Baccano!: anime review – Immortality is good especially for gangsters.

Review: If there were Best Screenplay and Best Editing Awards for anime, Baccano! would be a locked winner. The shear strength of script, direction and unique style of storytelling is conspicuously visible throughout the show. Without these qualities, Baccano! would be just another indistinctly good anime.

If someone told me that Quentin Tarantino was behind Baccano!’s production, I would believe him without a doubt. The amount of craziness, blood and gore is phenomenal and Baccano! tells its story in a very convoluted way. Retrospectively, the plot is simple enough. The anime is about the fight for immortality between several groups of people, some of which do not know what they are dealing with initially. The show is presented as a series of shuffled short events; each one occurs in different time and place and to different set of characters. As a result, patience and concentration are required from the viewer especially during the early part of the series. In short, I wouldn’t recommend Baccano! as a gateway anime for anyone.

Luckily, the gangsters in this anime are more or less noble folks. We can be quite sure that they won’t use their newly received immortality in a bad way. I think the way this show perceives immortality is interesting. Most of other shows which also deal with similar topic usually display the dark side of immortality and try to teach the viewers not to be greedy and to live the life nature has given. In Baccano!, though certain characters suffer from being immortal, most of the time being immortal is a rather fun and useful gift. The anime does not really care about in-depth discussion about the topic but instead use immortality as a plot device to create a very unpredictable and mind-spinning story.

Honestly, the characters in Baccano! are not deeply explored and hardly have time to evolve. For a 16 episodes series, Baccano! introduces way too many characters for any normal show to handle. Given the convoluted way of storytelling, all the characters appear on screen for only a few minutes each time, like a ‘snapshot’ of them. Surprising enough, this quality does not weaken the characterization because almost every people in this show is at least borderline extraordinary. With such vivid and unique details for each character, the viewers do not require much time to get acquainted with these people. I recall I could remember the appearances and the key personalities of characters in Baccano! long before I could recognize their names; this one was the murderous bastard, this one was the hollowed head thief, that one was supposed to be dead and the list goes on.

On the down side, Baccano! can be perceived as another anime that unnecessarily over-complicates things but I feel that this show is more like a challenge to the viewers or an experimental project. The directors and the producers took huge risk doing this show and it paid off. Another thing that maybe bothersome is the theme shift as the show goes on. At first I thought Baccano! would be a classic gangster show with a nice twist on the storytelling but as time goes by, the anime completely leaves reality behind. In short, I was a bit taken aback when it hit me that it was all magic.

Animation wise, Baccano! does a fine job in both character and background department. The original soundtrack is barely visible to me but that is not the problem. Despite the general consensus of anime fans, rating Baccano! is not a simple task for me. Baccano! is not even nearly perfect but its brilliant and bold script makes all other elements of anime making suddenly seem insignificant. Baccano! only impresses me technically but I give it the A rating for its bravery and craziness. We all know that the world needs more anime like this one, seriously.

Rating: A

Title: Baccano!
Genre: supernatural, fantasy, thriller, action
Released date: July 26, 2007 – November 1, 2007
Episode: 16
Director: Takahiro Omori
Animated by: Brain’s Base

29 responses to “Baccano!: anime review – Immortality is good especially for gangsters.

  1. I really need to watch the show, this review is quite glowing!

    Also, I’m not sure “Quenting Tarantino”-esque is entirely good, and then the question is, like which Tarantino flick? ;)

    Immortality probably is fun, in the beginning. Afterwards, I guess it depends on the individual. I liked the immortality shown in Sandman (the comic series by Neil Gaiman) best, when he’s rich he’s loving it, but when he’s sick and can’t die? Not as much.
    Just like life, it has good and bad.

    • Some elements of Baccano! reminded me of Tarantino trait like the convoluted story (or chronologically shuffled chapters) found in Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill or the colorful characters. But the violence…well, all of Tarantino’s film are violent :P

      I have never read Sandman (I tried American God but eventually dropped it). Most works of fiction depict immortality as a bad thing, which it is. But in Baccano!, it is kind of good and fun and you don’t get sick either :P

  2. Tarantino, perhaps. This was a great train ride. One of the things I loved about it was the characters; there were so many and I enjoyed almost every single one each with an extraordinary presence.

    It definitely had an original feeling to it, and the maddening pace was something I also liked.

  3. The first episode of Baccano is so confusing it puts so many people off of it. but I always have to push and push for them to keep going because while a lot of it is confusing some does get explained and in a very good way. I love the huge cast of characters and for some reason I was not bothered that they weren’t fleshed out a lot. Just another one of those things that adds to it’s charm!

    So glad you liked it. Out of the hundreds and hundreds of anime I’ve seen it ranks among the top 10 for sure.

    • The show paced so fast and lots of things happened all the time. This helped cover the thinly detailed characterization. But, like you said, it’s not a bad thing. ^^

  4. I loved this show! The way the plot unfolded and all the pieces fit together in the end was absolutely great. While a little confusing at first, it was all the more reason to keep watching just to find out what would happen. And each episode ended with a sort of cliffhanger, which made it so I couldn’t stop watching.

    I really ought to check this show out again; I might get even more out of it.

    • There were probably too many plot twists and hints to swallow within a single watch. I’m sure if I decide to re-watch it, I’ll get a lot more out of it :)

  5. You hit my one complaint about the show. Alchemy? Really? It never quite gelled with the rest of the show. Sometimes it worked, more often it felt out of place.

    Still an excellent show.

    • Yes, the magic part was awkward but it did gave me a lot of surprises in the end. Thinking back, I doubt if anyone could come up with a plausible and scientific plot to back everything up anyway.

  6. Fantastic show. Top Ten easily. The opening is like that of Snatch, you already mentioned Quentin Tarantino (who is the best director ever). Honestly, I found no faults with this anime. I loved every second of it. Rail Tracer? How bad ass is he?

    The character lineup was incredible for this anime, and that more than anything weighs with me.

  7. I’m pretty sure I’ve been told to watch this by at least 10 different people prior to this review. And I suppose the review just settles it–I need to get around to this series. Maybe it’ll be one of my winter break series.

  8. I love this series because its so fun, crazy, fast paced, and full of blood.
    I like how it had immortal gansters who used to be pirates [I think.. or they were on ships or something idontknow.. I can’t remember >3<], a dude who kills for fun and does so nonchalantly while being in a circus in the past, and homunculus. It had just about everything..

  9. Awesome show. I also first remembered the characters by certain traits before recognizing their names, except Firo because he’s cool.

    I loved the immortality aspect of it because it was completely unexpected for me when I first started the series. Plus, it’s an intriguing topic to begin with. There seriously needs to be more anime like Baccano!.

  10. I really need to get on this too. There’s so many anime I should be watching.

    Anyways, from the review, the series sounds stellar! Stylistic story telling, brilliant plot, and fine animation. It sounds like the anime suffers a bit from touching too many themes and too many characters, but nothing that drags the anime down significantly. Will definitely give this a chance when I get the time.

  11. Completely agree with you Canne on the ‘simple plot, bunch of unique characters’ part. It’s lovely how all of them aren’t stereotypical in Anime world.

    It’s just that kind of the show I suppose, even though it’s ‘changing themes’ or going confusing, it’s still addicting because of all the amazing characters and atmosphere.

    /Hifive if you loved the opening/ending sequences : )

  12. I keep forgetting to watch this.

  13. I was originally afraid to watch this show because I had heard about its extreme goriness. Also, I was iffy about so many characters being introduced in a such a short number of episodes – I didn’t think it could work. In quite a few shows, it wouldn’t have.

    After I finished the show, I found myself wishing I knew people who’s be willing to watch this. Either they wrinkle their noses at the idea of watching an animated show, or they don’t want to watch something subtitled (although I think the dub is decent enough that, if I could just get past the “it’s a cartoon” hurdle, things could work out). If the library I work at would let me get some anime for our collection, this would probably be one of the things I’d buy – it’s such a great show!

    • I completely agree that more people should be exposed to Baccano!
      I just learned that you work in the library. I love libraries as well and at some point in the past wanted to be a librarian :)

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