Sunday, January 2, 2011

Baccano!, The Complete Series (anime TV series)

I wrote about this series before, back when I first watched it all, subtitled, on Hulu. You can read what I wrote here.

I did end up buying the series, much sooner than I expected. After all, some things have been on my "To Buy" list for months, even years, and I think I bought Baccano! only a month after I first viewed it. What can I say, there was a really excellent sale. Even though I watched this before, I don't feel in the least that I wasted my money by buying this - it's an excellent show, and I'm hoping to convince others to watch it.

This is definitely a show that needs to be viewed multiple times in order to be fully enjoyed. For my second viewing, and first viewing on DVD, I watched it dubbed in English. Unlike some dubs, which leech all the goodness out and leave me wondering why I ever liked the show, until I watch it again in Japanese with English subtitles, this dub wasn't too bad. Those who are particularly sensitive to faked accents may disagree with me. Even I had a point where I found myself saying, "Wait...what...is that..yes, it's Eric Vale faking a French accent!" And, to my ears, Monica Rial's French accent sounded even worse. Sorry Ms. Rial! But! Your Chane Laforet at least still sounded fragile, so it's not all bad.

More about the dub later. It wasn't until my second viewing of this show that I realized how truly mixed up some of it really was. Yes, years are occasionally given as guideposts, but there are times when events that take place in the same year are mixed up. Watching the show a second time allowed me to catch all the little offhand comments that provided the necessary information to determine the chronological order of everything. The first episode, in particular, is impossible to understand fully unless you've seen all, or most, of the show.

Oh, and yes, there was a bit where Isaac got his ear cut. Some blond lady cut it with a spear or something, a quickie scene that has even more stuffed into it than just Isaac getting his ear cut. If you look at the people in the background, you can see that, in addition to a few members of Jacuzzi Splot's crew, there is what appears to be an entirely new cast of characters. Even the blond lady with the spear is new. They're probably all familiar to those who have gotten to read the Baccano! light novel series (I am so jealous of you people). To me, they look like the perfect setup for a second season of Baccano!, although, as unfair as it seems in light of the zillions of episodes that Bleach and Naruto get, I'm guessing that waiting for a second season would be futile.

Even after a second viewing of the show, I'm still not sure if Ladd killed Lua. I kind of think he did, because of the squishy sound and spray of blood, but there doesn't seem to be any definite proof that he did. Any Baccano! fans want to help me out here?

Ladd and Lua are a fascinating couple, but my favorite couple is still Vino and Chane. Although Lua does seem able to direct Ladd's actions to a certain extent, I'm still a little uncomfortable with her relationship with Ladd. Chane, on the other hand, could probably at least hold her own physically against Vino, although I'm sure there are those who might be uncomfortable with the power he holds over her emotionally. I do think it's absolutely awesome that Vino has no doubt about Chane's ability to take care of Graham - he doesn't go after her in order to rescue her, I think he goes after her to show off a bit.

Back to the English dub cast. I know there are people who are turned off by any dubs with accents, because the accents tend to sound a bit off. This dub is probably not for those people - everyone speaks with an accent, whether it's a New York accent, a 1930s gangster movie accent (complete with the slang), a Slavic accent, a French accent, an English accent, or just something vaguely European. It does all make more sense than if everyone had just sounded like modern day Americans, and I didn't think most of the accents sounded all that bad (but my ear isn't the most sensitive).

I loved J. Michael Tatum as Isaac - he totally hammed it up, and it was perfect. Caitlin Glass as Miria wasn't bad, but, when I listened to the original Japanese again, I thought she could have sounded a tad more energetic and stereotypical dumb blond. Bryan Massey as Ladd took some getting used to. As one person in the commentary said, his voice sounds like he ate a frosted bowl of gravel. Once I did get used to him, however, I really liked him in the role, and it's obvious he enjoyed it. Jerry Jewell as Vino also took me a while to get used to - he's one of those voice actors I tend to instantly recognize, which creates problems when I try to accept him as someone new. All I could think was, "huh, it's Kyo." R Bruce Elliott was pretty awesome as Szilard. I could go on and on about the cast - it's a huge cast, this show could have been renamed "Let's call in all the available voice actors at FUNimation and any interested actors in the surrounding area" for its English release - but I think I'll end with just one more comment. For a few episodes, I could have sworn that Jacuzzi Splot was played by Greg Ayres. Imagine my surprise when I actually looked at the credits and saw Joel McDonald. I don't know much about him, but apparently he's Yoite in Nabari no Ou, which is either a hideously bad miscasting or he's really versatile. I guess I'll find out when finally watch my Nabari no Ou DVDs (I've only gotten halfway through in Japanese, and I haven't watched any of it in English yet).

Extras:

There are four episode commentaries, all featuring Tyler Walker (ADR director) and two or three voice actors. Episode 4 has commentary by Caitlin Glass (Miria), J. Michael Tatum (Isaac), and Brian Massey (Ladd). Episode 7 has commentary by R Bruce Elliott (Szilard) and Chuck Huber (the devil, who I didn't realize until my second viewing was also involved in the domino scenes). Episode 9 has commentary by Ian Sinclair (Dallas) and Jerry Jewell (Vino, Claire Stanfield). I had no idea, until I listened to this commentary, that there had been an Internet rumor of Jerry Jewell's death. Weird. Another thing I liked about this particular commentary was someone's comment (maybe Tyler Walker?) that Dallas must have had a mild form of rabies. Episode 15 has commentary by Joel McDonald (Jacuzzi Splot, an awesomely memorable name) and Chris Patton (Graham).

I loved the commentaries. The other extras didn't thrill me nearly as much. There are the usual textless opening and closing, a Japanese trailer for Baccano!, a short Japanese "making of" video (confusingly called "Baccano! propaganda program," leading me to believe it was maybe some kind of Baccano! OVA), and trailers for lots of other shows (not really an extra, but you'd be surprised how many anime DVDs don't even have this much).

I'm not listing any watch-alikes or read-alikes - go take a look at my original post if you'd like some of those.

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