Baccano! Vol. #4 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, July 06, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Baccano comes to a close but they note quite bluntly that there is no true end, no true main character and in a lot of ways no real story.

What They Say
The train is pulling in and the mobsters and monsters who populate this caper are ready to settle a score that's been a long time coming. But this ain't about revenge or pride. This is about the ins and outs of living forever. It's about making your way among thieves with honor and politicians with dirty hands. This is about sticking up for the guys that do you right and the gals that love you good.

For now, how's about we start at the end of the story, where a ruthless alchemist is gonna get his after a couple of centuries of shady soul eating. It's as good a start as any for a story that never ends.

Contains episodes 13-16.

The Review!
Audio:
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.

Video:

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.

Packaging:
The final installment continues with the same kind of design aesthetic that we saw with the previous volumes. The central characters for this one deals with the bookend characters that are discussing the story, the little girl and the company vice president. Their designs are solid and appealing enough, 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 landscape with the railroad tracks in what could be moonlit snow. 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 tracks expanded 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.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
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 one 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)
Baccano is a series that really does finish out in an interesting way here as it almost sort of dares its viewers to take issue with what it’s done. In part, it’s hard to blame the show because they are adapting something that’s still being created and there’s no real conclusion there, but that’s also part of the point. With its jumping into the story at multiple points with an expansive cast, we don’t really see the beginning here nor the end. And in a way, we don’t see the middle of the story either but rather a series of interconnected events and people who are caught up in something potentially big. It’s fascinating to watch the various orbits of so many characters across quite a bit of time, considering it shifts from 1711 to 2001, but if there’s hope for anything substansive, Baccano will not provide it.

Looking at this final volume, which has the last TV broadcast episode and the three DVD only episodes, it does wrap up the events of the Flying Pussyfoot incident fairly quickly. The whole point of it does feel like it’s lost outside of it simply revolving around the intersecting point of so many characters and their stories. It was filled with violence, hilarity and a lot of truly creepy dark moments as some of them moved about it. The Rail Tracer, aka Claire, really took the cake with the way he moved about the train and caused carnage to ensue. The cold but almost whimsical calculation of it all was priceless and served well against Ladd’s more outlandish and brazen attacks on others. Something about the Rail Tracer really comes across as intriguing though, particularly in the moments where he deals with Chane and realizes that there’s something different there with her which gets pursued in the epilogue.

It’s hard to pin down what a lot of this final set of episodes is all about in a way. The series, as stated very clearly at the end, is about a series of interconnected events and people. There’s no beginning or end and I don’t think there’s really a middle here either. It’s just a whole lot of action packed weirdness in life that hits at one time. But it also spreads its story across several different periods of time which monkey’s with how you view it. But there are some great nuggets in there. The trip back to the1700’s was illuminating as it highlighted that a good deal of the stories we’re following involve the immortals that were born from events there. Once you have that common thread visible, things fall into place a bit more in seeing how it all works. There’s also a great moment where they shift to 2001 with a couple of the characters which just had me laughing at the strangeness of it. Much of Baccano is like that though in that the diverse cast of characters have their own such moments on a regular basis. Well, when they’re not nearly being killed or sucked into someone’s hand.

While there is some time shifting going on within these episodes, a lot of it takes place after the events of the Flying Pussyfoot where the world has been bought off and the reality is being kept silent. With the size of the cast, there’s a lot of stories to work through when it comes to providing proper epilogues. But before they can even get to that, which makes up the bulk of the last episode, there’s a lot of other small moments to cover as everyone settles into where they’re going next. It’s a very unusual series in how it works because, as they say, this isn’t the end. It has the feeling of people leaving from a party and going back to their own lives again until they all meet up once more. And with so many characters and none really having a very solid main character feeling, the small moments are all they get and you have to take it in as a total piece.

In Summary:
I may not “get” a large part of Baccano, but I damn well enjoy Baccano. I think that it’s disjointed yet interconnected nature is a huge part of its appeal, along with slick writing and fantastic character designs and animation. But I also found that the very nature of the story where it’s really just random events that come together doesn’t really come together in a truly satisfying way. The high point of the series for me was the revelations about the immortals and how that came about and then understanding just how connected they all have been in the couple of hundred years since. With this being part of a light novel series that’s still ongoing and over fourteen volumes long, I’d love to get my hands on those to see if it makes more sense. I do continue to wonder if Baccano makes out better in marathon form, but it’ll be awhile before I think I can sit down and take it all in again at once to try and piece it together. Something about the show is almost overwhelming. It’s not exactly experimental anime, but it’s certainly close in some ways and it stands out as a unique piece of work that doesn’t quite work as well as it should.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 15 Commentary (Eric Vale, Joel McDonald), Textless Songs

Review Equipment

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.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 17 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Baccano!