Reviewby Theron Martin, Apr 7th 2009
In 1711 aboard the ship Advenna Avis an alchemist summoned a “devil,” who gave the ship's complement an elixir of life, hence turning them all into immortals who can only die if they are “eaten” by another immortal. A feud over who should control the formula results in many deaths and the immortals going their separate ways. Most of those who survive find themselves involved in mafia families or schemes to reconstitute the elixir in Prohibition-era America, while others get caught in the mess aboard the transcontinental train Flying Pussyfoot as the marauding “Rail Tracer” and various conflicting groups turn the train into a bloodbath. In other time frames Firo joins the Camorra family, multiple parties continue to seek out Dallas Genoard (including his sister Eve), Ennis encounters a couple of odd characters who start to change her outlook on things, and Isaac and Miria demonstrate how such a goofy pair of thieves managed to get an entire task force assigned to hunting them down.
Can a series that sometimes gets tremendously gory also be tremendously fun? Baccano! seems intent on proving that a series can be both, and it offers its middle episodes as convincing evidence. People die in messy ways (but don't always stay dead), characters get “eaten” (a shiver-inducing and yet really cool effect), and others get beaten or otherwise abused, and yet those are only small parts of the overall tapestry that is the story the series weaves. In this case the devil – or what passes for one, anyway – is literally somewhere in the details, and it is the rich assortment of details scattered across the length and breadth of the tapestry that make viewing these episodes an involving and highly entertaining experience.
As with the first volume, these four episodes never progress in anything approaching a linear fashion. Even the flashback episode 7, which details the goings-on aboard the Advenna Avis that set everything else in motion, jumps back and forth between two time frames within that setting. The rest of the episodes continue to skip around between 1930, 1931, and 1932 as they bounce between various storylines, including those featuring Firo, Ennis and Szilard, Eve, the mafia guys looking for Dallas, and the complicated events on board The Flying Pussyfoot. Within the latter, the story splits further to focus in turn on Jacuzzi Splot and his crew, Ladd Russo and his crew, the cultists, and the immortal boy Czeslaw, each of which have their own distinct agendas but nearly all of which find themselves messed up with the rampage of someone – or something – some refer to as the mythical Rail Tracer. Exactly who or what the Rail Tracer really is has only been hinted at so far, but his capacity for bloodshed is copious indeed.
The common thread running through all of these storylines is the dippy robber duo of Isaac and Miria, who once again prove that they are one of anime's liveliest and most entertaining couples. In one way or another they seem to be involved in almost everything, sometimes in surprising fashion, and the bizarre logic behind their thefts is priceless; at one point they are unable to steal an entire museum, so they decide to steal its entrance (i.e. front door) instead. Nearly every character they come into contact with seems better off for it, and their antics can defuse even the weightiest of situations. The series has plenty enough merits and substance to be a worthy view without them, but their presence elevates the series from merely a very good one to a truly exceptional one.
The artistry may be the series' weakest point, but its distinctive style and decidedly better-than-average animation still produce a look well better than the norm for anime series. The art lavishes on period detail, giving the series its own unique flair even while duplicating the look and feel of early 1930s America. Isaac and Miria's varying costumes, the movements of the supposed Rail Tracer, and the “immortal-eating” scenes are all visual highlights, although those who delight in gore will find enough of that to satisfy their tastes, too. Fan service is limited to one brief scene in episode 8 (blink and you'll miss it), but this was never a series about that kind of fan service anyway.
As it did in the first volume, the nimble, jazz-based musical score hits exactly the right note in setting period and situational ambiance, with its regularly-updated opener always setting the right mood. It proves almost as important to the overall effect as the wonderful English dub. The accents may waffle a bit at times, but at least the dub does make a concerted effort to vary them according to the background of the character and even time period; some of the immortals have notably different accents in the Advenna Avis scenes than they do in the Prohibition-era scenes, for instance. Performances as weak as mediocre are few and far between, while on the high end J. Michael Tatum and Caitlin Glass once again sell Isaac and Miria as thoroughly as any voice actors could possibly do, giving them every ounce of verve and idiotic enthusiasm that their characters' actions say they should have. The dub script makes allowances for more accurate period slang but otherwise stays in the ballpark.
Like with the first volume, Extras this time include clean opener and closer and an English audio commentary, this time for episode 7. It features line producer Tyler Walker, script writer (and voice of the Devil) Chuck Huber, and R. Bruce Elliott, the voice of Szilard, who spend a healthy chunk of the time talking about the accents and distinctive vocal styles that went into the recording process.
Baccano! has yet to explain exactly what did happen to Dallas Genoard or how exactly so many of the 1930s cast members ultimately wound up becoming immortal, but the puzzle of how things came to be the way they are in the first episode is gradually coming together and the path the series is taking to get there is a highly enjoyable one. Its plethora of converging story threads, combined with the antics of Isaac and Miria, make this “ruckus” such a fun view that these four episodes just seem to fly by. In this case, that's a grand compliment.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A
Animation : A-
Art : B+
Music : A-
+ Isaac and Miria, plenty of other interesting characters and situations to follow, effective musical score.
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