Baccano!: 1935-D Luckstreet Boys

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

At last, we are forced to discuss the elephant in the room. This volume came out in Japan in August 2016, and there has not been another one since. Ryohgo Narita has been battling a lot of health issues. He’s also been writing another Bleach novel series, which was licensed in North America, and an ongoing manga series, which was licensed in North American AND got an anime. And, most importantly, there has been Fate/strange Fake, a light novel spinoff of the super duper popular Fate series, which began in 2014 but has had five new light novels since the last Baccano!, the most recent being this year. And it’s ALSO getting an anime. It has to be said, Dengeki Bunko know what is popular and what is merely a cult series. It has gotten to the point where, after I joked on Twitter about Narita forgetting about Baccano!, he actually replied to me to apologize and say it’s coming. So we’ll hold out hope. But till then, hope you enjoy this, as it may be a while till the conclusion we’re supposed to get with 1935-E.

The main thing that happens here which ends up dragging everyone into one place is that Charlie, the massive grizzly bear from a previous book, is now wandering around the streets of Manhattan. Fortunately, he very quickly ends up at the Grey Doctor’s office, where he finds friends in Isaac and Miria (who will befriend anyone). Unfortunately, Firo and Victor are also there, and they’re quickly joined by Ladd and Graham. Then everyone there (including the bear) is lured to Central Park, where ALL the Lemures have gathered, along with Maria and Luck’s other paid shit-stirrers. Oh yes, and Chane has come running, seeing that Ladd is there and really, really, REALLY wanting to kill him. None of this is surprising. What *is* surprising is that Lua gets a couple paragraphs all to herself, possibly the most she’s spoken in this entire series.

Usually in Narita’s books there’s always some normal guy who has to pretend not to be normal in order to get by. In Durarara!! it was Mikado, though he very quickly shot past that character type in a big way. It’s been a few people in Baccano!, most notably Jacuzzi. But in this entire arc, it’s been Nader, and that continues here – he’s basically the protagonist of this arc. (Melvi should be the antagonist, but everyone the last two books has spent all their time talking about how pathetic he is compared to the rest of the cast, so nah.) Nader is a two-bit villain who does not have the drive to be anything more, but when he finds out that Sonia is not only no longer in his hometown waiting for a hero to save her, but is actually the protege of Spike… well, let’s just say this is where the dramatic theme music starts playing behind him. Even Ladd notices the difference. I hope he lives, but it’s gonna be tough.

It’s also gonna be tough waiting for the next book, but at least we’re waiting a lot less time than Japan. Come back to Baccano! soon, Narita-san!

Baccano!: 1935-C The Grateful Bet

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

The author has said a few times that this will be the final 1930s arc, and that after that there’s just one arc in 2003 to wrap up the series. (Admittedly he said that when this volume came out… almost ten years ago… more on that next time.) And on reading this volume, you get the sense that he’s sending the series off with a bang. Baccano! is known for its big cast, but here it feels like he’s trying to have every single main character from the series show up at the same time. We get Firo’s group, Luck’s group (with several additions from Drugs and the Dominoes and Man in the Killer), All Huey’s various Lamia and Larva, Jacuzzi’s gang, the girls from Time of the Oasis, etc. As for the 1700s immortals, for the most part they’re absent from the actual event (Maiza doesn’t count at this point, he’s part of Firo’s group more than he is a 1700s alchemist) but are trying to control or destroy everything there. It’s an all-star finale.

So yeah, Ennis has (sigh) been kidnapped in order to make Firo do something dumb. Fortunately, Firo has matured a bit from the last time this happened, so he merely smolders with controlled rage. The Martillos have his back (well, most of them, Ronny is AWOL) and consider Ennis one of their own. Meanwhile, there’s also the Runorata’s big casino opening, which everyone wioll be attending so that they can watch the other shoe drop. No one is quite sure what will be happening, but they all know it will be happening there. As for Melvi, we find out who he is in this book, but frankly he’s started his downhill slide already, given that he can’t even win against Ennis in an argument about what makes someone human. And then there’s Nader, the least likely protagonist, trying to help Eve and avoid getting caught by Leeza, but also running into someone who knows of his past.

Again, so much of this is just setup. I do wish Ennis had done more (Melvi is threatening her with Czes being tortured, but as we can see, Melvi doesn’t even have Czes, something Ennis can’t really confirm) but I did really enjoy her conversation with Melvi, where she shows she’s a much better homunculus than he’ll ever be. (Speaking of the Dormentaires, we get confirmation that only three of them got immortality in 1711 – Lucrezia, Niki, and Maiza’s dad. Sorry, Lucrezia/Carla shippers.) There’s a lot of potential confrontations that haven’t happened yet (Ladd vs. Claire, Nader and Sonia meeting again) as this book is STILL almost all setup, but we do get a couple scenes we’ve been waiting for, such as Leeza and Chane working together and Huey confronting Fermet. I’d mentioned above that almost everyone from the main cast and supporting cast is here, but Elmer is mentioned but not around – one wonders if he’ll be the fuse for this explosion to come.

The arc still isn’t over, so we’ll have to wait till next time for that explosion. Till then, enjoy the discussion of what makes a human, how much the world runs on fate, and other Baccano! philosophical debates.

Baccano!: 1931 Winter The Time of The Oasis

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

This was fun! Possibly as I wasn’t expecting anything from it. This is another book, like Man in the Killer, that was originally written as extras for the DVD releases and has now been fleshed out into a book. In fact, judging by what Narita says, it was barely fleshed out, with minimal editing and a few additions. It also has a plot that revolves around the Flying Pussyfoot train jounrey… again. Thankfully, the main thrust of the book does not take place on the train. Instead this book is a reminder of the best of what Baccano! has to offer. We get a huge number of relatively new characters introduced to us, and they’re all pretty chaotic and have weird character tics. We get a young mafia heir. We get lots and lots of guns, bombs, and hideous violence. That said, this book is very weird in that almost no one actually dies. This is a big surprise given the events of the book itself, but Narita really wants to mention how they’re not dead. It’s a happy book.

As always with Narita, the plot involves several groups coming together. These include: a) half of Jacuzzi’s gang, who are supposed to get the cargo out of the river after Jacuzzi and company rob the train; b) three young women who accidentally kidnap the heir to the Runorata crime family and (without knowing who he really is) try to get a ransom for him; c) The Lemures who are supposed to negotiate with Senator Beriam once Goose and company have taken his family hostage on the train; and d) twin bodyguards of the Runorata Family, who are here to find out who kidnapped the Young Master and make their life very difficult indeed. And throughout all this, there is another player, skulking in the darkness, someone that absolutely no one was expecting to show up in the woods of mid-state New York…

It really is astonishing that there are still members of Jacuzzi’s gang that we haven’t really gotten to know yet. The only one here that we’ve seen before on a regular basis is Chaini (who actually gets to show us that she can speak and is in fact fairly erudite, she just chooses to say “Hya-haah!” all the time). But we don’t really need to know all the new people (who, except for time-obsessed Melody, don’t even get named) to know that they’re family. Pamela, Lana and Sonia are a sort of family as well, and it was amusing to see that their kidnapping idea fell apart in two seconds once they realized that their victim (who had, in fact, stowed away in their truck) is a total cinnamon roll. Even the surprise character, who I don’t want to spoil but is absolutely amazing, ends up becoming part of a family by the end of the book. Families are important in Baccano!, be they street gang, mafia families, or just three youth thieves. Honestly, Huey’s goons don’t stand a chance – they aren’t family.

This is the last diversion from the main plot, and we’re back to 1935 next time. I expect we’ll be seeing Pamela, Lana and Sofia again, as this entire book seems to have been inserted here to set them up for something. Till then, enjoy a lightweight but incredibly fun Baccano! volume.