Reviews

Jun 1, 2015
Beobachter (All reviews)
Baccano! has a great reputation among many American fans, who lauded its boundless energy, larger than life characters, and unconventional narrative style. As I eventually watched it, I discovered that Baccano! indeed has all that stuff and could understand why so many people love it. And yet, curiously enough it never ascended beyond a mildly entertaining show for me.

The feature often mentioned first in regards of this show is its non-linear narrative, so let’s address that accordingly. I don’t find it significantly confusing, for one; while certainly disorienting at first, Baccano! is pretty easy to follow once you’ve focused on these key questions: (1) what’s up with some of these guys who just can’t die?; (2) what happened to the sad woman’s missing brother?; and (3) what happened on the train journey? Thing is, there is really not much point in the non-linearity either: it’s basically nothing more than a gimmick. There’s only a single instance where it did something interesting with the structure (episode 8, in which a certain pair of characters committed the same schtick in three different timelines and circumstances), but most of the time it simply hopped between all these small chunks of timelines going simultaneously for no good reason. Honestly, I don’t think the show’d lose anything significant by telling its story like a normal person would, and in fact it’d probably help to cut down the momentum kills and a bit of time inevitably needed by the audience to recall what happened last in Plot/Timeline B as the show zipped back to it after some development in Plot/Timeline A and C.

A much bigger problem for me than that: I don’t find the characters nor the dialogue endearing at all. Once I’ve finished it, I didn’t and probably would never get the urge to re-watch Baccano! just to hang out with this bunch of characters, who are either irritating dorks, nonsensical bastards, okay-ish but ultimately forgettable, and psychopaths that the show clearly wanted us to love (it’s sort of Ryohgo Narita’s thing, as I’ve discovered later). I really respected the huge amount of research by the show’s creators to re-create the setting and atmosphere, but as it is I just don’t have much nostalgia for Prohibition-era America, and the authenticity is dented anyway by lines of cliched shonen-esque dialogue (to be fair, I’ve watched the subbed version. As I understand it, the dubbed version is lauded as being remarkably good and more setting-appropriate, so it’s a fair possibility that there’s a tangible difference in dialogue quality and/or delivery).

All that said, I’d still recognize the level of energy and playfulness that made Baccano! so popular and recommend the show to those with certain sensibilities. Fans of 1930s gangster movies might be able to appreciate the setting and atmosphere it’s trying to evoke, and lovers of long-running superhero stories would also find plenty to love, what’s with the cartoonish ultraviolence, people keep coming back from dead, and inconclusive ending. While it doesn’t amount to much in practice, I at least appreciate its explicit willingness to experiment with narrative structure and the notion of main character.

Just not my cup of tea, I guess.