Light Novel Review: Baccano! Volume 14: 1931 Another Junk Railroad: Special Express

Light Novel Review: Baccano! Volume 14: 1931 Another Junk Railroad: Special Express

Baccano! Volume 14: 1931 Another Junk Railroad: Special Express cover

In the city that never sleeps, the story never stops either! Having survived The Flying Pussyfoot, many characters in 1932 are still trying to figure out what they’ll be doing next and in 1934 two newspaper reporters relay some of these events to other individuals interested in the whole story, as they themselves are on a train heading towards another story filled with gangs, immortals, and explosive events.

This volume will be by and large familiar to anime viewers as it’s the source for the ova mini-arc that came after the conclusion of the series. As I understand it, based on Ryohgo Narita’s afterword here, the bulk of this story was originally written for a drama CD and he filled it out to have enough material to publish as its own proper volume and I’m glad he did since not everything in this volume made it into the anime! Specifically, it’s revealed that there appear to have been two other immortals on The Flying Pussyfoot on that fateful trip, Elmer and Fermet, and Victor Talbot also appears for a short while since it turns out that Fermet has been using his name as an alias while doing something, results to be determined. And since the book is set in both 1931/1932 and 1934 it manages to allude to a few events which have already happened in the series but have not yet chronologically at this point (reverse-foreshadowing? rear-shadowing?); like Huey’s quip that if he REALLY wanted to distract Talbot he’d have to go to extreme measures or how Carol and Gustav St. Germain (not his real name as it turns out, although it does seem suspicious for a man who knows so much to be using the name of a famous historical alchemist as an alias) are on their way to the events of volume 10. It’s easy to insert foreshadowing after the fact but as a reader it was still fun to see the pieces come together.

Baccano! volume 14 spread

And what a number of pieces there are! If you are considering reading this volume after only seeing the anime, just to read the parts that didn’t get adapted, then I’m afraid you’ll only end up even more confused since characters from 1933’s The Slash and 1934’s In Prison/Chains bounce in and out of the story. Even I had to double-back and check a few hunches of mine as to who these characters were since it’s been a few years since I’ve read those volumes by this point. Generally speaking, as long as you can remember what group or alliances a character holds you can follow the story but if you have the talent for remembering several dozen characters at once this is certainly the place to exercise it. As usual, it is these characters and their interactions that make the story, especially since there’s no over-arching plot this time around, and most of the major players in the entire series make at least a brief appearance here. In that sense it makes sense that this volume was born out of a drama CD, something extra as “fanservice” for the fans, not a volume that is doing a tremendous amount of heavy lifting moving the larger story along (at least, as far as I can tell, but perhaps I’ll revise my opinion on that in another few volumes).

On that note, Baccano! remains a very entertaining series, albeit one that asks you remember a lot. Perhaps it’s a series better enjoyed in a binge than spread out over six years but regardless, unless a second season of the anime ever happens, fans of the anime should definitely be checking out the books that started it all.

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