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|Average Rating: 8.20|
Raz112 scored this with 9/10. Disagree?
The word 'Baccano' is an Italian word, which roughly translates as a 'racket', 'ruckus', or 'making a row'. That is indeed a good way to describe this anime, as its story comprises a vast array of unique and interesting characters all with their own backgrounds and motives. Indeed, as the first episode tries to emphasise, it is futile to try to assign a main character in this story. Instead, we are introduced to Carol, the infantile assistant to a certain Gustave St. Germain, vice president of the information business 'Daily Days'. Together they lead us to start at a place where many of the characters converge with involvement in an event so horrific and mysterious that it was covered up by the powers that be. This place is actually a transcontinental train named the 'Flying Pussyfoot' (you read right) departing from Chicago to its final destination, Manhattan. Waiting to board the train are an array of very different characters: from robbers to cultists, gangsters, secret agents, a psychopathic hitman, a senator's wife and child, a monster, a child with a secret that glues most of these characters together, and others whose motivations lie elsewhere in some way or another.
Originally Baccano! was a set of light novels by Ryohgo Narita that is still ongoing, seven years on after the first volume and three years since this anime adaptation was made. Narita's inspiration for the American Prohibition Era setting was due to his love for Brian De Palma's film 'The Untouchables'. Furthermore, he was attracted to its uniqueness, with few other works sharing that setting. Indeed, it works a treat and it's refreshing to see such a distinct period of history, that has had many memorable movie incarnations, finally make the anime transition. It is a nice change, and though the quality of this at times is perhaps Baccano's weakest element, the background animation still stands out accordingly, recreating industrial America with gangsters sipping whiskey and playing cards in their dens, the impressive grand train stations of Chicago and Manhattan, and a steam train which may remind you of the Orient Express. Whilst reasons for the varying quality of the background animation could have been because of the budget expectations given for this series, it isn't helped by the DVD transfer, which is not the best out there; often murky, especially at night.
However, a good anime is not judged by its background animation alone, indeed here the animation overall is actually very good, very slick, and very stylish indeed. This is evident from the opening credits, where a total of seventeen characters are introduced in a seamless fashion. It is brimming with action and movement; from the mundane action of pouring a bottle of wine down a drain, to the spectacular explosions of grenades. Furthermore, variety is shown within the characters' designs, from their clothes to their facial features and physical demeanours, showing immense creativity, style, and effort from the animators.
The sheer amount of characters on offer in this series gives you an indication of its enormous scale, with many diverse personalities on show here. From the ultra cool gangster Luck Gandor, to the dancing, sadistic, psychotic hitman Ladd Russo - every character in this anime has something going for them, making them all engaging and incredibly fun to watch. Add to that the incredible voice acting of both the English and Japanese casts, and you've got a real treat here, especially with Ladd Russo and the comedy relief robber couple, Isaac Dian and Miria Harvent. Of course, rarely is the Japanese cast bested, and here it is still the best option. However, it's clear to see the effort Funimation put in with the dub and it pays off very well. Still, of all the anime around, you rather expect them to do well with this one; it is after all set in the US, with the majority of the characters being gangsters. Nonetheless, this series is up there with the likes of Cowboy Bebop in terms of dub quality.
With all of these unique characters having their own agendas, the story is presented in such a disjointed and convoluted manner that many other anime would subsequently be written off with accusations of poor, incoherent storytelling. However, this is not so here. Baccano! does run at a furious pace, frequently cutting between different periods in time in every episode that it puts Tarantino's Pulp Fiction to shame. Even though Narita specifically never wrote an outline, preferring to let characters to roam around on their own, thanks to the skills of the writers and director Takahiro Omori (who was behind the anime Koi Kaze) Baccano! manages to make you forget just how complicated the story is, whilst somehow enabling you to understand it with relative ease, and in the meantime, allowing you to enjoy the crazy ride. You will find yourself watching as all of the disparate threads are revealed to actually be not so unrelated as they first appear, and eventually they begin to intertwine. And what a crazy ride it is, with Wikipedia classifying it as an 'adventure, comedy, fantasy', when in fact Baccano! has a lot more to offer than even that. It thrills, involves some supernatural activity, and has plenty of action, drama, and gory horror, as well as plenty of suspense, and a little romance here and there to boot. It is a quite astounding feat indeed.
Not to be outdone by the visuals, the music in Baccano! is fantastic, with thumping big band jazz tunes, making you want break into dance and throw out your jazzhands, but also effectively shifts to a darker tone when things take a turn for the worse. Such uplifting opening credits cannot help but make you smile and get you pumped up for the show. The OP, entitled 'Guns & Roses' is by an all-female band called Paradise Lunch, consisting of a whopping twelve members. It again shares a likeness to Cowboy Bebop's opening number by the Seatbelts, 'Tank!'. The ending song, 'Calling', written by Yuki Kajiura, is equally satisfying, providing a melancholic and eerie contrast to the action that intrigues and haunts as it continues to reverberate in your mind even after it finishes.
Everything I have said so far seems to suggest that this is a perfect series, but there are some issues with the plot and characters, particularly on the final disc. This all stems from the fact that the Baccano! light novels are still ongoing, and with the massive amount of characters within this wonderful universe, the character development can be very unequal. Whilst the director and writers did very well to overcome this through a tight story set within thirteen episodes, inevitably there are characters that are not shown to have done nearly as much as the original light novels reveal, particularly with the turf wars going on in Manhattan between the respective gangster families. Furthermore, despite there being many memorable characters, there are others that are all but forgotten; not that you would have noticed due to the fact that everything else is such a blast. In addition, understandably, there were some questions left unanswered, but like I stressed before, nothing too serious to make the original ending unsuitable.
However, perhaps fearing people may have had these concerns, or perhaps as a gesture of thanks for support, the animators decided to make three extra episodes which were exclusive to the DVD release. As they were treated as a separate set of OVAs set after the last episode, there's an awkward moment in story structure as they attempt to insert more character development and even introduce a new character to connect some events. Even then, due to the fact that Baccano! isn't finished and this anime series doesn't even cover half of the current story, these last three episodes may feel a bit tacked on. The pace is slow, in contrast with the bulk of the original series, and is predominantly set during the aftermath of the Flying Pussyfoot incident. Some people may feel that while it answers some previous questions, it leaves some more loose ends of its own. This was inevitable considering that the original author still hasn't actually finished the story. Overall, though still unequal, these three episodes do provide some extra character development, and ultimately provide welcome additional closure with the reappearance of characters that were perhaps forgotten in the original series.
Despite the minor issues mentioned above and the poor extras, which consist of four commentaries and textless videos of the opening and ending credits, it's clear to see why Baccano! was seen to be such a breath of fresh air. Critically well received across the board, many named it 'Anime of the Year' at the time. Sadly, although the light novels are hugely popular in Japan the anime didn't fare so well due to poor publicity, broadcasting on paid subscription satellite television, which meant poor ratings. This led to it slipping under the radar here in the West, but it has still managed to find a strong cult following, and deservedly so. Baccano! is one hell of a roller-coaster ride that has a little bit of everything, delivered with bucket loads of style and finesse. It succeeds in immersing the viewer in its wonderfully entertaining and crazy world; managing to make both dark and light themes in the material extremely fun in the process, no doubt leaving a smile on your face after the unforgettable experience.
So sit back and enjoy the ride. There's nothing else quite like it.
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|Score:||9 out of 10|
|Date Published:||Sun, 21 Nov 2010|
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