Matt Doyle Media Monthly: Issue 1

HEADER ANIME BACCANO!

During the early 1930s in Chicago, the transcontinental train, Flying Pussyfoot, is starting its legendary journey that will leave a trail of blood all over the country. At the same time in New York, the ambitious scientist Szilard and his unwilling aide Ennis are looking for missing bottles of the immortality elixir. In addition, the war between the mafia groups is getting worse. On board the Advena Avis, in 1711, alchemists are about to learn the price of immortality.

Baccano! is a Brain’s Base series based on the light novels by Ryōgo Narita of Durarara!! fame. The series launched in 2007, runs for 16 episodes, and follows the interlinking stories of a group of immortals living during America’s Prohibition era. It’s a series that has been recommended to me multiple times, and it actually fell into my possession via an All The Anime mystery box. It wasn’t until I was sent home from work ill that I finally got around to checking it out though, and I ended up binge-watching it.

I will say from the get-go that I do believe watching the series in as few sittings as possible is the right way to go. The episodes are presented in a way that means we get a lot of jumping around the timeline. While the jumps aren’t illogical, the nature of this is that leaving too long between episodes may well cause some confusion about what is happening and when. It’s also worth noting that the cast is quite large, and as a result, we jump around with who we’re focussing on a lot too. This being the case, if you don’t get on with the majority of the characters, this may be a detriment to your overall enjoyment.

Those potential stumbling blocks aside, Baccano! is a very easy series to recommend. For me personally, I thought the key characters were excellent. They all felt very individual, and their designs were interesting, while still fitting in with the era the series is set in. I thought the story was also great; the criminal elements and how each group’s paths intersected combined with the more fantastical elements of the immortals made for a potent mix.

There weren’t any episodes that dragged at all. Instead, the series did a good job of balancing the story-driven moments and action as appropriate to the individual episodes. The comedy was decent here too, with specific characters designed to provide relief from the killings and other nefarious activities. It was whacky at times, but in a way that felt natural rather than odd for the sake of it. Another positive from my standpoint was that we didn’t stray into much fanservice. Honestly, with the type of story we were dealing with here, it would have been out of place if too much had been shoehorned in, and what little we got felt well-placed.

From a technical standpoint, the animation isn’t the best that the studio has offered. At the same time, it isn’t poor, by any means. In fact, I’d say most of it ranges from good to very good. It’s the audio that really stands out for the series though. Baccano!’s jazz and swing-themed soundtrack is easily the most fitting use of backing music I’ve heard in anime, and it adds a layer of authenticity to the proceedings. I will also say that I thought the dub cast deserves a lot of credit. The characters felt perfectly pitched with the Western VAs, and there wasn’t a bad performance among them.

Overall, Baccano! is a stylish slice of Western-influenced anime goodness. Aesthetically, it ranges from pleasant to excellent, and the story and characters intertwine to make it wonderfully entertaining from start to finish.

TL;DR

PROS

  • The characters are fun
  • Lack of fanservice
  • The setting is interesting
  • An excellent soundtrack
  • A compelling story
  • Great work by the Western voice cast

CONS

  • The animation is mixed, but never bad
  • The story features a lot of time skipping, which is a potential cause for confusion

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