Reviewby Michelle Yu, Oct 27th 2009
Baccano! Vol. 1
A life of crime can last forever...
Don't let nobody tell you there's no future in a life of crime, because some rackets can last forever. But we'll get around to all that immortality jazz later. A mafia turf war is raging on the mean streets of the Big Apple, a place where regular joes bounce between backdoor booze joints and the breadline. But this caper ain't about a simple gangland brawl. It's about hoods who can't seem to die proper after catching a bullet or five between the eyes. Sadistic hit-men and the dames they love, mad bombers going boom, monsters going bump and soul sucking alchemists bootlegging an elixir of eternal life.
At first glance, Baccano!'s plot is hazy at best. Even after watching the entire first volume, the fog has not yet lifted. However, perhaps that was the intended effect.
This series' namesake is a word of Italian origin described by Google Translate as a “noise”, “racket”, or “turmoil.” I personally would like to use the word “hullabaloo” which is quite fitting for a series where the plot is cut and sewn together like a patchwork quilt. The simplest way to describe the plot would be that it is set in Prohibition times (that is, between 1919 and 1933) in the USA, over two hundred years after a group of alchemists conjured a demon who gave them access to what can only be described as the elixir of immortality. After that night, members of this secret society began disappearing at the hand of one of their own. This led to distrust and fear within the circle and the alchemists parted ways for safety reasons. However, they meet once again in Prohibition era America and chaos joins the party.
The series begins in 1931 (towards the end of the Prohibition era) where it appears the show will be just following a story recounted by a cute female assistant. Although it all starts off slow and cathartic, the series quickly takes a sharp turn into a mafia family turf war, a hit-and-run that ends suspiciously and a majestic train which could be likened to Pandora's Box. Not crazy enough? The second episode actually takes viewers backwards in time- 1930. A completely different set of characters and events unfold on the other side of the United States during the Gold Rush.
It would be surprising to find any viewer which is not at the very least confounded by this point in the series. The intersecting storylines and characters are reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. However, even as a fan of Tarantino's film, the constant repetition of certain scenes in Baccano! quickly became tiresome to watch even though they contributed to the ability to comprehend the events. On a positive note, the way the opening sequence puts names to the faces of all the characters is helpful considering how long the cast list is. The sheer amount of characters is daunting and reminds me of the game Final Fantasy VI- one of the best in the Final Fantasy series, but could have benefited from a smaller cast list and further character development. That said, it is still early days for Baccano! One must bear in mind that this is only the first volume in the series and that there is much potential for improvement later on.
Like many other series that grace our presence here at Anime News Network Australia, this volume came in a dub-only preview disc. Therefore any DVD extras and the Japanese sub version could not be critiqued. However I was pleased with the music- which was fitting for the times, and also the artwork and animation in the series. There are some beautiful characters in this series, if only the plot would slow down so that they could be admired for a bit longer than one second here and there. The upbeat, big band opening theme titled “Guns and Roses” is offset by a ballad- “Calling” for the closing theme which works well. It gives viewers a chance to “catch their breath” after each wild ride of an episode.
Baccano! can be described as entertaining, albeit hectic. Each time the plot switches is akin to a speed hump in the road, but it is interesting to take a look into all the different lives on show and how they relate to one another. Baccano! would be recommended for those who have a penchant for mafia-centric films, Roaring Twenties styling, and dynamic storytelling.
Overall (dub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A
+ Beautiful art and animation, intriguing concept.
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