Creator: Ryohgo Narita
Producer: Brain's Base
Runtime: 2007
Episodes: 13 (+ 3 OVAs)
Rating: R

Baccano! is the first project from Ryohgo Narita, creator of one of my favorites, Durarara!! While Baccano! is highly commended for its novel approach to storytelling, its complexity is unchecked by direction. This is Narita's first swing at his now signature form of storytelling and it is not perfect.

Baccano! is set primarily in 1930s America and follows the events that transpire on the "Flying Pussyfoot" express train from Chicago to New York City. Aboard the train are professional criminals, a monster known as the rail tracer, and immortals. While the train events play out, the story skips to different times and settings to reveal more about the characters, their pasts, and what is really taking place on the train.

From the opening scene (and with the closing scene), Baccano! makes it clear that this is a different form of storytelling. There is no main character (Firo is main character-ish, Carol says), there is no overriding plot (though many of the events do take place on the train), and there is no ending. This is a peek into the lives of humans, a story of their interaction with one another and their evolution - the story is infinite, and its continuation is explicitly left to the viewer's imagination. This is a fascinating and potentially very rewarding approach to storytelling, but the kinks are not yet ironed out in Baccano! This is a show that you must watch with absolute attention: the story jumps around nearly constantly, both in time and setting; there are nearly 20 "main" characters; and there are at least three significant "plots." The problem with all of this is not the complexity - complexity is good! But complexity must be presented in a comprehensible manner. There is simply too much happening and too much constant change in point of view to shove into 16 episodes, especially when the presentation is not so clear.

Nor is the plot remarkable. The elements of immortality and conflict among crime families have been done before. The plot is often all over the place and at times tacky. The characters can be enjoyable but many are not developed enough (there simply isn't enough time). The show can be pretty funny, sometimes touching, and pushes the limits with occasional grotesque scenes and some very unique characters like Ladd Russo and Claire Stanfield. There is potential here, but the execution is flawed.

Baccano!'s animation is crisp and attractive but at times murky. This might just be an attempt to capture an old 1930s feel, but it's unattractive. A number of the scenes involving the train itself are unfortunately done in 3D. Many of the characters are similar looking; this is especially problematic since there are numerous main characters and things are hard enough to follow as is. The show's soundtrack is relatively bland - there is nothing especially memorable and the music is often kept at a low volume to the extent that one might never notice it playing. The English voice cast is quite good and a variety of accents are used (often well, though a few characters, especially those with German accents, are tough to bear). The show should probably be watched in English so as to get the full 1930s gangster effect.

Baccano! is a highly celebrated show, most likely due to its pioneering way of telling a story. Unfortunately, the show is all over the place and is not presented in a clear enough manner, nor is the plot itself anything revolutionary. Baccano! is worth watching, especially given its praise by anime viewers, but if you want to see polished (more presentable) Narita, watch Durarara!!

Story: 7.1
Animation: 7.5
Sound: 6.0

Overall Score: 7.0 (Good)

Dual Audio (English/Japanese) Episode Downloads

1 - The Vice President Doesn't Say Anything About the Possibility of Him Being the Main Character
2 - Setting the Old Woman's Qualms Aside, the Flying Pussyfoot Departs
3 - Randy and Pezzo are Busy Getting Ready for the Party
4 - Ladd Russo Enjoys Talking a Lot and Slaughtering a Lot
5 - Jacuzzi Splot Cries, Gets Scared and Musters Reckless Valor
6 - The Rail Tracer Covertly, Repeatedly Slaughters Inside the Coaches
7 - Everything Starts Aboard the Advenna Avis
8 - Isaac and Miria Unintentionally Spread Happiness Around Them
9 - Claire Stanfield Faithfully Carries out the Mission
10 - Czelaw Meyer on His Scheme of Being Frightened by the Shadow of an Immortal
11 - Chane LaForet is Silent Before the Two Mysterious People
12 - Firo and the Gandor Brothers are Shot Down
13 - Both the Life of an Immortal and a Mortal are Equally Glorified
14 - Graham Spector's Love and Peace
15 - The Juvenile Delinquents Who Arrived at the Upscale Residential District are Still the Same as Always
16 - Carol Realized There was no End to This Story

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