By Ryohgo Narita and Katsumi Enami. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Taylor Engel.
I’ve talked before about the Japanese tendency to write the blackest of black villains, so evil and horrible that it ends up being absolutely fine when our heroes kill them off in morally questionable ways. In general, I’m not a fan of these, and tend to prefer more nuanced or morally grey types. That said, I have to admit, Narita writes these sorts of people better than most light novel authors. We get two classic examples here, but one’s a spoiler, so I’ll talk about the other. Bride is the leader of SAMPLE, a thoroughly disturbing religious cult descended from the same cult that tortured Elmer when he was a kid. Bride is abusing children, mentally breaking and drugging a woman (investigating them undercover) into submission, killing large numbers of people, and being gleeful about it the entire time. But he’s sort of horrifyingly fun. Possibly as the book avoids the rape threats so many other authors would throw in (Bride makes a comedic play at his drugged wife, but this seems staged.) He also contrasts with the other villain of the book, who is… less fun.
The first half of this book takes place on Exit, the ship going from Japan to New York, and the sister ship to the one Firo and company are on. Elmer, Sylvie, Nile and Denkurou (who gets his first significant role here, though to be honest he doesn’t do much except moon over Sylvie) are invited, supposedly by Huey, to the ship, and they all go because if they don’t, Huey would arrange it so they do anyway. There they don’t find Huey, but they do find the Mask Makers, who are also on the other ship, who have a plan to get revenge for a killing that happened 300 years earlier by capturing Elmer. And the passengers also include SAMPLE, Bride’s religious cult, who are there for Sylvie. As for Isaac and Miria… well, they still aren’t here, they’re back in New York. Which is probably why everything starts to go wrong for everyone on both ships. Even Firo, who tries to look cool in front of his family, does not really succeed.
Speaking of spoilers, there is a question about how much constitutes one. This series, after all, is mostly read by fans who have already spoiled themselves on this book and future ones. And indeed we get a big spoiler for (one assumes) future books given to us as part of the plot early on here: the Mask makers are supposedly getting revenge on Huey for killing Monica 300 years prior, which might come as a surprise to those who read the 1705 book. That said, it’s possible that the reader will be more distracted by the end of the book, which reveals who the real Big Bad of the entire Baccano! series is… and it’s someone that we thought had already been dealt with. Interlocking and interconnecting plots and characters are how Narita writes, but this particular book works very well at making you want to go back and read some passages in older books while also making you anxious for the next ones.
So a much better book than the first part, as is typical with Narita two-parters. Bobby is still annoying, though. So, next do we go back to 1710 to see the tragic fates revealed in this book? Or do we continue in the 21st century to see how Czes and his family deal with this new and horrifying threat? Of course not, that would be too easy. No, next time it’s 1931, as we go back to the Flying Pussyfoot and the immediate aftermath, in a plot that might seem very familiar to those who saw Baccano’s 3 OAV episodes…