Baccano!: 1931 Another Junk Railroad: Special Express

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

It’s nice to see Baccano! returning to the 1930s, which has always felt like Home Base. This volume has an odd history (get used to me saying this). Before the anime came out there was an audio drama of the Flying Pussyfoot books, and Narita wrote a short novel as a bonus for the CDs. The short novel was then used by the anime when it came out the following year for three OAVs at the end of the story. Then, two years after that, he expanded the short novel into the novel that you see here. And given that it was always meant to be something of a bonus feature, it’s no surprise that this book is filled with references to past novels, even above and beyond the fact that it’s a semi-sequel to the other Railroad arcs. Indeed, I would say that if you read Vols. 2 and 3 and then try to jump ahead and read this as a pure sequel, you will be very unhappy. Because this is also a sequel to several other books.

As with all Narita novels, there are several things going on at once in this book, but the “main” storyline is Chane trying to figure out life after her father has been taken into custody by the FBI. She’s left a message for Claire, but it’s unclear what the message means… to both him and in her own mind. What’s more, Chane, who has spent her entire life being betrayed and used, even by the one man that she wholly trusts, finds the very idea of Jacuzzi’s idealistic niceness baffling. Later books in the timeline (which we’ve read earlier in the series) show how joining up with Jacuzzi’s crew and falling in love with Claire is the best thing that’s ever happened to her, and this book shows that evolution. We also get introduced to Graham, who, again, we’ve already been well acquainted with in previous books. More importantly, the fact that this is Book 14 in the series allows Narita to reveal a couple more immortals who happened to be on the train that we never saw…

Now that Narita is allowed to have his bad guy front and center, he’s clearly reveling in it. Fermet is simply terrible throughout this entire book. We know, having read the 2002 books, that he will be terrible in the future as well. And, given that Huey explicitly says that Fermet killed his wife, we know that he’s going to be terrible in the past. Fortunately, Elmer is here to help out somewhat (and there’s a tie-in to the Baccano! DS game here as well, which I won’t even get into…), but given that Elmer is broken as well, that’s not exactly a comfort. Fortunately, this is balanced out by the sweetness surrounding Chane and Jacuzzi’s gang, as well as seeing an epilogue for Rachel, who is allowed to dress in something other than khakis (though the anime missed that) and give love advice to Claire.

So, having been thoroughly spoiled by this book and the previous one, it’s time to go read the ending no one wants to read. Well, that’s not quite true. In all of Baccano fandom, the next book and 1711 may be the most awaited books in the entire series. Back to 1710 next time, where everything is smiles and happy times. Till then, enjoy this book that feels like a DVD extra but is still a lot of fun.

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