The details start to become more apparent after a few more episodes and certainly more intriguing, but is it too little too late for Baccano?
What They Say
Mafia goons are doing their best to whack each other on the mean streets of the Big Apple, and hot lead is punching holes in the walls of a cross-country train called the Flying Pussyfoot. But this caper ain't about a simple gangland feud or a train heist. It's about hoods that can't seem to die proper after catching a bullet or five between the eyes.
For now, how's about we start on a ship called the Advenna Avis. Seems a group of guys who never wanna die are summoning a demon, and the proceedings are turning nasty. It's as good a start as any for a story where every Dick and Jane plays the lead.
Contains episodes 5-8.
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 done the same for each volume which is muted but does fit.. This cover features Isaac and Miria in some finery while they dance with great expressions to their faces. 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 an episode where we do get a 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)
The middle act of Baccano! introduces some rather good material to the series and it certainly expands upon what came before it. The problem that it has is that for a lot of people, myself included, the chaotic nature of the first half of the series is almost enough to turn you away because of how many stories are seemingly going on. That alone isn’t a bad thing, I like complicated stories, but with the shifting narrative between three different points in time and only 21 minutes or so per episode of actual story, everything goes very quickly and it’s almost frenetic at times. Putting the pieces together begins to feel like too much work.
Much like the first four episodes, the bulk of this has that nature of a whole lot going on that you suspect will all come together eventually. The numerous characters running around are intriguing enough, and any single storyline could likely handle its own show, but there’s enough confusion because of the size of the cast in remembering everything. Even worse for me is that it sometimes isn’t altogether clear which time period we’re in for some of it. So like the first volume, there are storylines that are stronger and more appealing than others that you can latch on to. If anything, once the final volume is in, it will make for good replay value.
The fun storyline in Baccano! continues to revolve around Isaac and Miria. These two have that kind of slightly disconnected feeling to them in what they do and watching them go through their lives, be it interacting with people on the train or the flashback when they first formally meet Ennis is highly amusing. The connections that they’re slowly making, in 1930 or 1931, are fun to watch and there’s almost a kind of elegance to it. Some of this is even reflected in the cover art where they’re both dressed up quite well and dancing with a kind of abandon to the norms of convention. When this pair comes on the screen, I can’t help but smile. Even more so after the police take notice of them and provide a slideshow of their various capers, costumes and all.
Where Baccano! really got me with this volume was episode seven where it spends pretty much the entire episode back in 1711. This takes us onto the ship where a group of alchemists are making their play for immortality but summoning a devil to give them the panacea that they need for it. This is the lynchpin of the series as it explains a lot of the subtle things that have been going on and giving us a far better idea of what Szilard is all about. Once you see the origins of this particular flavor of immortality, and those involved, you realize the threads that have come from it and how it’s starting to pull together multiple things within the 1931 storyline. This isn’t a moment where everything suddenly makes sense, but it is where you realize that there is a lot more to this than a series of small stories that will eventually intersect.
While the story may be disjointed at times, the visual design of it is incredibly tight. Whether they’re dealing with the story in 1711 or the 1930’s, it’s very detailed and impressive to look at. There’s so much going on in some scenes with how it’s laid out and the depth of it that it’s worth pausing and looking at it for a bit. The character designs continue to be impressive as well, especially considering the size of the cast. There’s hardly any real similarity between the characters and each feels like their own person without a nod towards someone else. When you add in their personalities, it only amplifies it more. While I may be having issues with the story at times, it’s a visual treat that I’m enjoying greatly.
Baccano! offers up some tasty morsels in this volume, including one episode that expounds on the core mythos of the storyline very well. The problems we had with the first volume are still here though, but it’s slowly starting to come together. This is a series that’s really conflicting for me since there’s a lot of appeal but the format of it is just off-putting. If this were a live action drama, I’d wait for a season set rather than watch it weekly on TV. There’s a whole lot to like here, from characters to designs and the stories themselves, but it’s one that definitely requires a lot of attention and work to follow it all. It’s worth the effort, but it’s one that I can’t quite bring myself to recommend wholeheartedly.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Episode 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.