[Anime Review]: Baccano!

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Director: Takahiro Omori

Writer (of original light novel): Ryohgo Narita

Animation Studios: Brain’s Base

Version Watched: Dubbed (Funimation)

There are a number of stereotypes and tropes associated with anime. They pop up again and again because they’re an easy formula to follow and people tend to enjoy watching shows they feature in; they’re comfortable, familiar and entertaining for a lot of viewers. If you’re a little sick of “the usual” though, as I’m sure some of you are, Baccano is probably what you’re looking for. There are a couple of factors that prevent it from reaching greatness in my eyes but it was certainly entertaining to watch and I don’t hesitate to recommend it.

Set predominantly in the United States during the 1930s, Baccano’s story revolves around the events occurring on a certain train: the transcontinental Flying Pussyfoot. Or perhaps it would be better to say that is simply where all of Baccano’s storylines cross. The show jumps between a plethora of separate, smaller stories, with the Flying Pussyfoot simply being a common point between them. Unfortunately, the switching between storylines happens so often that the first few episodes are more confusing than entertaining as you try to orient yourself to what’s going on when and who’s who. While you soon manage to grasp a vague idea of what’s going on, the story jumping continues for the entirety of the series with a frequency that makes it hard to become invested in any one set of events. Still, the storytelling itself is undeniably good and almost makes up for the jumbled way it is presented.

baccano anime baccano!

Whether it be the eccentric thieves set on righting their past wrongs, the bomb-making and alcohol-brewing gang whose leader is a snivelling crybaby with a heart of gold and balls of steel, or the black sheep of a mafia family who loves nothing more than killing unsuspecting victims and revelling in their pain, Baccano is different from whatever you’ve seen before. One of the oddities about the series, however, is that they’ve managed to imbue some of their characters with immortality without it ever becoming a really major feature. I mean, that fact that they’re immortal is thrown about repeatedly but it never really seems important because those characters aren’t treated any differently from the others. In Baccano, immortality is just a part of another one of its many stories waiting to be told. I’m not saying it’s either a good or a bad thing, just that it’s interesting. As a side note, Baccano has some incredibly brutal scenes that are handled very well; the shock factor is used to complement all of the other aspects of the scene rather than being a feature in and of itself.

As you may have guessed, the large number of storylines Baccano follows means that it also features a large number of characters. While some of the characters have very strong personalities and are entertaining to watch, others show up so infrequently that it’s hard to remember who they are or what they have done previously. There are also three or four mafia families that are mentioned repeatedly, and despite having just finished the series I’m not sure I could tell you which one is which. While most of the characters have a predominantly serious nature, there is one pair that plays the part of comedic relief with such cringe-worthy yet hilarious antics that you can’t help but like them. With all of the killing and less-than-honorable happenings going on that one couple make for a very welcome and amusing series of breaks from the action.

Baccano anime baccano!

Having watched the dubbed version of the series I feel the voice acting is worth commenting on. While I personally am not acquainted with how 1930s American accents are supposed to sound, the character and variety brought to the table by Baccano’s voice actors is truly admirable. Though I’m sure the sub is also well done this is one case where I’m glad I chose to watch the dubbed version as I just can’t see the setting being brought to life as well by Japanese voice actors, especially because the localisation team has done an amazing job translating the original script into recognisably colloquial language that would have been used during that time period. The animation, while not quite good enough to be called spectacular, is also very easy on the eyes, with particular scenes like when immortals regenerate after death being particularly well done. Characters’ designs and expressions are worth mentioning as well for their uniqueness and quality that really aren’t what you would normally expect from anime.

Summary – If nothing else, Baccano’s production quality is excellent. It won’t wow you with flashy graphics but the attention to detail, especially in the dubbed version, is phenomenal. The story, while being all over the place, is worth watching even if the relatively small scale of the events means they won’t exactly keep you on the edge of your seat. The inconsistencies in event and character importance prevent any real sense of immersion in what’s going on but don’t stop me from recommending this series. Baccano is different from anything you may have seen before.

Score: 7.5/10 – Enjoyable

Baccano anime baccano!

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About Silvachief

I'm a Gamer that dabbles in a little bit of everything. I'm big on Video Games, Visual Novels, Anime, Books and TV Series, but there's more to me than just those!
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13 Responses to [Anime Review]: Baccano!

  1. Lazarinth says:

    I agree with the rating and the reasons for it, it is good but not completely great. However, there is some homages in this anime to Guy Ritchie who is one of my favorite directors. Along with the Sherlock Holmes films, Snatch and Rock’n’Roller, one clearly see the similarities between them, especially if you compare the credit sequence of Snatch with Baccano’s Op and another anime done by the same people, Durarara!!

    I’ll write this here just for convenience sake, I would like to do something a little different than a review for my Muv-luv post but I’d need your help if you’re up for it? I want to create a dialogue between us and post it. It could be an email conversation or a skype chat but I reckon if we both make a list of about five topics on it to discuss we could do a decent discussion.

    Of course you can post your review first if you’d like, if anything people could see it as a trigger for the conversation and you could post or pingback the dialogue on your blog as well. What do you think about that for an idea?

    • Silvachief says:

      I’m not overly familiar with Guy Ritchie’s work but I recognize the name. The repertoire of films i’m watched isn’t particularly impressive, and this is where it shows.

      I would be happy to try that but I would have to remind you that it’s been a while since I played MLA and my memories are most likely already clouded by nostalgia. Still, it’s worth a shot. I’ll probably start by posting the earlier Muv-Luv reviews next week.

  2. Kai says:

    At first, I also couldn’t really get used to the “out-of-order” manner in which the story is told, but what’s great about it is that it was able to conclude itself somehow by the end of the series, and some of the scenes you watched way back in episode 1 makes perfect sense by the time you finished the series. Did you watched Durarara as well?

    • Silvachief says:

      You’re right that it did all make sense by the end of the show…but for those first few episodes I wasn’t too impressed. I tend to like series that encourage you to re-examine earlier episodes but in this case the episodes in question were weakened by it, in my opinion.
      I haven’t watched Durarara yet. It’s on the list though!

  3. Lambda says:

    I just finished this a half an hour ago, and then I go and found that there’s gonna be a second season of Durarara!!. It’s been a very Ryohgo Narita day for me.

    Baccano! was a lot of fun~ It was over the top without that “look at me aren’t I wacky” disease that plagues most over the top anime. Some of it crossed the line twice (see: a lot of Ladd’s lines). And yeah, for the first few episodes you need the opening that says everyone’s names. Miria and Isaac made my anime experience here (although I did like most of the characters those robbers were just my favourite). Favourite anime robbers. I also found a lot of the romance good, which is… unusual because most of the couples were rather understated in the plot. However, just as expected from an anime that jumps timelines and perspectives, one just didn’t do a lot for me (1932). I’d be hard-pressed to say if I liked this or Durarara!! better, but they were both really good to me.

    • Silvachief says:

      Miria and Isaac are Best Girls? Baccano was weird for me because I recognized it as objectively good but was unable to connect with either the characters or the events going on. I agree with you about the “over the top without going to far” aspect, though.
      In the end…while, yes, I enjoyed the show, i’m not sure it’s something I would ever watch again. I wonder if i’ll feel the same about Durarara!!.

      • Lambda says:

        Yeah. Both are Best Girls and they’re Best Girls together! I was taken with the events and characters myself (scene on top of the train was A+), so I can’t comment on that… Durarara!! is, by most accounts, a lot more low-key. And has a proper sense of timeline. It’s a lot more uneven, though. Most people markedly prefer one half or the other (even as a Moekado fan, I think I enjoyed the first half more). It’s definitely possible to not like Durarara!! and love Baccano! so the other way round should be possible too (they’re just not as vocal).

  4. I liked this series, but didn’t love it. The animation is good and it’s got some interesting ideas, but it didn’t hook me in. I would recommend Durarara over Baccano. They are both similar (ensemble cast, same studio etc) but I found Durarara to be more fun.

    • Silvachief says:

      That’s pretty much what I think in a nutshell. I have yet to see Durarara but with so many people suggesting it I think i’m going to have to pick it up.

  5. judge212 says:

    I still think Baccano is one of the top 5 light novel adaptations of all time. I gave it a 9/10. I can see where you come from though. I personally was very immersed in the characters and story (and the unique story telling), and definitely think this was superior to his (the author’s) other work, Durarara. But it looks like we both found the dub to be amazing. As a native New Yorker (and someone who is familiar with this city’s history), I can tell you the voice actors did a very admirable job.

    • Silvachief says:

      Had you read the light novel before watching the anime? If so then I can certainly imagine why you liked the adaptation so much. There’s a whole bunch of quality in there that deserves praise (like the voice acting for the dub especially, as you’ve mentioned); it’s just that I wasn’t able to connect to what was going on. I still plan on checking out Durarara though!

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