skygiants: Nice from Baccano! in post-explosion ecstasy (maybe too excited . . .?)
[personal profile] skygiants
So I've fallen into a bit of a Baccano! vortex, due to the fact that Yen Press is now at last translating the light novels!

For those unfamiliar, Baccano! is an anime that came out in 2007. Set in the 1930s, it features about five colliding train heists, two blithely clueless thieves, four different gangs, a collection of conspiratorial immortal alchemists, a whole baker's dozen of murderous psychopaths, and a bunch of delinquent bootlegging teenagers who are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Somehow, it all generally turns out OK (except for the nameless murdery people we don't like, who tend to get their comeuppances in extraordinarily gruesome fashions. The named and protagonist-y murderers, on the other hand, get adorable romantic meet-cutes in between or occasionally during bloodbaths.) It's bouncy, bloody and bizarre -- the title in Italian means "stupid commotion" and the story does its level best to live up to that premise.

The anime covers the first 3-4 books in a long-running series about these wacky, frequently murderous immortals and their assorted gangster buddies. I am exceptionally excited for the point when Yen Press starts translating the books not covered by the anime -- assuming that they do; I have a terrible and probably-ungrounded fear that they're going to cancel the project before getting around to the later stuff -- but it's already been fun reading the three that are out so far:

The Rolling Bootlegs, in which an immortal alchemist's attempt to recreate the elixir of immortality is rudely interrupted by his homunculus servant-daughter's inconvenient development of a conscience, as well as a running succession of of rowdy gangsters

1931 - The Grand Punk Railroad (Local), which recounts the TRAIN HEIST FIVE-WAY COLLISION OF DOOM with a focus on the heroic intervention of a gang of teen delinquents led by pyromaniac Nice Holystone and nervous crybaby Jacuzzi Splot

1931 - The Grand Punk Railroad (Express), which clears up all the mysteries of the last book by recounting the TRAIN HEIST FIVE-WAY COLLISION OF DOOM with a focus on the heroic (....sort of) intervention of unaccompanied minor Czeslaw, intrepid reporter/information broker/repeat ride stealer Rachel, and the Rail Tracer, a lovable monster who saves the train by rampaging up and down through the cars murdering almost everyone he meets

OK, that's the write-up for those who haven't seen the series; for those who have, but not read the books yet, I'm going to put some further impressions

For the most part the anime is extremely faithful to the books -- especially the train storyline, which is clearly the anime's favorite -- but there is some stuff that didn't make it in. I'm just going to bullet-point the things I found most interesting:

- The Rolling Bootlegs has an additional subplot about an FBI agent named Edward who sets himself up as Firo's nemesis and then gets distracted by immortality-related hijinks; he is cranky and incorruptible and as a result I kept picturing him played by Edward G. Robinson
- Grand Punk Railroad has an additional subplot about a doctor with severe post-WWI PTSD who patches up the various injuries of numerous people on the train over the course of The Flying Pussyfoot Incident, bonds with Lua over their mutual disinterest in life, and then adopts one of Ladd's minion-psychopaths to be his new medical assistant
- there's a great cut scene in The Rolling Bootlegs when Szilard is eating one of Dallas Genoard's minions and Dallas is like "OH POOR JAMES, HOW CAN YOU BE EATING JAMES??" and then the minion is dead and minion #2 is like "uh, his name wasn't James, I'm James, that was Scott" and that says everything you need to know about Dallas Genoard
- there's a lot more focus on Rachel in Grand Punk Railroad (Express) than the main anime gives her, which was great for me because Rachel is my favorite
- relatedly -- and hilariously -- when a blood-covered Claire Stanfield asks Rachel for her ticket while they're both crawling around the train, it's not a ploy to freak her out, it's because his conductor instincts briefly take over and he's genuinely concerned that he doesn't recognize her from the passenger manifest and wondering if he should call the cops
- Claire Stanfield overall generally comes off a bit less manic in the books than in the show, though I wonder if that trend will hold true in later ones -- I mean, he's still PRETTY over-the-top, but it's fairly clear that his killing is not indiscriminate and it seems like a person would probably have to do more a little more than look at him wrong to become targeted (the goriness of his murder methods is explained as "he just wants to make sure they're really quite sincerely dead!" ... but he still does definitely torture Czes, that's definitely a thing that happens)
- he also gives Rachel a ticket on the train so she won't get in trouble with the authorities after he sees her rescue the Beriams and then rescues her in turn from an angry racist passenger, which is sweet
- speaking of the angry racist passenger, there's more emphasis than I'd expected on the fact that Jacuzzi's gang includes a number of immigrants and the anti-immigrant prejudice of the time period
- relatedly, I don't know that I love the way the translators chose to render Delinquent Donny's imperfect English (which of course might be a function of the way Narita is writing it in Japanese)
- while we're talking about the delinquents, Nice in the books has a quirk where she's characterized by being extremely polite and formal in speech to everyone but Jacuzzi -- this kind of weirded me out, honestly, as I'm very attached to casual slangy delinquent Nice in the show
- Isaac and Miria are exactly the same and I love them very much
- honestly I still love everyone in this bar
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