Baccano! Anime Review
Written by: ClayDragon
Immortality in the 1930’s. What’s not to love?
Baccano! (Italian for "ruckus" or "commotion") is one of those shows that no-one seems to have heard of, which is a shame, as it’s one of the best anime series I’ve ever seen. It started as a series of light novels written by Narita Ryohgo, and was adapted into a 13-episode anime series. There are also 3 bonus episodes that tie up some loose ends, but they’re not essential. The story is told non-linearly, and as such, there are three separate storylines, which all end up converging at the end.
In 1930, Firo Prochainezo (a young member of a Mafia family) gets caught up in a centuries –old conflict involving a number of alchemists searching for the Elixir of Life.
In 1931, a transcontinental train is attacked by one gang looking to free their leader from prison, another gang looking to hold the passengers for ransom, and a third group of delinquents who were going to attempt a train heist, but end up trying to save the passengers instead. Oh, and there’s a creature called the Rail Tracer that’s going around killing people.
In 1932, a high-class lady called Eve Genoard attempts to find her missing brother, who vanished after the events of the 1930 story. She ends up being involved in a conflict between two families who also have an interest in her brother.
And throughout these three storylines, two characters called Isaac and Miria get up to all sorts of crazy shenanigans, whilst also being vitally important to the plot.
The story jumps between the three years quite often, but the largest chunk of the action takes place in 1931. It can get quite confusing at first, especially when lots of names get thrown about, although the opening alleviates this slightly by showing and naming almost every important character. Baccano! has a huge cast, with 17 characters being given the spotlight (although some definitely get more screentime than others).
|Don't worry, only most of them are critical to the plot.|
On one hand, the ensemble cast is a good thing; each character gets a decent amount of screentime and development (with some exceptions – namely, Chane Laforet and Lua Klein). Also, with such a large cast, you’re bound to have at least one favourite, if not more. On the other hand, it means that some minor characters can get less focus, and subsequently you begin to wonder why they’re there in the first place.
Without a doubt though, the best characters are Isaac and Miria. Despite being fairly successful thieves, they’re so very eccentric it’s a mystery how they haven’t been caught or killed yet. To put things in context, they once planned to pull a museum heist. To do so, they needed to make sure no-one got in whilst they were doing the job. So they stole the museum entrance. As in, they unhinged and made off with the door. Because of their crazy personalities, they steal every scene they’re in, whether they’re dressed up as a priest and a nun, or stealing a lady’s valuable possessions so she’ll be happier (it makes sense in context... sort of). They’re easily the most entertaining people in the show, and it’s no surprise that many people regard them as the best characters.
|Believe it or not, this is one of their more normal disguises.|
However, some cast members just don’t get the screentime they deserve. If you compare Isaac and Miria with Ladd Russo and Lua Klein, it becomes obvious that Lua doesn’t really have a function to fulfil in terms of the narrative. Despite being the fiancée of one of the show’s most attention-seeking, larger-than-life characters, she hardly ever appears, and the one time she is semi-relevant to the plot, it seems like she was written in purely to tie up the scene.
The animation is done smoothly, and it accurately depicts the Prohibition-era backdrop. The character models are all unique and original (except Maiza Avaro and Luck Gandor, both of whom will look very familiar to fans of Bleach). It’s not nearly as fluid as, say, Fate Zero, but it’s still very well done.
|The resemblance is uncanny.|
The music in Baccano! is fairly normal and forgettable...except for the opening theme. It’s a jazzy piece with almost no lyrics whatsoever, and it manages to be one of the best openings I have ever heard. Anyone who likes jazz music will love this opening. The voice acting is also done really well – everyone has a decent Brooklyn accent (despite the fact that Firo’s VA lapses into his ‘Natsu Dragneel’ voice occasionally).
If you’ve been reading this review and thinking ‘hey, he hasn’t said much about the actual story’, the reason for that is simply because there’s so much going on that it would take a lot of time to give even a brief summary of each year. That, and each year has a good number of plot twists that I wouldn’t be able to talk about without spoiling the show.
|Oh sure, he looks innocent...|
All in all, there aren’t really any bad things to say about Baccano! Sure, the anachronic order of the first episode is a little confusing, and characters like Chane and Lua get barely any screentime, but these issues seem more like slight niggles than major problems when you’re confronted with such an engaging storyline and colourful cast.
Good Things: Large, likeable cast.
A decent amount of plot twists.
A rewarding, non-linear storyline.
The opening, but especially the saxophone. My god, THE SAXOPHONE.
The last two minutes of episode 13. Words don’t do it justice.
Isaac and Miria.
Bad Things: Some characters get less screentime than others.
|Go and watch it. Like, right now.|
Got any ideas for an anime I should review? Post your suggestion in the comments below!
ClayDragon is currently studying Physics at university, and is constantly bewildered by it. The main method of contacting him is his Gmail account at firstname.lastname@example.org. The alternative is his Skype account at kyleroulston1993. When not playing games or reading, he can be found with his head in his hands whilst trying in vain to understand quantum physics. He laughs in the face of (small to moderate) danger.