Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Baccano! Review

The only issue when you have a backlog of anime so big it actually eclipses the amount of anime you've even watched is that sometimes it can take you forever to get to a show. Baccano is a title that has been on said list for a while and has always been something that I'll watch at some point but never got around to until now. It really is a shame that this show slipped through the cracks because it is quite easily one of the best anime I've seen in quite a long time. Hell, it might be one of the best shows I think I've seen all together.

I'll admit, Baccano is a tough show to crack. When watching the first episode, I was almost ready to completely give up on the show and write it off as a confusing mess. The first few episodes are like this in fact. The show quickly settles into a groove however, and once you start to wrap your head around the different timelines, there really is a brilliant story here. In my initial confusion, I was wishing that the show was edited differently and that it would have been entirely in chronological order but in hindsight, I actually think the way it is is perfect. For those who haven't seen the show, it is split into three distinct stories set in three different years, 1930, 1931 and 1932. The show will jump around all of these timelines in most episodes which, as I say, can be a bit jarring until you get used to it. Where the real benefit of the story not being chronological kicks in is when all the stories start to connect with each other, despite being quite far apart and distinct. There was definitely a few times throughout when I had an 'Ah ha' moment and connected two characters or stories and it's an incredibly satisfying feeling. The strongest story out of the trio was definitely the one set in 1931 aboard the Flying Pussyfoot train. This was the one I felt had the most interesting characters, the best action and the most tension. The story set in 1930 about Szilard trying to locate the immortality elixir and the more mafia based part of the story was also great but felt a little lacking something given we already knew what the outcome eventually was going by events we see in earlier episodes but in 1931. The weakest was easily the story set in 1932 and was the weak link in an otherwise terrific story. It was just kind of boring, especially when contrasted with the other two manic, fast paced and action packed stories. Baccano definitely feels like it will improve on multiple viewings, especially those first few episodes, which probably make a whole lot more sense when you know the whole story.

Another aspect that makes Baccano so fantastic is its characters. If this were a lesser anime, the gigantic cast of characters would be completely unwieldy, especially given only 13 episodes to play with, but Baccano manages to pull it off with great success. Each of the main characters, of which there are about 11, gets almost equal screen time and all definitely have their time to shine. Most of them don't really get much development, persay, but that doesn't mean they aren't all a hell of a lot of fun to watch. My personal favourites were probably Isaac and Miria. It's weird saying that because out of all the main cast, they are the only two that don't really have anything to do or any involvement with any of the stories yet they manage to steal every scene they are in and are two of the most instantly lovable characters from any anime I've seen. They essentially serve as comic relief and they work incredibly well, always managing to deliver laughs. I was also a big fan of Ennis, one of the only characters who seems to go through an arc and also kicked a lot of ass. Also helped she was really cute. Then, of course, there is the absolutely insane Ladd who chewed scenery like no anime character I've ever seen before and always brought some manic energy to the table. The only character I thought was kind of weak was Eve. It kind of makes sense the weakest characters is the one at the heart of the weakest story. She was just kind of dull and not memorable among a cast of full of incredibly memorable characters. Saying that, I still really liked her scene with Isaac and Miria.

With superb characters and story, the impressive presentation is just the icing on the cake. I've never seen a show from Brains Base before but I'd love to watch more of their work based on this. Baccano just oozes style and really captures 1940's Mafia culture through a Japanese lens exactly how you'd want it to. While I don't think the art and animation is necessarily unique, it was still really good and the animation really came into its own when it came to some of the horrific and bloody acts of violence seen throughout, an extreme that seems pretty rare nowadays. I'm a sucker for that kind of thing so I loved it but I think it could put some off who might not like that kind of thing. The music here is also outstanding. The tracks sound like something straight out of the era and it really gives it the right mood. The English voice cast knock it out of the park too. This is definitely a show that suits an English dub, being set entirely in America, and I could really imagine watching it in Japanese.

All in all, Baccano is an amazing show, one I think everyone should give a try, especially with the gorgeous Blu Ray release put out by Anime Ltd not too long ago. It can take some getting into but, once you do, you'll find it hard to stop.

Original Publish Date: 17/2/16

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