By Ryohgo Narita and Katsumi Enami. Released in Japan by ASCII Mediaworks. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Taylor Engel.
After a brief foray into the 21st century, Baccano! returns to its main plot, which takes place in the 1930s. Many of the main characters are featured in some way or another here, and in a way it feels like the author is writing enjoyable set pieces, as if he’s finally gotten a grip on writing everyone. Isaac and Miria are fun, loud, and seemingly completely random; Luck is seemingly cool but in reality rather frustrated with everything happening around him; Jacuzzi cries a lot but buckles down when he needs to, etc. That said, the book also features two minor characters from earlier books who get the spotlight here, and I suspect enjoyment of it depends on how much you enjoy those characters. It’s also, as you may have guessed by the title, the first of a two-parter, and unlike Grand Punk Railroad, this is definitely incomplete.
Tick Jefferson is in the top third of the cover art. We saw him before as the Gandor family’s torture expert, and he seemed like another of Narita’s ‘smiling insane guys’. Which he may be, to a lesser degree – he still really loves cutting people apart. But we get a bit of his family background, as well as a surprising amount of his philosophy, and see that when he’s not torturing people he’s surprisingly level-headed. His partner in the book (middle third of the cover) is Maria Barcelito, one of the assassins that we saw Claire completely destroy in the 4th novel, who joined the Gandors because she was so impressed by Keith stopping Claire. On the bright side, the Gandors gained a powerful assassins, probably their most powerful fighter. On the down side, Maria is annoying as hell, immature, can’t stop trying to cut anyone and anything with her swords, and is desperately in need of some humbling. Fortunately, she gets it in spades at the end of the book.
The bottom third of the cover art is Chane Laforet, the “girl in the black dress” from the Railroad books. The cliffhanger to those books had her being picked up by Jacuzzi’s gang, and she’s now living with them in Eve Genoard’s mansion in upper Manhattan (the explanation for why a gang is living in the Genoard mansion made me roll my eyes a bit, but I can see Eve just agreeing and then forgetting about it, especially given her obsession with finding Dallas). Chane doesn’t interact with Jacuzzi’s gang as much as I’d have liked, but she clearly values them highly as friends. She’s also clearly hooked up with Claire, something also implied at the end of the railroad arc, and I suspect Claire will have more to do in the next volume.
As for the villains, well, technically I suppose it’s Huey, though his daughter is unaware of what he’s doing. He has a group of people trying to offer Jacuzzi’s gang the power of immortality (please God no, I love the fact that Jacuzzi and Nice’s gang are just normal scrappy kids), though this goes south when their demo – Dallas Genoard, freshly retrieved from a sunken river and just as much of a giant dumbass – ends up getting too obnoxious and gets slashed. A lot. Immortality sounds great till you see that you can still feel horrible pain. We really only meet two of the villainous gang here. Tim is the leader and also shares a secret past with Tick Jefferson, and seems to be there to watch what was supposed to be a smooth situation spiral out of control. Adele is seemingly shy and meek… but in reality seems to really love fighting more than anyone. And we haven’t even met the mysterious Christopher yet…
This is a decent book, and I recommend it for those reading the series, obviously. That said, it really needs its second half, and feels slight as a result. It does have some rewards for the careful reader (watch Isaac and Miria’s reaction to the Genoard mansion), and Tick and Maria can be a lot of fun provided you don’t pay too much attention to how aggravating Maria is most of the time. You may want to wait till April and read this with its conclusion.