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Baccano! Complete Collection UK Anime DVD Review

10 min read
Highly recommended…but better be ready to take notes.

How do you manage to incorporate three different years with three different plots, use the same characters and somehow manage to weave them together to tell a coherent story? Hush – and let the teachers of Baccano tell you how.

What They Say
Paths don’t cross in this story – they collide. Don’t let nobody tell you there’s no future in a life of crime, because some rackets can last forever. But we’ll get around to all that immortality jazz later. A mafia turf war is raging on the mean streets of the Big Apple, a place where regular Joes bounce between backdoor booze joints and the breadline. But this caper ain’t about a simple gangland brawl. It’s about hoods who can’t seem to die proper after catching a bullet or five between the eyes. Sadistic hit-men and the dames they love, mad bombers going boom, monsters going bump and soul-sucking alchemists bootlegging an elixir of eternal life. Just remember, Baccano! ain’t about beginnings and ends. It’s about the twists and turns, bub. Paths don’t cross in this story – they collide. Every Dick and Jane plays the lead and it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
The Review:
As what is becoming standard in my set reviews now, I decided to actually review both audio tracks by watching part of both discs in Japanese and in English. The English track has a 5.1 Dolby Surround Audio track whilst the Japanese is the standard 2.0 Stereo Track. I’m very happy to tell fans of subs that the Japanese is very strong and almost as good as the 5.1 English audio, but a show like this feels much better in English. There are no problems I found with the transition between audio and visual, and no glitches through the linking between subtitling and audio.
The video had no problems, they were no glitches or slowdown, and linked in well with the Japanese subtitles, and it really showcases very well considering the change of pace – it’s a good looking show on its own, so it needs a good transition, and fortunately, this release gives it justice – with its very old school gangster style with dark shades and aura, and it makes for an impressive show both sound and visual wise. There are no transition problems and there are some great moments as it is shown in both widescreen and full-screen format, and the way the colour scheme works in various scenes continues to be fantastic with the graying effect (this is particularly well done through any of the train scenes, the battles, the drive chases – pretty much anything) being very impressive.
The menu is very basic, 4 discs each with a menu of two of the characters, the first one has Isaac and Miria for example, another has Jacuzzi and Nice, all in a small-ish square on a dark background. The menus are very basic in choice of play, select, audio, and extras, and also actually have the now seemingly rare selection of picking your episode and a specific part of the episode.
If you’re a dub fan, the extras are dynamite as each disc has a commentary – all involving the ADR director Tyler Walker, and all involve members of the cast or the production. Disc 1 has J. Michael Tatum/Caitlin Glass(Isaac and Miria), Disc 2 had Chuck Heber(Ronny) and Brian Massey(Ladd), Disc 3 has Ian St Clair(Director/Dallas and Jerry Jewell (Fino/Claire/Rail Tracer) and finally the final disc had Joe McDonald(Jacuzzi) and Chris Patton(Graham). Each one is different in some respects, but most are quite general – talking about the show and/or themselves – a lot of fun points in the commentaries (ranging from the running joke of Monica Rial always playing mutes, how much Brian enjoys playing such an over the top yet hilarious psycho, etc) – pretty standard but definitely all good for dub fans. My slight moan was that the English openings and ending, whilst we’re on the connection, were on every disc. That basically meant that the release was basically just the 4 single releases put in a box set which felt a bit redundant.

Baccano is a series that I had little knowledge outside of a great opening theme tune. After watching it at first, I was wondering if I was getting a Haruhi syndrome with things happening out of place, years switching and character’s pasts and future changing in a second. But as the episodes when through, the cobwebs began to clear and everything made sense – and turned it into a rather epic show.
We have 3 years to talk about, with a 4th also mingled. Each are told in various parts and the years keep switching at a point where a number of the characters all have a part in each of the stories and the years so watching Baccano means watching three separate stories told together, but sporadically at the same time. It definitely takes a few episodes getting used to, but eventually, everything comes together.
The first episode sets the tone for the madness to come – that we have a young girl Carol, an assistant of a newspaper called the Daily Days who is told by her boss to investigate a series of strange events, ranging from 1711 to the 1930s, and choose a “main character” from about twenty people. This is where the changes are put through as despite this timeline, they are debating to when they have occurred. The year is 1932, we learn of the Gustavo mafia family who are searching for a rival Mafioso of the Genoard family named Dallas. We later cut to 1931, and see someone in the 1932 segment named Firo, his friends Ennis and Maiza, awaiting the train known as the Flying Pussyfoot, which later arrives in New York and they meet up with two friends named Isaac and Miria, two happy go lucky folk who they greet in arms.
And during this first episode outside of that, we also get a man apparently flung by the trains and surviving with his girlfriend in arms and a psychotic comic escapade, and in the 1932 segment, the same Fino who was kind to Isaac and Miria, somehow survive ten dozen rounds of bullets, the slicing of his fingers and general blood spillage. Needless to say, this story needs to be explained.
Through the telling of various splices and switches, we get a huge cast of characters (all named in the opening song as well as flashbacks in each opening basically helping the viewer to not get so confused) and three storylines per year slowly but surely told. It’s an interesting way to tell the story but as several of them involve the same characters, it actually works quite well after you get used to it, and everything does get answered by the end – you just need to put the pieces together.
The main plot technically starts in 1711, where a group of alchemists summons a demon to try and create immortality – and the formula is given to a summoner named Maiza…yes, the same Maiza who we saw in the first episode. It also describes the only way to kill an immortal – my devouring them. However, one alchemist, Szilard Quates, gets greedy and wishes the secret for himself, and begins devouring alchemists left, right, and center. Because of this, the ones knowing the formula or have taken the elixir from it, began to scatter the globe.
Cue 1930. Szilard has created a full proper version of the elixir, but during a scuffle it gets stolen by the aforementioned Dallas, who mistook it for valuables. The elixirs began to play a game called ‘where can I go now’ as various Mafioso’s, along with a wonderful pair of characters, other aforementioned lovable rogues named Isaac and Miria, all somehow get their hands on the elixir without realizing. Whilst this goes on, Szilard reveals he’s also managed to discover a way to become an ‘incomplete’ immortal, i.e. can’t be killed naturally, but can still age. He makes Dallas one of these so he can recover the formula, but during the time the elixir has been hopped around, Isaac, Miria, Fino, and various members of the Mafioso drink it. This leads to a rather sweet sub-plot with Fino falls in love with Ennis, Szilard’s assistant, a human-created homunculus who hides her emotions inside her, but begins to open up with Fino, and becoming friends with Isaac and Miria. It leads to the big end plot with Ennis beginning to showcase she’s a true human as well, betrays Szilard and tells Fino about his immortality and the secret of devouring. With this, Czilard is defeated, and Dallas is later sent down the Hudson River for his role of killing several Mafioso members.
A year later, however, and more things about these initial crew are brought together and where most of our action comes from. The Flying Pussyfoot, is hijacked by two Mafia gangs, with one of the most entertaining villains’ part of the Russo gang, a guy named Ladd who is so psychotically funny that I must admit I had to like the guy even though he’s a complete scumbag. We are introduced to several more characters during the opening, such as Jacuzzi, a shy but at times surprisingly tough guy, Luck, a member of the Gandor family who helps out a character who has a more pivotal role a year later, the sister of Dallas named Eve, who doesn’t know what has happened to her brother but despite a lot of bad blood on his half, is able to discover some hints to what truly happened. A young immortal named Czes, whose only purpose seems to find fellow immortal and not seemingly caring for human life, until he meets Ennis, Isaac, and Miria.  Last and not least, despite not speaking, we have Chane, a woman who is an exceptional fighter who only appears near the end, but is the sister of someone who is also an immortal and has a few more secrets up her sleeve – the battle sequences between her, Ladd and the sexual tension between the ‘boss’ character, the Rail Tracer – who is in fact an assassin named Claire, who Fino looks up to. Of course, this isn’t even mentioning the role than Isaac and Miria play, part comic relief and part spirit raiser to many of the fellow passengers on the train.
Finally, we are cut at times to 1933, Eve is shown to have found what happened to her brother – as his body is dragged out of the Hudson River. However, he is abducted and taken to prove that immortality is possible. Many of the cast fit in as they try to protect the secret, or try to help Eve. It’s all link to Chane’s immortal father, Huey, one of the original immortals of 1711. Imprisoned during the 1930 arc, and part of the reason of the takeover of the Pussyfoot was to release him. However, as that was merely due to trying to learn the gift of immortality and sends Chane to show them how to really cause anarchy. This is where the clips that switch years actually makes sense as it switches to his thought a couple of the years after the blood spilled, and how he feels about it.
This show is really hard to explain well – so much happens and so many characters appear, and as it keeps cutting from year to year, it can (and does) seem confusing. However, it does actually work – you just have to keep at it. With so many characters, character development can be seen as a weak point, but as everything is linked with something else, it still works. However, the show has two wonderful ‘leads’ in Isaac and Miria, two attempted modern-day Robin Hoods (just not exactly law-abiding in helping the poor than they try and say they do) – who are just absolutely hilarious. It is really hard to not like these pair, simply because they are simply having fun in life, don’t care what they do, and are basically stupid geniuses. Their costumes, their plots, their over-the-top nature, their way at somehow despite this they are able to become friends with all members of the mafia, Ennis, Czes, it’s just a delight. I mean, a 1930’s gangster-style show and they host A DOMINO SHOW? Just classic.
There are so many sub-plots but yet they do flow – you just need to follow it along and pay attention. With the huge cast of characters, you are bound to get derailed now and then, whether it’s how Fino was able to become immortal, or Czes confrontation with the Rail Tracer, the impromptu Claire/Chane romance, the entire Eve plot, or just the serious insanity of Ladd. However, sticking with it will reap its own reward in a thought-provoking yet very entertaining show.
In Summary:
Baccano is not for everyone – it’s a top-quality show with a fantastic pair of leads, yet because of the way it’s set, the number of characters, and the three plots interloping with each other, you can get confused very quickly. However, if you stick with it, the holes in your head will fill in and you’ll appreciate the way it’s set out. An A show for me if it was maybe told chronologically, but because of the confusion I had in the first disc (arguably far weaker than the final 3 discs) puts it down to a B+. Still, however, a gangster show in anime set in the US makes it one of those rare shows where watching it in English works better than in Japanese, and a good dub, combined with plots that do work, engaging characters, comedy, and action all in one make it a magic lamp you just need to pick at a bit and be thoroughly rewarded. Highly recommended…but better be ready to take notes.
English 5.1 Language, Japanese 2.0 Language, 4 episode dub commentaries, Clean Opening/Closing.

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: October 11th, 2010
MSRP: £39.99
Running Time: 406 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Toshiba 37C3030 – 37″ Widescreen HD Ready LCD TV ‘” Tangent Ht-50 Home Theatre System Multi-Regional DVD Players/Speakers ‘” Tangent Subwoofer 50-150 Hz, Impedenced 8 OHM.

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