Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Opinions: Sometimes I Have Them.

I don't know how this line of thought crossed my mind... I probably shouldn't think so much while I'm in the shower. But I was thinking a lot about the anime "Baccano!". If you haven't watched it yet, stop what you're doing and go watch it right now. You have no excuse for having not watched this series. It's fantastic beyond belief. Especially if your into mafia stories and crazy antics. It has a very non-linear storytelling process and bounces around between several timelines (and sometimes time periods) to tell the story. And honestly, I don't think it would be as good if it had been done any other way.

I spent a long time thinking on this and realized my thoughts would be more coherent if I wrote them down. And then I remembered I had this blog. So, time for my first ever opinion piece for Rook Takes Queen on the subject of the main character of "Baccano!"

"Baccano!", for a story with so many characters, is largely plot driven. Then again, when you have that many characters, using the plot to drive things is probably a good idea lest you end up like "Bleach". "Baccano!" can be divided by and large into two main segments; the segment in 1930 that takes place in lower Manhattan, and the segment in 1931 that takes place aboard the trans-continental train, "The Flying Pussyfoot". The driving force in the former is the creation and various thefts of the "Grand Panacea", an immortality elixer, and the latter is driven by the cast's need to survive the trip, and/or kill other passengers on the train.

There is also the segment in 1932, which consists entirely of Eve Genoard trying to find her brother Dallas. I don't consider this one of the main segments of the story, since all it really does is wrap up Dallas's involvement in the 1930 segment.

The series opens with Carol and the Vice President of the Daily Days discussing the overall story and who the main character is. Since it's one of the first things brought up, I spent the first few episodes asking the question myself, "Who here is the main character?" In their discussion, Caorl and the Vice-President cover several of the characters who appear in the story, but -- interestingly enough to me (and the title card of the first episode points out one of these) -- they do not mention two of the characters that I feel are main characters in the story.

They do mention Isaac and Miria, who I believe are the main characters of the overall series, just because they are the only one involved in all of the storylines (including Eve's, though only very early on). But they do not have the one qualification I believe all main characters should have -- They need to develop/change in some way.

In all honesty, most of the characters in the series do not fall into that category. Like I said, this is plot driven. The story drives the characters actions, not the other way around. Therefore the characters do not need to change in order to be good characters. They just have to have realistic reactions to the world around them, and boy do they ever. But in the 1930 and 1931 segments there are characters who develop and change.

1930 -- Ennis
Ennis is an incredibly interesting character in that she is the only cast member who is not, in any way, human. Ennis is a homunculus. We first see her at what is essentially the end of the story, with Firo, Maiza, and the Gandors as they greet Isaac and Miria when they get off the train. We also, early on, hear a letter from Ennis to Isaac and Miria about how she misses them and thinks of them as "the older siblings she never got to meet".

But as we work our way back, Ennis is presented to us initally as just an emotionless tool of her somewhat abusive creator. But the more she runs into Isaac, Miria, and Firo the more she begins to develop a personality and feelings. Early on, in her first encouter with Isaac and Miria she hits them with her car and thinks nothing of it. But, as I mentioned, at the end of the series she greets them both very cheerfully when they arrive at Grand Central station, and in one of the Epiloge OVAs, she's seen setting up dominos and enjoying herself.

The true showing of Ennis's growth and change is when she turns on her creator's orders to kill Isaac and Miria in order to try and kill him instead to save them knowing full well she will probably die. She's saved by Isaac and Miria, and then by Firo, but it doesn't change the fact that she was willing to sacrifice herself for people she'd only really known for a few days at most.

1931 -- Jacuzzi Splot
The man with the crazy tattoo, the crazier name, and the best voice I've ever heard. Jacuzzi Splot, along with Nice Hollystone, is my favorite character in "Baccano!" Jacuzzi is the leader of a gang in Chicago that bootlegs liquor. (Remember, this is prohibition-era.) Jacuzzi's girlfriend, Nice, also makes bombs. Can you see why these are my favorite characters? Jacuzzi is pretty timid, but he's got a big heart and a bit of a stubborn streak that sometimes manifests as misguided bravery.

Jacuzzi starts off as a very jumpy character, and his whole set of actions are sparked to life by Isaac telling him the story of the "Railtracer", but forgot the ending of how to save everyone from it. Someone brings up that the younger of the train's two conductors knew the story and probably knew the ending. Nice even comments that it's just the way he is. We watch Jacuzzi cry his way through the entire Flying Pussyfoot arc of the story, and we learn in bits and pieces why he acts that way.

But the further things go, the more he realizes that he can't just take his gang and run. There are so many innocent people on the train being threatened by so many different bad guys that he has to step up and do something or he's going to lose his friends. It takes a few pep-talks from Isaac and Miria, but Jacuzzi really pulls it together and goes out of his way to risk his life to protect not only his friend, but people had had only just met on the train. He doesn't cry through the fight, he doesn't try to talk his way out of it. He just faces it head on.

So I still believe that Isaac and Miria are the main characters over all (since they are the only ones tied to every aspect of the plot), but when you break it down I think Ennis and Jacuzzi are the main characters of their respective plot segments.

Man this entry took me a lot longer to write than I thought it would...

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