If you punch the term Baccano into google (or bing, or micro-hoo), you’ll no doubt end up at a fairly stark website which states that the word is an Italian term for “the noise of a party, of people having fun”. There isn’t actually a party, as such, seen in the [first four] episodes included on the BACCANO! Vol 1 DVD, but the name still seems pretty apt. Kindly, that same website also has a polite sentence which explains that it ISN’T the site for the series, but points you in the right direction. And it has to be said that anyone pointing you in the direction of this show is really doing you a favor!
The last anime series to really jump out and grab my attention the way Baccano has, was the brilliant DEATH NOTE. Since then most of the anime I’ve seen has blended into one; that’s not to say that there hasn’t been other high points, but finding something as original as Death Note has been a tough ask. Baccano however has stepped up to the plate and offered, not just an interesting concept but an extremely unique and well presented one.
What becomes apparent over these first four episodes, is that there is a much larger story hiding away, yet to be exposed. But the story that is being told at this point is more than complicated enough to ensure that you’re not left wanting for content.
The first episode begins with the the vice-director of the Daily Days (an information centre) and his assistant attempting to determine who has played ‘the lead character’ in a series of news worthy events. Through their discussion Carol (the assistant) and Gustav (the vice-director) introduce the viewer to many of the main players in the bloody and violent story that is about to unfold.
‘Unfold’ is perhaps not the best term to use, because the story does anything but that. Most of the events that transpire in these episodes take place between 1930 and 1932 – and not necessarily in that order! The whole thing jumps quickly between seemingly unrelated characters and events, at different points in time. Against a backdrop of prohibition America and gangster turf wars, it has a pace which matches the swing music of the time. If you’re wearing a hat when you start watching — and really, a gentleman should — then you’ll probably get the urge to hold on to it at some point! If not that, then the urge to take it off and give your head a good scratch.
I can’t give this series only praise, it does stumble a little once the pace slows. Especially with the introduction of couple of ‘over the top’ characters, the kind you see all too often in anime. You know, the ones that wave their arms about in a ridiculous fashion, are way too excitable, and constantly fall over for no apparent reason. To be fair, that’s my only gripe at this point. And given that, by the fourth episode, the show is in the midst of some pretty dark violence, I can understand the desire to add a lighter element (I don’t like it, but I understand it!).
There are a few extras with this release, most notable is a fairly self-congratulatory commentary track by the English voice actors. It doesn’t really offer too much insight into anything other than how amused they are by each other. But given that the English dub of this series is well above average (especially with all the awesome 30’s gangster talk) I’m not going to be too hard on them for the backslapping.
The good news is that you don’t have to take my word for any of this, as the first episode is currently available to [watch in full] in ‘The Screening Room’. And I highly recommend that you do! (Watch it, I mean. Not not take my word!) [source]