In 1931, the Flying Pussyfoot sets off on a transcontinental train journey across America, but what few people realise is that this is to be a more eventful trip than usual. For aboard the train are numerous factions who are all pieces in a larger web of events that began over two hundred years ago, when a select group of people discovered the secret of immortality.
Prior to Baccano, the star of the historical series had begun to rise once again- Chevalier had sidestepped cheesiness in order to deliver excellence, and despite never really living up to its potential, Iroha at least made a memorable impact. Baccano had a lot to live up to, and all that remained was to see if it too could deliver. Fortunately, it could, albeit in its own unique way.
“Baccano” means ruckus or commotion, and right from the start it was clear that the series was going to live up to its name. With a plethora of named characters with laughably Engrish names (Jacuzzi Splot being the most amusing) and a story that jumped around to different times and perspectives, Baccano was never the easiest series to follow, to the extent that most of the time it was hard to get a handle on what was supposed to be going on. Nonetheless, that didn’t make it any the less enjoyable- with its slick action scenes and sheer vitality of delivery, every scene was somehow entertaining to watch, even if it was hard to place it in the context of the larger story.
In the midst of piecing together what exactly is going on, however, it is clear that there is plenty of content to get your teeth into. From the comedic antics of the lighter-hearted characters to mafia confrontations, gory killings and a near bloodbath of slaughter, all sprinkled with a touch of fantasy content. The fact that Baccano manages to pack so much in without ever making its changes of mood feel forced or contrived is yet another testament to the presentation skills of this series.
As mentioned above, Baccano is hardly short on cast members, and although it would be nigh impossible to develop them all in the space of thirteen episodes, it has to be admitted that the series does its best. By far the most memorable characters are the flamboyant Isaac and Miria, whose sheer ebullient naïveté makes everything they do fun to watch. Others like the homicidal megalomaniac ‘Rail Tracer’, villain Szilard and his female homunculus Ennis and the deceptively youthful Czeslaw are just a few of the other notable personalities to add their distinctive mark to the series- in fact, overall the interesting characters outweigh the dull generic types like the Gandor brothers. And somehow, for all the times that I’ve complained about too many characters being packed into thirteen-episode series, Baccano seems to be the one case where going to such an extreme made it all work- instead of feeling frustrated that we didn’t see more of a particular character, everyone got the time they needed to communicate their personality and back story.
Visually, Baccano is always slick and well-animated, with surprisingly good action scenes and some impressive special effects for the revival and ‘eating’ of Immortals. Realistic colour tones are used for designs throughout, but even without large eyes and brightly-coloured hair, the characters are distinctive and generally attractive. Background music isn’t the most memorable overall, but the catchy OP and selected tracks are actually rather worthy, and certainly the score complements the series well.
Often confusing yet always enjoyable, Baccano lived up to its name and delivered thirteen episodes that were packed to the brim with action and drama. We can only hope that the later novels will also get the anime treatment in due course, because they certainly deserve it.