Baccano!: 1934 Alice in Jails: Prison

By Ryohgo Narita and Katsumi Enami. Released in Japan by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Taylor Engel.

Having just finished a two-volume arc, we immediately jump into a THREE-volume arc, which consists of the two Alice in Jails book and a third called Peter Pan in Chains. As the names might indicate, Alice in Chains is the title quote, so to speak, but the book itself also revolves around jail, specifically Alcatrax, which in 1934 was still fairly new as a prison for hardcore felons (as opposed to a military prison). The description of the prison itself is quite good, showing it as an unpleasant place that can break a man, as well as being well-nigh impossible to escape from. After being blackmailed with Ennis’ safety, Firo is sent to infiltrate the prison to try to talk to its most infamous resident: Huey Laforet, who is kept in solitary confinement in the lowest of basements. But he’s not alone. Isaac has been sent there for some odd reason, and one of the prisoners already there is well known to us: Ladd Russo. Has he gotten any less violent and manic? No.

This book was, I believe, being written at the same time as the anime was being planned, and discusses certain events that the reader is unaware of but the characters aren’t, such as Graham Specter, who is introduced in this book but unseen, or the mention of a Mr. St. Germain at the Daily Days, who is also as yet unseen. The book also flits back and forth between Firo’s adventures in prison and the rest of the cast back in New York, who are dealing with Huey Laforet, despite being in prison, apparently planning a large scale terrorist attack. Narita enjoys setting up mystifying things only to have them pay off one or two books down the road, so we need to settle in here. There’s also some events from previous books intruding – the coverup of the Flying Pussyfoot murders is mentioned a few times, and we meet Gustavo, the pathetic villain from Drugs and the Dominoes, who is essentially here to be Ladd’s ticket to Alcatraz, and boy does he deserve it.

I want to talk about Isaac and Miria, though, as this is in some ways my favorite book with them, despite their not being major players in it. They’ve been wonderfully funny comic relief most of the time, but in the last arc we got some hints of deeper things – Miria’s monologue in the color pages. Now here we see that neither of them are as “stupid” as they may outwardly seem. Isaac’s ability to identify he’s talking to a cop and get Miria out of danger is masterful, and the rest of the Martillos rightly boggle at it. We also get into his head a little bit at the end, as it’s made clear he grew up in San Francisco right near Alcatraz… though he doesn’t want to see his family. As for Miria (whose head we don’t really get into), not only does she go to Ronny first to help her try to save Isaac, but she actually seems to know he’s a demon. But the best scene for Miria, in my opinion, is the one with Chane, where the two of them comfort each other over their most important person being in Alcatraz, and Miria shows off her empathy – I liked how she immediately knew how Chane communicated and wasn’t uncomfortable with it. Terrific character work here.

This is one of the better Baccano! books, including a great twist at the end I’ve tried not to spoil, and fans will absolutely want to get it. Next time we should actually meet Gustav St. Germain, as well as the much mentioned but unseen Graham, who I suspect may have been written with Norio Wakamoto and Tomokazu Sugita in mind.

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