Having released the first season of Durarara!! last year, AllTheAnime have now brought Baccano!, another anime based on a light novel by Ryougo Narita, to the UK on Blu-ray. AllTheAnime’s blu-ray release of Baccano! is not the first release the UK has seen for this series, with it having been given a DVD release by Manga Entertainment some five years ago. This does immediately give the UK blu-ray an additional advantage compared to that in both Japan and the US; our DVD release was subject to PAL conversion, meaning this blu-ray allows us to experience the show without the inherent 4% speed-up of a PAL release.
The series both opens and closes in 1932 New York City, with vice president of the Daily Days newspaper, Gustav St. Germain, and Carol, his assistant, investigating a series of peculiar events. These events range from 1711 right through to the 1930s, and they are attempting to work out when these events began and choose a “main character” from the many people that feature in the story. The story of Baccano! is told from the many viewpoints of its ensemble cast in the 1930s criminal underworld, and how their paths cross through their lives and ventures. Although their individual stories may seem entirely unrelated at first, they intersect frequently, and the narrative of Baccano! jumps around back and forth following this. With so much happening, and not all of it necessarily making sense at first, you may feel well out of your depth, but just roll with it and take in what you can; there are a lot of weird interactions and plot details that may seem irrelevant at first. Baccano! really does seem to be a series that will benefit from multiple viewings, increasing your understanding a little each time. The story is not always entirely easy to follow, and, personally, I look forward to watching it again at some point to better understand everything going on. I also look forward to trying the light novel next year when Yen Press begin publishing it in English. Baccano!, despite the efforts of the Daily Days newspaper, is not about a simple linear narrative, but about the links between many interconnected smaller stories, of which each individual is their own main character.
Despite being an upscale of a standard definition master, this offering manages a surprisingly sharp presentation with commendable detail. Lines manage to be consistently sharp, and the image is certainly deserving of a blu-ray release. There are rarely parts of the image with nothing happening, there’s always a lot on-screen drawing your attention, something that surely will have benefitted from the more efficient compression available for blu-ray. Colours are well saturated, though it is a shame the series really sticks to the brown part of the colour spectrum; it is fitting for a series set in the Great Depression, but the show could have made use of some more vivid colour palettes. There are some parts which don’t benefit as much from the upscale, though these seem limited to the CGI-heavy exterior shots of the train that are scattered throughout the series. Subtitles are a fan-favourite white, with a signs & songs track present for when watching the dub.
Both English and Japanese audio tracks are included as stereo LPCM tracks. Although the English dub is far from the worst I have sampled, the accents put on by the voice actors for the characters ruined my immersion; thankfully, the Japanese language track is present. However, for those more inclined towards dubs anyway, the effort put into characterisation with an assortment of accents may actually help to improve the immersiveness of the show. The soundtrack is exemplary and perfectly fitting for a series set in the Prohibition Era of American history. Even those not fond of Jazz may find themselves humming along to the OP after a couple of episodes, and the music loop in the main menu manages to remain hypnotising even after 5 minutes of not bothering to get up and change the disc. The opening theme is “Gun’s & Roses” by Paradise Lunch, and the ending theme is “Calling” by Kaori Oda. It is a shame that the ending theme is too melodic and subdued, paling in comparison to the vastly superior opening.
Extras, sadly, are the only area in which this blu-ray release actually manages to disappoint. Although it includes the standard textless opening and ending videos, alongside a “Baccano! The Complete Guide” featurette and Promotional Video, it does not include the English audio commentaries that were available for several episodes on the original English FUNimation/Manga Entertainment DVD release half a decade ago. This is no real loss for me, as I never find commentaries featuring the dub cast appealing, but for those that do enjoy the dub, it causes this release to fall ever so slightly short of being the definitive edition it could have been. The OVAs are included on the third disc, though these hardly count as “extras” being that they serve as episodes 14 through 16, and tie up the anime.
While not quite as enjoyable as Durarara!!, Baccano! is an anime that needs to be experienced. Seeing the paths of the many characters cross, the story from those many points of view, and trying to form your own opinion as to who the main character of the story truly is, makes for a series that is best binge-watched. I watched it in three sittings, but will be giving it a rewatch in one session when I find the chance in order to better understand the story. For your first viewing, don't get too hung up on the details, just take in what you can; this base knowledge should help prepare you, and I, for a second viewing.