Welcome to Spotlight, which is possibly the most generic name I could’ve chosen for posts such as this one. But the subject matter of these posts are anything but since I’m here to show you the most unusual specimens in the zoology of fiction. And what a place to start. Today I’m going to be telling you guys about Baccano!
(These are a few of the characters that you’ll need to remember the names for.)
Today’s topic is an anime, and to stand out in the field of anime as unusual is a fairly difficult feat. In a media where you can see overemotional and angsty teenagers piloting giant robots, to a team of colour coordinated high school girls who fight evil with the power of friendship to shows about making food that tastes so good it makes your clothes fly off and/or explode, one can probably think there’s something for everyone. Say for example if you want a story about prohibitionist America that includes crime families, mysteries, a pair of thieves that are the single greatest comedy duo of any show that I’ve seen and immortal alchemists who are running around eating people.
(One of these things is not like the others…)
Baccano! is a wonderfully complex dive into the world of prohibition era America. Most of the action takes place in flashbacks aboard a train where a three way struggle for power is taking place, but the show also features flashbacks even further back or returning to the present. Also, fair warning. This show gets dark sometimes. Like, shooting children in the face with a rifle dark. Don’t worry though, he gets better. And he also kinda deserved it. But to balance that out it has some of the funniest humour, greatest suspense and most genuine and surprising plot twists I’ve witnessed in a show and at times can be genuinely heartfelt. This show will make you feel a ton of emotions, although if you’re not paying attention to what’s going on, confusion is probably going to be one of the most common. While the story mostly revolves around the gang activities of the Martillo and Gandor families and the calamity aboard the Flying Pussyfoot (that’s the train that I mentioned earlier), the supernatural elements give a very unique twist on this show to give it another level of mystery and suspense.
It’s hard to say exactly who the protagonist is in Baccano! as the cast list is extensive. This is even touched upon in the beginning prologue when the Vice President of a newspaper and his young assistant go through the most prominent candidates, eventually settling on one Firo Prochainezo.
(Gotta admit, he is pretty main character-ish)
But there are far more brilliant and diverse characters, like the aforementioned comedy gods Isaac and Mira, who provide much of the show’s incredible humor as well as Ennis, a mysterious figure that pops up in the story occasionally with an interesting background to be had. There is also the curious fate of Dallas Genoard and his sister Eve who is devoting herself wholeheartedly to finding him. But there are also a fair share of villains to this story such as Ladd Russo, a hitman with a crazy streak so long it’s more of a crazy highway, Chezlaw Meyer who has been through more shit than most war veterans, the looming threat of the imposing Szilard Quates and the infamous legend of the Rail Tracer, who to say anything about would be a spoiler most foul.
But then there is the opening, and it’s amazing. Seriously, it’s one of the single greatest openings to any show I have ever seen. The pacing, the music and the crazy and intense atmosphere permeates the intro to the point where you only need to watch it once to know if you like the rest of the show or not since it works so well to capture the spirit and energy of the show itself. That and it even manages to slip in info on the characters, their personalities and subtly ties them together through clever cuts and segues. Just watch it for yourself and tell me you don’t want to watch the rest of this show.
(If you need further convincing, this is Isaac and Miria during a robbery.)
Baccano! could have been a complete disaster. Its nonlinear storytelling jumps multiple times across the ages, the characters are many and varied and the plot itself could have easily devolved into a convoluted mess. But the fact that it didn’t just goes to show how much care and love the creator of the series, Ryohgo Narita, put into this project. Instead the intricately crafted plot, while sometimes requiring a few repeat viewings, is a fantastical roller-coaster of events. The characters are all well rounded and likeable, even the ones that would probably murder you the minute you looked at them wrong (and sometimes before). The show absolutely nails the prohibition era aesthetic in music, art and general feel from the dimly lit speakeasies to the lavish luxury of the Flying Pussyfoot. The dub of this show is absolutely amazing and by far one of the best examples of English voice acting in all of anime, filled with time-appropriate lingo but also carrying with it a strange sense of timelessness, fitting as the story jumps throughout the ages. Of course, the show isn’t perfect. The story can be downright incomprehensible for some, a few characters we see are never given a proper introduction in the later episodes or are introduced as important in the first episode and are promptly never seen again. They are expanded upon in the light novel series, but I’m talking about the anime specifically here since I haven’t read those yet. But the few downsides it has just cannot outweigh the good that this show has.
Even if you don’t like anime as a whole or you’re just a fan of interesting stories, give Baccano! a watch. You won’t regret it.