ANIME & MANGA - Review
15:33 - 11th March 2013, by Amanda Young

Baccano!

A group of alchemists have finally uncovered the secret to immortality onboard a ship in 1711. In the 1930s, a group of Mafiosi are running scams in New York, while a pair of ridiculously inept thieves leave a trail of petty crime in their wake. The Flying Pussyfoot, a transcontinental train, hosts a variety of ill deeds as it flies across the countryside - including kidnappings, hijackings, serial murder and double-crossings. How does it all fit together? At the end of this 16 episode series, you might just find out...

To sum up the events of Baccano! you need only watch the fantastically exuberant intro sequence, which not only sets the scene for the whimsical, violent, complex action to come, but also provides a helpful reminder for the extended cast at the start of every episode. With a series that helpfully lets you know it has no main character fairly on in the proceedings, this episodic recap is extraordinarily helpful.

The viewer is plunged right in the middle of the action as the storyline whips through timelines, racing backwards and forwards to uncover the motivations of the various factions as they attempt to achieve their goals. With such a huge cast (18 of whom are introduced in series' credits each episode), it's a testament to the skill of the anime producers that each one remains easy to recognise and develops their own distinct character. That said, there are some easy standouts to mention, most notably the likeable rogues Isaac and Miria, who brighten up the screen every time they appear, as well as the violent maniac Ladd Russo, who is an antihero and a half.

With the addition of the immortals to the storyline, what could have been a straight-up crime caper quickly becomes a series with a much more supernatural bent, and increases the amount of intrigue and double-crossing as the immortals carry grudges for centuries. It also ups the violence considerably, as not only does the psychotic Ladd enjoy inflicting unnecessary violence on his victims, but the immortals also provide their pound of flesh, as although they can be injured, they can't die. Cue bloody scenes in which they are blown away only to come back to life, and in one unfortunate instance, seemingly attract the attention of a series of torturers throughout their lifetime. The immortals aren't the only supernatural element at play here either, as the second disc sees the characters on the Pussyfoot come up against a mysterious, blood-red being known as the Rail Tracer, which is systematically tearing passengers to their gory deaths. That a series can juggle such horrific scenes of death, violence and torture, along with some truly joyfully hilarious ones (courtesy of Isaac and Miria) is truly impressive and incredibly rare.

As the action continually slips between the events prior to the action on the Flying Pussyfoot, during, and after, plus flashbacks to the events onboard the ship in 1711 that led to a group of immortals being created, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the story being laid out before you, but luckily there's a lot more to Baccano! than just piecing together the plotline. There's action, comedy, drama and even a bit of romance thrown in for good measure, and it's perfectly possible to watch the entire thing, not really understand all of the plot details, and still come away entertained. With such fascinating characters to follow, it's tempting just to sit back and enjoy the ride rather than trying to decipher the plot at first go. Besides, a second viewing will no doubt clear up most of the queries.

When this boxset comes to a close, there's little doubt that Baccano! has provided some of the most entertaining episodes of the year. Whilst the pacing of the final disc is lopsided, as a whole, the series works fantastically and entertains on almost every level, providing comedy, horror, action and drama in spades, as well as some of the most memorable characters we've seen for a while. Clever, funny and ultimately a very special series, Baccano! more than deserves its place on any fan's shelf.

One of the best shows we've seen all year, period.
SCORE: 5/5
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