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Set in Prohibition-era America, Baccano follows events taking place in 1930, 1931, and 1932, narrating all three threads in tandem. There's thieves, mafia gangsters, a comedy duo, terrorist cult members, an elixir of immortality and all manner of pulp fiction elements, and their paths all happen to converge on a single train in 1931. Brawls, gunfights, and very unhealthy levels of violence ensue. Along the way, there flashbacks and flashforwards to tie everything together. More than two dozen distinct characters participate in the story, and of those over half are introduced in the OP. The title, "Baccano," is Italian for "ruckus" or "commotion" and you should expect to get what it says on the tin. The episode names are also fairly good at advertising their contents explicitly in the title. For example, episode 4, titled "Ladd Russo Enjoys Talking A Lot and Slaughtering A Lot," is predictably about Ladd Russo, who spends most of the time talking a lot and slaughtering a lot (and enjoying both). In episode 6, "The Rail Tracer Covertly, Repeatedly Slaughters Inside the Coaches," expect to see the rail tracer slaughtering people inside the coaches, and doing so in a covert manner, repeatedly.
Inspirations and Derivative worksEdit
Those in the US can watch the dubbed series on FUNimation's Youtube channel (must be logged into Youtube to view): http://www.youtube.com/user/FUNimation
Episodes of the show (mostly subbed but a few dubbed episodes) are on FUNimation's website: http://www4.funimation.com/video/?page=show&b=6
Baccano!'s dub on Hulu: http://www.hulu.com/baccano
I should probably say up front that I am kind of partial to anime that has a real-world setting other than Japan. I'm also a huge fan of brawls, gunfights, and graphic violence. As it turns out, Prohibition-era America satisfies criterion number one and is also highly conducive to addressing the others. It also doesn't hurt that there's a really interesting plot binding everything together. Despite how central the plot is, the show doesn't waste much time with exposition, as the series is absolutely rife with action, even when it doesn't involve someone getting punched or shot at. It keeps things comprehensible enough to enjoy what's happening without spending enough time on it to bore you. There are shows I've watched where the plot is what kept me watching until the end, and Baccano is not one of those shows, because the action is so great that I would have watched the entire thing even if there wasn't a plot binding it all together. The plot elevates this from "enjoyable" to "absolutely enthrallingly fantasmagoricaly awesome."
Baccano is more event-driven than character-driven, but it certainly doesn't suffer from lack of strong characters. There are several different parties running around, and most of them sport at least one character whose primary purpose is to be completely badass and cause bodily harm to people. There's also a duo inserted for the purpose of entertaining most of the likable characters and the audience, and they do a good job of both. Any shortcomings in Baccano's cast are more than made up for by its sheer size. Although some characters are stronger than others, they're all likable in their own respect, even those among them that are more sinister.
It's probably also worth noting that the dub is quite enjoyable. (I've watched this both subbed and dubbed and enjoyed the dub more.) The only real gripe about the dub is that Isaac and Miria's antics may seem a bit silly when their lines are delivered in English but that's understandable given that their role (as characters) is to ham it up. It's a bit annoying for the first episode or so but by the time things are in full swing it doesn't really stick out like a sore thumb. (The dub does lose points for lacking exclamations of "SUGOI" twice every episode, as Miria's English VA is forced to turn to woefully inadequate substitutes like "fantastic" and "amazing.") I actually recommend watching this dubbed, as many of the characters have different accents which are harder to pick up when watching the series in Japanese (if you're not a native Japanese speaker). Besides, the series is set in America, and on top of that, there is some exposition that takes place during action scenes. When Ladd is literally punching a man to death and describing what a wonderful time he's having, I'd rather be watching his fist than scanning the bottom of the screen for subtitles.
If there's a complaint that I have about the series, it's that it's too short. The fact that the series spans only sixteen episodes is not in and of itself a problem, but there are many places where things important to the plot occur offscreen and are explained in a sentence or two later. To the show's credit, most of these off-screen plot events are of the boring variety, but given how frantic things are, it wouldn't hurt to slow the place just a little to give the audience a fuller idea of what's going on.
Baccano! is a show riddled with western influences. The story heavily borrows elements from Quentin Tarantino's directorial style (excessive gore, non linear story progression) and the oddball characters could fit straight into a Guy Richie movie. In fact, the OP is practically a carbon copy of Snatch's opening scene. The story is set in 1930's America and the dub is somewhat decent. An ideal gateway drug for a curious newcomer and an excellent change of pace for the anime aficionado.