You're not gonna believe this, but after years of begging, we finally have an official release of Baccano!. This is great, since we can officially confirm that you really read this for Isaac and Miria.
Helen: It’s taken us many years to get to this point folks but we made it, fan favorite show Baccano! is FINALLY getting released in light novel form!
Too bad this is happening right on the heels of FUNimation losing the license to the show.
Justin: I can still remember the scene from last year — at Anime Expo, up in the front seats, where Yen Press announced the license. After a string of prior announcements my phone was so borked it couldn’t take any more pictures. So, when Baccano! was announced, the audience was going nuts. I tweeted out the news, having no knowledge if it was reported or not. It wasn’t, and way too many people celebrated it. It was kind of surreal, especially since I had to hurry and get to the airport that day. But now, it’s finally arrived. And yes, it’s actually really weird to read it after watching the anime. You’ve watched the anime, correct?

Helen: I’m pretty sure I started yelling at you on twitter since I couldn’t tell if you were joking or not without a picture. And I have not only seen the anime, I’ve convinced at least a half dozen people (plus or minus an entire anime club) to try it out as well! It’s a really kinetic, engaging series and the fun English dub is a pretty big selling point as well.

Justin: Well, way too many people recommended Baccano! to me back during the college days, and I even watched some episodes at my anime club. Never did follow up and watch it, and then for years it’s been sitting on my list to watch. Once FUNimation announced they couldn’t renew the series, I watched it. It was a mess. A fun mess to be exact. You’d think jumping through time and introducing characters so randomly would be wrong, but I guess if Game of Thrones can pull it off, most things can pull it off: and Baccano! pulled it off to almost a tee. I thought the first few episodes were ok, but really slow, but by the 4th episode, everything started to click, and I fell in love. Now I wish I owned the DVDs of it or something.

Well, I guess the light novel will have to suffice. I blame myself, but I immediately thought it’d be like the anime. Helen, why’d I believe that?

Helen: Well, I guess you didn’t stop and think “man, can they really fit 16 episodes of material into one book?” since the answer is nope! The anime actually adapts four, in some ways five, of the original novels which means that this first volume is significantly less confusing since it’s much more linear and does have a smaller cast. Although it’s still a jam packed story! This first volume, unsurprisingly, follows the 1930 Rolling Bootlegs arc involving Firo, Dallas Genoard, Ennis and Master Szilard, and how quite a few of the characters became immortal. The cast may be technically smaller but even as a fan of the story I still had a hard time remembering which character belonged to which group and what they were trying to do.

And then you have Issac and Miria because they are everywhere in Ryohgo Narita’s works but their scatterbrained, zaniness is part of their charm (hey Justin, did you catch the Durarara!! connection?)

Justin: (If I had watched Durarara!! Yet, maybe I would’ve. But I haven’t. Thanks for making me feel sad!!!)

Helen: It’s actually one that I think not many readers would pick up on, this first volume doesn’t have the same framing device as the anime, it’s instead a story told to a Japanese tourist in NYC 2002. From what I’ve heard, this guy is the next door neighbor to Mikado in Durarara!!, proving even farther that Narita really loves his multiverse.

Justin: Well, since the tourist isn’t quite as important, at least not yet, I wanted to let you know that boy, as I was reading this volume, it actually is kind of cool that the anime didn’t seem to cut out too much stuff. LNs should be suited for anime, but it generally revolves around the main character’s inner monologue, or thoughts. What helps is what Narita mentioned in the afterword — there’s no real main character in the story unless you choose the one you like. Otherwise, you can get away with having Isaac and Miria saying the most random nonsense in the best and worst situations possible, Dallas still being the worst, and actual description that doesn’t seem convoluted.

I think the illustrations though caught me off guard for those not named Firo and Isaac though.

Helen: Yeah, when the anime was created there were already 11 light novels, i.e, the art style had gotten much smoother. Here everyone just looks, weird.

Justin: Ah, I guess it’s just an adjustment on my part. Kind of makes me think about Pokemon — the game had come out before the anime, so Game Freak had their own designs.

Anyways, after I realized that yeah, there’s no way they can tell all of the stories of the characters in one book, I began to appreciate the volume a lot more. I admit I wish we were talking about the characters on the train, but it was nice to focus on one story first, rather than it jump back and forth. Did you think most of the characters stood out to you, at least compared to the anime?

Helen: I felt like Issac and Miria were even weirder than they were in the anime in some ways. Maybe it’s because I haven’t rewatched the series in a couple of years but there was something about their actions which came off as even more outlandish and matter of fact. It’s no wonder that poor Ennis has a hard time with them, the girl barely has any humanity to start with and somehow the most human and crazy of all the characters latch onto her!

Justin: Ennis learns a lot, from meeting Firo, to dealing with Dallas and his crew, and yes, especially handling Isaac and Miria.

I think one thing that’s minor but interested me was Narita using the first person perspective in certain cases. Like in some areas it makes sense, but when this was used for the old guy with the bottles, I was weirdly…lukewarm about it? I guess that’s not completely true since I actually liked how it was told. I guess I’m mostly used to if it’s being told in the first person perspective, so when he was “killed” off, I thought it was a bit weird.

Helen: Well I mean, seeing his death first person certainly made made it a heck of a lot more terrifying, which I didn’t think was possible since the way the anime portrays how the immortal characters kill each other (by literally consuming them) would be stomach churning if the story didn’t already have a lot of gore in it.

Justin: That’s definitely true.

Well, I really liked it, which makes sense since I liked the anime, but you never actually know with titles sometimes. Yen Press definitely did a good job with it, considering the material, and it’s in hardcover. As far as I know they only have a few titles like that, and not even Durarara!! is hardcover. So, I think it’s a recommended read. What about you Helen?

Helen: For sure! I think that a lot of the anime fans would still get a kick out of reading the source material (this is one series that really benefits from multiple readings/viewings) and it’s pretty newcomer friendly honestly. Yes it jumps around a lot in it’s internal timeline, sometimes only spending a few paragraphs in each place, but by the end, everything is wrapped up neatly and you certainly don’t need to know anything about the characters going into it.

Plus, if you were turned off by the thought of all of the gore in the anime then that might be a bit easier to stomach in book form.