Category Archives: Baccano

Year in Review: Japan Just Can’t Get Some Things Right…

…but we should really encourage them to try and try again!

Love Never Fails

That is really my feeling about Baccano! in a nutshell. Japanese collaboration with Western producers are really one very direct way to solve some of the problems addressed by that dreaded open letter, but we should remember that Americans (and others) have been working with Japan to produce exported animation for over 10 years now. The earliest of those works I could remember was ADV’s BGC2040, but I suppose there may be earlier ones.

But Baccano! is not even a collaboration. It falls more along the lines of, say, Cowboy Bebop–straight up fantasy about a western-themed past (or future), created out of the mind of a Japanese. Yet short of last year’s fabulous exception, also known as Black Lagoon (which was also just an adaptation, I guess, so not a big exception here), there just hasn’t been a collaboration of the magnitude of western-audience-appeal as, well, non-collabs.

I guess Japanese/American collabs are just not as cracked up as they ought to be. Not only it doesn’t make anything go faster for the end consumers, the Japanese team still get stuff messed up (LOL can we say Engrish?).

But hey, if I wanted to see violence glorified and packaged in palettes sensible for an American I’d just go watch a movie in a local theater. Baccano, at least, delivers a little more. And I’m only highlighting it here because it renews my faith to know that there are Japanese people out there (I guess the opposite of a weeaboo…?) who at least tries to go at this stuff (this meaning the likes of recreating a prohibition era setting in a prose), and put together something not too terrible at all.

Sure, it won’t hold off rain (of scrutiny) if you stood under it, but at least it’ll make shade on a sunny day.

This is the second part of a series of blog entries highlighting some of the memorable and remarkable points of 2007 in review. I think Shinkai was actually one of the best things 2007 will be remembered for, but I’ll work up a climax or something from here…

Baccano! Is Overrated…

…But You Should Give It a Spin Anyways!

The Main Ladies

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.

But this is a series that is more than what meets the eye. Sort of like this post is actually about photography than the concert last week.

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.