Baccano!: 1710 Crack Flag

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

Yeah, I avoided this one for a while I will admit. I don’t like tragedies, even when I know they’re coming. What’s more, this book was famous among Baccano! fandom as the pinnacle of the series, and therefore had a lot to live up to. Does it do that? pretty much, yeah. Balancing out the mystery of exactly what’s going on, the achingly sweet and awkward romance between Huey and Monica, and the creeping feeling of impending doom that powers the 2nd half, Crack Flag is a huge winner. And that’s not even mentioning our villain. Pardon the language, but “Fuck Fermet” has been a refrain among the fandom for years, and while we’ve seen why in other books, no more is it driven home than here. Fermet wants nothing more than to bring despair to people, and with Huey and Monica we get the ultimate example of that in action. Izaya only wishes he were this evil. (I may have said that line before.)

The book says 1710, but it actually begins in 1707, two years after the events of The Ironic Light Orchestra. The poet and playwright Jean-Pierre Accardo is at a party for nobility, feeling very out of place, until he runs into Lebreau Fermet Viralesque and his 6-year-old charge Czeslaw Meyer. Through a relaxed, easy conversation, the two form a bond. At the same time, Huey and Monica’s bond is deepening as well, even if he’s still reluctant to admit it. Unfortunately, the arrival of a huge galleon from the Dormentiare family drives Monica to despair… though, as with most tragedies, we quickly learn that if the parties involved had actually spoken to each other, there’d be little she had to worry about. Will Huey be able to break through her walls? Can Huey break through his own walls? And, whatever you do, don’t go to the theatre tonight…

This is a brutal book (the author says in the afterword he won’t be getting quite this dark again, which, OK, 1711 would like to have a word with you), so let’s concentrate on things that are happier – Huey and Monica. It’s so WEIRD seeing Huey like this given, well, 1711 to the present, and it drives home how much she and Elmer mean to him. And yes, I don’t want to leave Elmer out – he does his best here, and while his own thoughts are still rather terrifying, he’s a terrific character. We also see here how Maiza went from “this alchemy stuff is all bullshit” to suddenly becoming ALL ALCHEMY ALL THE TIME, and I am rather amused that all it took was just a throat-slitting (and recovery). And Carla is fantastic, taking no shit from any men around her and doing her best to figure out what’s going on in Lotto Valentino. We’ll be seeing more of almost all of them in future books, thank goodness.

So yes, this book hurt to read, but it was also one of the best in the series. Narita says 1711 is next, and I guess in terms of stuff he had to write from scratch he’s correct. But first we’re getting another bonus volume. Just as Another Junk Railroad was an expanded version of the freebie that came with the audio drama, the next book is an expansion of the 5-part novel that came with the Anime DVD releases. It answers that hideously terrifying question: “what if Elmer and Graham met?”.

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