For the third week of this summer reading program, we will discuss the final third of Baccano! (volume 1) and The Empty Box and the Zeroth Maria (volume 1). This is also your chance to discuss the two books as a whole, so feel free to share any general impressions.
And so ends the wild ruckus of volume one. What did you think of this book? How well does it work as a standalone story, and as a setup for a full series of adventures?
Did any of the twists catch you by surprise? The final clash played out more or less how I expected (my assumption was that everyone had already enjoyed the immortality liquor at the party), but I was surprised by the “narrator” of the story turning out to be Firo all along. Interestingly, I think the story does actually work out for him being aware of everything that transpired from multiple viewpoints, thanks to his obtaining all of Szilard’s knowledge (and in turn, Ennis’s). A really clever twist, actually.
I’m not entirely sure how to word it, but I think Baccano! has a sort of “classic” feel to it that makes it stand out a bit among light novels in general. The way the story plays out in the final act has a lot to do with that, I believe. Our protagonists survive the mayhem and the antagonists get their comeuppance. On one hand it’s the sort of ending we expect, but it was all set up very carefully, with all the plot points that were introduced in the beginning arriving at a suitable conclusion in the end. How did you feel about the story’s structure in general, and about the way things ended for each of the characters?
The epilogue at the beginning of the story gets a conclusion as well. What do you feel this added to the story? Did you like or dislike knowing what becomes of all the characters so many years later? What direction do you think Baccano! will take in later volumes?
The Empty Box and the Zeroth Maria
It took a while, but our characters have finally managed to overcome the empty box of the Rejecting Classroom. How did you feel about this story as a whole? Did it meet your expectations from the beginning of the book?
For me, I felt the third act of this volume was the weakest part of the story. It is almost entirely devoted to lengthy conversations between the characters, in which they mull over theories and possibilities regarding their unnatural circumstances. And then, everything ends in a manner I felt was a bit too simple for following such a drawn-out buildup. The discussions felt tedious after a while, and the conclusion that followed came off as mild to me.
That said, I did appreciate the catharsis that followed–namely the resolution between Kazuki Hoshino and Kasumi Mogi. I liked how the story touched on the theme of “changing feelings,” and how the way people connect with one another needs to change over time, just as an aspect of human nature. At least, that was what I got out of it.
What did you think the story was trying to get across? In what ways were each of the characters affected by the events of this book? What do you think of our protagonist Hoshino, and why is he the target of the mysterious “O” entity? How do you imagine later volumes in this series will play out?
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.