There’s quite a few storylines going on in Baccano, so the best I can do is try to summarize them:
In 1711 a group of alchemists summoned a demon and were given the elixir of immortality, and the ability to “eat” other immortals and gain their knowledge. However, only one alchemist was given the knowledge of how to recreate the elixir.
In 1930 an up-and-coming gang member, a juvenile delinquent, an evil alchemist and his homonculus, and the most incompetent thieves ever cross paths while trying to gain the immortal drink.
In 1931 the Flying Pussyfoot sets off with terrorists, gangsters, both good and bad; immortals, psychopaths, and the monster Rail Tracer all on board, just waiting to cause some havoc.
Finally, in 1932 a young girl joins with some information brokers to try and find her missing brother, while a mobster who is being blackmailed by said brother tries to find him first.
It’s all nonsense, which is what Baccano literally means in italian.
Baccano! is probably the most ambitious anime, from a storytelling perspective, that I’ve ever seen, and fortunately that ambition pays off to make it one of the best and most fun anime to come out in a while. I’m glad I waited to watch this show all in one sitting, cause I don’t see how it could be watched any way else. For one, the suspense would be too much, but also I would forget way too much. Baccano has a HUGE cast of characters and three different storylines going on at three different times, and each story is retold from a dozen perspectives! You know you’re getting into a wild ride with Baccano when the first episode spends fifteen minutes talking about where’s the best place to start the story and the rest essentially showing you the ending, though you have no idea what is going on. I have crazy respect for the director who managed to keep all these storylines straight and logical even when told in a non-linear manner.
Of course, even with all the unique plotting, Baccano would be nothing if it didn’t have good characters, but fortunately Baccano has awesome characters in spades. There’s Isaac and Miria, the greatest thieving, crazy, and spastic couple ever; the psychopathic Ladd Russo, the other psychopath with a heart of justice Claire Stanfield, the young mafioso Firo Prochainezo, Jacuzzi Splot, the most courageous guy who cries all the time ever; his hot, eye patch wearing girlfriend Nice Holystone; and way too many other great characters. It’s a real credit to Baccano that it can make us so familiar with each one of these characters.
Aniplex and Brains-Base did a great job with the animation in Baccano. All the scenes looked great and the action was incredibly fluid. And 1930’s New York actually looks like 1930’s New York! No small feat when considering how often anime gets even modern day New York wrong. There’s a lot of gory scenes in the show - there are a couple psychopaths running around after all - but never enough to feel too over-the-top, like Mnemosyne. This is a violent world where blood often has to be spilt. The jazz soundtrack fits the series perfectly, particularly the instrumental OP. It’s also great how it zooms in to show the characters’ names. I demand that more anime do that.
For all the awesomeness that Baccano is, I do have a couple complaints, though. While it wraps up all its main plots nicely, there’s still a couple threads hanging, like why does Lua love Ladd so much, what made the Russo family target Jacuzzi’s group, what did Elmer wish to the demon for, and why did the demon choose to follow Huey? Seeing as how Baccano is based on a novel series these questions are probably answered later on, so I hope we see a second season for this stuff.
Baccano! is definitely one of the most original works of anime to come out in a while. Its characters are great and the storytelling approach is nothing less than fantastic. I can’t imagine the show being told any other way. Definitely try to watch it in one whole sitting to get the full effect. And how can one not love a show that features a train called “The Flying Pussyfoot,” or features my favorite episode title now, “Ladd Russo Enjoys Talking a Lot and Killing a Lot?” Now that’s just pure fun there.