How Come Killin’ Us Didn’t Make Us Dead?

The online Baccano! description, “the exploits of a group of immortal 18th-century alchemists currently living their lives as Prohibition-era gangsters,” didn’t prepare me for the 16 episodes, directed by Takahiro Omori, that I was about to power down. As each episode ended, I felt my hand couldn’t move quickly enough to grab the remote and start the next one. Italian for “ruckus,” Baccano! is an apt title for this series of seemingly unrelated characters thrown together repeatedly with a heavy jazz soundtrack backing it up.

A Story Told Backwards and Forwards and Inside-out

The first episode of Baccano! lays out the end of the series, confusing and confounding those who haven’t been exposed to the manga or the light novels by Ryohgo Narita and Katsumi Enami. My confusion left me feeling discouraged about my initial enthusiasm for Baccano!, but not so much that I didn’t want to discover what was going on. As the series progressed, however, I took heart and found frustration in equal parts in the knowledge that certain characters make it off the train alive.

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The series is bookended by a discussion between two characters, Carol and the vice-president, who discuss the nature of a story and characters and whether a story can have a beginning and an end. Indeed, while the series ending is enjoyable, it lacks the firm satisfaction of a stopping point. Without Carol’s help, I quickly learned to stop trying to figure out who the main character might be; those initiating and driving the action in Baccano! are arguably minor to the major two-year arc, receiving the least screen time, exploration, and development.

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In the end, I was left knowing there is more. There are stories that occurred before the events of the anime and all sorts of things that go on after. They’re just not laid out for me. It’s something Carol and I both have to accept.

Where To Find Baccano!

Less than three months later, the May 2011 limited edition Baccano! blu-ray release is already difficult to lay hands on, but the English dub is easily found on both Netflix Instant and Hulu and the English sub on Hulu. A fan translation project of the light novels is ongoing.


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