Another crazy ride in the Baccano! universe
Title: Baccano! The Grand Punk Railroad: Local and Baccano! The Grand Punk Railroad: Express
Genre: Drama, Supernatural
Publisher: Kadokawa (JP) / Yen Press (US)
Creators: Ryohogo Narita (author), Katsumi Enami (illustrator)
Translator: Taylor Engel
Original Release Date: August 23, 2016, December 20, 2016
A review copy of volume 3 was provided by Yen Press.
Following tumultuous adventures in The Rolling Bootlegs, Baccano! is back! Some fans of the anime may know that 2007 anime adaptation covered roughly the first four volumes of the Baccano! light novels and volumes two and three here make up the largest part of the story, the Flying Pussyfoot arc (also called The Grand Punk Railroad) The year is now 1931, so only a little time has passed since some random boozos in New York turned into immortals, but life for all of them has remained largely the same. Very few characters from The Rolling Bootlegs return however; The Grand Punk Railroad is all about introducing a huge number of new characters with the cast effectively doubling in size.
The Flying Pussyfoot is a luxurious train and no less than four different groups of people have decided to take advantage of its non-stop, Chicago to New York, nature to stage a train robbery. Well, three groups do anyway, returning duo Isaac and Miria seem to believe that a train robbery is where you use a train to escape a robbery — although they are still looking for a special souvenir to bring to Ennis back in New York while on the train. Admittedly two of the remaining groups aren’t really planning to perform robberies either; the black-suited Lemures plan to take the train hostage so that they have collateral to negotiate with the US government to release their leader, and the white-suited group lead by Lad Russo, a member of the Chicago mob, just really want to kill people. Which leaves only the rag-tag gang lead by Jacuzzi Splot as the only people on the train who want to commit and honest train robbery. No people getting shot, nothing suspicious, just stealing some luggage from the baggage cars.
Too bad for Jacuzzi that this is not a peaceful ride. The story begins to bounce around between these four groups of people as pandemonium breaks out when all three antagonistic groups start to move at once. The black suits and the white suits both want each other dead and are trigger happy leaving most of the rest of the passengers trapped in the crossfire. The few characters who manage to slip out have their own troubles going on. Poor Jacuzzi has been scared silly by one of Isaac’s tall tales about a monster called “the rail tracer,” but as the train bumps and speeds to New York it seems like there really might be another force at work.
Volume 2 ends with a train pulling into New York and while it’s clear that quite a few people are alive and that neither the white suits nor the black suits took control of the train, it’s not clear what finally broke the stalemate. That requires volume 3 where the focus switches from groups of character to individuals and the story looks at four characters who appeared only briefly in the first volume. This narrowing wonderfully ties up all of the loose ends and reinforces one of the main ideas of Baccano! which is that everyone is connected to everyone else. Even the cook and bartender on the Flying Pussyfoot have at least two connections to the New York cast!
On a technical note, the illustrations in these two volumes already look much closer to the anime designs (readers may recall that the designs in The Rolling Bootlegs looked jarringly different) and the translation reads incredibly smoothly. As a big fan of the English dub of the anime, the only odd moments for me in the translation were Ladd Russo’s lines; he sometimes gave off a bit of a different character. In the anime he seems straight up crazy from the beginning. Here however the story toes the line with that idea: Is Ladd simply crazy and lucky or is there some deeper planning going on instead of just luck? Allowing more mental narration for the quieter or more complicated characters (including a full point of view switch to first person in one character’s case, the only so far I believe) adds another level of detail that simply wasn’t available to a motion-medium and it made me feel like I got something out of a story I’ve already seen two of three times.
This is one series where I really recommend that the anime fans go back to the beginning and start from there instead of continuing simply where the anime left off. The series is great fun, there is more insight into the characters, and it turns out that the anime even cut out a (at this point extremely minor but who knows if it’ll stay that way) subplot from this arc! Historical fiction, historical fantasy even, light novels aren’t the kind of light novels that we usually get translated so I encourage both new and old fans to take advantage of this.