Cheers to Life – a Baccano! anime review

Creator: Ryogho Narita
Director: Takahiro Omori
Illustrator: Katsumi Enami
Company: Brains Base / Aniplex / FUNimation
Episodes: 13
Run: July 26, 2007 to November 1, 2007

Photo from baccano.jp

Photo from baccano.jp

Developed from a 2003 Japanese light novel series by Ryogho Narita, this ridiculously-brilliant anime was released in 2007, but I hadn’t been fortunate enough to come across it until late 2014.

I remembered distinctly the living room, of a disproportionately large but barren apartment at the center of my university. It was dark, and I was hanging out with a friend, bored but forced to not fall asleep because we’d just ordered pizza. Out of happenstance, we asked our friends via a group chat thread to recommend us something to watch. One of our otaku friends recommended us this beautiful insanity: Baccano!

At the start of the anime, the jazzy ‘Guns ‘n Roses’ by Paradise Lunch theme song played, giving me the impression that this would be a fun and comedic show. It was fun and comedic alright, but that wasn’t the end of it. The first episode was barraged by gunfire fights and explosions, exciting remarks that made absolutely no sense whatsoever, monsters and villains and suspiciously-handsome people laughing like maniacs. There was the usual anime flair to it, but there was something else, as well. I didn’t understand what in the world was going on by the end of episode one, but I kept watching, because there was a madness to it…a frenzy. The story moved so swiftly, so alluringly, it dared you to try and keep up.

In terms of technical details, the greatest charm of Baccano! for me had to be the audio. I watched it in English dub (I know, Japanese is where it’s at, but I get lazy reading subtitles sometimes!), and the voices, with their matching accents, were unique and easily differentiated from one another. The soundtrack was upbeat and enchanting, and the quality of background music choice really pulled you into the anime world.

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The animation of Baccano! is a little bright, flashy, and very matching of an anime that took place during the Prohibition Era, with New York City still an alcoholic escape-land, and various citizens living by the speakeasies, the glitter and shiny liquid and cards. The characters, were also very distinct, and as much as they each had their own voice, they each looked and dress very different too, but very much human, albeit a little ridiculous at times.

 

Now for the plot…

This is a complicated one, and because this anime was so wonderfully charming in its own meta ways during the story’s unfolding, I don’t want to spoil anything. In short, Baccano! was a snapshot tale of about a dozen or so lives, intertwined by destiny. It included a wide cast of faces, none of which were specified as the main character, as the author/storyteller argued that any one of those people could be the hero of the story.

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A pair of suspiciously-happy thieves seem to unintentionally tie together the lives of an immortal alchemist, two girls burdened by their respective fathers, New York City thugs and gangsters, a serial killer, a group of terrorists, and a band of young bootleggers. The story was told out of order, and jumped quickly from heart-wrenching scenes of sunset and longing to maniacal laughing, boxing, gunshots, and flames.

The ultimate connection of the entire narrative was the appearance of an elixir that grants a person immortality and regeneration at the cellular level. The book’s platform, with too many characters to count on two wildly fun stages (the streets of NYC and a transcontinental train…aptly named “The Flying Pussyfoot”), provided an enticing backdrop for a conversation about immortality, that wound up being surprisingly serious.

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The elixir grants eternal life to anyone who drinks it. Wrapped up within the whole mess of terrorists and kidnappers on a train, as well as shootings and fights in the Big Apple, the story of the struggle of immortality was well-concealed within all the struggles of life. The events on the train and in NYC tied up to the elixir and themes of immortality, which, prior to now, I’d never had much fun discussing.

I loved what Baccano! and Ryogho Narita did with this impressive cast of characters, as well as the conversation with viewers about how beautiful life is, and perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad being immortal after all. See, from my own experiences, many people I’ve talked to seem fearful of eternity, and I’ve grown up taught to be afraid of things falling apart.

Baccano! addressed the fears of living forever—the ways in which we devour the world, devour ourselves, devour the people and things we love. It’s all terrifying, and the struggles of the characters in the anime showcase that, but it also made me aware that these are struggles of life. If you can keep going, keep getting back up, life is very much worth living—there are endless fun things to do, to explore, and people to meet.

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Baccano! was initially an appealing mess, that ultimately unveiled into a very touching and uplifting story about being alive. This felt like an earnest toast to all the beauties and terrors of life, and I enjoyed it greatly.

 

Rating:

🃏 🃏 🃏 🃏 🃏

“Maybe every encounter is some sort of miracle in its own way.”

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All .GIFs were screen captured from my Baccano! DVD and created via GIF Maker.
Featured Image (Top) from AdvennaAvis from stuffpoint.com

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