Review | Baccano!: Episodes 1-13

4

“Cast aside the illusion that there is a beginning and end to the story. The story has no beginning. And it has no end. All there is, is a performance of people connecting, living, influencing each other, and departing.”

– Gustav St Germain

13 episodes. 2007. Historical, thriller, mystery, supernatural, sci-fi, action, comedy

Summary:

1930s Chicago: the Flying Pussyfoot, a transcontinental train, begins its journey across the country, and in doing so, will leave a trail of blood along the tracks. In New York, scientist Szilard and aide Ennis search frantically for two bottles containing an elixir for immortality. Tensions rise between mafia groups.

1711. Passengers of the Advena Avis learn the cost of eternal life.

 

Review:  12733-200 12733-200 12733-200 12733-200 / 5

 

Characterization: 3/5
Arguably a D-. That might be harsh, but I am harsh. There are too many characters with the same characteristics to be meaningful.

Plot: 4.5/5
The concept of this is so interesting and ambitious, and the series does it remarkably well. Deliberately told in a disorienting way with intersecting timelines, viewers experience the classic thrills of a murder mystery.

Realism & Authenticity: 4/5 
A C- for realism, an A for authenticity. You get what you came for in Bacanno! That being said, its treatment of things like the mafia prove to be more glamorized fictions than rooted in realism. 

Sound & Animation: 5/5 
Do you want a jazztastic experience? This is it. The soundtrack and animation are the best parts of this series. If I could, I’d buy it on Vinyl, not that I have a record player, but you get the idea. Expect top-tier sound design. 

 

spoilers below

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There are a couple parts of this series that leave me painfully wanting something more, and not in the good way. Not in the I can’t get enough way, but in the I wish you developed this further way. The characters, while surface-level appear good enough, upon further exploration we begin to discover Bacanno’s thread is less like an intricate / deliberate and beautiful spiderweb and more like a crow’s nest of fishing line

The characters are interchangeable.

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Hear me out—let’s play a game for a second: guess the character.

  1. Crazy, violent, murdering dude?
    1. Clare
    2. Dallas
    3. Ladd
  2. Submissive and emotionally subdued woman who’s obsessed over a single guy
    1. Chane
    2. Lua
    3. Enis
  3. Energetic thief who’s a bit daft but ultimately still charming?
    1. Isaac
    2. Miria.
      (Seriously: there’s really no difference between those two characters)

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This wouldn’t be such an issue if these folks were all minor characters, but they’re not. It is, like the non-linear story-telling, convoluted for the sake of being convoluted. Sure, we could make an argument that many people in the world are similar to each other and this represents the blah blah blah, but I feel me doing so is a stretch. That’s a claim I don’t really believe, mainly because of how the story is told.

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The intentional messiness works in many ways, at least initially. It creates a lovely mixture of confusion and tension and as the audience, we feel unsettled, airborne, and uncertain where this story will take us. The bad is the cast of characters is so dense that we can’t know any one of them personally. Instead, we’re expected to get intimate with simple caricatures which can be summed by their initial screen time. There’s not many opportunities for real growth, and the growth that takes place seems largely superficial.

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The narrative leaves me wanting more from both plot and characters. At times, it seems like it’s only being messy for the sake of being messy, instead of making suggesting a greater meaning through the messiness. If you’ve read Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code you probably are familiar with this sensation. It’s entertaining, nonetheless, but it does bring it down from a stellar experience.

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One particular point I disliked was the treatment of women and romantic relationships within the series. Think about it: all the women are in romantic relationships, except maybe Miria, but she’s annoying as is.

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I take that back, actually: Rachel (no last name). She’s pretty cool, but we don’t get enough of her.

There are two relationships that are incredibly toxic and potentially abusive. The first is between Ladd Russo and Lua Klein; the second is between Claire Stanfield and  Chane Laforet.

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brb, voming

Ladd declares multiple times that he will literally and not figuratively kill Lua. And she’s just all yes, how devoted and romantic! Give me a break. Seriously, what woman would want to be with a guy who just wants to kill her? The second is I cannot realistically believe Claire and Chane would develop relationships for each other instantaneously.

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brb, voming again.

I suppose it’s too much to ask for strong female characters when we don’t get strong characterization at all, really. So.

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And it’s not just plot and characters that feel this way. Even the depiction of mafia groups leave me disappointed. They’re mere skeletons of groups, they’re entirely stereotypical without any exploration for thought-provoking insights. Heck, even Reborn! was better than this when it came to mafia portrayal! With that, I’ll say the use of gore is over the top, sometimes cringe- inducingly so, and not in a good way. We become numbed and there’s not any impact from these scenes: they’re just kind of there.

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It’s violent just for the sake of being violent.

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I want to stress something: I had a good time watching the show. It’s a fun watch, in part because the series doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s a delightful balance between comedy and thrills at play here, which I really loved. Actually, while watching the show, I was tempted to give it a 10 merely because I was enjoying the watching experience. It was only upon reflection that I noticed some of these glaring points.

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me, tbh.

Sound and animation are absolutely delicious. It’s punch jazz vibes give me straight-up Cowboy Bebop feels. I don’t say that lightly, y’all. I think the sound is why I had such a stellar viewing experience. It really hit the late twenties early thirties nostalgia. The animation uses an antique-esque color pallet that gives it a very vintage look and charm. You Check out the OP here:

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That’s all for today!

Watch on, Annieme-niac!

Annie

 

 

 

 

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