For the second week of this summer reading program, we will discuss the second third of Baccano! (volume 1) and The Empty Box and the Zeroth Maria (volume 1). For Baccano!, you need to have read up to page 139 (up to the chapter “Day Two”). Meanwhile for Empty Box, you need to have read up to the second chapter titled “0th Time.”
If you have read further ahead, please refrain from spoiling anything past the points in the stories mentioned above. (Also, obviously, if you’ve experienced a manga or anime adaptation in the past, don’t reveal what happens next.)
The plot is in full-swing at this point, and the actions of the many characters involved have begun to affect one another in increasingly dramatic ways. The remaining immortality concoctions that survived the fire have changed hands, and it looks like we could be in for a full-blown underground war.
There are a lot of characters to keep track of in this story, and among each set of characters there’s a subplot or two that may be worth looking into.
- Firo, Maiza, and the rest of the Camorra. I’m not sure if Baccano! is the sort of story where you can readily say any one person is the protagonist, but Firo’s character arc might be the easiest to relate to at the very least. Every young person looks for a place where he might belong, and in this part of the book Firo has undergone a right of passage to become an official member of a Mafia-like organization. How easy or difficult do you find it to support such a decision, or to root for a group of criminals in general?
- Szilard’s group. It seems clear at this point he is the immortal who killed the brother of “the man who obtained the knowledge.” Because he only obtained half the formula, his incomplete elixir grants his followers regeneration, but does not keep them from aging and dying of old age. What is his ultimate goal in recreating the original elixir back on the 1700’s ship? What role do you think his servant Ennis will play in all this?
- There is also the Mafia group that includes the Gandor brothers, the group of thugs led by Dallas Genoard, and the eccentric thieves Isaac and Miria. I think it is interesting to compare and contrast what motivates all these different groups of characters. What separates the characters you would label as “good” from the ones you would deem “bad,” exactly? How do they all keep running into each other, and how have their fates become so intertwined?
How well do you feel are the characters established in the short amount of time they are given in the spotlight?
Any predictions for how this volume will end?
The Empty Box and the Zeroth Maria
A lot of reveals in the second act of this book! We have finally learned the truth regarding Aya Otonashi, Kasumi Mogi, and the wish that created the empty box known as the Rejecting Classroom.
Or… have we? :)
The tone of the story shifts at this point, once Aya and Kazuki start talking and figuring things out. How would you describe the relationship between the two at this point? What is the source of the misunderstandings in the first act of the story, and what does it take for the protagonists to finally move forward?
What do you think it means when Aya describes herself as an “empty box?” What do you think her wish is?
What kind of a person is Kasumi Mogi? What constitutes everyday life for her, and what is it she seeks in a normal high school experience?
At this point we’ve learned a bit more about Kokone Kirino as well. How has she affected the time loops that transpire in this second act?
Any predictions for where this story will go from here? What do you think is the solution to resolving the conflict that keeps the Rejecting Classroom going? Do you think there can be a happy ending for each of the character involved?
As mentioned before, feel free to discuss any point you would like to bring up about either (or both) of these two books. General impressions, predictions for how the stories will play out, some compare/contrast between the two books, or any random observations and things you’d like to analyze are all fair game.