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?

Baccano!: 1935-A Deep Marble

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 been a long time since we’ve been here. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we continue to have about three Baccano! novels translated every year. However, the plot in the 1930s, with Firo, Ladd, Jacuzzi, et al can be generally considered the “main” plotline. And since Peter Pan in Chains, the 1934 novel, we’ve seen three books set in the 1700s, two set in the 21st century, and two set in the 1930s but as “side stories” taking place in between events we previously read about. And we still have one more of those to go, I warn you. But for the moment, we’re in the home stretch. The author has stated that the 1935 arc will be the last one set in this time period, with an “epilogue” taking place in 2003. This is the big one. But, as I said, it’s been a while. For English speakers, about three years. For the Japanese readers, over five years. As such, it’s no surprise that this volume, while not exactly a recap, is certainly a reintroduction to most of the main cast.

Several things happen at the start of this book. Isaac and Miria, still trying to not be thieves but also broke, go looking for a job. Jacuzzi’s gang is also broke (I mean, it is 1935), and so he too is looking for work. Ricardo and Christopher are in New York, and are ALSO looking for work. Ladd gets out of Alcatraz prison and reunited with Lua, Graham and Shaft. Another character from a long, long time ago is also released from captivity, and unfortunately ends up right in the middle of things. And of course Huey Laforet is out of prison and therefore back to his usual tricks… which include Chane, who is very happy to be reunited with him but also conflicted due to her love for Claire/Felix. Through all of this, Firo is just trying to run his casino. Unfortunately for Firo, Narita books tend to be “slow burn leading to an explosive climax”, and that explosion is in that very same casino.

This is a fun book to read, despite the fact that it feels like everyone is showing up to do their “bit”. Isaac and Miria are flakey. Jacuzzi cries a lot but also shows gumption. Ladd, Graham and Christopher are incredibly violent, etc. That said, there is an ACTUAL plot going on here as well, involving the Runorata family building their own secret casino and inviting representatives of all the local gangs, including the Martillo and the Gandor ones. They’ve got some heavy hitters in charge, including people you would not normally think would be associated with the dark underbelly of society. And also a new character, named Melvi, who is very interesting to a heck of a lot of people for reasons that only come out at the end of the book… and even then, there’s more of a “how on Earth could THAT happen?” than anything else. Then again, we have seen something like it before with our favorite Big Bad, who is also in this book, albeit in only one scene.

So yeah, it’s all setup, but it’s fun setup. And you’ll be delighted to know that the next book is in fact Part 2 of this arc. So perhaps we can actually keep track of things a little better.

Baccano!: 1711 Whitesmile

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

For those who may have been expecting this book to be partly an adaptation of the 1700s episode of the anime, ht’s not. We do see everything up to the Advena Avis sailing off, though, so you can go right from this book to watching Episode 7 and depress yourself even more. That said, apart from one character, this book is fairly light on depression. Monica is still dead and a lot of people have feelings about that, but for the most part this is a standard Narita “have everything get more and more chaotic till it explodes” style book. Its best aspects are those focusing on Fermet, who continues to remain the absolute worst and you’d think the author would be tired of showing him doing even more evil shit, but no; and Elmer, who is Fermet’s kryptonite, as we discover here, and is not someone I can describe as evil but is also someone I cannot really describe as a human being, either. Elmer is disturbing. As for Huey, well… also disturbing, frankly.

It’s been a year since Monica’s death. Huey and Elmer have both vanished, but a lot of alchemists have come to Lotto Valentino for one reason or another, including Szilard Quates, who thinks all this immortality stuff is a load of crap; and Victor Talbot, who is a lot less angry and bitter than he would eventually become. Unfortunately, the town is under the control of the Dormentaires after the events of 1710. Equally unfortunately, there’s been a string of explosions and fires going on. Is someone trying to get the town to destroy itself? If so, they’re doing a pretty good job. Amidst all this, we also meet Maiza’s brother Gretto, who is basically “young dumb teenager in love”, and Sylvie, a maid at their household, who is less dumb but no less in love. Can they manage to have their forbidden love by escaping on the Advena Avis? Indeed, does the ENTIRE cast need to escape on the Advena Avis?

I’d mentioned this was a happy ending for most everyone in that they don’t have really bad things happen to them till they’re on the ship, which we saw in the anime. The exception to this is Niki, who is back and deeply in love with Fermet, which is both terrible (as Fermet is, well, Fermet, and gets off imagining her most despairing face) and also terrible in a different way (because she’s still, even after all these years, idealizing suicide). Her fate is horrible but also doesn’t make much sense timeline-wise if you look at it closely, but that’s not uncommon for Narita, who has never been good about keeping track of stuff he wrote and/or how long something is supposed to take. That said, the best scene in the entire book is right at the end, when Fermet gleefully tells Elmer and Huey about Niki’s fate… and the response he gets from Elmer makes him completely flip out. Elmer is the one person who cannot be emotionally manipulated at all by Fermet, and honestly more people should have this reaction to Elmer. It’s great.

This brings the 1700s books to an end, and we’re in the home stretch now. Narita calls the next arc the last 1930s one, and it’s the longest arc yet (and indeed still unfinished). Back to 1935 next time. Till then, enjoy the author saying “gee, what would piss off the reader more than what I did to Monica?”.