The predecessor and big brother to Ryohgo Narita’s Durarara, Baccano is an experiment in storytelling that falls victim to its own devices.
Baccano is an unconventional story told from multiple perspectives, while also jumping back and forth through time. At just 16 episodes, this anime is in some ways a breeze but also capable of losing you in its whirlwind of trying to beef up a not so interesting story with a wild delivery.
This is an anime that is lauded by many in the community as a special one. The storytelling is held in high regard and is well liked by so many, so I decided to see what the hype was about.
I’m all for an unorthodox approach to story telling, and I was half expecting it as I started watching Baccano. I also didn’t know that it came from the same author, studio, and director as Durarara which might have helped prepare me, but either way, I sat and waited to for the show to unravel and show its true colors. It’s clear that this was a guessing game for them and their first attempt at putting together an anime of this sort.
Overall, I was disappointed by the delivery of the multiple storylines as the anime progressed from episode to episode. The first 5 or 6 episodes are there to help set up the stories, the characters in each and give us inklings of how they may come to be related to each other. The anime never really follows through with the setup. This may be the director and author’s intent, but the anime comes off as several chapters of several different books being shown simultaneously, leaving us to piece it all together and form the cohesive narrative. I found myself lost and then found, and then confused at what the stories had to do with one another. None of the timelines ever really feed into the others directly. The separate chapters instead serve as backstory and give some sort of context to the others which makes the anime a little difficult to watch. It is stuck between wishing to tell a series of short stories and having an overarching plotline drive the show. This indecisiveness really made the show hard to enjoy.
Within each of the timelines and separate narratives, there were interesting events and action sequences that drew me in, but they all get cut too short and there is no real chance to dive into them, appreciate them, and speculate on how they can progress.
This same flaw is applied to the characters. There are quite a few characters introduced in the anime. Some occur in all the different timelines and narratives while some only occur in one. It becomes hard to understand any of them or even feel and stand behind any of them. Their appearances and interactions are so fleeting that they come off as nothing other than props used to make the anime that much more convoluted.
I tried to read a little bit the way the story was assembled to understand a little, and the anime even ends with the characters almost breaking the fourth wall, telling that the story they are apart neither begins nor ends, so it could be seen that this messy, incoherent method of storytelling is built into what the anime is, and a part of what makes Baccano, Baccano.
I think the biggest downfall of this anime is that it isn’t long enough to see the threads come together to form the cloth it is hinting at. At the end, it left the feeling of dissatisfaction and had me wondering what exactly I had just watched.
There are good moments of the anime that stick out a little when compared to the plot. The music and art are surprisingly nice. The music is fitting for the time and a nice departure from the soundtracks of most anime. The art is clean, with subdued colors that fit the narrative. The animation is pretty spot on as well. For an anime coming in the mid 2000’s, it’s very crisp and lively. The voice acting is pretty great as well. Having watched a few episodes in Japanese and then the rest dubbed, I may say the dubbed adds a little authenticity to the anime. The accents and ways of speaking just feel right when it is in English, especially when the setting is considered.
I wouldn’t recommend this anime to just anyone. You have to be very willing to sit, pay attention, and not mind being lost the entire way. Some may really enjoy that sort of story, but I found it hard to enjoy even the most basic plots in the show. If nothing else, this anime is a radical display on how to tell a story, whether it be done in a good way or a bad way.