A mishmash of stories intersect across a period of time in which… nothing makes any sense at all. At least not yet. Hopefully.
What They Say
Don't let nobody tell you there's no future in a life of crime, because some rackets can last forever. But we'll get around to all that immortality jazz later. A mafia turf war is raging on the mean streets of the Big Apple, a place where regular joes bounce between backdoor booze joints and the breadline. But this caper ain't about a simple gangland brawl. It's about hoods who can't seem to die proper after catching a bullet or five between the eyes. Sadistic hit-men and the dames they love, mad bombers going boom, monsters going bump and soul sucking alchemists bootlegging an elixir of eternal life.
Contains episodes 1-4.
FUNimation has provided for a rather good audio presentation for Baccano with its two language tracks. The original Japanese language track is given a basic stereo mix done at 192kbps which covers the bases well, letting us hear what was essentially heard during its original broadcast run. It’s a good forward soundstage mix with some placement and directionality but not too much that really sends it over the top. The English language track gets a 5.1 mix which handles the placement and depth better and overall provides a more engaging presentation when there are a lot of characters on screen. The action scenes make out better as well with a bit more impact. In listening to this release, we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. With four episodes on the release, the bitrate here is regularly in the sevens and eights which gives it plenty of room to breathe. With a very strong production design about it and some great animation, this helps to make this release look very good. Outside of a bit of noise in some of the solid color backgrounds, such as the darker colors, and a touch of line noise during a few panning sequences, this is a great looking release. Colors are warm and rich and there’s really not serious problems to speak of. With a strong visual look tied to a solid encoding, it’s easy to get lost within the show itself as it gets underway.
The cover design for Baccano! Is pretty muted which does fit, but I wonder if something a bit more outgoing would have worked better. This cover features Firo in the foreground as he looks quite dapper in his suit as he holds his hat to his chest while smiling. With a very simple non-descript background to all of it, the focus is squarely on the character artwork. The designs are solid, but with the soft and muted colors to it, it doesn’t really stand out all that much. The back cover is darker and murkier than the front with a look at the cityscape in all its dingy glory shown along the top which descends into black as it goes towards the bottom. The summary gives you a small idea of what some of the show is about and there’s a good sideways listing of the episode numbers and titles. Surprisingly, the logo is used on the back as well and it takes up a good chunk of space. The production credits and technical grid are nigh unreadable however as it looks like it’s very small brown text on black. The reverse side uses the same artwork as the back cover but opened up a bit so you can see the building proper on the right. The left side has a pair of character profiles with some full color artwork, some sketches and a brief summary about them. No show related inserts are included with this release.
The menu design is quite appropriate though a bit deceptive since it’s so… mellow? Especially in comparison to the show itself. The main menu has the look of a photo album page with one picture set off to the left a bit which is that of the cover artwork sans logos and such. The navigation is done in a large font along the right which has the basics and is quick and easy to navigate. The layout fits with the 1930’s theme fairly well once you get into it, but it’s very tame compared to the busy nature of the show itself. Submenus load quickly and we had no trouble navigating around, though as usual the player presets were completely ignored.
The extras are fairly minimal overall though dub fans get a little extra loving here. The standard extras are the included clean opening and closing sequences which are very welcome since the opening is such a fun piece of work. The other extra included here is a dub commentary for the fourth episode where we do get a fairly routine discussion about the show by those involved. Fans of the English language adaptation will obviously get more out of it than those who aren’t listening to that track at all.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on an ongoing series of light novels by Ryohgo Narita, Baccano! Is a thirteen episode series with three DVD only episodes that takes place in the early 1930’s. As well as the early 1700’s. And the late 1930’s as well. Baccano! Is a story within a story except that the second story is made up of numerous stories that intersect at times as events play out. There is so much going on in these first four episodes that a lot of it doesn’t really make sense, but it’s so engaging with its style and production values that you can’t help but get sucked into it. And hope that it does make sense instead of just being a fun visual treat.
Baccano! starts off with what’s likely the bookend piece where a Vice President and his assistant are talking about the best way to talk about events from years prior. She’s interested in talking about the various possibilities that exist in the early 1930’s which is where she sees the story starting as that’s where it became visible to the world what was going on. He implies that things should start back in 1711 where the real story begins, and provides a few hints as to the larger scope of things. As they debate, playfully, back and forth over this, there’s an amusing wink to the viewer as the Vice President has an internal monologue where he wonders if she realizes that they could even be the lead characters in the story.
From there, the story begins to shift between 1930 and 1931 as it introduces about a dozen main characters and a number of supporting characters. Some of them stand out better than others, but that’s more by force of personality. Everything has a real world feel about it but there’s that element of the supernatural at work as well. In the midst of mafia shenanigans, there’s one young man walking around who is able to rebuild his body easily. When he’s attacked and his fingers cut off, he’s able to draw them and his blood back to him like new. Though it’s a standout moment, the character doesn’t stand out too much himself in the slew of characters that are here. The ones that do stand out are far more outgoing, such as the thieves Isaac and Miria. The two initially spend time mining for gold out in the west, but they had to New York to visit friends on an invitation and they decide to rob the mafia in order to have some money to play with. They’re very off center in a colorful and fun way as they have a very skewed worldview.
Another story segment revolves around a young thug mafia man named Ladd Russo who has decided that he doesn’t want to play by the family rules anymore and is intent on making a name for himself. Of course, the family doesn’t want their name tied to whatever he does so that has plenty of room for problems. Ladd’s got a sense of style about him with the kind of violence he wants to put out there. His first plan is to cause problems on the ostentatious train the Flying Pussyfoot. To do so, he’s got his gang of thugs all dolled up in white suits so that when the killing starts, the blood will look very stylish when splattered on them. Like Isaac and Miria, he’s got a cracked and skewed view of the world, but one that’s far more violent than others.
What doesn’t make it fully into the mix until near the end of this volume is a character named Szilard, a man who is apparently an alchemist who has been alive for a couple hundred years. He’s been pursuing the recipe for true immortality and that formula is now in play. The mixture of the science, magic and Mafioso in the series is certainly engaging enough when placed into this era and setting. Having such a diverse cast, and this covers only a portion of it really, gives it a very vibrant and full feeling to all of it. The downside is that it’s so all over the map that it’s hard to piece things together even when you watch it all at once. The constant shifts between 1930 and 1931 is disconcerting as the flow is very poor because of it and you start to lose track of which time you’re in, especially as it jumps from character to character and setting to setting.
While the story flow is chaotic and overloaded, it certainly eases that problem by being such a visually engaging show. The character designs are very appealing, especially since it’s not a show heavily focused on kids. There’s plenty of variety to the cast and with the multiple points of view and the growing secondary cast, it feels like a very well populated world. The animation has a great flow to it where you can easily see the budget there on the screen. The world has the dark and grimy look to it when appropriate for its time period, but it also balances that out with the ostentatious elements as well, such as the train and the mafia side. There’s a whole lot to like here, right from the opening sequence as it introduces the cast and their relationships.
Baccano! is probably one of the more confusing shows I’ve started into with no knowledge about it beforehand. In watching these four episodes, there’s a glimmer of what it might be about towards the end of the volume, but for the most part it’s a big mishmash of stories from numerous points of view. There is a whole lot to like about that, a series where you have to work at it to get it, but at the same time there needs to be a bit more to latch onto as well. There’s a lot of interesting characters, but none get enough time to really connect with the viewer. The visuals connect plenty however and that helps to alleviate things as it plays out. I’m really not sure what to think of this show yet, but it’s got me very curious and wanting to see more. On the flip side, it’s easy to see that some people will be pushed away by the shows nature.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Actor Commentary
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.