LN Reading Program 2 — June 19

(pictured: Baccano!)

(pictured: Baccano!)

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.)

Baccano!

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.

Discussion Points

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?

(Baccano! art by Katsumi Enami)

(Baccano! art by Katsumi Enami)

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? :)

Discussion Points

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.

5 responses to “LN Reading Program 2 — June 19

  1. There’s lot of fiction these days with anti-hero protagonists. Breaking Bad’s Walter White is a big example of an anti-hero becoming a fan favorite. I look at it like this: not every story needs someone who wants to save the world. Though some anti-heroes do feel like what they are doing is good for the world in their minds. It is nice to have some anti-heroes for a change. I feel like characters like these, when done right, are complex characters who can’t be seen as pure evil, and often have good intentions. Firo never got to know his father, and grew up in slums, so maybe him joining the Camorra and wanting to get higher up in the organization is a way of trying to make sure his future kids never end up in the same situation.

    I sometimes can tell which character is which based on the way they speak. Props to the translator for that.

    • Thanks for the comment! And I agree, there are a lot of likeable characters who may not be “lawful good,” and there are a lot of stories that are still good even if the characters aren’t really the likeable type. I’m hoping the story will continue to develop characters like Firo, and look into the struggle to live according to his own compass.
      The dialogue is a lot of fun in this story. I really liked the dinner scene of overlapping conversations, and how I was able to follow along despite the text never explicitly noting who was saying what.

  2. The way Kazuki and Aya/Maria figure the rules of the Rejecting Classroom is an example of the parts from HakoMari I’ve enjoyed. Speaking broadly, the characters talk over the events that happened and the information they already know, and figure out a logical plan on how to fix it. And often these conclusions the story brings up, serve as huge key points, similar to how a murderer is found by locating the true murder weapon. By having Kazuki die, it confirms to Maria that he isn’t the suspect but rather a key clue in this Rejecting Classroom. And after they come to an understanding, they come together to find the true owner of this box.

    Maria is in a tough spot. Like Kazuki offered, she could just kill everyone and find the owner instantly. However, she won’t use extreme violence due to it being an absolute moral rule for her. Additionally, that rule is probably connected with the wish that her box granted her.

    Heh. She is indeed the owner of the Rejecting Classroom. After rejecting all of her classmates everyday, she falls in love with Kazuki for truly finding her after one day. So she uses the power of the box to practically relive her moments with Kazuki. However, why does she use the box? Can’t she talk to Kazuki more and more during school after this day? In conclusion, she can’t. Something happened to her that made her want to use this box in this particular fashion. Unfortunately for her, reliving this day 27,755 times is an even deeper hell than that one fateful day, which pretty damn entertaining for me especially since we get to read her skewed perspective.

    • The story does a good job at making the characters work things out bit by bit. I always like it when a story of this sort has the protagonists come up with a good-sounding theory, only to discover that it’s wrong.
      I really liked the reveal concerning Aya — namely that she is not only not the killer, but that she specifically avoids killing despite that (in theory) being a simple solution to the whole dilemma. Her resolve really shines through.
      I also really like the scenes in which we delve into Mogi-san’s character and back-story. I mentioned this in my old review of this volume, but I do get “Book Girl” vibes from this part of the story (namely “Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime”). It’s painful to suffer, especially when everyone around you assumes you’re perfectly fine.

      • Now that you mention it, I see the resemblance between the two series. Although, HakoMari took the route of the love relationship between Mogi and Kazuki rather than expanding on Mogi’s problem, which is a shame but it’s fine.

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