Rated: 17+ :: Released: 26 July 2007
Director: Takahiro Omori :: Starring: Masaya Onosaka, Sayaka Aoki, Caitlin Glass, and J. Michael Tatum
By Hannah Krueger
04 May 2010 — It's really hard to describe Baccano!, because the plot in and of itself is extremely complicated. There are three storylines: one that revolves around the mafia and an elixir of immortality in 1930, one that involves a hostage situation aboard a train called the Flying Pussyfoot in 1931, and a girl's search for her missing brother in 1932. And for one episode the show focuses on a ship carrying alchemists headed for the New World. Though each episode contains multiple jumps from year to year, and all of these plots intertwine, the main focus is on the Flying Pussyfoot.
You think that's complicated? Add into this a cast of about 20 main characters, along with another 10 side characters that are equally important to the story, and you've got about 30 people to handle. Initially, these characters are introduced with one-note personalities, but the characters are developed as the plot lines advance.
And they did this all in the space of 13 episodes.
There's not a lot more that I can say about the story without getting into spoilers, but my description above should give you a sense of the sheer scale that the writers undertook. The fact that they managed to pull it off — and pull it off well — is absolutely amazing, as there were plenty of chances for it to all fall apart. But by the end of the series, everything is completely settled; you will know what's going on and how everything is connected.
Brains-Base is a studio well-known for their attention to detail, and they show that here in the art; all of the character designs are unique, making each one easily recognizable when they appear on screen. And with so many characters, this is really important. The animation is fairly high quality, as well, especially for a smaller studio. There are no flubs or obvious budget changes; it's just a well-animated series with consistent characterization the whole way through.
Because the show's set in the 1930s, there are plenty of jazz numbers used as background music. In fact, it makes me want to find the original soundtrack — if one even exists. The opening theme (OP) is a very catchy song, and it introduces all of our main characters in less than a minute. That's quite a feat. The ending theme (ED) is the stereotypical piano / female J-ballad, and is really kind of a letdown when compared to the liveliness and the accompanying animation of the OP.
A lot of new Japanese voice talent was used on this show, and they all do a wonderful job. Sanae Kobayashi (Daedalus in Ergo Proxy, and Nyuu / Lucy in Elfen Lied) plays one of my favorite female characters, Ennis, so that was a nice touch. I haven't seen the dub, though, so I can't comment on the English cast.
Length-wise, I continue to be amazed at what they were able to do in the amount of time they were given. However, the anime only covers the first four volumes or so of the novel. And while the manga is covering another storyline, it would have been nice to see an adaptation of the rest of the material, just to see what they could do with it.
The Baccano! OVA attempts to address this, picking up on some of the plot lines from the series that, despite being wrapped up, weren't quite complete and needed some more explaining.
There's an amazing amount of detail in this production — especially in the story and backstories of the characters — and events in the past and future dovetail into each other nicely, bringing things full circle. The new characters also make smooth entrances within all this, fitting in perfectly.
The art style is pretty much unchanged from the original series; a great amount of detail is given to the character designs — which is where it matters most — and the animation in general is crisp.
The music is still mostly jazz-based, while the OP and ED stay the same as from the series, so there's not really much I can add here.
The seiyuu (voice actors) all returned for the OVA, and Tomokazu Sugita (Mayama in Honey and Clover, and Soldier Blue in Toward the Terra) makes an appearance as the new OVA-exclusive character Graham Spector. The seiyuu continue to do as good a job as they did in the original series, so that was good to hear.
The three-episode length was perfect for this, though I would've liked to have this expanded into a second season. There's a moment at the end that just about smashes the fourth wall, though, and it very much leaves the possibility for a continuation open — which I hope they pick up on.
The OVA appears to have been licensed with the series, so if you buy the series, you should be able to watch it, too.
Overall, this anime manages to develop a lot of characters over various storylines, wraps it all up well, has pretty music, and great seiyuu. And though the OVA is excellent, it's not quite as good as the series itself. This is one of my top picks, and I highly suggest picking it up or watching it on Hulu.