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Baccano! Blu-ray Disc Box: Limited Edition (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 20, 2011 by  



“Baccano!” may not be an anime series that can be explained easily but if you give it a try, you may find this anime series extremely entertaining and enjoyable.   The Blu-ray features improved PQ and AQ compared to its DVD counterpart.  And for anime collectors, this limited edition “Baccano!” Blu-ray box set is extremely limited, so if you want to get it before it shoots up in price, I definitely recommend getting it sooner than later!

Images courtesy of © Ryohgo Narita, Ascii Media Works/Project Baccano! All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Baccano! Blu-ray Disc Box: Limited Edition

ANIME RELEASE DATE: 2007

DURATION: Episodes 1-16 (405 Minutes)

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080i High Definition (1920x1080i, 16:9), Linear PCM/Stereo (48KHz/16bit) Japanese and English, Subtitles: Japanese and English

RATED: N/A

COMPANY: Aniplex USA

RELEASE DATE: May 17, 2011

Originally created by Ryohgo Narita

Directed by Takahiro Omori

Series Composition/Screenplay by Noboru Takagi

Character Designs by Takahiro Kishida

Art Director: Akira Ito

Music by Makoto Yoshimori

Anime Production by Brain’s Base/ANIPLEX

 

 

Featuring the following voice talent:

Masaya Onosaka/J. Michael Tatum as Isaac Dian

Sayaka Aoki/Caitlin Glass as Miria Harvent

Akemi Kanda/Maexy Whitehead as Czeslaw Meyer

Atsushi Imaruoka/Ian Sinclair as Dallas Genoard

Chiwa Saito as Carol

Daisuke Sakaguchi/Joel McDonald as Jacuzzi Splot

Eri Yasui/Carrie Savage as Lua Klein

Hiroyuki Yoshino/Todd Haberkorn as Firo Prochainezo

Kappei Yamaguchi/Adam Dapkus as Chic Jefferson

Keiji Fujiwara/Bryan Massey as Ladd Russo

Kinryuu Arimoto/R. Bruce Elliott as Szilard Quates

Marina Inoue/Jad Saxton as Eve Genoard

Hot off the “Roaring Twenties” and headfirst into the uncertain volatility of the “Dirty Thirties,” criminal syndicates stormed into power by bootlegging alcohol during the Prohibition Era – but the most notorious “liquor” of all time is about to set off a violent chain reaction within the mafia underworld!

Each story involves several unrelated plots intersecting and crossing each other as events spiral further and further out of control. Immortal alchemists, mafia-operated speakeasies, and many other elements of pulp fiction are mashed together for a world straight out of the movies.

 

In 2002, Ryohgo Narita and illustrator Katsumi Enami began work on their light novel “Baccano!”. The novel was then released in 2003 under ASCII Media Works “Dengeki Bunko” imprint and since then, a total of 14 novels have been released.

The novels were adapted into 16-episode TV anime series directed by Takahiro Omori (“Power Stone”, “Koi Kaze”, “Gakuen Alice”, “Yoiko”) and produced by Brain’s Base and Aniplex and shown on WOWOW in 2007 with the final three episodes going direct-to-DVD. The anime series features a screenplay by Noboru Takagi (“Durarara!”, “Texhnolyze”, “Koi Kaze”), character designs by Takahiro Kishida (“Arjuna”, “Heat Guy J”, “Koi Kaze”) and music by Makoto Yoshimori (“Durarara!!”, “Gakuen Alice”, “Koi Kaze).

The series were previously released as four DVD compilations in early 2009 and was released in 2010 as a complete DVD collection by FUNimation Entertainment. But for those who want to own the HD version of “Baccano!”, Aniplex USA has released the series via a limited edition box set featuring all 16-episodes on two Blu-ray discs which include an exclusive box art by Katsumi Enami, exclusive wrap art by Takahiro Kishida and to make this Blu-ray release a collectible item, only a few quantities will be available and once all copies are sold, there will NOT be any reprints.

“Baccano! begins with the accident on a train known as the Pussycat Express. What we know of are several characters who were riding the train but towards the end of the episode, while many people are found dead, a few are amongst the living. From here on in, we are introduced to each character’s storyline, what happened before they took a ride on the train and what happened while riding on the train.

The series revolves around a stolen elixir (from 1711) that is used to give people immortal life being stolen and now being passed around Manhattan by gangsters thinking it’s alcohol. Also, monster massacres are happening throughout the city. The series is told out-of-order, so “Baccano!” is a series that one couldn’t miss an episode and requires your focus or else you can easily get lost. In fact, the series doesn’t have a main protagonist, it’s a story about many people.

The series is a bit hard to explain but it is reminiscent of the popular American TV series “LOST”. Various storylines of each character from different timelines as we learn how a few people drunk the black panacea and achieved immortality. But while immortality would seem as if one can live forever, another immortal can use their right hand and literally suck the life and soul of an immortal and retain their thoughts. One of these immortals that is taking the lives of other mortals is one of the original immortal alchemists, Szilar Quates, a person who killed his own fellow alchemists for the secret recipe of the elixir. Now he wants it and now will do what he can to get it.

Meanwhile, there are those who drunk the elixir and are now immortal. Those who are sadistic killers, thieves and part of mafia families that lead to wars between the various families. We see perspectives through each person’s lives, may they be a killer, thief, employee of a newspaper company, etc.

But everything is tied to two incidents. The one from 1771 with the stolen elixir and an incident that took place in 1931 on the express train known as the Pussycat Express where people have died and there is bloodshed.

We see what happens in the story through the eyes of each individual, so the story is told out of order. The perspective of each character is quite different and it’s a different style of storytelling but everyone is intertwined. We see how very minor situations lead to major consequences or turning the tide between the battles between the various groups.

The main characters of “Baccano!” are:

  • Isaac Dian – A thief who is in a relationship with Miria. Both are partners in crime and Isaac is immortal due to drinking the elixir (which he thought was liquor).
  • Miria Harvent – The girlfriend of Issac and a thief that does whatever her boyfriend does. She also drunk the elixir and is immortal.
  • Firo – A member of the Camorra family who is in love with Ennis. He is also immortal due to the elixir which was thought as alcohol.
  • Maiza Avaro – A member of the Camorra and one of the original immortals. An alchemist who knows the secret recipe of the elixir.
  • Luck Gandor – Along with his twin brothers, they lead the Gandor family.
  • The Gandor Twins – Keith and Berga Gandor. Both are mafia bosses and are immortal due to drinking the elixir.
  • Claire Stanfield – Raised with the Gandor brothers and is an assassin who likes to kill people and mutilates their bodies beyond recognition.
  • Szilard Quates – The immortal alchemist who wants the recipe of the elixir of immortality and thus in a killing spree after going mad after eating the old alchemists.
  • Ennis – A homonculus of Szillard. Slowly developing human emotions and feelings towards Firo.
  • Ladd Ruso – A sadistic hitman for the Russo family. He is in love with Lua Klein but also wants to kill her.
  • Lua Klein – Ladd’s fiancee. She loves him to death and takes pride that he wants to kill her.

VIDEO:

“Bacanno! Blu-ray Disc Box: Limited Edition” is presented in HD widescreen (1920 x 1080i, 16:9).  It is an upscale converted from SD to HD.  So, by saying that, videophile purists who are interested in HD-native anime series may not get into the PQ of this series.  But for those who love the series or are wanting something new and fresh will definitely want to pick up this Blu-ray release as it is a worth upgrade to the previous FUNimation Entertainment DVD box set release.

While I did notice banding and even artifacting at a certain scene, you can’t expect great HD from an upscale but you can only hope that the picture quality is very good and much better than its DVD counterpart.  And for “Bacanno!”, I enjoyed the character designs, animation and painted backgrounds and felt they were wonderfully done but it all comes down to the viewer.  Those who want to upgrade from DVD to Blu-ray or give this anime series a try will no doubt enjoy the upgrade but those wanting HD-native only anime series will more than likely pass on it.

AUDIO:

Audio for “Baccano! Blu-ray Disc Box: Limited Edition” sports a Linear PCM/Stereo lossless soundtrack (48 kHz/16-bit).   While the anime series does have its share of gun shots, bombs blowing up, clanging of metal and glass shattering, the series is primarily dialogue driven and for me, I tested both lossless soundtracks and I felt the English dub soundtrack utilized the spatial special effects much better.  But preference for me was the Japanese soundtrack and that is primarily for the characters of Isaac Dian and Miria Harvent.

Both Masaya Onosaka and Sayaka Aoki really hit the ball out of the ballpark when voice acting these two characters.  Masaya gives a lower tone of stupidity of the character of Isaac, while Sayaka repeats with a higher pitched version of Miria and both characters compliment each other.  I felt the English dub was good but I felt the English version of Isaac and Miria were a bit more refined and mature and gave a different vibe.  I will say that if I didn’t watch the Japanese version first, I probably would have loved the English soundtrack as it was very well-done but for me, the Japanese voice talents for Isaac and Miria won me over with their acting.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Baccano! Blu-ray Disc Box: Limited Edition” comes with the following special features:

  • Textless Opening and Ending Songs – The textless opening and ending theme songs.

EXTRAS:

“Baccano! Blu-ray Disc Box: Limited Edition” comes with an exclusive slipcase with box art by Katsumi Enami and an exclusive wrap art by Takahiro Kishida.

“Baccano!” is a series that will either entertain you or confuse you to the point of giving up.  For those who are able to follow the series and watch from beginning to end, will surely enjoy the characters and the storyline.

In fact, there is a similarity to the show’s structure compared to the popular American sci-fi/drama series “LOST” in the fact that the storyline for each character tend to jump from present time to the past and then to the future and back to a distant past to a past hundreds of years ago and if that sounds confusing, explaining “Baccano!” to someone is not going to be easy.

From the first episode which shows chaos taking place onboard the Flying Pussyfoot to watching characters in the future greeting each other may not make any sense to anyone.  It’s when you get past the first episode when we get to learn about each character, their livelihood, if they are immortal and then how they relate to the other characters featured in the series.

If anything, things start to make some sense when we get to the episode in 1711 as we learn about how a group of people aboard the ship “Advenna Avis” drunk an elixir given to them by a demon and gained immortality but to see how such power can be reckless if given to the wrong person.  Some immortals became gangsters, some became thieves, some became normal people, while some wanted to acquire more power by absorbing other immortals (if an immortal puts their right hand on one’s head, they will absorb that person into their consciousness), there are some who go further in to being sadistic by trying to experiment with torture on other immortals for the fun of it (knowing they can’t die and they will self-heal, although they will feel the pain).

Possibly my favorite scenes for “Bacanno!” involved the characters of Isaac Dian and Miria Harvent, an idiotic couple who work as thieves.  They are naive to the world around them but it’s the way they interact, it’s so unbelievable and literally insane.  They want to be thieves but by doing it, it’s surprising.  From wearing different costumes to achieve their goal, they will do things like steal an entrance so no one can enter a building, steal a young girl’s family’s possessions to make her happy, stealing watches in order to steal time.   But despite their stupidity, they are central to the storyline as they show compassion to people who are surrounded by darkness, and to say the least, these two are a surprising light for them as they show people, no matter who they are…compassion.  Needless to say, these two characters are absolutely hilarious and the Japanese voice talent were able to capture the duo wonderfully!

Then you have Jacuzzi Splot and his gang of thugs.  While he is seen as one of the heroes in the storyline, his actions during the beginning of the series are not so heroic as he is easy to scare, he is very shy and is constantly crying.  But we get to see how his character evolves throughout the ordeal.  Interesting also are the character designs of Jacuzzi and his gang as they have scarring on their body.

You have a young boy named Czeslaw Meyer, one of the original immortals but he was tormented by his guardian Ferment and tortured severely to the point that he thinks everyone wants to torture him and thus he becomes paranoid.

A character that took me some time to get used to was Ladd Russo, a mafia hit man.  While he and his thugs are immortal, he is passionate about killing people.  He just wants to continue killing and loves it.  Interesting is how he acts towards his fiance Lua Klein. He repeatedly tells her that when all is done, he will relish the moment when he can kill her and when he says that, you see his girlfriend in love and can’t wait for him to keep his promise.  It was odd to see this but that was his character.

“Bacanno!” is a unique anime series and I doubt you will see anything like it.  It was a surprising anime series that had a wonderful story, interesting characters and beautiful animation and detailed backgrounds.  I also have to give the nod to the voice acting for both the Japanese and English soundtracks.  While the dubbing for the English was great, I have to admit that I enjoyed the Japanese soundtrack much more for the fact that the voice acting for Isaac Dian and Miria Harvent was just hilarious and wonderfully done.

And as for the Blu-ray release, aside from the slipcover case, I do wish there were special features included but you do get to watch this series upscaled to 1080i high definition and you do get a lossless Linear PCM soundtrack.  And for anime collectors, the fact that this is a limited edition release might be of interest because once these sell-out, you’re not going to find them anymore and like similar anime series with a limited release, I would not be surprised if this box set becomes very expensive a month after its release.

“Baccano!” may not be an anime series that can’t be explained as easily but if you gave it a try you may find it extremely entertaining and enjoyable.  The series does have its hilarious moments but by no means is this a comedy.  It has its dark moments, its violent moments and yes, plenty of blood (granted, most of those killed are healed again because they are immortal).  But if you enjoy storylines with a structure like “LOST” in which you experience the anime in various timelines and also storylines for each character from different timelines.

So, if you follow the series closely, you’ll definitely enjoy “Baccano!”.  Otherwise, this is not a series where you can just jump in midway and try to figure out what’s going on.  You will need to watch this series from beginning to end.

Overall, “Baccano!” was enjoyable, dark and twisted at times.  But with its intriguing characters and intriguing storyline, if you are looking for something unique and different in an anime series, hands down, “Bacanno!” is a definitely recommended!






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