America in the 1930s, the age of gangsters and prohibition. Several crime families are fighting a turf war and a luxury train called “The Flying Pussyfoot” is about to make its maiden voyage from Chicago to Manhattan. This train will also become the subject of a grand heist, which is led by several parties acting independently of one another — and they all pull their guns at the exact same moment. Even more extraordinary is that some of the train’s other passengers are on missions of their own, which have nothing to do with the crime that is about to take place. Confused? You might be, but Baccano! delivers a unique experience that will leave you breathless until the very last episode.
The first episode opens with the question as to who will be our story’s main protagonists, and there are many contenders. Is it the handsome young gangster, Firo Procheniezo? The cocky ne’er do well Dallas Gandor? Or could it be the strange duo, Isaac and Miria, small time criminals who waltz into the story of each character, gleefully tripping in and out of danger? Maybe there is no clear main character, but in their own way, they are all main character-ish, incredibly unique and memorable. If for some reason you still find the large cast difficult to keep track of, no worries. They are all introduced by name during the lively opening credits.
Each episode of Baccano! is told in alternating points of view while jumping back and forth through time, explaining the events that led the characters to be on the train. As the story progresses, these backstories begin to intertwine, revisiting past storylines from the perspective of different characters and resulting in a slight Rashomon effect.
While it might be difficult to tell each of the crime families apart, the character designs are absolutely beautiful. Everyone is distinct, everyone stands out in the crowd, and every storyline has high points. In a lesser series this might cause a mess, but the ensemble cast of Baccano! is extraordinary. The action scenes are slick and exciting, alternating between fist fights, gun fights, and hand knife battles on the roof of the train. In flashbacks, the landscape of Manhattan in the 1930s is well done. Everything from the buildings to the cars on the road feels authentic to the time period and the “Flying Pussyfoot” itself screams art deco, with decadent motifs that run along its side. The excellent jazz soundtrack only enhances this fantastic setting.
While this is all great, Baccano! will raise some eyebrows when it comes to violence. This is indeed a gangster story and several of our protagonists are quite psychotic. Baccano! is very, very bloody. Scenes include not only gangster-on-gangster violence, but violence against the elderly, women, animals, and even a child. These triggers might make this series difficult to share with younger viewers or in a club setting. Baccano! is rated MA and it does right to earn this rating. That said, there is a ton of comic relief and anyone who is able to stomach the graphic scenes will be rewarded with equally hilarious ones. One minute you’re cringing, the next you’re grinning.
It should be mentioned that Baccano! is not just a gangster story, but also a supernatural one. Several characters in the story are immortal, something we discover in the very first episode. At points, the plot flashes back a few hundred years to explain why this is so. While this piece of the puzzle definitely adds depth to the characters, it might seem tedious to those who only care where the action is. A few of the dub voice actors also use a “Cagney” accent to add to the mafia-esque setting, which makes sense but it is a little cheesy.
Regardless, not all anime series have what it takes to be considered a classic. In this case, Baccano! delivers the goods.
Dub: Not bad, unless the stereotypical “gangster” accents annoy you.
Sub: Easy to read. No problems here.
DVD Extras: Episode commentaries, textless opening and closing, and promotional extras.
Baccano! The Complete Series Box Set
directed by Takahiro Omori
400 minutes, Number of Discs: 3, DVD
Company Age Rating: TVMA
Related to: Baccano! by Ryogho Narita