Baccano! started back in 2003, by Ryohgo Narita. Originally it began as a novel series, receiving quite a bit of praise, but nowhere near the popularity it’s counter part Durarara!! received. The novel has 16 books and as of today it is on going. Later, a 16 episode anime series spawned from the novel. While the anime was a bust in Japan, it became rather popular with American fans.
The series spans over 200 years, and is told in a non-linear, multi-point-of-view format. In 1711 a ship known as the Advenna Avis crosses the Atlantic Ocean. Aboard it is a group of alchemists who summon a demon to grant them the power of immortality. Their attempts are successful, and they create the Grand Panacea, an elixir that allows them to live forever. The story then follows these immortals, and the new generations of immortals through the span of over 200 years (from 1711 – 2002). The major story arcs featured in the anime are: 1711, 1930, 1931, and 1932. While the anime does follow these four story arcs, the others are not negated, and are occasionally noted and referred to. Mainly, the story of the anime is set in New York during the Great Depression, stressing on the 1931: Grand Punk Railway Arc.
Mafiosi, Camorristi, immortals, thugs, murderers, and fools clash together, spinning this insane cast of character and plot completely out of control. The anime mainly follows the 1931 incident, where strange and supernatural events take a turn for the chaotic aboard The Flying Pussyfoot transcontinental train.
The immortals who were granted this power are forced to follow a set of rules. The only rules were: Only one can be granted the knowledge of how to make the Panacea, immortals cannot hide their names from one another, and an immortal can only be killed by another immortal. The death of an immortal became key to the plot. In order for one immortal to kill another, they must place their right hand on the others head and think, “I want to eat”. They then absorb the experience and knowledge of the immortal they just “ate”. To transfer information to another immortal, they simply need to place their left hand on another head, and their knowledge is transferred.
Baccano has a massive cast of characters. The books more so, but the anime does follow the stories of over twenty main characters. The following have been divided into categories for your convenience.
These characters were granted immortality aboard the Advenna Avis during its voyage over the Atlantic ocean. These are only the characters influential to the anime. While there are plenty more, they either play a small roll or are non-existent in the anime.
Maiza Avaro: Maiza is the alchemist who leads the summoning of the demon aboard the Advenna Avis in 1711. The demon grants Maiza the knowledge of the formula, and later he decides to tell his brother, Gretto, half of the formula. Not long later, Szilard Quates mistakes Gretto for Maiza, and “devours” him in order to obtain the formula for the Grand Panacea. In the 1920’s Maiza becomes the bookkeeper of the Martillo family. He hates violence, and constantly wears a smile.
|Szilard Quates: Szilard is one of the alchemists aboard the Advenna Avis. He disagrees with the decision to hide the elixar, and attempts to devour Maiza in order to obtain the formula, but mistakes Gretto for Maiza. He obtains only half the formula and creates an incomplete elixir. This allows one to never die, save of old age. He feeds humans the Panacea and consumes them in order to easily gain information. Dallas Genoard and his thugs drink the incomplete elixir, and become partially immortal but escape from Szilard’s grasp. Later, he is able to create a complete formula in 1930, only to loose it and have it consumed by the Martillo family, purely by accident. He creates a few homunculi, who mostly betray him. The last he made is Ennis.|
|Czeslaw Meyer: Czeslaw (aka Czes) is a young boy aboard the Advenna Avis. At the age of 10 he is granted immortality. While his body remains that of a 10-year-old, so does his mind, and he is never able to fully mature. After arriving in America, Czeslaw is kept in captivity by his guardian, Fermet, who tortures him to test the extent of their immortality. Czeslaw manages to escape after ‘devouring’ Fermet. He develops the belief that the other immortals are only out to kill him, so he decides to attack before they can.|
|Huey Laforet: Huey is one of the alchemists aboard the Advenna Avis. He is one of the cruellest alchemists, performing experiments on humans with little regret or feeling. Huey faces no trouble using humans as test subjects for immortal experiments, save Elmer Albatross. He describes himself as an ‘observer’ and rarely takes an opinion or side to a matter. After gaining immortality, he began experimenting on humans and immortals alike. He created numerous homunculi and many of which are incomplete. Chane, his daughter was an experiment to see if immortality could be passed on through genetics. He also has another daughter named Leeza and a son named Lucino who are not featured in the anime. In 1931 he is arrested for conspiracy and treason and is incarcerated in a prison in Newfoundland. Later he is transferred to Alcatraz Prision.|
|Elmer C. Albatross: While Elmer’s roll is not as strongly enforced in the anime adaptation, he is a major player in the Baccano! scene. He is also an alchemist, and was in favour of hiding the secrets of the Grand Panacea. He is constantly smiling, and is a close friend of both Maiza Avaro and Huey Laforet. His goal is to ‘spread smiles across the world’ and reunite the immortals once more.|
In 1930, Szilard Quates successfully recreates the elixir of immortality, only to loose it. It is bought, sold, and passed around Manhattan by numerous gangsters, under the belief that it is alcohol. Eventually it comes into the possession of the Martillo family, and during Frio Prochaniezo’s initiation into the Martillo family, the party guests, creating a second generation of immortals, consume what they think is alcohol.
|Firo Prochaniezo: Firo is the youngest member of the Martillo family, and consumed the immortal elixir at age 18. He is close friends with Maiza, the three Gandor brothers, and Claire Stanfeild. He also develops a crush on one red-head homunculus named Ennis. He wears a green suit, and adores his green fedora, gifted to him by Maiza as he joined the Martillo family. Firo and Luck both grew up on the same block, which caused good relations between the Gandors and the Martillos.|
|Luck Gandor: Luck is around 20 years old, and is the youngest of the Gandor brothers. He is third in command of the Gandor family, and is the smartest and most levelheaded of the Gandor brothers. His 'adopted' borther (also known as 'the fourth Gandor brother') is the assassin Vino, also known as Claire Stanfeild. Is is calm and polite, rarely showing emotion, but can be ruthless and cold when angered of threatened. Luck is often referred to as 'unfit for mafia life'.|
|Isaac & Miria: Isaac and Miria are a foolish and idiotic couple. They work as thieves and attempt to steal the most ridiculous things, such as museum doors. When they commit their robberies they wear crazy costumes. Despite their profession, Isaac and Miria are friendly and kind, despite their bizarre tendencies. They hold great love and affection towards people they meet, and always believe the best in them. They never realize they became immortal until 2001. Over 70 years later.|
|Berga & Keith: Are Luck Gandor's brothers, and close friends with Firo and Claire Stanfeild. Keith is referred to as the only one of the Gandors fit for the Mafia life style, while Berga is considered too soft. Keith is the oldest of the Gandor brothers, while Berga is in the middle.|
The humans are exactly as they sound. 'Normal' humans. I use normal as in the sense that they are not androids.
|Ladd Russo: Nephew to the Russo family leader, Ladd is undeniably insane. He enjoys killing and talking a lot (it's even in the title of an episode). Ladd is a hitman to the Russo family and is more than sadistic.|
|Lua Klein: Ladd Russo's fiancee. She is quiet and shy, and seems relatively normal compared to Ladd. She loves her fiance unconditionally, despite the fact he promises to kill her.|
|Jacuzzi Splot: A shy and polite young man with a tendency to cry and stutter when nervous. Apparently he is nervous a lot. He is the leader of a gang, and a bootlegger along with his childhood friend and crush, Nice. Jacuzzi has a sword tattoo on his face, which he procured after Nice lost her eye and was burned at during adolecnce.|
|Nice Holystone: An mellow and down to Earth explosives expert. She has a love for explosions, and childhood friend Jacuzzi. She works as a bootlegger with Jacuzzi and the gang. Nice recieved scars and burns from an explosives accident as a child.|
|Chane Laforet: A mysterious and dangerous young woman, daughter to Huey Laforet. She does not speak, as her voice was taken away in promise to keep Huey's immortality secret.|
|Eve Genoard: Eve is a young girl, and a member of New Jersey's wealthy Genoard family. She is kind and shy, and quickly makes friends, although she is often not let out of the house. Eve is searching for her delinquent brother, Dallas.|
|The Young Conductor: Remember his face. He's kind of a big deal.|
|Rachel: A strange woman who gathers information and investigates for the Daily Days newspaper. She is aboard Flying Pussyfoot during the 1931 and plays a large part in unraveling the mystery of the Rail Tracer, a mysterious ghost that haunts the railroads.|
|Ennis: A strange young woman who follows Szilard around. She at first appears to be his driver, but is an extremely strong fighter. In fact, Ennis is a homunculus created by Szilard. She rarely speaks, and has very few emotions. She has the ability to live forever, but is bound to Szilard.|
Well, honesty it depends what you're referring to. The Baccano! franchise consists of a two volume manga series. While this series does follow the 1931: Grand Punk Railroad arc, and rightfully so, it changes a few of the characters in appearance and personality. While some do enjoy the Baccano! manga, many reviews and opinions are in the negative. The manga is considered to be a must read for zealous Baccano! fans, but you can really live without it. Personally I find that the manga series is passable and not very memorable.
Reading the light novels on the other hand is a must. They are both well written and imaginative. They also give Baccano! fans a much clearer view on the crazy story of Baccano!. The only problem: They aren't published in English. There are some intense and awesome fans who are working super hard to translate the Baccano! light novels and are doing an amazing job.
But for those interested in a casual Baccano! experience are pretty much safe with just watching the anime. It'll be confusing for the first few episodes, but once you get into the swing of things it makes a lot more sense. The anime is well done, with good animation for its time. But for anybody who speaks English, watching it in dubbed format is key. The voice acting is amazing, and suits the characters and setting. Baccano! is one of the few anime where the English challenges (and beats) the Japanese voice acting.