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Baccano! Vol. #05 Hardcover Light Novel Review

5 min read

Nobody else has changed one bit, but I got nastier and nastier…

Creative Staff:
Story: Ryohgo Narita
Art: Katsumi Enami
Translation: Taylor Engel

What They Say:
The year 2001.

The immortal Elmer C. Albatross is a smile junkie who’ll do whatever it takes to get his happy ending—despite not knowing the first thing about happiness. Three hundred years have passed since the passengers of the Advena Avis parted ways, and four of them have finally tracked Elmer to a secluded and strangely antiquated village in Northern Europe—where the inhabitants fear the visitors as “demons.” During their stay, the immoirtals encounter five strange girls with an unexpected connection to their own past.

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Baccano anime first aired back in 2017 and to this day remains my top contender for series that deserve a second season. Until that day comes, I will recommend volume 5 of the original light novel as a perfect re-entry into the series for any anime-only fans holding out for some new material.

While volume 4 is technically where the series begins delving into material the anime didn’t cover, its stakes didn’t feel as large-scale, and its characters were too separated from the previous major storyline of the Flying Pussyfoot to leave that great of an impression. Compare that to volume 5, which not only fast-forwards from the 1930’s, to the year 2001, but is also still able to pick up where we left off with immortals Czes and Maiza.

The duo of Czes and Maiza is interesting in that while the two haven’t had much screen time together, there is a clear connection that the two share—being one of the first humans to be granted immortality while aboard the Advena Avis in the 1700’s. It’s clear that the two have some history together, and their reunion by the end of volume three is enough to bring that point home.

Now nearly 70 years since that reunion, the two have been traveling the world together in search of their remaining alchemist brethren. Having already found the mysterious masked man known as Nile, and the beauty-obsessed Sylvie, the group now heads into literally uncharted territory to find Elmer. While a lesser author would put their world on pause, with little to no change happening in the gaps between volumes, Narita takes pride in keeping his world constantly turning. Introducing Nile and Sylvie so matter-of-factly only to focus on a different immortal in Elmer establishes Narita’s series mantra of any character being a main character depending on whose narrative we’re following. And while Nile and Sylvie are essentially the brawn and the beauty of the group, their presence is still greatly appreciated if only to demonstrate that the Baccano world still continues even if we as readers aren’t witness to it.

Focusing on the story itself, volume 5 is interesting in that a good chunk of the narrative is rather linear, with the immortals trying to figure out just why Elmer has decided to settle into a village stuck in the past. While the series very explicitly states that the current year is 2001, villagers look to be dressed and functioning as if it were decades earlier, going as far as treating Elmer and his regenerative properties as demonic. For the first half of the book, all characters are within close enough range of each other and are focused on the common goal of figuring out the mystery behind Elmer, so the need to bounce back and forth between different perspectives is unnecessary. It isn’t until later in the book that Narita brings back his old literary skill, but by the time it’s introduced, it not only feels earned, but happens at a breakneck pace that benefits the story’s pacing.

In terms of enemies, Elmer is treated time and time again as a dangerous neutral party. Yes, he is one of the fellow alchemists granted immortality, but his concept of humans and emotions is treated as if he were no longer one himself (Narita’s own proto-Izaya before he began writing Durarara). He intentionally separates himself as a third party not to be interacted with, and that only makes the other characters that much more curious about him. To a significantly lesser degree, the villagers and village chief feel far too one-dimensional. Of the few scenes we have with them, they’re wholly ignorant to immortals not due to turning a blind eye to them, but because of the mysterious circumstances they’ve found themselves in. We know little to nothing of how the village came to be for most of the book, that by the time proper punishment is brought onto certain individuals, there’s still room to question whether or not that was the right conclusion to have reached in the first place.

Regardless, the villagers at the least do serve as a good foil to Czes, who steals the spotlight come the book’s conclusion (or at least “one of the book’s conclusions”). Even though it’s been years since he’s made amends with Maiza, Czes still has reservations about truly immersing himself among other fellow immortals, and the greater community at large. He sees himself as having been frozen in personality, while those around him have opened up to the possibilities an immortal life has granted them. It’s touching, and rather than merely being a retread of his own character arc from earlier volumes, we have the twist in new character Fil to really add to the story and lore of believable oddities the series has been known for.

In Summary:
If you’re only familiar with the anime, Baccano volume 5 is an excellent place to pick up where you left off on. Following Czes and Maiza as they sweep the Earth for the rest of the immortals is a fittingly large-scale story that continues a major plot thread the anime left off on. Besides that, it serves as a compelling story in its own right, tackling issues of immortality in a manner not yet discussed in the series until now.

Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen On
Release Date: September 19, 2017
MSRP: $20.00

1 thought on “Baccano! Vol. #05 Hardcover Light Novel Review

  1. I saw this on tumblr – as the sysop of the Baccano! Wiki, I am afraid that I strongly disagree with your statement, “If you�re only familiar with the anime, Baccano [sic] volume 5 is an excellent place to pick up where you left off on.”

    It is simply counter-intuitive to recommend that anime-only fans ‘jump in’ to the novels at Volume 5 – or rather, it’s just plain unwise. The anime makes major changes in its adaptation of the first four volumes – condensing and changing the course of events of the first volume (1930), cutting out several scenes from Vols 2-3 (1931), completely deviating from the plot of Volume 4 (1931-1932) and cutting out characters from all timelines.

    Jumping in at Volume 5 is is an absolute guarantee that you will be confused at some point down the line, as you will come across characters you don’t recognize – aka characters who were introduced in the first four volumes, but you missed since you skipped them. References to events that were changed or cut from the anime also apply.

    This is why I *always* recommend that anime-only fans start the novels beginning from Volume 1. No exceptions.

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