Here is a show that tempts me to write my review in a none-chronological order…but then I decided that would make the review considerably more difficult to write, and therefore, I’m just going to stick to the classic script, because who doesn’t like the classics? FYI that was a rhetorical question. Anyways, Baccano! is an anime released in 2007 and made its mark for its large cast of characters and its non-chronological story telling. The word “baccano” translates from Italian to mean ruckus and this is definitely a befitting title to the anime. This show is not for the faint of heart. It takes concentration to keep track of the story, and the story is full of violence, blood, and chaos. However, if you are willing to undertake all of these things, then I guarantee that you will be rewarded. Let’s dance!
Oh boy. Where to begin. As I alluded to it in my introductory paragraph, *Baccano! *is famous for its story being told in a non-linear fashion. The story jumps between time periods, locations, and characters to complete one interconnected story. It would be near impossible to provide a complete synopsis of the plot due to the complicated nature of the plot and my desire to avoid spoilers. However, very briefly, to attempt the near impossible, the story surrounds the events of the Flying Pussyfoot, a transcontinental train that in the early 1930’s became the setting for a set of deadly crimes that left more than a few people dead and mutilated. The story also focuses on events and characters leading up to the Flying Pussyfoot’s departure and the events after the train finally reached its destination. The story is told, jumping back and forth from the train, to past and future events, and by the end of the 16 episodes, finally ties all its loose ends together.So does this chaotic way of storytelling provide a quality viewing experience worthy of the mental strain it causes? Hell yes. Yes, the non-linear story telling makes it so one is left confused in the early part of the show. Nevertheless, the show maintains an atmosphere of controlled chaos that keeps the show action packed and enjoyable, even if the viewer doesn’t quite know what is going on for the better part of the anime. By the end of the show though, the viewer gets the pleasure of seeing all the pieces slide into place, providing them with an understanding of how all the characters connect with each other, while also providing some philosophical ideas of life, death, and storytelling. This “aha! moment” of watching the story fall into place is what allures me to this anime. A show that is able to successfully keep the viewers confused, but entertained and wanting more, earns positive nods in my book. Now this method of unique storytelling isn’t without its flaws. The viewer must be willing to watch a third of the show in a state of at least semi-confusion and they must be ready for a relatively insane amount of characters that will need to be kept track of. However, the nature of the show allows the viewer to naturally learn each character’s role in the story, but this doesn’t mean one still has to keep their attention levels up.
The plot does suffer some due to the amount of content and characters in the anime. While the viewer eventually learns of the micro workings of all the characters, some of the macro plot points are left unaddressed. There are plot points in the show that the viewer must take for granted, and they are never attempted to be explained. While this is alright from the standpoint of the show, it might be a little detrimental to the viewing pleasure of the audience. Also despite the excellent juggling of characters and character development, it is impossible for a show that is so busy all the time to not leave some characters underdeveloped, and this causes some events later on in the show to feel a little rushed or glossed over. Before I dive too far into this though, I think the characters should just be discussed directly
The characters are both the strongest and weakest point of this show. This show is chalk full of characters, and most of them serve as main characters at least for a part of the show. There is not really a single main character in the show, but instead, several characters that take the spotlight at some point and then move out of it to allow another character to fill it for a given amount of time, all the while supporting the character holding the spotlight. Now this of course runs the risk of not getting to know the characters as much as one would like. However, for the most part, I did not get that impression from the majority of the cast. Yes, there are things that are left unsaid about certain characters. Nevertheless, with most of the named characters, I felt that their roles in the story slid in perfectly with the tale being woven. Even with this being the case, a show with so many characters did mean that there were a couple members who I felt could have been hashed out a little more in order to smooth out the ending of the show. For the most part though, despite a slightly bumpy finish, I enjoyed the large caste of characters and the way they integrated into the story being told. There are some characters that get on my nerves more than others, but that is only natural. I never felt that the more annoying characters hurt the story. Instead, they provided a more natural feel to the overarching plot. After all, any natural setting has its more annoying individuals, but this doesn’t necessarily diminish their worth to the plot of a story. And despite some annoyances, these characters also had redeeming qualities that didn’t feel forced or unnatural and even they tended to grow on you.
At this time, it would be a crime not to give a shout out to three characters in-particular. While an honorable mention goes to the psychopathic Ladd Russo, whose indiscriminate blood lust provides for an unnerving and enthralling story, the Rail Tracer steals the show by his philosophical killings and monologue. Firo is also pretty great, such suave! The Rail Tracer takes the unnerving energy of Ladd Russo and Firo’s suave and ups them to the next level. When we finally see the Rail Tracer revealed and in action, the normalcy of the character, wrapped in a blanket of insanity, provides for thrilling sequences of talk and violence. Despite all of this, this anime is stolen by the characters of Miria and Isaac. These too characters are silly and comedic and kind of stumble their way through the lives of all the other characters in the show. Perhaps one might argue that they are the main characters; however, I think that debate is up to the subjective opinion of the individual viewer. They are derpy but also have a huge amount of heart. They make you laugh, cry, and press on even in the shows bleakest points. They are brilliantly crafted characters and make the show worth watching just to witness their shenanigans.
Animation and Art:
The animation and art of this show can be summed up in one word: brilliant. The animation in the film shines throughout, but is particularly brilliant in the quality of the show’s action sequences. They are detailed, in-depth, and smooth. While the action sometimes bends the rules of physics, it doesn’t take away from the stellar job Brains Base did with the show’s animation. It is excellent to watch and I honestly don’t have any complaints concerning the work done on the show. A stellar job all around, be it action segments or just simple walking movements. As for the art and the setting of the show, they were both gorgeous. As already mentioned, the show takes place in the late 1920’s, early 1930’s for the most part. The art in the show really captures the vibe and feel of one part of the prohibition era in America. This vibe and feel is forwarded by the background art, the buildings, the clothes, the cars, it is all well thought out and executed. Speaking of nailing the right “vibe,” this is further captured in the sound department.
The music for this show is excellent. What is up with shows that have stellar Jazzy openings being so damn good? Baccano’s stellar opening, “Guns & Roses,” kicks of the great soundtrack that not only keeps with the jazz theme, which totally fits the jazz age time period of the show, but it also is able to incorporate the music into fitting the many different scenarios that our various characters find themselves in. It fits the chaotic, mysterious, adventurous, comedic tones of the show and never fails to enhance the events happening on the screen.
The only downside to the soundtrack is the less than amazing ending song. While not being a bad song, it never really connected completely with me. I felt like it was trying to be an ending theme to wind down the viewer while also playing on the darker themes of the anime.
However, after the rest of the soundtrack, after listening to the ending a couple times, I found it to be a little boring and melodramatic. As for the voice acting, I once again have only watched the subbed version. I swear I do watch some shows dubbed, but it is true that most of the time I default to the sub. Again, I’m not expert with Japanese voice acting, but for what it is worth, I found the cast to be great in their roles. If you are starting off fresh with this show, don’t be afraid to try the American cast though. Being that the show is set mostly in America, it makes actual sense to watch it dubbed. See for yourself, and if you don’t like it, you can always fall back to the sub, which is very good. A quick side note, I could have sworn that the Japanese voice actor that played the President of the information brokers was the same guy who voiced Nyanta in Log Horizon. Spoiler alert, I was wrong, and this blew my mind. Just goes to show how “awesome” I am with Japanese voice acting trivia and sound recognition.
To begin this final verdict I must state that Baccano! is most certainly not for everyone. The show is undoubtedly very bloody and violent and its non-linear story telling can make the anime difficult to watch. However, if one can put up with these things, the show tells its story extremely well, and manages to juggle its large cast of characters with a large level of proficiency. I will say that it doesn’t perfect the juggling of its characters, and there are a few characters who I feel didn’t get enough time to hash out their position in the story, but for the most part the story is driven very well by the strong character interactions throughout the show. The show can be confusing and hectic–a real ruckus–but in the end, the viewer is left very content, looking back on what they have just witnessed over 16 episodes and can confidently appreciate the crazy story that has unfolded for their pleasure. This show isn’t perfect, but it comes pretty damn close, helped there with beautiful art and animation. Despite not being quite perfect, I confidently feel that it does a grand enough job of capturing a story of mob bosses, murder, thievery, love, and immortality and therefore deserves 5/5 stars. It most certainly has earned my golden stamp of approval.