The afterwords of the Baccano! novels are always a delight. With what I now recognise as his trademark mix of self-deprecation and sincerity, Ryohgo Narita writes of his own books:
“It’s a pointless, dumb story… But it’s fun.” If [readers] said that, I think it would be the best compliment ever.
Which case, I have the best compliment ever to give these books. Apart from the “pointless” part, as I don’t think any story is pointless. But they sure are fun and dumb, with the madcap action, larger-than-life characters, and general ludicrousness continuing full bore into the third instalment in the light novel series. Instead of picking up where volume two left off, volume three—The Grand Punk Railroad: Express—loops back and covers the same events but from different perspectives. Whereas last time the reader was tugged along at breakneck pace following the stories of the criminal factions trying to take over the train, this time we sharpen our vision and sneak after the individuals who slipped through the cracks. Continue reading
Off the bat, this book is a bit of an oddball to review. Baccano! volume two is a completely new story to the self-contained first instalment, leaving New York and detailing the terrible adventure that takes place when a cacophony of robbers, mafioso, terrorists, and a monster of urban myth all find themselves trapped together on the same cross-continental train. It’s also the first of a two-parter, but it doesn’t drop its “to be continued” halfway through the story: it delivers the train safely (relatively speaking) to the station, and some characters out of the sprawling cast to their destination… and promises to loop back and retell the same sequence of events but from different perspectives in volume three. This is a slightly befuddling creative choice, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t create intrigue. And in the end, effective intrigue among all that larger-than-life chaos is what makes Baccano! good.
So, while volume two—The Grand Punk Railroad: Local—is very much and very deliberately not the whole story, let’s barrel ahead with Isaac-and-Miria-like gusto and talk about the pieces of the puzzle that we did experience. It sure is something, let me tell you. Continue reading
Firo continues to look angry and/or confused in every single illustration he appears in
You know me, I’m a sucker for a fictional jaunt through the Jazz Age, and if there are compelling characters and supernatural shenanigans, all the better. The Baccano! anime stole my heart and blew my mind when I watched it many years ago, drawing me into a madcap world of gangsters, con artists, alchemists, and eccentric thieves all caught up in one big interlocking adventure—think Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels but set in Prohibition-era America and revolving around the elixir of immortality (not that everyone who gets sucked into this chaotic caper knows this…). Intrigued to see how the exhausting but exhilarating nature of the TV series translated onto the page, I recently picked up the first volume of the novels it was based on, and spiralled back down into this world of jazzy, magical nonsense, kind of falling in love with it all over again in the process. Continue reading