Baccano!: 1932 Summer: Man in the Killer

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

After a very depressing 1700s volume of Baccano!, it’s nice to be able to get a book that is back at “home base”, so to speak: the 1930s. And this book is markedly lighter in tone, despite featuring a series of murders and an examination of what sort of person you have to be in order to commit said murders. It was originally written as an extra for those who bought the Baccano! anime DVDs Vol. 1-5 in Japan, then fleshed out for this book. That said, let’s face it, the main draw is on the cover art. If you asked any Baccano! fan which two characters absolutely should not meet because the world might end if they started talking to each other, Elmer C. Albatross and Graham Specter would be right at the top. Oh, don’t get me wrong, after a brief misunderstanding they get on like a house on fire. But that is the trouble. The last thing anyone like Graham, who Shaft can barely rein in at the best of times, needs is Elmer’s philosophy of life.

This takes place about seven months after Drugs and the Dominoes and about a year or so before The Slash, and features a few of the characters from both books. It also serves as an odd epilogue to The Rolling Bootlegs. There is a serial killer in the city, Ice Pick Thompson, whose nickname comes from his murder method. We meet Lester, a reporter who’s been ordered to follow the story even though he really would rather avoid it; Mark, a young boy who has decided to kill himself… till he meets Elmer; and Graham, Shaft and company, who are just hanging around the city but keep getting dragged into the plot. Is this just a crazy serial killer, or is there a method to their madness? What does this have to do with the Gandors? What does this have to do with Szilard Quates? And can Isaac and Miria really become literal time? Or money?

The thing that interested me most in this book is the villain, which makes a refreshing change from the usual villains we’ve seen in Baccano!, who tend to be very obvious from the start – art least from the reader’s perspective. This one is meant to be more of a mystery – though really, not that much of one, as there’s something fishy from the start. Which is fitting, given they’re more on the Dallas Genoard end of the villain spectrum than the Fermet end. I also want to note how impressed I am with Graham and Shaft, who are not Japanese but nonetheless make the perfect manzai team. When Sham made Shaft one of his vessels, he basically created the perfect tsukkomi, as well as the only one capable of stopping Graham – not that he ever actually succeeds. The best thing about the book, though, is probably Mark, a quiet, tragic character walking around a sea of loudmouthed extroverts.

If you enjoyed being back in the 1930s, worry not, we’re soon going to be there on a more permanent basis. But first we have to wrap up the 1700s arc, and finally find out what happened on the Advenna Avis. Next time we go to 1711 and see how Huey’s holding up after Monica’s death.

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