Baccano

June 4, 2011

Hmm… Where should I start this story? How should I start this tale? Who are the main characters and what their roles are. No, it’s not that I’m trying to be a screenwriter or playwright, but after watching Baccano, you start to ponder those questions because a story with a fascinating plot and a hell lot of characters involved that includes a pair of thieves, alchemists, gangsters, mafia, Camorrista, hired killers, informants and even more, it may seem everything just came straight out from the movies.

The main story’s timeline is set in America during the 1930’s period but as we go along, we’ll learn that it is essentially split into 3 different year periods. The way the story is shown may be confusing and overwhelming at first because bits and pieces of the plot are shown from all over and just about anywhere. For the first few episodes, you may feel puzzled and baffled as the events do not make sense nor are they connected. But if you are patient, you will be rewarded as you go along and at the end when you put together all the jigsaw pieces, you’ll understand the big picture as a whole. Interesting. Due to the ‘messy’ back and forth snippets and clips of the story, I won’t really go into detail into each episode but only the important events that happened in chronological order. If I could remember them. For those wanting more information can go to good ol’ Wikipedia for details about the characters or Star Crossed Anime Blog for a summary of all the episodes.

As mentioned, the many characters of the series are the ones that make it colourful and lively. You could probably guess from the opening credits as they display the names of the characters that will appear throughout the series (17 of them). However I feel that there are more characters to that and the reason why they aren’t shown in the beginning as I feel it will be a dead giveaway to a certain little plot (I also noticed that those other ‘unshown’ characters are from the Daily Days  – an information company). It will be interesting to see how many of these characters come together as they set off events from one another. Also said earlier, it is set in the United States so the characters are of different nationality and not your typical Takashi or Haruka to begin with. Heck, you may be forgiven to think that this isn’t an anime production (the drawing and art isn’t that obvious to the conventional anime style) in the first place till they start speaking Japanese. Non-Japanese people speaking Japanese? Odd. Oh wait. This series is an oddity in its own way. Come to think of it, it would be even odd if it was dubbed in English and the characters speaking in American accent! Oh, my stereotype thinking of animes.  Anyway, here is a brief description of the main characters:

Isaac Dian and Miria Harvent – These pair of bungling and idiotic thieves are the reason why you should watch Baccano. They provide comic relief to the entire series with their eccentric and flowery talk. Even if they seem annoying (especially Miria sometimes being an echo to Isaac or confirming with him), they are a pair that will be very hard to hate but love so much so you can’t help but root for them. They also have a peculiar habit of stealing odd stuff (like the heavy museum door?) and you have got to love some of their reasoning to rob. Listen to this one, the reason why they rob from the rich isn’t because they want to be Robin Hood but rather to prevent internal fighting for inheritance! And they think they’re doing a hell of a noble duty. Oh yeah. Really love them alright… Just like how they’re depicted as cards in the opening animation, they’re a pair of jokers.
Maiza Avaro – The bespectacled bookkeeper of the Martillo family in Manhattan and the leader of original alchemist immortals.
Firo Prochainezo – A skilled fighter and a new addition to the Martillo family. Is seen close with his mentor Maiza most of the time.
Keith, Berga and Luck Gandor – The mafia brothers running a small business in Manhattan. Keith being the eldest and the leader, Berga the second-in-command and Luck the charming and social one responsible for plotting out strategies. Say, doesn’t Luck look very much like Bleach’s Aizen?
Szilard Quates – A dangerous old guy that one must not mess with if you know him well. One of the original alchemist immortals, Szilard seeks to recreate the immortal formula for his own nefarious ends.
Ennis – A homunculus created by Szilard via his cells (how he does it and even made a female one still boggles me). Initially a loyal servant of Szilard but develops her own emotions.
Ladd Russo – A sadistic hitman of the Russo family who enjoys and seeks thrill in killing people. You can tell he loves his ‘job’ very much as he even dances in the pool of blood of his fallen victims. In happiness.
Lua Klein – Ladd’s fiancee and the only reason she’s staying alive is because she is to be killed by Ladd’s hands. What?
Chane Laforet – The mute knife fighter and daughter of Huey Laforet, a traitor who is currently being imprisoned for treason.
Jacuzzi Splot – Though the leader of his own gangster, the most evident trait about him is that he is a cry-baby! When the going gets tough, he starts crying. But when his members are in danger, he will summon enough strength to fight for them. Has a large sword tattoo over his face.
Nice Holystone – Jacuzzi’s girlfriend and partner in crime and expert in the explosive area. She wears an eye-patch to hide the right eye she lost via an explosive experiment. That empty are is useful because she keeps her tiny bombs in it.
Eve Genoard – The daughter of a wealthy family with a quiet personality. She is searching for her missing older brother.
Dallas Genoard – Eve’s brother and a small time thug going around causing mischief with his small group after his family’s fortune were robbed by Isaac and Miria.
Czeslaw Meyer – A young boy and one of the original alchemist immortals. Due to a torture and painful experiment by his guardian, he doesn’t trust anyone and wants to devour other immortals to avoid being devoured, especially Maiza.

The timeline of the main story is split into 1930, 1931 and 1932. I also feel that 1711 is also an important date as this is where it all started. Though this date won’t be shown with such frequency in every episode (besides the halfway episode) and just sparingly. There are other years as well but they serve more as a prelude to these main ones.

1711 – Where it all began on the Advenna Avis ship
A group of around 3o alchemists managed to summon the devil and obtain an elixir for immortality. The devil imparts several conditions like they can only find each other using their real names (the logic for this still baffles me) and if they ever get tired of living, they can devour themselves by placing their right hand over the other’s head and wish from the heart ‘to eat’. That same right hand can also impart knowledge of the devoured to others. However the devil only gives the knowledge to make the elixir to Maiza and in the event if they want to recreate it, they will have to ask him. Maiza concludes that nobody else should acquire this elixir as it would bring disastrous results. Everyone agrees except Szilard. Because of that, Szilard starts devouring one by one the alchemists and ultimately Gret, Maiza’s brother whom Maiza has passed on half of the elixir’s knowledge. Though Szilard is thrown off the ship in a struggle, the surviving alchemists decide to scatter themselves throughout the world after realizing the threat they possess if they stayed together.

1930 – The new immortals
Szilard is successful in creating the elixir of immortality. I guess after 200 years, there has to be some reward for his patience, right? However his underling Barnes who was in charge of making the elixir, the building caught fire and he only managed to save 2 bottles. Worse, Barnes encounters Dallas and his thugs as they steal his precious cargo. Szilard devours Barnes and has Ennis to hunt down the responsible party. Firo bumps into Ennis and you could say he starts to fall for her because he goes to great lengths trying to return her sleeve button she dropped. So when Dallas and co are being rounded up back to Szilard, it seems the elixir isn’t with them anymore. Szilard instils some fear in Dallas and co by devouring one of his friends and soon makes them partial immortals (they cannot be killed and their wounds heal but will still die of old age) and has them to go look for the elixir. Meanwhile the elixir bottles are being passed around Manhattan, exchanging several hands a few times and making those possessors who drank it immortals. They include Isaac, Miria, the Gandor brothers, Firo and his Martillo family members (they drank it thinking it was alcohol to celebrate Firo’s entry into their family).

Eventually Szilard manages to find Maiza and confronts him. At this point, Szilard has already devoured 2/3 of the original immortals and is going to devour Maiza. Szilard for an old guy can move and attack faster compared to Maiza. Crippled Maiza could’ve been done for if Isaac and Miria’s ill timing didn’t cause a commotion (the car they stole slammed into Szilard). Szilard orders Ennis to rid of the thieves but her previous meeting with them has caused her to hesitate and obey his orders since Ennis have become friends with Isaac and Miria. Szilard saw her betrayal coming because that was how all his past creations turned out. Ennis teaches Firo how to devour Szilard and in that instant, Firo did exactly what he is supposed to do and ends Szilard’s life. Firo heals dying Ennis and confesses his love for her. Everyone continues their celebration and as for Dallas and his gang, the Gandor brothers decide to punish them for killing their comrades during their rounds to retrieve their elixir by cementing their bodies in an oil barrel and dumping them to the bottom of the Hudson River. Hey, they won’t really die for a long time, right?

1931 – Onboard the Flying Pussyfoot
This is where half of the characters will meet. The transcontinental train, the Flying Pussyfoot will be making its way across the States towards Manhattan. Isaac and Miria board the train to meet up with Ennis after their failed California gold digging. They meet and befriend Jacuzzi and Nice (their gang are onboard to steal the explosives in the cargo) along with Natalie, the wife of Senator Beriam, her daughter Mary and Czeslaw. Ladd and his gang in white suits (so that they could see the blood colour of their victims tainted on it. Sick!) and the Lemures, a group of loyal cult followers of Huey in black suits under the guise as an orchestra band with Chane also boards the train. Isaac and Miria tell scaredy cat Jacuzzi about some urban legend called Rail Tracer that devours the passengers on the train. Jacuzzi starts believing it and coincidentally the white black suits start to hijack the train. Both sides soon plunge the train into a bloody carnage. Seems the Lemures are holding Natalie and Mary to a hostage to get Beriam to release Huey. But that is just a ploy so that they can obtain the immortality elixir and would even get rid of Chane once their mission is done. When the hijack begins, the assistant conductor, Claire Stanfield (funny, he has a girl’s name?) decides to assume the role of the mysterious Rail Tracer and kill the black and white suit perpetrators while ensuring the safety of the other innocent passengers after he learns that his conductor mentor has been killed by them before the train journey began. Claire is a highly skilled assassin previously known as Vino, the reason why he moves so swiftly like a ghost, in and out and even under the train with much flexibility and mobility. He is also the adoptive brother of the Gandors.

Czeslaw meets Ladd and acts like an innocent kid though he wants him to kill everybody onboard. Ladd is sceptical and because Czeslaw thinks he is invincible, Ladd blows his brain to bits! But Czeslaw is an immortal and in no time regenerates. Unknown to them, Claire saw all these events unfolding. Ladd also comes into contact with Jacuzzi and co but decides to put his kill on hold he wants to get rid of the black suits first (Ladd wants to kill Jacuzzi’s gang for since his uncle’s men were attacked by them though Jacuzzi insisted it was retaliation for killing some of his). A stowaway, Rachel (from Daily Days) has a close encounter with Rail Tracer and freaks out when he whispers to close into her ear (you’ll find out much later the freaking thing he said was something about ticket inspection and her having a free ride). Czeslaw too has a close encounter with the Rail Tracer and since he revealed himself as an immortal, Claire proceeds to continue torturing Czeslaw by biting his fingers off and scrapping his hands off the tracks! Meanwhile Beriam visits Huey in prison and tries to convince him to tell his followers to back down. However Huey is confident that Chane is loyal to him as he telepathically communicates with her.

Apparently trains at that time don’t move so fast so it’s no surprise that even when someone is running or fighting on top of the coaches, they won’t fall off. Ladd fights Chane while Jacuzzi takes on a Lemure underling. Ladd and Chane’s fight isn’t progressing anywhere as both are equally matched. Till Claire pops up and decides to side with Chane after hearing their side of the story. Claire even proposes to Chane to marry her. He wants her to get off the train and carve her answer on the coach. Ladd fights Claire but makes Ladd ‘jump off’ the train when he pretends to hold Lua hostage. Jacuzzi wins his fight against Lemure since the latter was using a flame thrower that exploded when he fell onto the tracks. Isaac and Miria save Czeslaw from underneath the train (Czeslaw panicked when he saw Isaac’s wound heal and thought he was going to devour him) and in some crazy events, the trio are swung up via some rope and safety. Jacuzzi and Nice manage to unload the cargo into the river and Chane is seen floating atop one of them. Claire sees Chane’s answer wanting him to find her and she will do the same (though her intention is to kill him). When the train arrives at its destination, Isaac and Miria are happy to see Ennis. Because they forgot to get her a present, they give Czeslaw to her as her little brother. Czeslaw finally meets Maiza but couldn’t have the heart to devour him. Instead he cried and hugged him that he wanted to see him so much.

1932 – The search for Dallas
Eve is worried about her missing brother and enlists the help of the members of the Daily Days, Elean and Nicholas to help search. Also, the Runorata family are also searching for Dallas so the Don and head of the family has his subordinate Gustavo to go look for him. After learning that the Gandors may have something to do with Dallas’ disappearance, Gustavo kidnaps Eve in hopes of luring Dallas out. Of course due to the guard’s incompetency, Eve escapes and is rescued by Elean. Once she learns the Gandors may know something about Dallas, she storms over unheeding the dangers she may pose to herself. They are interrupted when Gustavo barges in and sprays bullets into the brothers. However they regenerate and beat him unconscious. Then Don arrives and shoots Gustavo in the head for doing several unnecessary stuff. Luck reveals Dallas being cemented at the bottom of the river so Don makes a deal with Eve that he will rescue Dallas in exchange for allowing him to examine Dallas in his lab (for his immortality thingy). By 1933, Eve watches the river being excavated.

Also in this time period, we see Nicholas and Elean along with Rachel relaying information to the president of Daily Days of what has happened during the events on the Flying Pussyfoot like how Rachel got her leg injury (after rescuing Jacuzzi and his gang) and the possible conflict between Gandors and Runoratas on Dallas’ case. The odd part about the president isn’t the fact that he always remain unseen behind his desk of mountain of books, but rather he knows lots about the information and situation even before his employees  could finish explaining. What’s more, he knows pretty much more about the details than his employees. It’s like as though he is the author of this story. Nah. This show can’t be breaking the fourth wall.

And on a short time trip into the future in 2001, we see Isaac and Miria continuing their robbing spree (stealing handphones to avoid the problem of kids never talking to their parents face to face anymore? Yeah, how considerate). Then it hit them that they looked the same over half a century ago. Their conclusion? They must have been born this way! Oh goodness! See why you got to love this pair! Yeah, it never occurred to them that they are immortals and perhaps not in the near future. Or forever.

The OVAs
Well, if you buy the DVD, there are 3 additional episodes that reveals a little more about some of the characters and the aftermath of some of the events. We have also this new character called Graham Spector. He’s another eccentric and psycho guy. Wearing a worker suit and wielding a large spanner as his weapon, this poetic guy wants to find out who injured Ladd and made him fall off the train (currently Ladd is serving his time in prison though he remains his actions to kill were in self defence). So a short flashback how Graham and Ladd met and fought. Though Ladd won, he spared Graham because he thinks they’re both alike. Yeah, birds of the same feathers. Graham plans to capture Jacuzzi and obtain the reward from the Russo family. And to draw him out, he kidnaps to kidnap Eve, which unknown to them is Chane. Before that, Chane has become friends with Jacuzzi and his gang, since they treat her very nicely. Graham leaves a note for Jacuzzi to turn up alone and to bring lots of money in which he did. However he just didn’t bring the money but notes that if he turns him in, he will get a huge bounty reward instead. Jacuzzi’s other pals turn up claiming that they didn’t contradict the note and walked here by themselves (“I walked all the way from Mexico and ended up here”?).

Elsewhere we see Claire meeting up with Rachel and Czeslaw (the latter revealing to the former about his immortality). Czeslaw really freaked out when he realizes Claire is that Rail Tracer! Claire wants Rachel to give advice to best way to confess to a girl (Chane). Claire obtains information from Nicholas (after threatening him) about Chane’s whereabouts and walks right into Graham’s warehouse in the middle of Chane and Graham’s fight. Claire ignores Graham and proposes to Chane once more. Chane is confused and unsure because the only person she loved was Huey though she was never sure he loved her back because he never said those 3 magic words. She also remembers how she traded her voice so that she will never betray him in exchange for his secrets. Graham fights Claire and is shocked to learn that he is the one who injured Ladd.  Graham backs down and leaves after acknowledging that only Ladd can beat him. Claire proposes to Chane again and to start off as friends. She nods a yes.

Other events we see such as Isaac, Miria, Firo, Maiza and the Martillo family making a huge domino and celebrating after its knockdown success, Natalie rewards Rachel with lots of money but she uses it to buy lots of train tickets but throws them all away to compensate her free rides (yeah, that Rail Tracer thingy must’ve traumatized her), Eve sees an empty barrel after its extraction from the river and a short flashback how Jacuzzi tattooed his face to cheer down and out Nice on the aftermath of the explosion that damaged her face . We also see the whereabouts of some of the original alchemist immortals like Elmer Albatross who visited Huey in prison as the latter wants Elmer to find and make Chane in which he doubts is possible; Sylvie Lumiere who was Gret’s girlfriend and the only one who drank the elixir much later in life. Currently she is working as a singer and wanted to devour Firo for Gret’s memories but concludes that it would be safe in Firo’s hands; Ronny Sukiart the reincarnation of the devil who has been asked by Elmer to watch over Maiza and is thankful he kept his promise to do so as a human and not a devil. However Ronny notes that he does so because he was merely curious to see how the events unfold.

The story never ends
Just like the early and final scenes on how the Daily Days vice president Gustav St. Germain and his little girl assistant Carol contemplating on where the story starts or ends, there will never be one simply because, it is fun that way. Say what? I just found out that the light novel in which the series is based on is still ongoing. As I skim through briefly the plot, it seems there will be more characters (especially the remaining alchemist immortals) and different stories in different timelines. There are also outcomes of some of the characters like Chane and Claire married and Jacuzzi and Nice having a great grandson.

Besides Isaac and Miria (whom are my personal favourites), Ladd, Graham and Claire are the other most interesting characters in this show because of their screwball personalities. Claire may be an ex-assassin but at times he too proves that inside he is human and falls in love. Just like Graham, you just got to love his smooth speeches. It’s mind blowing that he likes to use this scare tactic of putting his victim’s face close to the rail tracks while threatening them. However some of the characters didn’t really do much such as Lua. I felt her presence could really do without and that her only ‘role’ was a prelude and setting to make Ladd and herself fall off the train during the climax. So maybe her appearance in the opening credits was just a trick to keep viewers on their toes to wonder how each of them will play a significant role. I also find Keith and Berga to fall under this category since Luck is the one doing the talking most of the time on behalf of the brothers. Heck, Keith doesn’t even have a single line in this entire show!

There is a question that I am wondering. Can an immortal devour himself? You know, placing your own right hand over your own head and eat yourself. Not possible? So what happens if there is only 1 immortal left after the rest has been devoured? Ah, I found out that’s when the devil will eat up the last remaining one and obtain all the knowledge devoured by all of them along the way. Wait a minute, a devil needs to do this? I thought he is supposed to be omniscient in a way? Then about Dallas’ case at the end. If he wasn’t found to be in the barrel, what happened to him? Was he there in the first place?

One thing I want to mention is the amount of blood and gore in this show. If you are not used to seeing animated human flesh tearing up to their bones or body parts flying off in all directions and then coming back together in one piece like as though nothing happened, you may want to stand by a paper bag just in case. It is definitely very graphic and not intended for younger audiences. Heck, when you have mafia and gangsters in your story, it’s not like the producers had kindergarten kids in mind while they’re making this show. The next episode preview is narrated by Isaac and Miria and as usual, displays their idiocracy, much to our delight of course. The OVA’s narration is done by Graham and is equally poetic to his style of speaking. The odd thing that still bugs me is that on the final episode of the OVA, they still put “What’s next on Baccano” (a cue for the next episode preview), assuming that there are some more episodes to continue after that but as far as the series is concern, it ends there.

The opening theme is entitled Guns’ & Roses by Paradise Lunch. It is totally instrumental but it is very jazzy and catchy. Now I could understand why this show and Durarara!! have their opening animation so similar in terms of the main characters being introduced here and short clips of certain scenes being played in the middle of it. They’re both made by Brains Base and thus it is no wonder when I watched Durarara!! a year ago, I was wondering why there were so many Baccano trivia. Yeah, even Isaac and Miria made a cameo appearance there! Not only immortals, but crossing dimensional gates into other animes as well like Tsubasa Chronicle. Haha! The ending theme is Calling by Kaori Oda and is a slow ballad while the view is a gloomy track and which probably goes nowhere. Here you can probably see the full list of the main characters in the series.

Overall, I find the entire series to be very intriguing and interesting.  Even it was mystifying with the different timelines shown and the many characters, it was done in a good way that kept me glued to the screen all the way. It also made me read up a lot of info and do some reading up on the characters and their roles to better understand everything. If they ever produce a sequel and retain this format, I’d be willing to watch it. But don’t wait too long because I’m not an immortal.