the series is the way it presents its content. Its portrayal of gangsters is so offensively glamorized that it puts ‘The Godfather’ to shame. It becomes outright laughable when the series introduces us to a character named Dallas Geonard who we’re supposed to view as a villain even though other characters acting the same are portrayed as slick badasses. Violence is used with such frivolity and frequency that it’s devoid of any narrative significance.

In contrast, I’ll briefly discuss a scene from the movie ‘’Pan’s Labyrinth’’. There’s a segment early on in that film where the main villain smashes a man’s face in with a wine bottle. It’s a powerful, important scene on several levels. It not only establishes both the character of the main antagonist as well as the tone of the film, it’s also shot in a chilling yet explicit manner that underlines the brutality of what is shown.

Baccano!, by contrast, is loaded with violence that is much more extreme than what is shown in the scene I just mentioned. There’s even a scene similar to the aforementioned one where a character beats a man to death with his fists. Only in this case there’s no impact seeing as we’ve seen him commit violent acts before. And that’s not even getting into the almost comical way that it’s presented. There’s no dramatic significance to any of it due to how frivolously it’s portrayed. This is made worse by how characters will opt to use violence for the vaguest of reasons. Many characters get hurt and killed over the course of the story but there’s never a reason to care. And once again the anachronic storytelling serves as a way to cover it up.

One can’t deny that the series has a unique style and a refreshing setting. The soundtrack is also wonderfully jazzy while animation is very solid with a number of fun action sequences. This, however, does nothing to remedy the glaring flaws: the non-linear storytelling is a cheap gimmick, the characters obnoxious and 1-dimensional, and the glorification of gangsters is downright offensive. There are powerful stories that feature non-chronological narratives or extreme violence. But these elements alone aren’t what makes them great. When taking an unconventional approach to a story it’s imperative that you think about how to best make it work. This is something the creators of Baccano! fail to realize.

Dictionary.com defines the word ‘ruckus’ as ‘a noisy commotion’. That’s a perfect way to sum up ‘Baccano!’ (merely the Italian word for ‘ruckus’). A ruckus that attempts to pass itself off as an opera.

2/10 story
7/10 animation
8/10 sound
1/10 characters
3/10 overall

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Rockzyk says...

Ok I will give you that the time jumps can be confusing, but there is almost always a reason for them. Generally they are jut used to either explain the next part of the scene of show what was happening from certaqin characters' perpectives. They change to show what this character was doing, or why this person got hurt, or what was happening on this part of the train while some confrontation was happenign elsewhere. I am being quite vague, but it does makes sense. After sitting down and thinking about it after I finished I fit together perfectly. 

The magic and alchemy parts are admittedly a bit silly, but it makes things a little more interesting. Otherwise the story would be one big history lesson. And since when did a lot of people die? I can't think of more than like 3 or 4ish major characters that actually died. As for the gangsters, I don't see what's wrong with them. They're rich, they where nice clothing, they're tough, they generally work underground, they can get violent and use intimidation, etc. etc. As for Dallas, he isn't even a gangster. He was just a delinquent who liked to pretend he was one and tried to fight the real ones. You can't compare him to them.

As for the characters you have it all wrong. There are flat for a reason. Gangsters do not just up and change who they are. They are gangsters and that's who they will stay. For specifics I can cleanly differentiate each character you mentioned:

GUYS

-Claire is an assassin who kills based on his own morals. If someone is trying to kill him, he fights them. If someone is messing with something in the realms of his own happiness of interest (aka killing innocents, messing up his train, killing his conductor friend) he fights them. Otherwise he leaves people alone. Hell he even saves Miria and Isaac. He admires bravery (aka Jacuzzi) and understands why people act the way they do (aka respecting and admiring Chane for the way she lives for her brother). He's not looking for violence unless necessary. 

-Ladd is the one whose characteristics you are giving to everyone. He is the bloodthristy one looking for a fight. He's rich, powerful, and motivated. He has reasons for why he does things, no matter how psychotic they are. 

-Dallas is a delinquent. He is no more than a kid looking for trouble. He thinks he has a right to everything, and he thinks he is more powerful than he is when really he just messees with people that will eff him up. He is not a gangster in the leat bit. He doesn't really kill people unless it just works out better for him. He'll beat people up if it helps out his cause. He doesn't care if the other people are dead.

Ladd's really the only one who is crazy out of the bunch. Claire just has his own philosphies that are a bit far out. However, they work for him. He is right since nobody can kill him.

GIRLS

-Chane is what appears to be a criminal with the "black suits," who are trying to get the secrets of immortality from her brother. However, she doesn't care about the kidnapping at all. She is just trying to protect her brother. Nothing more nothing less. And she can do it with how skilled she is a fighting.

-Rachel works for the information broker/newspaper place. She stole her way onto the train just to gather information and got caught up in the craziness. Again, nothing more nothing less.

-Lua is really the only insignificant one here. the only reason she is even important is because Ladd will do anything to be the one to kill her. If she gets in harm's way, he will do anything to save her. 

-Ennis is completely different from the others. She isn't even human. The old dude (whose name escapes me) created her. She only knows what information he gave her and nothing else. She does his bidding because she knows nothing else and she has the misguided idea that he cares for her as a daughter.

These women seem a bit emotionless, I will give you that. However, Chane can't speak so that takes a lot of emotion from her, and Ennis doesn't know emotions because the old dude did not give her any. I will give you Rachel and Lua are flat but they are very minor characters. 

Isaac and Miria are just silly comedic relief. The big joke is how oblivious they are. You don't become a genius over night so obviously they won't change. You see that when they make an appearance in Durarara. 

Overall I see what you're trying to say, but I believe you're thinking of things in the wrong way and that seemed to have given you a bit of a misguided and skewed idea of what happened and the overall anime. 

Nov 28, 2012