Reviews of yesteryear: Baccano

Baccano is one of those anime I’ve heard mentioned several times but have never seen. The anime was adapted from a series of light novels written by Narita Ryohgo. The anime was handled by Brain’s Base, a studio that I have never watched anything from. So, this is going to serve as my introduction to them. Maybe I’ll even let them have a goodnight kiss if they make a good first impression, but they’d better not expect more than that. What kind of guy do they think I am? With that said, and some strange people taking it seriously, let’s take a look at Baccano. I’ve actually reviewed two other Brain’s Base anime since writing this review, Durarara and Penguindrum. 

There are actually three rather distinct stories in Baccano. Tied together through both repeated characters and elements. There’s a story about trouble aboard a train, a story about a young girl looking for her brother, and a story about a group of people gaining immortality. The stories are told non-linearly with just about every episode having elements of all of them. This does present one issue. The very first episode shows the ending of the second story chronologically. Just think about that for a moment. You know exactly who’s going to survive. The end result is that a lot of moments that should be dramatic aren’t. Now, to be fair, showing the three stories simultaneously does essentially eliminate any tension that the earlier stories could have had. So, you may be wondering why the ending of the second story spoils so much. The basic answer is that the final chronological story, Eve’s search for her brother, doesn’t involve most of the characters from the other two stories. The characters who were on the train don’t even make an appearance. In short, they could have kept all three going simultaneously and still gained some good drama from the second story, if they hadn’t started by showing the aftermath. Another issue is that the anime jumps between incredibly goofy moments to serious moments frequently, sometimes in the span of seconds. Again, let’s be fair. There are some anime that balance drama and comedy quite successfully, but that’s not the way to do it. In order to maintain a good balance you need time to transition between the serious and the comedic. Moments where the comedy/drama winds down to make room for the other. If you switch between them quickly it doesn’t work. It’s just disjointing. Another thing that bothers me is that there’s a scene in the very first episode with two reporters talking about strange events and trying to make sense of… well, the rest of the series. The problem is that after the first episode these characters are never seen nor referenced again. Which renders the whole scene entirely pointless. Maybe they show up in the specials, but that doesn’t give them any relevance to the main series. They could’ve been cut out completely and nothing would have been lost. To Baccano’s credit though, the humour does work pretty well and the stories are unique and it’s interesting to see how they unfold.

Baccano has an unwieldy cast and they try to give a lot of them their own story arcs. The basic result is that the arcs are really short, rushed and most of them are pretty pointless. Some of the characters are interesting but most are pretty one-dimensional. Which works for the goofier characters like Isaac and Miria, but not so much for the more serious characters like Firo and Chane. For every interesting character there are three or four with very little personality. Most of them only serve one or two basic purposes in the story and are never developed beyond a few traits.

The art is actually one of Baccano’s stronger points. The characters have unique looks, there are some strong action sequences and there are some good details. Now, there are some problems. Some of the action sequences are kind of confusing. They get rushed through too quickly and it can be difficult to tell jut what happened with some of them. There are also some really bizarre facial expressions, particularly from Jacuzzi. To be fair, they’re probably meant to be more humorous than anything else, but they don’t really work most of the time.

The voice acting is another generally well done aspect. Every actor gives a performance that’s completely suited to their character. Koyasu Takehito gives a very calm and collected performance as the calm and collected Luck. Sakaguchi Daisuke gives a generally whiny performance as the generally whiny Jacuzzi but he doesn’t overdo it to a rating extent. Aoki Sayaka and Onosaka Masaya both give loud and exaggerated performances as Miria and Isaac and so on. I will acknowledge that it can get more than a little tiring, though. Yeah, it’s perfectly suited to the characters but that just means that the lack of character complexity carries over to the voice acting. There may be a lot of great actors in this, but they don’t get to demonstrate their range. Except for, possibly, Kanda Akemi who plays one of the more emotionally complex characters. The music is pretty simple. There’s a high energy track for the high energy scenes. A more toned down track for the more dramatic scenes and so on.

The yuri factor is a 1/10. Honestly, there’s not a lot of interaction among the female characters. Yeah, Miria gets to be on friendly terms with both Ennis and Nice but there’s nothing beyond that and those scenes are pretty short.

So, that’s Baccano. It’s… okay. There are some funny scenes, the art is well done and there’s some good action, but the story is lacking and the characters are largely dull and under-developed. If you just want some hyper-active fun you’ll probably like it. If you want some kind of depth, you’d be better served with something else. Final rating: 6/10. No goodnight kiss for Brain’s Base, but they can have a firm handshake.

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