Baccano! Review

20 03 2008

 Baccano!
Genre: Action, Gangsters, Stupid Names
Main Studio: Brains-Base
Episodes: 13

The opening of an anime is extremely important, though this is probably because they are so damn long. Western TV shows have been moving towards extremely short intros such as with such as Lost, Heroes, and 24. Comparatively, anime intros take up a good minute and a half at the beginning of each episode. They are required to be full blown music videos that somehow convey what the show is about, and usually it’s tone. They also should make people not want to skip them, so will ideally have a catchy tune.

It’s no wonder that a sort of general template for an anime intro has developed. Typically the title will appear roughly 20 seconds in, then the first half will be slow shots of characters and settings, then the second half will be frantic and disjointed action shots, and then there will be a pan up right at the end. You can see this concept being mocked in the Kujibiki Unbalance intro, or used seriously in a surprising number of shows.

Every so often though, a truly excellent and orignal opening will be made like the bizarre and creepy intro to Paranoia Agent. Of course on the flip side, sometimes it fails miserably like the godawful intro to the otherwise brilliant Gankutsuou. The intro to Baccano is so excellent, I don’t really feel much more needs to be conveyed about the show other than my embedding this youtube video of the opening. It really does say everything that needs to be said about the show:

Okay, perhaps it doesn’t say everything, but it’s almost damn near perfect anyway. Well, I guess I should actually describe the show at this point in the format of answering your assumed questions about it.

Jacuzzi Splot?

Yes, Jacuzzi Splot. Nice Holystone too.

So is this set in America or something?

Yes, it’s primarily set in New York and Chicago around 1930-1932, but sometimes goes off to other time frames. The complete range of years covered in the show is 1711 to 2001, if you must know, but it concentrates mostly on the stuff happening in the 30s.

That was a metric fuck-tonne of characters!

That’s not a question, but yes you are indeed correct. The crazy thing is that it’s not even all of them by a long shot. It’s probably a good thing that they flash up all their names at the beginning of each episode, otherwise you’d probably get lost.

Show me a picture.

Okay. This shot continues the tradition of practically anything being more powerful than a gun, including swords, punches, playing cards, lip-stick, and small children.

High Kick

What the hell is the plot anyway?

A trans-continental train called the Flying Pussyfoot races from Chicago to New York, leaving corpses, luggage and mutilated passengers in it’s wake. What is happening on the train? Watch to find out!

You’d better tell me anyway.

or?

Heh Heh Heh…

Ohhhkay. Well, let’s just say an improbably large number of badasses board the same train with different objectives. gangsters from many different families, lunatics, immortals, assassins, and a mysterious monster known as Rail Tracer converge on the train and end up getting in each others way. The show visits each character in turn, and gives them their moment to be the main charater. There is no main character really, in fact part of the first episode is dedicated to attempting to determine who the main character is. If I were to pick stand out characters it would be the bumbling crime partners Miria and Isaac who appear in most of the different time periods the show takes place in. They might be seen by some as just the comic relief of the show, but their insanely positive and loud attitudes are the heart and soul of the show, and substantial part of what makes it so great.

So, you done?

Not yet. Another thing I should mention about this show is that it’s sort of broken up chronologically like Pulp Fiction. The time frame shifts about all over the place, and this is especially present in the show’s baffling initial episode. After the initial onslaught it settles down into a sort of state where there are generally three plots going on in different time frames, but each occurs chronologically so it’s not too confusing. It’s based on an series of 14 light novels.

What novels?

Light novels. They’re sort of like the size of a volume of Manga, but a novel. They are aimed at teenagers and young adults in Japan. They have an unfortunate association with kiddie books outside of Japan though, so they haven’t really taken off and are rarely translated. Look, it’s just like a novel, but shorter. It’s a good format, honest.

Har Har, you read kiddie books. If you would like to grow up, please turn to page 124, you ponce.

Shut it.

What does Baccano mean?

According to the Wikipedia nerds, it’s Italian for ‘noise. I can’t get google translate to confirm this though, so I’m not sure which trusted internet source to believe.

Show me another picture.

Fine. In this picture three different groups of people simultaneously try to hold up the Dining Car.

Holdup

So, go on. Criticise it.

Well, I already mentioned the insanely confusing first episode. There’s also the fact that it’s only part of a much larger story. These interestingly edited crime caper things usually come together to an excellent conclusion like in Lock Stock, but unfortunately the show leaves quite a few aspects that never get properly resolved. Like there’s a girl with a giant pole arm who shows up in the first episode but never appears again. She shows up in later books apparently, and they just never got around to adapting that bit. I call this the “Berserk Clause”.

Rate it out of ten.

Ten.

Really that good?

Yeah, pretty much totally watch it.

Seriously though, Jacuzzi Splot?

Jacuzzi Splot.

Jacuzzi Splot.