Baccano!: 1934 Peter Pan in Chains: Finale

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

At last we reach the finale of this arc. This being a Narita book, all of the plot bombs that were set up in the prior two volumes go off here, and the result is very satisfying. You get the sense of people growing and changing over the course of the series. Christopher points this out himself, as he notes that after spending time with Ricardo, he doesn’t want to kill people anymore. Meanwhile, Rail, driven to the point of madness and despair, discovers that new families and friends are just as good as the old ones. And Firo once again reveals his dark side to us… but it doesn’t last long. Firo is still Firo, the Peter Pan of the title, and his philosophy allows him to stand up against the murderous Leeza, and also save her. There are a few threats and nasty things going on, but for the most part this is a very feel-good sort of book. You leave it with a smile on your face.

There are a few intertwined plot beats that I really liked. On his train to Chicago, Isaac gets into conversation with Sham, talking philosophy as Sham tries to deal with the face that he’s betraying Huey. Isaac’s “do good things, worry about consequences later” attitude is puzzling to Sham, but not to the reader, who’s seen that over the course of the series. And, as we see, it’s not just Isaac. When Rail tries to end it all by jumping off the top of the Nebula building, Jacuzzi rushes in to stop it even if it means his own life, because that’s just the sort of person he is. And then Nice grabs him, and Miria steps in… hell, even Lua, the most passive character in all of Baccano!, is ready to leap in there to save Rail’s life. It’s a great moment. And, of course, it’s resolved by Isaac, arriving in the nick of time to do what he said he would earlier and joyously reunite with Miria.

It’s not all heartwarming, of course. Ladd’s violence can be terrifying, particularly if you’re Leeza, and it’s nice to see him and Firo in such opposition. The method of Huey escaping Alcatraz is somewhat revolting, and the sort of thing only Huey would even think of doing. And Nice runs into the mob, and her thoughts of how they might deal with her and send her back to Jacuzzi make you shudder. This is a fun world to read about, but a highly dangerous one to live in. That said, in the end this is about not destroying things. Rail doesn’t blow everything up with bombs in the end; Ladd decides to become “a model prisoner” so he can get out of jail sooner and return to Graham and Lua; Christopher and Graham each realize that killing each other is not really what they want. And Renee… well, OK, her ending isn’t so sweet, but there’s no denying she deserved everything she got. Narita loves his smiling amoral villains.

So what happens next? Well, it’s going to take a long time to find out, as we leave the world of the 1930s for a few books. Next time Baccano! goes back to Italy in the early 1700s, as we meet a young Huey Laforet and his burgeoning, if irritating, friendship with a certain Elmer C. Albatross.

Baccano!: 1934 Alice in Jails: Streets

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

At the end of this volume Narita announces that they’re making an anime (which we have all already seen, of course), and also that after a Prison volume consisting mostly of old favorites, the Streets book mostly features either new cast members or relatively new ones, such as Christopher. That said, while they may have been new to the reader, I’m sure that the anime watcher is finally relieved to see Gustav St. Germain, his assistant/student Carol, and Graham Specter, who were cameo’d in the last book but show up in a major way here. Narita wrote Gustav and Carol into the anime as bookends commenting on the story in a metatextual way, which fits with what they do, and Graham showed up in one of the OAVs, whose events are described here but not shown. Well, at least I assume that folks are enjoying Gustav and Carol. Graham has a few people who just don’t like him, and I get it – like many, many other Narita characters, he won’t shut up.

Miria is in the foreground of the cover, but doesn’t show up till the end of the book. Same with Huey, whose ominous face takes up the background on the left side. Instead we see Renee, who is introduced to us as almost a parody of the “dojikko” type – busty and gorgeous, but always tripping and bumping into people, and constantly apologizing. Of course, just as we were introduced to Elmer C. Albatross as a smiling, likeable guy and then realized that this was not really correct, it turns out that Renee, like Huey, who she seems to have a connection to, is a bit of a horrible monster. Graham, Gustav and Carol are on the cover as well, in addition to Christopher Shaldred, last seen getting the crap kicked out of him on the side of a building in The Slash. Turns out that had a big effect on him, so in the meantime he’s playing bodyguard to the heir to the Russo family, Ricardo, who turns out to also have some big secrets. Not pictured is Lua Klein, Ladd’s girlfriend, who the Russos have locked up, presumably as leverage. Given Lua’s ultra-passive personality, you’d think they could just tell her to leave, but she does make an effort to escape when it presents itself.

That said, though, I think the most important part of the cast (also not pictured) is Rail, also one of the Lamia/Larva group we’ve come to know, and (as all of them are) one of Huey’s homunculus experiments. Huey’s view of everyone as an experiment tends to dehumanize them, and Renee clearly feels the same way. Add this to their not being “born” the way normal humans are, and the horrific tortures they’ve been forced to undergo, and it’s no surprise that most of Lamia are a bit eccentric. Rail is not sure about such basic things as humanity, and the events in this book really don’t help. That said, the majority of this book, as with a lot of Narita’s works, is a big series of fights and battles, combined with explosions (Rail loves to use bombs, although they are apparently not as good as another bomber we’ve seen in this series).

At the end of the book Miria and Jacuzzi’s gang are back in Chicago, trying to meet up with Isaac, who can only afford rail fare to there. So no doubt Peter Pan in Chains will bring the old and new cast together for a big finale. In the meantime, despite being filled with new characters you’re still learning about, this is a typically fun volume of Baccano!.

Baccano!: 1934 Alice in Jails: Prison

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

Having just finished a two-volume arc, we immediately jump into a THREE-volume arc, which consists of the two Alice in Jails book and a third called Peter Pan in Chains. As the names might indicate, Alice in Chains is the title quote, so to speak, but the book itself also revolves around jail, specifically Alcatrax, which in 1934 was still fairly new as a prison for hardcore felons (as opposed to a military prison). The description of the prison itself is quite good, showing it as an unpleasant place that can break a man, as well as being well-nigh impossible to escape from. After being blackmailed with Ennis’ safety, Firo is sent to infiltrate the prison to try to talk to its most infamous resident: Huey Laforet, who is kept in solitary confinement in the lowest of basements. But he’s not alone. Isaac has been sent there for some odd reason, and one of the prisoners already there is well known to us: Ladd Russo. Has he gotten any less violent and manic? No.

This book was, I believe, being written at the same time as the anime was being planned, and discusses certain events that the reader is unaware of but the characters aren’t, such as Graham Specter, who is introduced in this book but unseen, or the mention of a Mr. St. Germain at the Daily Days, who is also as yet unseen. The book also flits back and forth between Firo’s adventures in prison and the rest of the cast back in New York, who are dealing with Huey Laforet, despite being in prison, apparently planning a large scale terrorist attack. Narita enjoys setting up mystifying things only to have them pay off one or two books down the road, so we need to settle in here. There’s also some events from previous books intruding – the coverup of the Flying Pussyfoot murders is mentioned a few times, and we meet Gustavo, the pathetic villain from Drugs and the Dominoes, who is essentially here to be Ladd’s ticket to Alcatraz, and boy does he deserve it.

I want to talk about Isaac and Miria, though, as this is in some ways my favorite book with them, despite their not being major players in it. They’ve been wonderfully funny comic relief most of the time, but in the last arc we got some hints of deeper things – Miria’s monologue in the color pages. Now here we see that neither of them are as “stupid” as they may outwardly seem. Isaac’s ability to identify he’s talking to a cop and get Miria out of danger is masterful, and the rest of the Martillos rightly boggle at it. We also get into his head a little bit at the end, as it’s made clear he grew up in San Francisco right near Alcatraz… though he doesn’t want to see his family. As for Miria (whose head we don’t really get into), not only does she go to Ronny first to help her try to save Isaac, but she actually seems to know he’s a demon. But the best scene for Miria, in my opinion, is the one with Chane, where the two of them comfort each other over their most important person being in Alcatraz, and Miria shows off her empathy – I liked how she immediately knew how Chane communicated and wasn’t uncomfortable with it. Terrific character work here.

This is one of the better Baccano! books, including a great twist at the end I’ve tried not to spoil, and fans will absolutely want to get it. Next time we should actually meet Gustav St. Germain, as well as the much mentioned but unseen Graham, who I suspect may have been written with Norio Wakamoto and Tomokazu Sugita in mind.