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Live Blog 1930s style for a 1930s economy: / liveblogs Baccano!
/2010-12-11 19:58:35

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Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

So, first thing I see when I open up the episode is a coin getting flicked into the air. For a second I wonder if I've mistakenly opened some Railgun instead, which wouldn't be all that hard because it's only like two keystrokes away, but then I notice a distinct lack of Biribiri on the way down. Whew. It'd be pretty embarrassing to screw up right from the start, you know?

And then we are introduced to seventeen named characters in the first minute and a half, because it's not a Narita Ryougo adaptation without it. The music here is fitting—I've always thought there were too few instrumental themes in anime, anyway. Points for that.

The first scene looks to be a framing device for the rest of the story. A girl named Carol crawls around on a table in an office somewhere, looking through books and files for information on some chain of mysterious events that started in November 1930. Then Vice Director Gustave St. Germain walks into the the room, chides assistant Carol for her manners, and then goes on a bit of a digression about the role of journalism. Amid a train flashback, he mentions that "the truth changes if you think about it." I guess this is a tip that we ought to be thinking as the show goes on. Well, there goes my brainless entertainment time.

St. Germain goes on to tell Carol that her choice of starting point is arbitrary. Maybe the story didn't start in 1930, maybe it started in 1711, and wait isn't this a one-cour series? Where are you going to get all this time? Carol tries to offer an explanation, during which we get an oddly SHAFT eye shot, but St. Germain rebuffs her and further offers a change of perspective. Maybe we should tell the story from (oh here are five different characters we'll probably be seeing later on and one of them has his head blown off eeew).

Carol settles on a brown-haired guy in a green jacket from an old photo, because he seems like main character material. We quickly learn this is Firo Prochainezo of the Martillo family—if you've already forgotten from the opening animation—but not before he gets two of his fingers sliced in half by a scheming panhandler and then magically reattaches them. Somehow. Man, this is all kinda violent, isn't it?

Not that it matters, since St. Germain wants to pick another perspective. There is much gunfire, then a scene of a large group with automatics and a leader telling them to destroy the Gandors, the Martillos, everything. Meanwhile, Haruhi's dad Luck Gandor gets a report of the damage. One of his underlings goes off to beat up a captive found messing up the Gandors' betting hall. Then there's an odd scene of two older men, one of them remarking "you're quite spirited" to the other, who looks nervous.

Well, I think we've established that no matter what the perspective, it's going to involve no shortage of physical harm. Carol asks if we should start with the conflict between the mafia families...oh, this explains all of that, then. St. Germain throws out a bunch of other possible starting points. Guys, I told you, we've only got 13 16 episodes, you've got to make up your minds already.

"It wouldn't be strange if we were the beginning of this story."

And episode title, "The Vice Director Doesn't Talk About the Possibility That He Is the Lead Character". You know, you could have saved us ten minutes by coming to that conclusion earlier.

1931, as the title card helpfully informs us.

We cut back to a scene from St. Germain's little roulette of starting points, in which a large thug named Gustavo has been explaining to a Don-type that Luck Gandor's been done in, that the Gandors are a mere trifle, and that the acquisition of some taxi bombs will make short work of the Martillos. Don-type disregards all this and instead tosses over a photo of a man named Dallas Genoard, whose father and brother have already been killed. By Gustavo, without any orders to do so, but those are details, right? Law enforcement's already been paid off to keep hush-hush...oh, never mind, seems Dallas has got his hands on some evidence anyway. Time to haul him in to make sure he doesn't cause any trouble, Don-type says. Optionally dead. Gustavo corrals in his group of gun-wielding folks from earlier and begins his hunt.

Cut back to our little savage beating from earlier. Apparently Luck's supposed to be dead, so I suppose that we're going in something resembling a linear story order now. Luck threatens their captive with treatment by a certain Mr. Chic, whose weapon of choice seems to be very sharp scissors, so he decides to talk. "Who turned me into a beehive?" Luck asks him... um, I guess some bees did? You might want to ask them first. Especially the ones with machine guns. They might have some info.

Luck and Firo meet up in a bookshop. The former reads from a collection of Poe poetry and then remarks that he no longer needs to fear death after something that happened a year ago. Firo offers help with the Gandors' fight against the Runorata (Don-type and friends from earlier), but Luck refuses and notes that he's enlisted Vino's help. He's arriving on the Flying Pussyfoot the next day, along with Claire, and Isaac, and Miria, and an old friend of Mr. Maiza, and these names mean nothing to me. Well, at least I can remember one named character right now. I think I'm doing pretty well!

And now it looks like there's an ambush, and Luck and Firo are busy getting shot to death. They're probably not going to die, though. I imagine Firo's spleen is going to leap back into his torso any minute now. In fact, cue several scenes of people engaged in improbable healings. Parenthetical boy who had his head blown off in the first half? He's okay now, and a bit cocky to boot. Though it does seem that a few people have been getting thrown off the Pussyfoot on its way out of Chicago. Seems like we're dealing with some... "Immortals".

Having shrugged off their assailants' bullets with some magic, Luck and Firo wait around with some friends in Grand Central Station for the Flying Pussyfoot. There's some idle chatter about the train being somewhat unusual, at which point we learn Firo is a bit of a train nerd, then Maiza talks about his friend, who is not "a normal person". I guess that makes like five Immortals already? So this isn't Highlander. (Speaking of which, cut to a heavily wounded man in the snow somewhere, surrounded by police officers, waving an exposed arm bone around in the air like he just don't care as he offers to kill his girlfriend. Then a few more cuts to random characters who will doubtlessly be more important than this mention implies. Then a woman floating on a suitcase.) After some waiting for the train to pull in, we have a hearty reunion, then Maiza comes face to face with would-be-headless boy and smiles. Man, that's creepy. Those Halloween costumes that Isaac and Miria were wearing in the opening probably were trying to tell me something, weren't they?

And finally the ending credits roll, with an oddly melancholic song produced by Kajiura Yuki of all people. I was expecting an upbeat pop song. That kind of thing's not really 1930s, but Kajiura really isn't very 1930s either, so it'd work out about the same wither way. The CGI train track animation, though? That's got the aesthetic down pat, I'm telling you.

So, what's the upshot of all of this? I have no idea. I can safely say that I understand more of what's happening than I did with the first episode of Durarara!!, although that's really not saying much in my case... judging by my experience with that series, I think this liveblog will start making sense around halfway through the season and when I have no readers left.

See you for episode two! Feel free to tell me how boring this was in the comments.


Dec 12th 2010 at 3:54:54 AM
Ah, the opening theme is apropriately funky/awesome. But yeah, you're right, the first episode really does end up with a great big "uh... what the hell just happened?" but things become fairly clear after a while, even for a gent who has problems remembering names, such as myself.
Dec 12th 2010 at 5:42:55 AM
Baccano is the italian for "ruckus" and one theme of the series seems to be that the smae events can play very different parts in a story depending on whose perspective you use. The series is mixing elements from the first 3 novels in non-linear order. It's very good, but the first episode is very confusing even though it shows elements from the very ends of some of the storylines - they just don't make any sense out of context.

I saw this series some time ago in my local Anime club and loved it - the DVD set came out recently here in the UK and I started to rewatch it this weekend.

Oh, one bit of warning - sometimes in an episode they'll indicate which year an event occurs in, but at others they'll expect you to recongnise which year/chain of events a scene belongs to without explicitly pointing it out. If it helps to keep track, Firo is most prominent in the 1930 strand, the train is in 1931 and the search for Dallas dominates 1932. (These are the events of books 1, 2&3 (a two-parter) and part of book 4 respectively.) If you watch the DVD-only episodes 14-16, are mostly book 14, the aftermath of the TV broadcast events. There's also one scene in episode 1 that we never get more than that glimse of in the series (Isaac meeting a group of others in a mansion) because it's from another book, but pretty much all the rest of epsiode 1 makes perfect sense by the time you finish episode 13.
Dec 13th 2010 at 6:57:59 PM
I am left amused and bemused. I must continue to read this liveblog. You must continue to do this liveblog.
Dec 15th 2010 at 6:44:09 PM
Watch it dubbed. D=<

To be fair, I have heard the sub is good, and the bit I've seen was good, but... THIS IS AMERICA BEYOTCH.