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Baccano! PDF Print E-mail
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R2 DVD Reviews
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 - *****