By Ryohgo Narita and Katsumi Enami. Released in Japan by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Taylor Engel.
“There’s always someone better than you.” A truism that this two-volume arc of Baccano! seems to be taking to heart. Last time we saw Maria devastated when her swordplay lost out to Adele’s spear, and the repercussions of that reverberate though this book. But it doesn’t just end with her. Adele herself gets shattered when Maria’s clever thinking is actually able to deliver a bad wound, and the newly introduced Christopher Shaldred can try all he wants to be a cool, constantly talking killer, but we already have Clare/Felix, so he’s inevitably going to come out second best, especially when you realize that Felix prolonged the fight solely for the reason that he wanted to fight back to back with his fiancee. And then there’s Tim, who finds that not only is he easily manipulated by Huey, but also gets verbally destroyed by Senator Beriam. The theme here is “stay humble”, though to be honest nobody really learns that lesson.
By the time this book had come out, Narita had already started his other popular novel series Durarara!!, and I have to admit that of all the Baccano! novels, this one feels the closest to DRRR!! style shenanigans. That said, DRRR!! never gets quite as bloody as Baccano! does, and the massacre of the employees of the Nebula Building is (at least temporarily) a bit horrifying. Again one is reminded that there really aren’t too many “good guys” in this series – even Jacuzzi and Nice are gang leaders, and honestly I think the only reason they don’t get taken to the cleaners at the end is because Chane is part of their gang. The new villains are also pretty bad, and continue the theme of “someone better than you” – Tim’s Larva group from the prior book is as nothing compared to Huey’s experimental Lamia children, and it’s notable that after the fight at the end of the previous book, Adele is ready to go off the rails at a moment’s notice.
And then there’s Maria. I savaged her pretty badly in the first volume’s review, and to be fair she was incredibly annoying then. That doesn’t completely change (Luck confronting her at the end may be the funniest scene in the book, especially as by then the reader had ALSO forgot what her original mission was), but she manages to overcome her fears and doubts, gets a ridiculously cool two-sword move (honestly, this book would be fantastic animated), and possibly hook up with Tick – she says he gets to decide if they’re friends or lovers, to which I think Tick’s response can best be described as “Buh?”. She’s certainly better off than Firo, who runs around trying to save Ennis only to find Ennis never really needed saving at all. and then has Ennis say that she thinks of Firo… as family. Good thing these two are immortal, they need all that time.
Narita’s afterword says that the publisher wanted to get away from the 1930s again (so The Children of Bottle apparently did pretty well), but he said he had far too many 1930s plots still to tell. As such, be prepared to start a THREE-part arc next time, as we advance one year but otherwise have the same old ruckus. Plus maybe we’ll see who rescued Christopher, last seen bleeding out. As for The Slash, the second part definitely is better than the first. This is a fun ride.
Oh yes, Dallas is in this too. Sorry, totally ignored him.