Please just take my recommendation and watch this fantastic show if you haven’t yet. But if that’s not enough, take a look at this video above. It excellently sums up what’s so great about this show, and I want to actually challenge Verbatim’s argument
from his Evangelion review about themes in this post.
Baccano is a multi-faceted mystery/drama with plenty of comedic elements. It takes place in Prohibition-era America, in three timelines that ultimately connect to each other in plot relevance (1929, 1930, and 1931). It has a huge
cast of interesting characters, some appearing in only one timeline, some appearing in two, and one set of characters, extremely important but essentially comic characters, who appear in all three. Despite how muddled this may sound, it never gets bogged down and you’re never at a lull where you’re asking “wait, who is this guy again”?
The characters make the show, in my opinion, but make no mistake - the plot of the show is one of the most well-crafted ones where you’re never confused, but always wanting more. The only time you might be scratching your head is at the end of the first episode, as, fair warning, it’s more of a “vignettes of things to come” situation that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense on first viewing except to the most eagle-eyed viewer. I always tell people that no, you can’t skip the first episode, as it expertly sets up the characters and the tone, but the first aspect of a concise, serialized story begins in the second episode.
The show is almost, almost
like a “Pulp Fiction meets a mafia movie meets a supernatural horror story”, in a way. That’s just a simple comparison, though, and the show itself is unique and unlike anything you’ve probably seen.This show makes me disagree with Verbatim’s idea that themes make a story.
He said that without themes, without the tomato in the sandwich, a story is just bread. That may be the case with most stories, yes. That may be the case when a story is trying to illustrate a larger point or provide some larger reason for you to watch it - for Verbatim, he likes to walk away from a story with some takeaway he can apply to his life, to feel like his time wasn’t wasted.
I can understand that, but really, do you need a theme or lesson to have something to apply to your life? What about a “I relate to this character and the things they went through in this story remind me of things I’ve gone through in my own life”? What about “their arc and how they changed, and how they resolved the crisis they were in has given me new insight on how to combat my similar life situation”? I’m mainly speaking to Verbatim in this paragraph, because for most people, merely the promise of watching an incredible, high-quality show is its own reward. What I’m saying is that you don’t need a theme, or to be taught a lesson, to take something away from a show or film. The characters themselves can be what you take away.
Verbatim compared shows to a sandwich - the tomato being the themes/lessons, and the bread being the vehicle - the plot and characters - on which those lessons are served. Baccano, as I said, is unlike any show I’ve ever seen, and I think an exception can be made. Baccano is like an entree of tastiest potato chips you’ve ever tasted. Not some Lays bullshit - the genuine article, made by some renowned Southern cook and served to you in a fancy restaurant. Are they a sandwich, are they good for you? Not really. They’re still deep fried and covered in salt and seasonings and all that. They have no health food content (i.e. themes, lessons, deeper meaning), but goddamn
they are delicious. Goddamn
you will reach for one after the other, and they’ll be gone as fast as you can consume them. And while they didn’t do anything for you on a health food level, goddamn
you’ll remember that dining experience, eating those chips, for a long, LONG time.
Baccano takes its characters and narrative very seriously, and everything is very consistent. But it also doesn’t pander to you pretending to be something it’s not. It’s definitely not an Evangelion or something like The Shining. If I had to reach and guess the overall themes of the show, they would be “morality, togetherness, and family”. The show goes out of its way to reward the characters who try to do the right thing, make the morally neutral ones reconsider their lives, and punish the outright monsters. There’s a sense of camaraderie in each episode, working together to defeat this darkness that looms over everything. And in the end of the show, there’s yes, a sense of familial love that these non-related characters have developed toward each other.
You will love the characters, that’s for sure. You’re connected with them and want to see them triumph over their foes almost immediately. Even the “villains” are endearing and charming (except for literally two who are meant to be Hate Sinks). Anyway, this isn’t really a show that even has themes, and the three I listed above are almost more like plot fixtures than themes. It’s not a pretentious show, even if it might seem that way initially. Just give it a chance and you’ll enjoy it - I promise, on the honor of Winona.