Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Anime review: "Baccano!"

I usually don't do rewatches of anime, but it's been a very long time since I watched it, and I read something about additional episodes, so I decided to give a go. Additionally, it is relatively short (13 episodes without additions) so it was perfect to do something while waiting for my copy of "The Wise Man's Fear" to arrive. I was satisfied with the rewatch, but definitely not these three extra episodes I watched. I will first give a review of original anime, while these "new" episodes will be in separately paragraph.

Best comparison I could come up was that "Baccano!" is the "Pulp Fiction" of anime, happening in time of Prohibition and being even more complicated to watch. Why complicated, you ask? Because it is happening simultaneously in three years (1930, 1931 and 1932), often without distinct separation between them (there are years showing at change of scene in first episodes, but they got rare later), with a big cast and extravagant characters. Central story (year 1931) is the travel of the "Flying Pussyfoot", a transcontinental train arriving for New York. Second story (year 1930) explaining the meeting of some characters, happening in New York. Third story (year 1932) is just a resolution, showing some consequences of of previous events. Take note, these three stories are shown simultaneously, so we know the ending practically from the beginning. But do not be fooled by this: it is very surprising, unpredictable and exceptional anime. I would hate to spoil the revelation of its story for you. Let's just number who does it involves: several confronted gangster and Mafia groups, newspaper agency with informational network that infiltrates high and low, young girls trying to save his (undeserving) older brother, unbelieving duo of klutzy thieves, immortal alchemists older of that 200 years, homunculus, group of kids that steals from Mafia and make bombs, group of sadistic killers led by a man that wants to violently kill whole world (especially those who think they are untouchable), group of people trying to save their immortal leader from government that wants to do tests on him, a man who "know" that he is center of the world, a Rail Traces (a monster that eats trains)...

Plot will at turns looks completely incomprehensible, especially at first. Even though I watched this anime once before, first two episodes were very confusing. But soon you will realize that everything fits into place perfectly. Of course, you will not be able to understand everything, but that is intentionally. It is one of those shows that leave you with myriad of questions and begging for more. As for characters, they are even more flamboyant than the plot. Most of them are criminals, murders and psychopaths, people you wouldn't like to meet at the dark street, but they are extremely likable. The show doesn't have main character/s; instead, you could found yourself a favorite group and root for them, or just simply hope that everyone will see the end alive.

Word of caution, this anime is extreme in one more aspect: violence. And it is very explicit in it, so expect to see blood and bones in large amount. There is even one scene where one of the characters bites off another one's fingers...

About three additional episodes: DO NOT WATCH THEM! Especially if this is your first time watching, because it will ruin the feeling of "Baccano!" for you. Plot is left unfinished with original 13 episodes, but this is how it was intended and it works great that way. Adding these few episodes that explain what happened later and why only badly tries to explain things that are better left to one's imagination. It feels totally cheap: cheap storytelling, cheap animation, cheap design, cheap ending. True, there are few interesting facts to learn here, but I would survive without them. I was especially offended with the way the mauled Vino; they completely ruined my picture of him. New characters are generic and only a cheap imitations of original. So again, do no watch any episodes after 13!

When I was reviewing "Durarara!!", I mentioned that it was written by the same author as "Baccano!", meaning it as a compliment. So the reverse is also true. If you liked "Durarara!!", you should will PROBABLY like "Baccano!", too. It is darker, more violent and more complicated, but the two share the same spirit. "Baccano!" is not anime for everybody, but if you like noir, complicated plots, extravagance and seinen, and don't mind violence for violence's sake, you could like it. But it's definitely worth of try.

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