Jan 9, 2017
PSA: Yen Press has officially licensed this manga. You can buy each individual chapter digitally for $1.99, or you can buy all three physical/electronic volumes (when they come out).
If you consider yourself a Baccano! fan, do yourself a favor and buy the first five chapters (Vol 1) of the manga right now. I'll get to the rest of the manga in a second (for now, all you need to know is that its the most faithful visual adaptation of The Rolling Bootlegs to date) but we need to establish this first: the first five chapters are essential reading. Why, you ask?
The first five chapters provide
fans with a never-seen-before mini-arc: the 1927 (San Gennaro) arc. This is all completely new information (accompanied by a brand-new character), revolving around the 'kidnapping' of a certain character and others' efforts to find him. Devoted fans of the Martillos or the Gandor brothers will especially be pleased by this arc, but I imagine so would any fan. It's a treat. (And referenced in the #22nd LN volume!
What of chapters 6-22? Like I said earlier, the remaining seventeen chapters are an adaptation of the first Baccano! light novel, The Rolling Bootlegs; you know, the events of November 1930 that were covered in the 2007 anime.
Yes, I know. For long-time fans of the series, 1930 is old hat. We know the plot backwards and forwards, and backwards again, and you have every right to wonder why bother shelling out money for a story you're already familiar with - not to mention, a story that's already been adapted into a visual medium.
The most compelling reason is this: it is the most faithful visual adaptation of The Rolling Bootlegs we have had to date. The 2007 anime is marvelous, but as an adaptation it is not entirely faithful (that is to say, accurate) to the source material. In the case of TRB, the anime fiddled with the chain of events and changed some scenes while leaving others out entirely (and marginalizing quite a few relevant characters in the process).
I cannot tell you how unequivocally overjoyed I was to see some of my favorite scenes in the novel (scenes that had been changed/left out in the anime) spring to life visually, after years of bemoaning the absence of a faithful adaptation. God, it was gratifying. Not to mention, we got to see what certain characters looked like for the first time (e.g. Nicola, Veld, a partial drawing of Firo's mother) - with one quite significant revelation in particular (that being the alchemist Ennis devoured pre-TRB).
The manga's illustrator, Shinta Fujimoto, is a self-professed major fan of the series - and if you didn't know that he was a fan beforehand, you'd likely come to suspect it when reading the manga. He puts small, personable details into characters drawn in the background and the backgrounds themselves - details that he didn't have to go to the trouble of illustrating, but did so anyway. His respect and care for the material pours out of every panel, not to mention that his art is very, very nice.
If you're still on the fence about the manga as a whole, buy at least the first five chapters and proceed from there. The manga is a labor of Fujimoto's love (he had his own manga to work on as well!), and he made every effort to produce something of excellent quality, both art-wise and detail-wise (Narita himself notes that the manga was what motivated him to churn out 1935-D, and gleefully acknowledged Fujimoto's extra background details).
I can only hope that Young Gangan decides to eventually approve future manga adaptations of the novel - certainly, Ch.22 was billed as the final chapter of the manga - but technically it was just the final chapter of the 1930 adaptation, and the manga sold fairly well. Narita at one point tweeted that no final decision on potential future adaptations had been made...well, we'll see. Fujimoto was a little burnt out while making the Baccano! manga, and he's starting a new manga soon, so...keep your expectations tempered.
(There's also a heckuva bonus image on the last page of Ch.22, which has delighted every single fan I've spoken to about it thus far - so, keep an eye out!)
What did you think of this review?