Thursday, August 22, 2013

Anime Recommendation: Baccano! (entertainment, tv, manga/anime)

While we're all waiting for September to bring us the fall tv season, real MLB late season drama, and the start of the NFL season, let's kill some time by watching a truly fun anime. At 16 episodes, Baccano! is something that can be easily finished in one weekend.

Here's a reminder of the basic criteria that I have used for choosing this recommendation. It's the same as from my last recommendation of the anime Death Note.
1. Something that is easy for newcomers to get into. Minimal self-referencing and tropes.
2. Something that is easily accessible, available in its entirety on Youtube, Amazon Prime, or Hulu.
3. Something that can be finished over the course of a binge weekend or three. Not something with 150 episodes.
4. Something recent, within the last decade or so.
5. Entertaining. You may or may not feel like you want to recommend it to everyone you know, but you won't feel like you wasted your time watching it.

As written on its wikipedia page, "The anime adaptation of Baccano! has received universal critical acclaim." In my mind, this is deservedly so, and Baccano! is not only fun, but also perfectly utilizes the medium of animation in its art direction and the expansiveness of the cast to go beyond TV and movies.

Quick description: The story focuses on a bunch of characters and how their paths cross and lives intersect. The story is told non-linearly, jumping back and forth in time and featuring the different viewpoints of the many characters. The majority of the anime is primarily set in the US during the early 1930s, with the major backdrops being a cross country train and a town with many competing mafia gangs and thugs.

One word review: Fun
Although it doesn't have as much of the witty dialogue, it's essentially Pulp Fiction on steroids. There is more (although animated) gore and there are many more characters, from your standard heroes and villains to comic relief, antiheroes, and just plain psychopaths. It's a chaotic ride, but it's gripping, and while the story jumps around for a while, the pieces do fit together at the end.

Other notes:
1. Because of the non-linear nature of the storytelling, I recommend reading an episode summary after watching each episode to make sure you get all the main bits and pieces.
2. I find the opening theme introducing the characters to be pretty catchy and worth watching.
3. Semi-Spoiler, highlight to read: Although there are 16 episodes in all, the core story pretty much ends at episode 13, with the 3 remaining ones more like an epilogue.
4. I tend to watch anime in the original language with subtitles if possible. You can watch the entire series for free on Hulu, in both the subtitled version with original Japanese voice acting as well as a version dubbed in English. But because of its mature rating, you need to have a Hulu account. If you can't be bothered to create a Hulu account, you can also watch the entire subtitled version for free on Youtube.

Enjoy! Please watch and let me know what you think!

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