This is review number three hundred and fifty. This anime is part of the Summer 2007 lineup. The anime I’ll be reviewing is called Baccano. It’s a sixteen episode anime about a bunch of characters too cool to appear in Durarara. Who hasn’t heard of this series? Let’s just read on.
This anime follows the characters caught up in three different incidents. In 1930, the Camorra family of New York City meets immortal people. In 1931, the passengers of the Flying Pussyfoot train heading to New York City experience something unusually insane as three groups of hijackers fight each other for control. Finally in 1932, a young girl is trying to find the truth about what happened to her brother. They’re three unrelated stories, but they somehow connect to each other as you realize the characters might be connected to each other in some insane way.
Taking the Pants Off
Baccano is a special anime to me. When I first watched it, I was confused like everyone else. The overwhelming amount of characters in the opening sequence confused me a lot. Traditional anime shouldn’t have this many characters, and that’s the beauty of Baccano. It’s nowhere near traditional, and it’s one of a kind. By the time I finished the anime, I was totally in love with it. More importantly, Baccano taught me how to review anime. The twisted plot of Baccano requires you to sort it in your head and categorizing scenes to its three plot points as it progresses. Baccano’s approach has stuck with me so hard that I do it to a lot of my anime, and that’s mainly why my reviews are so different from others. I talk about plot points and sh*t like that, and I learned that from Baccano. It’s a great way to enjoy the anime and to dissect the show in a more technical manner. Re-watching Baccano is certainly a wonderful experience for me. There’s just so much to love about this anime, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. From the characters, the story and even the brutality, this show is certainly an anime experience you should definitely try. I guess one of the big reasons why you should try this anime is because it paved the way to Durarara’s success. The other show is going strong like crazy and the hype it garnered was created by Baccano. Durarara had a complicated style of storytelling as well, but Baccano certainly softened the blow. I think the author also learned a lot from Baccano and he improved his style with Durarara. There’s a reason why the story of Ikebukuro City is a lot more popular than the exploits of the alchemists aboard the Advenna Avis, and the former having three seasons under its belt is definitely proof of its success. The experience you’ll have with Baccano is unmatched though, and whether you appreciate it or not is definitely up to you, but it’s still something I urge everyone to give a try.
If it’s your fist time watching Baccano, then prepare to be confused. I think the show really wants to overwhelm its audience, and most of them would certainly just stop after the first episode. Others would continue on trying to figure out what the hell the show is about. As pointed out by the first two characters introduced in the anime though:
Yes, it’s up to you to choose the main character. Rather, it’s pointless to choose one because the story is told through multiple viewpoints. A single event is told through the eyes of different characters, and it makes the story a lot more complex than it should be. The interesting part is that we have a bunch of unrelated characters with different goals and motivations crossing path and making up the incidents that would make up the story. In other words, this is a very character driven story and the plot is really just there to give focus to each one of them. Every single character gets a time in the spotlight, and how they affect each other is what makes up the story. The first few episodes will really kill your mind as it erratically jumps to different scenes without any goal in mind. As I said before though, you’ll need to categorize the scenes to make sense of it all. When you’ve done that though, the show will still throw a curve bone at you. A story has a beginning, a rising action, a climax, a falling action and an ending. The show scrambles these events where the first few episodes might contain the ending and the falling action, and then it introduces the beginning of the story three episodes in. The audience is now tasked to arrange the story in order while also categorizing them. This is obviously too much for any audience, and people seeing it on a weekly basis certainly can’t commit to so much. This also aired in 2007 where progressive shows like these aren’t the norm, so a lot of people just didn’t really care for it. I think Baccano only pick up steam when the DVD was distributed, but it continued to gain popularity long after it aired. Watching the show can be daunting, but the characters certainly made it a lot more fun. After all, this is a show that emphasizes the characters more than anything else.
The show has three plot points. These are three stories told in the same show, and they are all a year apart from each other. 1930, 1931 and 1932 but the screwy part is that characters from 1931 also appear in 1930 and events from 1930 correlate to the story of 1932. Some characters appear in a lot of the timelines, and it also adds to the confusion of the show. I’ll be honest though that figuring out the entire story by yourself is a big victory in of itself. This anime is a challenge and anyone is welcome to walk away from it, but those that take it head on will surely appreciate what the show has to offer. Aside from the three main plot points, I guess there is also the event in the Advenna Avis that basically started it all, but let’s consider that a flashback and just focus on our three plot points. The first plot point is in the year 1930 as it follows a man named Szilard Quates trying to retrieve something stolen from him. He sends his henchman, named Ennis, after it but she crosses path with a guy named Firo. He is about to become a big shot at the Martillo Family, but Firo has taken a liking to Ennis. While she pursues the lost item, Firo is trying to meet with her again. What is the important item Szilard lost? They’re two bottles of wine that contains the elixir to immortality. Things escalate from here when the items are suddenly in the possession of a Camorra family running this fictional New York City. Szilard wants what is his, and he’ll do anything to get it back. If it means waging war with the mafia then he’ll do it with no second thought. As I write the events in a linear fashion, I realize that it isn’t really that exciting of a story. It’s actually pretty simple, but the focus isn’t simply on the elixir of immortality. Firo chasing after Ennis, Ennis befriending Isaac and Miria, Szilard freaking people out with his right hand, Dallas Genoard causing hell on the Camorra and Firo becoming a big shot at the Martillo family are all individual incidents that also make up the first plot point. It’s actually a lot more interesting than just knowing an old man is trying to retrieve a bottle of wine. All these individual events eventually cross path and it makes up the story of 1930.
I think the approach of the anime is focusing on the characters and gradually connecting the story. One episode might focus entirely on Firo, but then you’ll realize Isaac and Miriam are also in the same building Firo is in and they’ll eventually meet. After knowing the character’s backstory and motivation, it now connects to the larger story that makes up the first plot point. Isaac and Miria is actually the annoying enigma that adds to the confusion, because they’re also present in the second plot point. This is also my favorite plot point because a lot of sh*t happens aboard the Flying Pussyfoot. It’s a luxury train going to New York City. Aboard the train are the wife and daughter of a Senator Beriam, and a group of black suited individuals known as the Lemure Gang planning to kidnap them as leverage for the release of their leader, Huey Laforet. It’s a straight forward plan, but Ladd Russo of the Russo family syndicate is also planning to take the entire train hostage in hopes of getting some fat ransom from the train company and the government. As luck would have it, this plan came about after a group of punks started robbing the Russo’s and humiliating them. Ladd’s plan will repair the family’s reputation, and he also gets to kill some people in the process. The punk group in question though is also aboard the train. Jacuzzi Splot and his gang is also planning on robbing the train of its riches, but Jacuzzi suddenly got all fired up after hearing the tale of Rail Tracer. It’s a monster known to appear in trains, and it’ll kill anyone that hears the story. Yeah, the Rail Tracer is also on the flying pussyfoot, and you now have one giant clusterf*ck of a disaster waiting to happen when all these threatening forces armed with guns, bombs and flame throwers starts battling each other. Throw into the mix a couple of immortals that also starts causing some trouble in the train, and you have one crazy incident happening one after the other aboard the Flying Pussyfoot.
The 1931 story also has some my favorite characters just doing their own twisted thing on the train. Ladd Russo, Jacuzzi and Rail Tracer are all incredible characters that really make the story so intense to watch. Just like the first plot point, the focus is on the characters and how they got on the train. Their motives are explained and the show just pitted them against each other. It establishes how much of a psycho Ladd is, how much of a cry baby Jacuzzi is and how much of a sadistic animal Rail Tracer is. The fun starts when they start crossing path with the other characters. A kid is shot dead because he looked at Ladd the wrong way, and that’s just one of the crazy things that transpired inside the Flying Pussyfoot. The scrambled story actually looks great for the 1931 story, because there’s so much to cover in such little time. I think this story has ten characters in it both riding and not riding the Flying Pussyfoot, so there’s a lot to cover including the backstory of so many characters, the motivations of all the groups and the many confrontations it had. I think Ladd crosses path with Jacuzzi’s gang, the black suits and Rail Tracer before the story is over, and the same goes for the rest. Everyone meets everyone, and it took the whole length of the series to properly cover it all. It’s a good thing the 1930 and 1932 story is a lot easier categorize than the highly convoluted 1931 story.
The third plot point is the story of Eve Genoard trying to track down her brother, Dallas Genoard. The scrambled storytelling is interesting here, because we are also slowly discovering what exactly happened to Dallas in 1930. He crossed path with the wrong people, and he’s now gone. Eve is trying to figure out where, and she slowly realized just how much sh*t dear old brother has fallen into. You could say he’s drowning in it, but that’s just me. Her little adventure is pretty insane though. Learning the truth, she got tangled in a mob conflict, got a bunch of information brokers after her, and she even got herself kidnapped. Eve is unfazed though, because she really wants big brother back. The third plot point might be the simplest, but it does have some of the more well-rounded characters in it. Ladd is just a psycho, and his character is interesting because he can punch a guy to death. He literally did that in the 1931 story. Eve and Dallas are interesting characters, because they’re so different. One is a cry baby thug while the other is a tough as nails lady. One would beg for his life while the other would just close her eyes when a gun is pointed at her. There are layers to the siblings that I really like, and I honestly wanted to see more of them. The buildup to their fated reunion is compelling to watch just to see the two distant siblings be together again. Those who’ve seen the anime might be pissed at my statement though, but hush it.
The series ran for thirteen episodes, and the ending does feel a little flat. I recently found out through spoilers central, AKA Wikipedia, that there are actually three more episodes released in the DVD. It’s really nothing more than a little closure to the story, but it still continue on setting up the other arcs we’ll never see like the 1934 Alcatraz event and the 2001 cult thing. It does provide a happy little ending though featuring the two characters that started the series. Carol and Mr. Gustav opened the anime pointing out that the show doesn’t have a main character, and they end the anime pointing out that this particular story doesn’t have an ending. It feels satisfying, because the show stopped at the right moment. Unlike the series that had too many loose ends, the extra three episodes closed some of them and really stopped at a good place. It’s a good closure to an amazing series, so I suggest you go track it down as well. The extra three episodes are also worth watching for three things. One, Ladd’s little friend as insane as him that sports a large wrench, Graham Spectre:
Two, the reintroduction of Elmer and the wish he made to the devil. In the series, he fell in the water and the demon Maiza summoned took interest in him. The demon gave him one wish, and it’s revealed in the extra episodes. Lastly, Rail Tracer and Chane Laforet meet up again so Claire Stanfeild can finally have the answer to his question:
It’s worth watching just to see these three things. Now let’s talk about why Baccano isn’t as popular as Durarara. The later has three seasons now, with more than thirty episodes adapting the light novel. As a Baccano fan, I’m pissed off because I feel that it is superior to Durarara. For me, I think there are three reasons Baccano is overshadowed by Durarara. First of all, it’s clearly ahead of its time. As I said before, a lot of people weren’t buying the scrambled story. They just didn’t think it was special, and you’d have to understand the status quo back in 2007. This is the year JC Staff is at its high point with Shana and Zero no Tsukaima, Shounen series under 12-13 episodes are extremely popular like Claymore and Skullman, and shameless wish fulfillment shows like Shuffle are popular, people are going wild because of TTGL, and KyoAni is gaining momentum with Lucky Star and Clannad. Baccano’s style simply doesn’t belong. As I said though, the show’s popularity did gain momentum long after it aired but I think Durarara is already soaking it up at that point since they both have similar styles. Secondly, Durarara has a better story. I think Ryohgo Narita really learned a lot from Baccano. He admittedly didn’t really care about the story, and he allowed his characters to just shape it as they move along. The final product didn’t really reflect his initial draft. Claire wasn’t supposed to exist, Chane was supposed to die and Szilard was supposed to be a magician. As he kept writing though, he changed things here and there. Durarara is different, because it has a more precise story to tell. The storytelling matched, with the interesting character driven style, makes Durarara a much better work. Ryohgo also tried to make it more relatable to readers by making the characters younger. Yes, this is a big factor to why Durarara is such a success. The loner Ryugamine, the bad boy Kida, the sociopath Izaya, and the misunderstood Shizuo are characters that appeal to young people. I mean, you’ll like Isaac but you can’t really relate to him. I bet he jumps off the pages, but how many people do you think are willing to join Dollars because they can relate to Ryugamine?
Lastly, it aired at WOWOW. I remember this station was giving us progressive shows before it was cool. You could say that it had a hand at influencing the landscape of anime. Cowboy Bebop also aired here, and the show’s legacy only came after it aired, similar to Baccano. WOWOW has a small audience of mostly adults. The anime market is supposed to be geared at kids and teens, especially at 2007, so Baccano had very little exposure. It was a hit with adults but it’s not really enough. WOWOW is a powerhouse of strong influences though. Along with Baccano, I think they also had Le Chavalier D’ Eon, Kino’s Journey and “Now and Then, Here and There.” These are shows that had a soft reception during their airing but they’re now legendary shows that captured the progressive content most shows are trying to be now. I think WOWOW really took a gamble hoping that people would appreciate what it’s offering, and sadly the landscape just wasn’t ready for progressive stuff like this. I think WOWOW has stopped airing anime now, and I think it’s because their gamble didn’t pay off. Their approach to be unique has certainly rubbed off though, since we’re treated to so much great things now that easily breaks the norm much like a lot of great shows WOWOW aired throughout its time.
The characters certainly made this anime special. There are a lot of them, but the show really balanced them out perfectly. I won’t point out every character, because that’s insane, but I’d like to point out some of the stands out in each plot point. There are certainly some characters designed to be main characters while others are just support. Main characters simply have backstories though, but they still have the same role as any minor character in the show. For example, in 1930, Maiza’s role is as minimal as the two idiots playing with fire that burned Szilard’s workshop. Maiza is a lot more important though, because he’s a character given a motivation and backstory that is designed to cross path with other characters like himself. This is why the show doesn’t have a main character, because they’re not defined by their role. Their importance to the events is given more weight that what they do in it. I guess, in a sense, main characters act as more important ingredients to the story while the minor characters are just the stuff you add in later to make it taste better. With that being, let’s talk about some of the standout characters in this anime.
Firo is certainly a big favorite of mine. He doesn’t really do much, but he’s a suave son of a bitch. I also consider him the main character of the 1930 story, as he is the one that crosses paths with Ennis and Szilard that makes up the core of the story. He is easily overshadowed by the crazies aboard the Flying Pussyfoot, but I think he still shines in his story. He also has this weird thing with Maiza that I bet inspired a lot of fanfics between them, because some people are as crazy as those aboard the train. But the most interesting character in 1930 would have to be Dallas Genoard. He is a real troublemaker, and it’s interesting to see him rattle some cages because you can understand why a lot of people want him found in 1932. He f*cked a lot of people over, and he seems to love doing it. He doesn’t mind stepping on toes because he’s a bully, but he’s a stupid one. He’s someone you just want to punch, but the coward would still talk smack behind your back after you leave. I kinda feel sorry for him though, because he will get his comeuppance soon enough that triggers the events of 1932. Discovering just how many people he pissed off is pretty interesting, but how he disappeared is also something worth waiting for.
For 1931, Ladd would be the immediate stand out. He is introduced killing a bunch of people, and he did it for fun. His only hobby is killing, and he even spouts some unsettling stuff about how fun it is to kill. You’ll both feel uneasy and intrigued knowing that Ladd is simply just a psychopath. He’s a cool psychopath though. He claims that he dressed in white because he loves seeing it stained with blood. He is f*cked up as hell and the chaos he spreads in the train is simply fun to watch. You just can’t look away at the carnage this guy unleashes. I think the most unsettling thing about him is his relationship with Lua Klein. They’re engaged for some sick reason, and Ladd would confess his love by promising that he’ll be the one to kill Lua. The girl loves the sweet talk though, but her timid look feels unsettling to watch as she is so enamored with a psychopath like Ladd. I guess she just love bad boys like him, but what do I know? Speaking of carnage and chaos, Rail Tracer would get a blue ribbon for the sick stuff he did in the train. He is an assassin and his method of killing can simply be described as overkill. The show claims that it’s the only way he knows he did a good job at assassinating someone. When he discovered people are hi jacking the train, he took action killing a bunch of them in the most brutal manner. He is introduced to us first by the mess he leaves behind in the conductor room. It has a guy shot clean in the head and another body with his face just gone. The entire room is also covered in blood, and the look of terror on Jacuzzi’s face just gives you an idea how insane Rail Tracer is. He had a fun role at the extra three episodes, so you should really give it a go as well. As for Jacuzzi, he started off as annoying, but he does grow on you. The character backstory and motivation really served this character well. After all, how can you turn a cry baby into the most awesome character in the series? He is so well fleshed out that he becomes as cool as Firo by the time the anime ends. Hell, he’s even cooler than Firo through his backstories. In the extra three episodes, it’s revealed why he got a tattoo on his face and it’s really the one thing that won me over. Baccano is rich with one dimensional characters suddenly becoming well rounded, and Jacuzzi is the best example of that. I guess Rail Tracer is another good example, because you just didn’t expect the guy to be so gawd damn brutal.
In 1932, Eve is really the clear main character but I think her lack of intensity made the other characters standout. Eve is probably the most normal character in the series, so her story is the most normal as well. It’s also the best, in my opinion, because it had a clear focus. Her search for Dallas lands her in the most interesting places. The information brokers at the Daily Days Newspaper Company stand out in this story because they really did a lot of cool stuff in putting Eve in danger and getting her out of it as well. They’re clearly minor characters, but they did a lot of interesting things in the story. I also love the little bickering the two information brokers have trying to get on top of the situation. It’s not as insane as Ladd shooting a kid in the head, but it’s probably the coolest thing in Eve’s story. As I said before, I do like Eve’s character but mainly because I think her reunion with Dallas would just feel sweet when it happens. Well, I think it happened but I have a bad memory.
I would love a sequel to this anime. It doesn’t have to be a series. It can be a movie, and I think it’ll even work as a live action movie. I don’t care who plays Ladd just as long as we get to see him kill people. I heard Spice and Wolf just got green lit for another season, so Baccano’s story might not be over just yet. After all, if Durarara’s story continued after five years of its original airing then I would love to believe that Baccano has a chance. The 1934 story has Firo, Ladd and Isaac meeting Huey Laforet in Alcatraz. I’m not sure what happens in it, but can you just imagine the carnage here? Ladd has vowed to kill Huey after his confrontation with Chane, but I bet Firo would have something to say about that. In the extra three episodes, the other immortals are reintroduced like Elmer and Sylvie. In 2001, Maiza, Sylvie and Czes all come together to get Elmer out of a cult. There are still a bunch of interesting stories to be told, and I just want this show to continue on. Brain’s Base certainly did an amazing job with this anime. It saddens me though that they aren’t responsible for Durarara’s continued awesomeness. A new studio called Shuka took over the franchise, and I think they’re doing a great job with it. I think Brain’s Base just isn’t interested in stuff like Baccano anymore, so I just hope another studio takes it away from them. They also gambled with WOWOW back in 2007, and I bet they just don’t want to risk it anymore. I understand, since money runs a studio, but it’s a shame as well. I recently talked about my love for Takahiro Omori in Natsume Yuujinchou. This guy is just a technical master. To be able to properly capture the awesome convoluted mess that is Baccano is just insane. This guy just understands the works he is adapting, and I respect him for that. To be able to properly present Baccano, Natsume Yuujinchou and Durarara is a feat that I am personally jealous of. The guy really puts effort to create his works, and you can tell by how well presented his works are. This is a big reason why he is brought back to work on the new Durarara shows. He just gets it, and he knows how to make others understand and appreciate it as well. To be as flexible at storytelling as this guy really takes a lot of talent, and I admire him for that. A lot of directors insists their own style in their works, but rarely do you get one that simply adapts the great work he is given. I can’t wait to try the new Durarara shows because I know this guy won’t screw it up.
Sight and Sound
Katsumi Enami did an amazing job at creating the characters. I bet it was a real challenge trying to capture Ryohgo’s vision, but she did a splendid job at it. She captured the 30’s noir appeal of the story and really made the characters wear it in their body. Katsumi’s design is impressive because it has a really wide range to it. No one looks alike, even the old farts in Firo’s story. Each character looks as interesting as how Ryohgo describes them. She really worked off his description, and she gave us the amazing cast of the show. The character design itself looks simple, but the outfits and the smaller details really made the character. Ennis is a pretty minor character, but putting her in a suit just looks cool as hell. It puts emphasis to her strong face and gentle eyes while also showing off her great curves. Katsumi’s design doesn’t really focus on just one thing, but each element complements the next. Ladd is a simple character as well, but his face screams psycho but his blue eyes adds depth to such a simple character. It’s not much, but the small nuances really make a big difference. Katsumi’s design is also impressive because of the color palette she uses for the characters. Again, it complements the 30’s noir, but it also adds a lot of depth to the characters. The characters are cool but also era appropriate, and it makes a huge difference in how they are portrayed in the story.
Animation is a bit inconsistent, but I think it’s OK for this particular series. I’m not really a fan of the lack of design during establishing shots. They don’t have faces, and I hate it. I understand that 2007 is a rough time in animation, so I’ll give it a slide. The show does make up the lack of details with the overly vivid and graphic kills. Some characters are shot to the head, but the animation is so smooth that even the moment of impact has incredible detail to it. It’s not like balloons popping. No, it’s more detailed and a lot more brutal looking. You’ll cringe at some of them, because the animation has done a great job at making you feel uncomfortable. Rail Tracer’s kill is probably the best one yet. He just goes over the top, and the animation does a great job at presenting it. He bit the fingers off a kid in one scene, and the animation perfectly captures the graphic nature of the scene. There are also fight scenes, like the one with Firo and Dallas, and the animation certainly shines there as well. Perhaps the best example of the animation at its highest would be Isaac and Miria’s energetic movements given justice in every scene they are in. It’s not easy making these over the top characters look decent, and the animation did a good job with them. Again, it’s inconsistent though. Some lip movements just look bad, and the color fades during some low moments. The animation makes the great scenes stand out even better, but it doesn’t give much care and attention to other scenes. It’s not a big problem though because you won’t really be put off by the inconsistent animation. You’ll be too busy figuring out the anime as it progresses.
The anime’s OP is “Gun’s & Roses” by Paradise Lunch. I love this opening song, and I still have it in my laptop to this day. I have a list of songs I listen to when I write reviews, and this is one of them. The instrumentals are just fun to listen to. There is a version with lyrics, but it’s not as cool as the instrumental that just capture the awesomeness of the anime. It’s a cool little jazz song that I love to listen to over and over. It’s made special by the wonderful OP sequence. This is also the best way to organize your thoughts as you watch the anime. I use the OP sequence as a guide for the show, since characters are introduced in order of the story. 1930, 1931 and 1932 characters are introduced doing the things they would’ve done in that story. It doesn’t introduce all of them, but it’s merely just a guide to know who belongs where. It features Firo’s time being introduced in the Martillo family, Szilard and his two wine bottles, Chane planning to hi jack the train, Jacuzzi f*cking up the Russo family and Dallas actually revealed where he is currently hiding at. The little easter egg with Dallas is my favorite, since even the cards with him is related to his whereabouts. They even hid Rail Tracer’s identity while also featuring him in the OP which is something I also love. I’ve seen this anime nine years ago and the OP sequence still makes me smile.
The anime’s ED is “Calling” by Oda Kaori. This is a love ballad, and it feels like an afterthought in the anime. It’s an okay song, but it’s just too ordinary for Baccano. It talks about a love so grand that it can move the world and the song just doesn’t really belong. I do love Oda’s voice, but I just don’t appreciate the song that much. The ED sequence feels like afterthought as well. It features the characters just being flashed on the screen. That’s it. It does feature Katsumi’s strong design, but it’s really nothing impressive.
10/10 “It’s a rare show with an anime experience that is simply one of a kind.”
For me, a perfect score is given to an anime with strong technical aspects like story, characters and animation but it’s also one of a kind. It’s rare, and you’ll never see anything like it for as long as you live. What the anime accomplished is something no other show can do, and I believe Baccano has met this criteria. It’s a rare anime, and the show delivers an anime experience so special that everyone should simply try it. Baccano has a simple story told in such an incredible fashion that you’ll be glued to your screen to see it unfold and unfold. The characters aren’t just interesting by their own, but their also incredibly memorable. The anime experience is something you will never get out of any other anime as well. With that, I’ll simply say that this anime is something I highly recommend.