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.

Baccano!: 1935-B Dr. Feelgreed

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

One of the main themes in Baccano!, and indeed in most of Narita’s work, is that everyone is connected to everyone else, and the connections can be closer than we think. The 1935 arc seems to be this writ large, as we get a lot of reunions of various characters and other characters thinking “wait, they know each other?”. Even the new connections are things I would not have expected. Melvi may have hired Claire to be his bodyguard, but it’s clear there’s no love lost between the two. After meeting Chane’s father last volume, Claire ends up meeting her mother in this book, though I’m not sure that meeting will go quite as well, given Renee is broken and also evil. Mostly, though, these two books take one of the most minor villains from the earliest parts of the series, gives him a backstory and real character development, and then pairs him off with the closest the series has to an innocent sweetie pie. The connections are startling, but they work.

If you thought we were going to get a lot of casino shenanigans in this book, I’m sorry to say we’re still in the ‘set up the dominoes’ part. Melvi is making his presence known everywhere, and no one likes him, including the reader. (Then again, Baccano! fans do love the bad guys…) He’s clearly not got the Runorata Family’s agenda in mind so much as his own, and his own agenda definitely involves making Firo miserable. Meanwhile, in the doctor’s clinic (which is staffed by, among others, Fermet, who I would not trust to give me a sugar pill), the other half of the cast gathers together. This includes Nader, who is still trying to deal with being dragged back into chaos; Roy, who has cleaned up after the events of Book 4; and Isaac and Miria, dressed up as doctors and nurses, because they can. Add Ladd and Graham, Victor’s boys, and so many Lamia we can’t even be bothered to name them, and you have the usual ruckus.

I’ve talked about this before, and it’s even more annoying that it’s happening again; Ennis deserves more than to just be a damsel to make Firo do things. She’s not even *in* this book and she gets kidnapped; it’s really irritating given how much ass she’s kicked in the past. Chane wasn’t in this volume either, so there is a bit of a macho streak to it, to be honest. We do get to see Claire be Claire again, after a long break where he’s barely appeared. That said, he works best in small doses. As does Renee, though I fear we may get more of her than I’d like. Just because she has Felix the Cat drawn on her artificial eye does not make her more likeable, especially when she keeps talking about Huey giving her one of their daughters, presumably for science. Oh yes, worst of all, you can’t just tease the Dormentaire ship and not have Lucrezia turn up! That’s just mean!

In any case, I suspect the next 1935 book will have the chaos actually begin. That said… we have one more detour to make, to the last of the “written for the DVD releases” stories expanded into a novel. It dares to ask the question: can we really add even more to that freaking train journey than we already have?