Review by: Sophie Stevens
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $29.98 US
Running Time: 100 minutes
Rating: TV MA
Release Date: Available Now
Gangsters, Tommy guns, immortals and cults … welcome to old Chicago.
Things aren’t always as they seem.
On the surface, you’d look at a guy and think you know everything about him by the way he dresses, talks or even acts but what’s on the surface can often be misleading. Consider Firo Prochainezo, a young kid who suddenly finds himself a newly baptized member of one of Chicago’s biggest mob families. You might think he’s your typical young Italian-American gangster just by looking at him but would you have guessed that this kid could take a couple dozen bullets and never die?
Baccano! is the type of anime series that doesn’t follow a linear path and the beginning of the series might very well be the ending of the story. Volume 1’s first episode (the volume contains the first four episodes) begins in the office of the Vice President (of what, we don’t know yet) as he discusses, with his young assistant, which of Baccano! diverse cast should be considered the leading man or woman in this most unusual story. There are certainly many candidates available but half the fun of the series is not only learning who they are but what connects them together.
Taking place in the early 1930s when America, especially Chicago, finds itself in troubled times. The bread lines don’t seem to get shorter and the gangsters have control of various territories around the city so there’s a power struggle that has turned Chicago into war zone. In the center of the mobster violence is the missing son of one of the mafia families who may or may not be dead. The biggest news around the police precincts is what exactly happened on a train called the Flying Pussyfoot that was suppose to go from Chicago to New York in 1933.
Before the series dives into the events that occur inside the train, we jump back in time in 1931 where we meet Firo who is attacked by an assassin in an alley. His fingers are severed in the knife attack and suddenly – to his attacker’s horror – the detached fingers and the blood he lost shoots back into his hand as if nothing happened. Fast forward and we find Firo in a bookstore with a pal when rival gangsters – presumably from the Gandor family – shoots the place AND Firo to ribbons only for Firo to get back up with his clothes filled with holes but no wounds. Just who is this kid and why can’t he die?
We meet other characters such as the three Gandor brothers and later a mysterious yet cute girl that bumps into Firo. In the second episode, however, we meet Isaac Dian and his girlfriend Miria Harvent who are a pair of thieves (hilarious ones at that) who had unsuccessfully tried mining for gold in California before coming to the decision that a train robbery is exactly what they need to get out of their slump. Isaac and Miria not only add humor to the series but they become deeply involved in the events that take place on the Flying Pussyfoot.
We also meet Ladd Russo who is a homicidal maniac working for the Russo family. Together with his own crew that includes a pretty girl Ladd always threatens to kill but doesn’t. He boards the Flying Pussyfoot as well to do his own damage but what he doesn’t count on is a cult who takes over the train in hopes to bring back their “Master.” Also aboard the train is a small crew that includes a jittery young man that brings to mind Tweek of “South Park” fame. Oh, and there’s a child we see die in the first episode but come back to life and there’s a monster.
Things really get going in the fourth episode where the lives of most of the key characters collide in a moment of violence as each group decides to attack the main dining car at the same time. The series also zips back in time where an alchemist is working on an elixir that might just give the person who drinks it eternal life. The problem is that the two men that were suppose to guard him start a fire and the alchemist tries to make off with the few samples he has ready. Unfortunately, Chicago isn’t a safe city and it doesn’t take long before he’s confronted by tough guys that attempt to take his bottled elixir.
Delightfully chaotic and deeply involving, Volume 1 of Baccano! is but the beginning of an undeniably gripping and addictive Must See anime. While things don’t make a lot of sense just yet, half the fun of following a series like this is watching as the unusual events wildly unravel right before our eyes. Whatever you do, do not miss this series.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
There’s no traditional beginning in this series and you know you’re in for a uniquely original tale when two characters discuss which one of the interesting cast of characters should be considered the main player of this unusual story. On a train called the Flying Pussyfoot, the fate of an assortment of key players will come crashing together.
VIDEO QUALITY: A+
The animation for this series is simply stunning and it tries a soft color scheme to drive home the feel that we’re looking at a 1930s era Chicago. There’s a lot of blood in this series and the character design looks great.
AUDIO QUALITY: A+
The Japanese language track is good but the English dub cast does a magnificent job of capturing the Chicago accents and the era’s lexicon. There’s a great score that brings to mind classic film noir and the opening and closing theme songs aren’t bad at all.
There are a few trailers here to enjoy but the real treat comes in the form of the audio commentary track for Episode 4 as well as textless opening and closing songs.
There’s a lot to Baccano! than meets the eye and it certainly has a lot more to show us but what we’ve seen so far definitely deserves our full attention. Filled to the brim with blood-spurting violence and a fist full of pulp noir attitude, this series isn’t for the squeamish but then again that’s what makes this a wild, surreal ride.