At a Glance: Baccano!
Baccano! is an action-packed mafia drama anime with more than a little silliness to it on top of the action. There are basically 3 stories that are interconnected, taking place in 1930, 1931, and 1932. There are tons of characters, and perspective and time shift around so often that you're left kind of feeling puzzled. This is definitely one you'll want to pay close attention to. And you might need to take notes.
The stories have to do with mob violence in the Prohibition era in the U.S., with all the Hollywood cliches that involves, but they also revolve around an alchemist's formula for the elixir of life. There are tons of characters, including not one but two Bonnie and Clyde wannabe couples, one who are actually good at crime and another who are simply idiots. Jacuzzi Splot is one of the more interesting characters. He has a mysterious face tattoo, but seems like too good of a kid to have gotten involved in this world of organized crime. But it's not all that organized really, as seen when multiple people try to hold up the same train at once! There's a lot of comedy like that, but the show really tends to oscillate wildly between serious, dark scenes and whimsical funny ones.
Light Novel by Ryōgo Narita
Comedy, Fantasy, Diesel Punk, Historical Fiction, Crime Drama
Manga by Ryōgo Narita, Manga by Shinta Fujimoto, Drama CD, Video Game, Artbook
One issue I had with this is the way it's told. I liked that it adds a layer of mystery to the show by being told in an unusual way, but it's also annoying to be told that way because jumping between three years rather than simply a past time vs. a present time gets a bit confusing. If you don't like that kind of storytelling, skip this one. In a way though, it does kind of make the story more interesting, because what is shown raises questions each time, to be answered by revealing more of what happened later.
Another problem is there are so many characters. It's easy to do this in a novel format, but in an anime that's only 16 episodes long, it's really hard to make each character given screen time seem relevant. And no real protagonist sticks out. This is innovative, sure, but it also makes the story feel cluttered. Perhaps for these reasons, it might be better to check out the original source material, the light novel, before getting into the anime.
Beyond that, Baccano! is just a lot of murder that is sometimes treated seriously, and sometimes treated as slapstick comedy. It makes the tone of the anime inconsistent and weird. But I guess it's like a joke I heard somewhere, "Tragedy is when I stub my toe, comedy is when you lose an eye.".
So it can seem random and inconsistent, but as for what I like about it? It's entertaining. You will laugh. You will jump out of your seat. You will inhale popcorn. You will yell at your laptop at 3 in the goddamn morning. It's a fun, interesting, and above all, immersing show. And it's nice to see a little innovation in the way stories are told now and then. Baccano! changes things up by telling a story in an unconventional way.