America in the 1930s was a period marked by violence. Some people thrive in this environment, and are often associated with the mob. Stranger than these people are those who don't fear death not because they are untouchable, but because they cannot die.
Baccano attempts many interesting ideas, but only does a mediocre job with them. It's not bad, but it falls short. This series runs into trouble with both it's characters, and the way it tells its story. I'm one of the few who don't fawn over this series, so I suppose you can take my opinion with a grain of salt, but I don't think it's anywhere near as good as many make it out to be.
Baccano has three different stories (and one oddball episode) taking place at different times. Instead of developing them separately, Baccano cuts them together and flips back and forth between them. Under normal circumstances this wouldn't be a problem, but there are too many characters spread throughout, and most aren't present in the other stories. This makes each story disjointed, and difficult to to identify which characters go with which story, who's important, and even remember the context of what was happening in which story. The strength of this method is completely missed by Baccano, that is: at some key point the stories intersect in a way that ties them together. Here, they're just three stories told at the same time, and pulling them apart would reveal that two of the three don't have any significance nor do they accomplished anything. Only the train heist gets compelling. What might be filler in many titles, is inserted but cleverly camouflaged. Padding the title out this way I don't think is a big deal, but it's unfortunate the reward for following these threads is paltry at best.
There are 20 characters strewn out between the stories, making it hard to follow. With so many personalities, it's not good that I only liked two of them: Eve, a little girl part of a mob family looking for her brother. She's a sheltered rich girl with an temperament uncommon to anime, but very appropriate for the 1930s setting. The other is Chane Lafort. In the background as "the woman in the black dress" for most of the title, her role becomes more prominent and evolves into an interesting noire piece that fared well.
On the other side there is a very long list of characters I actually hated. Their personalities were senseless, annoying or generally both. There were the comic relief couple I wanted to like, but mostly irritated me. A guy named Jacuzzi (seriously) who whines and cries all the time. Even Worse are people who enjoy killing. There's a hit man who likes to talk about killing as much as doing it, often talking his girlfriend about how he would like to kill her. I'm like: "Uh, is that a joke?". Some characters go into long winded speeches about killing as well. These killing seminars attempt to make dialog drivel sound more intelligent than it is. (Except one guy convinced he's the only person that really exists - an odd philosophy interesting enough for him to be excused).
Baccano likes to revel in violence, but the shock value wears off quickly and becomes a gimmick. I couldn't distinguish between mortals and immortals, so I assumed everyone was immortal. This blunts brutality and cheapens the violence to something reserved for extras playing no role or for those who can't die anyway. The immortality thing wasn't even necessary. It's a device allowing for more violence. Although if you like violence for the sake of violence, this is a plus.
Baccano does deliver with style. The 1930s environment is a rare treat, particularly with the swing music soundtrack. If you watch mob movies just for the gun battles, this would be the perfect anime for you. Another nice feature is the dub. Yes the dub! It makes a worthy effort fitting the period with quirky accents and old style lingo. It's hit and miss, but generally good. I enjoyed hearing familiar voice actors doing something so different.
Substance wise, I think Baccano is weak, but based on merits of environment and style I think it scores pretty well. It should have chosen between many characters, or splitting up the story. It shouldn't have done both. Baccano is a title thinking it's more clever than it is, but it's a reasonable watch for the other uncommon things it brings to the table.
Firo: Stop. I'm not that smart! Use smaller words.
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