Baccano Vol. 1 Review

Title: Baccano Vol. 1
Author: Ryohgo Narita (Story), Shinta Fujimoto (Art), Katsumi Inami (Characters)
Publisher: Yen Press
Language: English
Format: Paperback
Pages: 160
Genre: Action, Mystery, Fantasy
Publication Date: January 30, 2018

The Story

Thanks to Durarara!!, I became a fan of Ryohgo Narita. I had never read his previous work Baccano!, but now that it is being released here in the U.S. in physical form, I decided to check it out. Set in New York during prohibition, Baccano! follows a boy named Firo Prochainezo. As kids, he grew up with his friends Berga, Keith and Luck Gandor. The three of them would grow up to become the main bosses of the Gandor Family… a mafia organization. Firo would choose his own path and join the Martillo Family, but they don’t consider themselves to be “Mafia.” Instead, they refer to themselves as a Camorra, a different type of organized family.

One day, Firo runs into the Gandor brothers and they catch up. With the San Gennaro festival looming around the corner, one of the Gandor brothers, Keith, ends up going missing after Firo and the Gandors head their separate ways. Firo catches wind of it and even though it could mean severe punishment by the Martillos, he heads out in order to search for him. During his search, he runs into the Phantom Father, a priest who is rumored to not be able to be killed or injured. The Phantom Father has a knack of giving candy out to the good and driving steel stakes into those who are evil.

Luck shows up just in time to save Firo from a fight with the Priest. Luck and the Priest battle to the top of a building where Firo gives chase. When it looks like the Priest is about to escape, Firo jumps off the building and catches him. As the two fall, Firo lands safely in a pile of crates while the priest gets impaled on a flag pole, but when Firo and Keith look up, he’s gone with no trace of blood! The mystery unravels a bit when we are introduced to a special liquor. Apparently, when you consume this liquor, it makes you immortal.

Maiza, one of the Martillos and a guardian of sorts to Firo, embarks on a personal mission to close out the first volume, mentioning that he is looking to settle an issue with a certain person and even contemplates leaving the Martillos in order to settle his business.

The story was a little hard to follow, but that was to be expected from someone like Ryohgo Narita. Narita likes to bounce around to different stories, or in this case, between present and past. It wasn’t as jarring as Durarara!!; however, so it was a bit easier to piece together the events. So far, it’s a pretty interesting story. I love mafia stories, especially when they’re set back in the 1920s. Adding the fantasy twist that Narita is known for makes this story stand out even more! I have a feeling that I’m going to enjoy this… even if the series is only three volumes long.

Characters

Our main character Firo is a mix between timid and short-tempered. He’s pretty timid when it comes to interacting with people, but when he or his family are insulted, he wastes no time jumping head-first into action. Even though he knew he would be punished for helping a rival family, Firo stuck to his desire to protect his “family.” Even when he was sent on a scouting mission to a casino, he was timid and polite until he was discovered and outed as a Martillo. When his family was insulted, he was ready to go toe to toe with everyone standing before him… had it not been for Maiza’s interference. Firo has a nice duality to his personality which makes him an interesting character. It’ll be interesting to see how he develops down the line.

Maiza seems to be the calm, rational member of the Martillo family. He serves as their bookkeeper and seems to take the logical approach in everything he does; however, that’s not the case. In the case of the casino, he did his “discussing” by leveling everyone in there after Firo stepped outside. He is also someone who drank the immortality wine as any wounds dealt to him immediately heal right up. There were a couple of flashbacks pertaining to Maiza’s past and why he is embarking on this personal mission. I’m sure the next volume will spend some time on him as Narita does like to bounce back and forth in between stories. Two hundred years, eh? That’s a long time to wait to settle a score.

The Gandor brothers are a bit of a trope trifecta. You have Berga… the muscle of the group who is quick to jump into any fight to display his power, Luck… the sort-of level-headed member who is pretty strong and agile in his own right and Keith… who is a bit more devious. He allowed himself to get caught only so he could burn the Phantom Father’s church down from the inside. It’s an interesting dynamic to have the three of them be childhood friends of Firo. Even though they are in different organized families, they still treat each other as if they were brothers. I could see this leading to a union between the Gandors and the Martillos… or it could mean all-out war in which Firo could be caught in the middle. I mean, this is coming from the guy who gave us the Dollars vs the Yellow Scarves vs the Blue Squares with Izaya sitting atop high watching everyone dance around like puppets.

Final Thoughts

The first volume of Baccano! was a pretty good start to the series. It set you down inside of a world and slowly built that world around you. You got introduced the major crime families, the major characters, you got some backstory and you got some story advancement into a new arc. You can’t really ask for much more out of a first volume as it hit all of the things it needed to make a good first impression right on the head.

The characters don’t really seem too unique, though. There’s a lot of stereotypical character types strewn about, but as I mentioned above, I like the duality of Firo’s personality. It makes him a likable character while giving him an edge… something that a lot of main characters are missing these days. I did like all of the mentions of Italian culture throughout the volume, though. Since mafia roots came from Italy, Narita took advantage of that by sprinkling in some Italian folklore and traditions throughout to make it feel a bit authentic.

A solid first volume! If you are a Ryohgo Narita fan and haven’t checked out this series yet, I recommend you do so. There’s also an anime series out which aired way back in 2007 if you are interested in checking out. So far, I’m intrigued by the story so if the remaining two volumes are as good as the first, I’ll probably end up picking up a copy of the show… if it’s still being sold anywhere!

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This item was provided for review by Yen Press

About The Author

Josh Piedra

Josh (or J.J. as some have come to call him), is a long-time geek culture enthusiast with a deep passion for anime, manga and Japanese culture. Josh also has a Bachelor of Arts in Game Design and is a creative writer who has created original content for over 20 years!