Still not got that last arc of Mononoke watched, but I have just finished Baccano!
Well, the TV episodes, there are some DVD exclusive episodes to come.
What I loved about Baccano! is the structure of the thing.
The story isn’t deep in the slightest. It’s a homage to early 20th century pulps and often has a positively sadistic relish in it’s violence. It’s only really interested in thrills, fun characters and situations, and is packed full of all three. What sets it apart is how well the stories are structured. Based on the events of at least 3 different novels, it juggles the events effectively. In fact rather just looking at it from logistical point of view (“How do we fit 3 novels into a 13 ep. anime?”), the way the stories and the episodes are layered both on top of each other is joy to behold.
Last year’s The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzimiya‘s non linear storytelling often felt like a game of 5-Card Nancy, with it’s episodes just thrown out there in any old order. With Baccano! there seems to have been a great deal of thought about what bits of which story to put in which episode, and in which order within the episode. It’s like 13 delicious trifles made of gangsters, thieves and alchemy. All stacked on top of one another. The trick of making the first episode a clip show of episodes you were yet see was a stroke of genius (in fact some clips featured a scene that didn’t appear in the series as broadcast at all). With each episode, you could go back and watch that episode again and try to make more sense of it.
The animation varied greatly, I think there was a couple of episodes where it stunk the whole way through, but in general it was competent with occasional flashes of brilliance in the direction. And even when it stunk it wasn’t stinking because they weren’t trying, more like they weren’t up to what they were trying to do. Because of that it’s not something I’d consider buying in single volumes, but I’d fork out for a box set if it was to get licensed.
From an acting point of view, Masaya Onosaka (Vash The Stampede, Don Patch, Spandam) has good chemistry with Sayaka Aoki as the two characters who could possibly described as “leads”, the idiot thieves Isaac and Miria. If not the leads, they certainly steal the series. Keiji Fujiwara (Maes Hughes, Shin-Chan’s Dad) also gets to chew scenery in fun fashion with the OTT murderer Ladd Russo. Morita Masakazu impresses in his role too.
All in all, a splendid little pulpy series that’s well worth a look.
…though if you are squeamish about sadistic violence (example – eyes burnt out with a hot poker), you might want to give it a miss, as the latter half of the series gets a bit gorey.