Baccano!: 1705 The Ironic Light Orchestra

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

In general, those who are really obsessive about the Baccano! series fall into two camps: anime obsessives and light novel obsessives. The anime obsessives tend to stick to the 1930s, which is, after all, what the anime adapted, with the exception of one episode. The light novel obsessives, though, really love the non-1930s books and their deep look at some of the more… broken members of the cast. In particular Huey Laforet, the “mastermind villain” of some books in the 1930s, last seen escaping from Alcatraz, and Elmer C. Albatross, who loves to try to make everyone smile but has something distinctly wrong with his way of thinking and moral compass in regards to smiling. They both cried out for an origin story, and we get it in in this, the first of the “1700s trilogy”, and possibly the most anticipated book since the series was initially licensed. This is the story of a city in Naples, Lotto Valentino. In particular, three students who are learning alchemy at a secret library: Huey, Elmer, and Monica Campanella. And let me say this: they are written as the OT3 you never knew you wanted.

The subtitle is, of course, a take on the 70s band ELO, aka the Electric Light Orchestra. No, Monica’s not the meek-looking brunette in the foreground; that’s Niki, a teenage girl and slave who spends most of the book awaiting her longed-for death, only to run into the power of Elmer and decide to live a little longer after all. Monica’s the blonde inn the background. You get the sense that Narita may have had the idea of Niki and Elmer as a beta couple to Huey and Monica, only to find that he simply could not remove Elmer from their orbit. I was rather startled to see how much of this book read like a genuine rom-con, and even the darker moments are about “will you still love me if you find out my SECRET” stuff. These are three adorable kids who, well, hate the world and want to destroy it in many ways. Elmer isn’t quite like that, but it’s clear that if it would make everyone smile, he’d be totally fine with the world’s destruction as well. Cute broken kids.

There are other things going on in the book, of course. Huey’s past is told via flashback and is a tragic nightmare, revolving around the just-dying out practice of witch-hunting in Europe. Monica’s is barely touched on, and I suspect we may go into it more in the next book. And Elmer’s is also just barely touched on, likely as it would simply be TOO horrific to do anything but merely glance at it. Remember, none of these folks are immortal yet (except, oddly, their teachers, who seem to be immortal from some other source than the one we know), so bad, permanent things can still happen to them. There’s a woman-loving Count who is an odd combination of Isaac Dian and Chikage from Durarara!!. There’s also a young gang member named Aile, who seems familiar but we’re not sure how familiar till the end. This book is a great example of why you shouldn’t read this series in chronological order by date. And a main plotline that reminds me a bit of The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.

The end of the book really makes you want to see the ongoing adventures of Huey, Monica and Elmer, which is why I hate to break it to you, but we’re jumping forward again. This time we go all the way to 2002, to see Firo and Ennis’ long-awaited (no, seriously, very, very long awaited) honeymoon on a luxury liner. Surely nothing can possibly go wrong!

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