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Monday, 04 October 2010 08:18

Baccano!

Gangsters, immortals and monsters, oh my - the transcontinental train the Flying Pussyfoot has problems, and there's a real doubt that its passengers will reach their destination alive. The information brokers at the Daily Days newspaper have a handle on what's been going on on-board, though, so here are the details...

Young girl Carol, a companion to the Vice-President of the Daily Days, has been closely following a series of strange events that first began in November 1930, and with all the curiosity and determination of a reporter she's determined to find out what's behind them. Under the Vice-President's watchful eye - and with a few hints from his as well - she's pulling together a story, and it's a strange one to be sure; a story of gangsters, guns - and apparently immortals, who are making a bout of inter-gang warfare more bloody than it may otherwise have been.

There are two things to bear in mind about Baccano! before you sit down to watch it. First, it doesn't believe in linear storytelling - the main events on the Flying Pussyfoot take place in 1931, but there are many scenes set both before that (up to 200 years earlier, in places) and after, with little rhyme or reason to when the story skips around the timeline. There's also a huge cast to pay attention to - there are 17 "primary" characters featured & named in the opening sequence alone, with many others also playing a part that you need to keep track of. Put those two points together, and you have a series that you need to pay attention to if you're going to get the most out of it - put it on in the background while you're doing something and you're going to miss so much that the series will barely make sense. You have been warned.

In amongst all the chaos and carnage, there are two storylines that stand out against the rest. One the one hand is the battle between Maiza Avaro, keeper of the secret of immortality and now a New York gang-lord, and Szilard Quates, who would very much like that secret for himself and who would, without doubt, be far more ruthless in possession of the secret than Maiza would ever be. There are certain rules and abilities that go along with immortality that make disputes between them rather messy affairs (especially given the ability of one immortal to "devour" another at will, making their immortality immaterial when it comes to fighting each other), and these two hold a grudge that goes right back 200 years to when they were first granted immortality - and immediately turned on each other. This side of the story is as much a way of explaining the mechanics of the immortals as anything else, but it also has a good line in personal conflict that helps keep the attention.

The other storyline revolves around events on the train itself, where the Fates have brought at least five different groups, each with different but overlapping aims, on board to fight it out in a series of set-piece events that can get viscerally bloody at times. Some of those involved are immortal, others aren't, and they have to make their plans accordingly, with the balance of power on board shifting back and forth as people begin to grasp what's going on and adapt to the unusual circumstances. With it all taking place in the enclosed confines of a train, there's a heightened sense of tension about the whole affair and some scenes that capture well the sense of fear you might have when caught up in such carnage. It's genuinely engrossing stuff.

Running throughout the series are the adventures of Isaac Dian and Miria Harvent, who while immortal genuinely don't seem to realise it and who spend their lives basically just having fun - usually by carrying out a string of outrageous heists that, looking at the way they get on, you wouldn't credit them with having the intelligence to do. Their main purpose, as far as the series is concerned, is to be a little ray of light into the lives of everyone they meet; and for us, the viewers, it's to be a piece of comic relief amidst the carnage that's going on around them - and they excel at both roles.

These three arcs, and more besides, are rolled together into a whole that, while it needs to be payed attention to, will properly reward you for the time you put into it. It's all presented with a large dose of style that only adds to the appeal. There are also 3 'OVA' episodes on the disc (14-16) that provide an epilogue to the story, with a particular emphasis on Jacuzzi Splot and Chane Laforet, two of the characters who didn't get as much focus during the main part of the series that they could have,and it's a story that rounds the series off nicely. This was one of those shows that had me hooked from beginning to end, and is well worth picking up.

Rating - *****

1 - The Vice President Doesn't Say Anything About the Possibility of Him Being the Main Character
Young girl Carol, a companion to the Vice-President of the Daily Days, has been closely following a series of strange events that first began in November 1930, and with all the curiosity and determination of a reporter she's determined to find out what's behind them. Under the Vice-President's watchful eye - and with a few hints from his as well - she's pulling together a story, and it's a strange one to be sure; a story of gangsters, guns - and apparently immortals, who are making a bout of inter-gang warfare more bloody than it may otherwise have been...

CarolFiro & Maiza

2 - Setting the Old Woman's Qualms Aside, the Flying Pussyfoot Departs
The Flying Pussyfoot, a high-class express train running between Chicago and New York, is one of those trains that's a once-in-a-lifetime affair for most people - but an old woman is refusing to join her husband on board, fearing that the train is cursed. There are creatures on board who are not human, she tells him - and she may just have a point. Isaac and Miria, meanwhile, have been digging for gold, but after six months underground Miria's beginning to have her doubts about Isaac's methods. Ennis - a friend in New York - is asking for them to come home. Their chosen transport is the Flying Pussyfoot, and they're unaware of the trouble they're about to let themselves in for...

Isaac & MiriaSplot

3 - Randy and Pecho Are Busy Getting Ready For the Party
Unbeknownst to the Flying Pussyfoot's passengers - yet - there are several groups on board who each have separate plans to bring terror to their journey. An immortality cult who want to use the passengers as hostages for their leader's freedom; a gangster mob who have their eyes on a very valuable piece of cargo; several on-the-run criminals; and more besides. As the train rolls through the darkness, they each begin to put their plans into action. Young girl Eve Genoard, meanwhile, is trying to find her brother Dallas - he's one of the most despised gangsters around, and even though her personality couldn't be further from his, she's desperate to be reunited with him - but finding someone who'll take on the job of finding him is more easily said than done...

Love-hateInformant

4 - Ladd Russo Enjoys Talking a Lot and Slaughtering a Lot
All hell has broken out on the Flying Pussyfoot, and that's just the way that Ladd Russo likes it - the sound of gunfire is getting his blood boiling (even more than usual), even though it's not his men that are causing it. Yet. Ladd is a homicidal maniac, the self-styled greatest assassin who ever lived, and the whole reason he and his men are on the train is to engage in a little cold-blooded murder. Purely in the name of business, you understand. Although he wasn't expecting the competition...

Going downPlanning

5 - Jacuzzi Splot Cries, Gets Scared and Musters Reckless Valour
From what we've seen of Jacuzzi Splot so far, you'd be forgiven for thinking he was a feckless crybaby who would be absolutely no use in a problem - and his reaction to seeing the carnage in the conductors' cabin doesn't do anything to say otherwise. But when he's backed into a corner, and the tears have finally dried up... well, let's just say that his name is on wanted posters for a reason. Meanwhile, it's not just Dallas' sister who's keen on finding him, and some of the others who are interested in him are promising dire consequences if he isn't found soon...

Look behind you...Hostages

6 - The Rail Tracer Covertly, Repeatedly Slaughters Inside the Coaches
The Rail Tracer: a creature of legend, who uses cover of darkness to sneak up on travelling trains and, carriage by carriage, works its way up the train devouring the should of those inside. Like all legends, no-one expects it to actually be real - which makes it doubly surprising when something that very much meets the description of the Tracer starts patiently killing those on board the Flying Pussyfoot. As if they didn't have enough killers on board already. This is all rather academic to Czeslaw Meyer, however - tasked with protecting the Senator's daughter Milly, he's well aware that there are Immortals on board - but he also seems to know how to deal with them...

CzeslawEve

7 - Everything Starts Aboard the Advenna Avis
1711 - yes, it's backstory time - and aboard the good ship Advenna Avis a group of alchemists have gathered, in search of the Great Panacea: the solution to all of mankind's ills. But some believe that what they really intend is to summon devils into the world, something that obviously can't be allowed. The truth, as ever, is somewhere in between: the summoning of the devil is supposed to bring about the Grand Panacea, immortality itself, a gift worth any risk. But there already seems to be a reassure loose aboard the ship, killing anyone it comes into contact with - a demon who already seems to hold the secret to immortality...

OriginSophia

8 - Isaac and Miria Unintentionally Spread Happiness Around Them
In New York, two FBI agents are hot on the trail of Isaac and Miria, who seem to have left a string of audacious robberies in their wake - and at each one, they've been caught on camera, goofing off in the way that they always do. To the NYPD officers who've been tasked with helping the FBI track them down, it seems as though the whole affair is just a joke. While that is what they do best, the passengers on the Flying Pussyfoot are discovering that there is another side to them. When they're avoiding being devoured by the Rail Tracer, that is...

CaughtAren't they great?


9 - Claire Stanfield Faithfully Carries Out the Mission
Despite the best efforts of the authorities to suppress it, word is beginning to leak out that something very unusual has happened on board the Flying Pussyfoot, and the President of the Daily Days would dearly love to know the details. On board the train, Ladd's truly beginning to revel in the level of bloodshed that's being committed, even though he hasn't had much of a chance to do any of it himself yet - but with the Tracer's first victim being one of his own men, he's got an excuse to carry out some righteous revenge...

Bad timingSzilard & Ennis

10 - Czeslaw Meyer is Forced to Rework His Tremble-Before-the-Specter-of-Immortals Strategy
Senator Beriam, looking to find a way to save his wife and daughter, turns to Huey Laforet for help. He's the man the captors want released - making him also the one man who can call them off. Which he chooses to do in a rather unusual way: his daughter, Chane, is with those on board the train. Her loyalty to her father is absolute, and the pair have an almost telepathic link which Huey uses to tell her that his supporters' plan must fail. Czeslaw, meanwhile, is trying his hand at a little negotiation himself to try and secure Milly's safety - and when that doesn't work, decides that more direct action is required...

EscortUndercover

11 - Chane Laforet Remains Silent in the Face of Two Mysterious People
Aware that she's not exactly playing on their side, the leader of those seeking Huey's release orders that both she and Ladd be killed - unaware that Ladd has already legged it (those that fight and run away...) and is listening to the order to kill him being given. Realising that this is a situation that he can use to his advantage, Ladd tries to strike a deal with Chane - but makes the mistake of badmouthing Huey in the process, something that Chane won't stand for. Maiza, meanwhile, is having an unexpected meeting with Quates - their first in over 200 years - and Quates hasn't just dropped by for a friendly chat...

ChaneGrumpy old man

12 - Firo and the Three Gandor Brothers are Felled by Assassins' Bullets
Daily Days' "information broker" on the Flying Pussyfoot, Rachel, clearly isn't the sort of person to sit idly by when the shit hits the fan - quite unusual for her line of work. When the various groups of gunmen on board first kicked off, she sneaked out a window, moved along the roof of the train, and set about freeing those who had been taken captive by the opposing groups. Back in New York, it seems that most of those working for Maiza are unaware of the existence of the immortals - their boss included - which makes them a little surprised when, after 'killing' Dallas and his men for their transgressions, they come right back to life...

SurrenderLua

13 - Both the Immortals and Those Who Aren't Sing the Praises of Life Equally
With Ladd dealt with, Vino turns his attention to Chane. He's not interested in her connection to Huey, or his immortality - he firmly believes that he'll never die anyway - but he does have a proposal for her, one that demands an answer. As for Quates, after 200 years he's finally gotten Mazia where he wants him - but, after dealing with Quates' low opinion of her for so long, Ennis is about to prove that she has the independent thoughts and emotions that he never gave her credit for, by turning on her creator...

DevouringSleep with the fishes

14 - Graham Specter's Love and Peace
Miria and Isaac are working on creating a world-record domino layout, just so they can knock them over. Maiza and the others don't quite see what the appeal is - domino toppling is mean to be a game for kids, after all - but their enthusiasm is infectious, and before long most of the gang find themselves put to work setting pieces. But that's just a sidestory. For the main event, we go back to see Ladd, a few years before he was tossed from the Flying Pussycat, when his uncle asked him to "have a quiet word" with the owner of a garage who was giving them problems. Of course, Ladd's idea of a "quite word" is somewhat more violent than most people's - and he also didn't count on the intervention of one Graham Specter, a man who's almost as violent as Ladd. Just in the name of love and peace...

Eat thisMan with a spanner

15 - The Delinquents That Arrive at the High-Class Neighbourhood Are the Same as Always
In case you were wondering, Nice got her cars when a little experiment she was working n as a kid blew up in her face. That doesn't seem to have overly bothered her - but now she and Jacuzzi are back in New York, and their men have recovered Chane from a river and given her shelter. Jacuzzi is keen to find out as much about her as possible, but given that she doesn't speak he's finding it hard going. To Chane, the biggest question is why Jacuzzi and the others are being so nice to her. There's also the small matter of her promise to meet up with Vino. Czeslaw, meanwhile, has had a series of meetings with Rachel from the Daily Days, and has been explaining the workings of immortality to her...

Wedding dressRealisation

16 - Carol Realises That the Story Cannot Have an Ending
Senator Beriam's hush money has so far made sure that word of the events on board the Flying Pussyfoot has so far failed to reach the press - although investigations are ongoing, particularly by the Daily Days and their information brokers. They've pieced together a large part of the story - but there are still some gaps that could use filling in. Vino, meanwhile, approaches Rachel - he needs a woman's advice on something - while Elmer has a few things to say to some of his fellow immortals...

Unhappy reunionVice-President


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