[Cue jazzy theme song, along with spoilers].
Baccano was one of my favourite shows for a really long time, because I loved the cast of highly eccentric of weird characters, who are really fun to watch. From the lovable idiots, Isaac and Miria, to the ridiculously violent psychopaths, Ladd Russo and Claire Stanfield, and everyone in-between. It’s lots of fun trying to piece together all the different narratives blended together, and following the characters, many of whom are immortal, and as a result plenty of graphic violence.
Re-watching Baccano was still really fun. I don’t love it as much now as I did back then (which was a tremendous amount), but I still consider it a highly entertaining watch and definitely worth revisiting. Also I have seen a lot more anime since then, and as cool and awesome at it Baccano can be, my tastes have changed substantially, so it doesn’t give me the same high now as it did when anime was still fresh to me.
Production-wise, Baccano is wonderfully acted with great animation. Scenes like Firo fighting while doing hat tricks are a real treat. It’s also beautifully scored with a phenomenal soundtrack that is an absolute joy to come back to (not that I haven’t been listening to it on repeat for the past several years). I even said to my friend at the start that the Baccano dvds are one of the few where I could just sit down and leave the menu on for its fantastic score. I would have no complaints, because it is so delightfully catchy.
Another thing is the cast. If you’ve read my series of posts for the 30 Day Anime Challenge, then you know how much I love the characters from this show, especially Isaac and Miria. Without those two, this show would have probably been too dark and a lot less fun. It’s a real treat to revisit their scenes and vicariously experience them for the first time again through a friend’s first time seeing them. Wonderful stuff. And I of course, enjoy the other characters’ as well, but don’t have much in the way of words to comment on or explore them here. Just really cool, funny, and awesome larger than life (literally in some cases) here.
Though if I have to say what the highlight was of my most recent re-watch was, it was introducing the show to my friend and opening up his world of anime a bit more. He’s pretty laid-back and down to watch almost anything so I hope to broaden his horizons more and more through these re-watches I’ll be doing.
Initially, I hadn’t felt invited by the show to indulge any thought provoking ideas it may have had, because it really doesn’t explore any. But there are little things I thought might be fun to speculate on so hopefully it’ll be somewhat interesting of a read.
Now onto speculation.
Immortality and Status
Something that doesn’t properly get explored, which I can’t help but speculate on, is the idea of immortality. Here, I apply social perceptions to the daunting prospect of what it would mean to be an immortal for some of these characters in particular. Consider the case of Czeslaw Meyer, perceived by society as a young boy, despite him being much much older than he seems. Because of this perception, he is more or less considered harmless and innocent in the eyes of society, and thus it would be for him to play and hang around with children, right?
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to pin Czeslaw as someone sinister, but it’s a thought worth entertaining when you think of the implications it might mean for someone in this most peculiar of circumstances. I’m not going to infer the sexual frustrations that might accompany this sort of strange predicament, because despite being mentally that of a long-lived adult, I doubt Czeslaw has experienced puberty, considering his body remains the same. This is practically confirmed when Sylvia appears older and admits to having waited for several years to drink the elixir in order to capture her ideal appearance for eternity.
Thinking further along this line, let’s say you were made immortal at Czeslaw’s age and lived for decades, maybe even centuries, but could never age or look anything other than that of how you looked when you drank the magical elixir which made you immortal. Now, what would this mean for you relationship-wise? You are doomed to an eternal life of being perceived as that of a young child. You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? Your mind is that of an incomprehensibly aged adult, and you are free, perhaps even encouraged, to spend time with children. This is where society places you and it might feel damning to be treated as such, but that is the perception, and that is the fate of such perception.
Also, even if Czeslaw had sexual desires (again, unlikely given his physical age), I doubt he would act on them, considering the pain and trauma he’s suffered for years has seemingly led to warped trust and intimacy issues. But say he was of physical age to have such desires, there would be a mental strain, no? Society expects him to not to have such desires at all, and behave in an innocent manner, hence the unnerving implications it might mean for someone who is not Czeslaw Meyer and is a little bit older.
It’s uncomfortable to think of the possibilities, but it can also be seen as sympathetic or unfortunate given the raging hormones adolescence places on the body. Imagine immortalizing that state for an eternity. Erratic shifts in mood and chemicals never ceasing. Not playing devil’s advocate for anyone to act on such impulses (juvenile immortals included), just speculating on the kind of hell one might go through in such a state. Maybe I’m just spouting frivolous conjecture, but it is a bit interesting to think on how the process of being immortal in Baccano works for underdeveloped bodies and minds.
Fortunately, in the case of Czeslaw Meyer he seems to be more or less okay with being treated like a child and even asks Rachel (who discovers he is an immortal) to just go along with it and pretend he’s a kid anyway, because it’s easier when keeping up appearances that way.
When the Supernatural Meets Romance
Another interesting implication of a dynamic affected by the supernatural, is that of Firo and Ennis, wherein Firo by the end has all the knowledge and power to control Ennis. She is connected to him now, in the same way she was connected to Szilard. While I have no doubt Firo is the perfect gentlemen for a woman like Ennis, and he would certainly not do anything nefarious with such power, the point remains that the control is on his side here, and this creates a power imbalance in their (supposed) relationship.
In the light novels it is explained that the two didn’t really get together until decades later, with an implication from Firo that he was waiting to see how Ennis felt. That’s a long time to hold out for love, but given the fact that they are immortal, I suppose things like patience can be stretched indefinitely. Still, it is interesting that the light novels touch on this at all. I’ve only read the first two, so if it is explored any further I have no idea, but the scene made it seem like just a passing comment about the relationship between the two. Though it is interesting to know Firo had some apprehensions about this strange dynamic and he probably went about it the right way, giving Ennis the freedom to do what she wants with her life while remaining roommates (not lovers).
The Rail Tracer and Torture
The confrontation between Czeslaw Meyer and The Rail Tracer is an interesting and eerie encounter. After having his neck snapped by Claire (The Rail Tracer), Czes expresses a “do your worst” attitude with a level of cockiness earned through experience of his many years of torture. Czes recounts the kinds of torture he’s been subjected to in his life, and claims that there’s nothing The Rail Tracer could do that would frighten him. Yet Claire manages to make him twitch and feel nervous with words alone.
We know Czes has experienced horrifying and brutal torture, but something about The Rail Tracer frightens him. The immortal who has endured much pain and suffering pitted against the monster assassin who knows techniques meant to keep the person alive while still experiencing excruciating agony. One must wonder where he picked up these skills of his, but what interests me more is how the tolerance for pain works for immortals. Does being subjected to different kinds of torture actually heighten their threshold for pain? Does the pain ease or are they just so accustomed to it they’ve learned to ignore it?
Czes gets his head blown off, but after regenerating appears more disappointed and condescending than anything, like it’s no big deal for him and that the pain just doesn’t register. But when The Rail Tracer bites off his fingers and puts his hand against the railroad tracks, he screams in terror and anguish. What do you suppose is it about these incidents that makes them register both pain and dread in Czes? Is it mostly intimidation from The Rail Tracer or are we really led to believe he hasn’t experienced these sorts of injuries before? Frankly, it seems tame compared to what we’ve seen from Czes’s past – having his eyes impaled by burning hot rods (now that’s unnerving).
Though I am slightly disappointed to have discovered upon re-watching it that some of my favourite scenes in the light novels didn’t make it in the show, I still hold Baccano in high regard as a very cool show that I enjoyed from start to finish multiple times and would still love to revisit it again. It’s got great action, slick animation, designs, and overall aesthetic, and even though I don’t buy into the personalities as much as I used to, I still think it has an awesome cast of colorful characters.
It amazes me how this show can juggle three different stories and weave them together and still succeed in being a cohesive and highly entertaining watch without compromising the narrative. Truly remarkable. But ultimately I think the elements or factors of the show that make it enjoyable to me are analogous to the ensemble cast. Whether it be the calm and polite dealings with the Gandors (specifically Luck), Ladd Russo’s lively psychopathy, Claire Stanfield’s borderline superhuman prowess, or Isaac and Miria’s hilarious antics, there is a lot of fun to be had (also the domino scene). It’s just an all-around solid show.
[Replay jazzy theme song].