…But You Should Give It a Spin Anyways!
Baccano, as said in other places, is an ensemble film-type work. There is a large cast thrown in a bunch of seemingly unrelated stories that intersect by happenstance and causes-effects. It is adapted from a series of light novels, and the novels are like so. A little more read will tell you that the name signifies a seemingly bunch of chaotic nonsense spiraling out into craziness but spinning a coherent tale at the same time.
Well, to be fair as pulp entertainment this is pretty top notch with one caveat–you just have to watch it all at one setting. Being 13 episodes long, it means you can finish the ~5 hour journey in one setting indeed. This is one show that doesn’t benefit any from the wait. You just have to watch it all at once, as the material is fresh in your mind. It also benefits from re-viewing.
That subtle plug aside, Baccano is overrated. And sadly in the way that Kamichu isn’t (more people ought to watch it!). What I mean by that is both are great shows that deserved to be viewed, but both have some flaws. What’s interesting is that, obviously, there are probably only…one or two works of anime, in a serial format, that is in an ensemble film format. And what’s great about Baccano is that it works.
But there’s a lot that doesn’t.
What meets the eye once you stare at Baccano as a whole for a while is a lot of blanks and emptiness. The work in general is completed, but it’s missing a lot of information. Not every character’s motivation is explained, their purpose revealed. And some of them seems rather … key. We might enjoy watching Miria and Issac fool around, but we can probably use less of them in the spotlight and use the time to flesh out Ladd, the Gandors, the newspaper company, and some of the less notable puppet-master types. Its shotgun approach to characterization is risky especially when you have a very eccentric cast instead of a horde of ordinary strangers.
But that said, there were some pretty amusing, ordinary strangers in Baccano. And the show comes back to that–it’s amusing! You’ll likely find one out of the dozens of characters in the show intriguing, if not more. A lot of likable, hearty Americans in this anime, despite some screw-ups with setting and some well-played moments. It is the kind of show that you can just kick back and enjoy….
Except that it is a ensemble film that requires you to remember events from previous episodes (all the way dated back to episode 1) to piece everything together with clarity. It is the kind of show that gives the viewer a blank in the narrative sentence and the viewer will instinctively try to fill that blank. And for me the answer I put in the blank doesn’t always make sense. Maybe for some folks the answer in the blank makes more sense, or for some they’re not as nit picky about having the perfect fit in that blank, but the ensemble film format is both Baccano’s greatest strength (on uniqueness grounds alone) and its Achille’s heel.
Or, as I often say about TV anime that comes close to “good” – bad (okay, it’s harsh, but the pacing was definitely not consistent and was dragging at parts) pacing ruins the day.
Not to mention the whole “what’s well that ends well” nonsense. I LOL’d at it but it leaves me empty and unfulfilled :(
Well, enough criticism for something so undeserving. It’s a great show and you all should go and enjoy a TV anime that dares to sidestep the common mode for its narrative. That’s what progressive anime are made of.