All aboard readers as we continue our crazy journey on the Flying Pussyfoot, the transcontinental trip from Chicago to New York. Along for the ride is the young boy Chez, train-hopping journalist Rachel and two warring-but-unrelated factions. We jump back to the mysterious events occurring on this trip, and see if everyone makes it out alive—or if the Rail Tracer will kill them all!
Written by Ryohgo Narita and illustrated by Katsumi Enami, Publisher Yen On released Baccano! 1931: The Grand Punk Railroad — Express in December 2016, with translation again done by Taylor Engel. This book is the second half of the story arc from volume two, and the way this it’s structured makes it almost entirely consist of prologues (three) and epilogues (eight!); this is not a stand-alone novel, and is recommended to be read after 1931: The Grand Punk Railroad — Local for the full experience.
In the previous book, we were introduced to an entirely new cast of characters from the first, many of whom become the focus in this novel. By that same token, Jacuzzi and his friends—who were the only characters that found a conclusion during Local—are absent throughout this one. Whilst that may be a let down for Jacuzzi fans, there’s plenty of other characters and things happening that readers have no time to miss him.
So, how to start?
As with all of these books, there are multiple events happening concurrently that we switch to. One of the great strengths of Narita’s large cast means that there’s always something happening, and usually multiple perspectives on the same events. This allows for both confusion and clarity for the reader, as characters react and think—giving the audience insight as to the truth and fantasy. For a series like Baccano! (and its sister series Durarara!!) where everyday life and real places are infused with supernatural elements, the multiple confirmations is all the more crucial in convincing readers that certain events realistically play out, despite the fantastical.
Among the returning characters for this book is Ladd and his group of white suits; a Chicago mafioso who revels in violence—but only by his own twisted sense of justice. He’s a maniac, but one with a strict sense of moral code; he only likes killing people who think they can’t be killed, who have no fear in their eyes, as anyone else isn’t worth the time. Unaware of this fact, it prompts the young boy Chezlaw Mayer into making a deal with the Mafioso: kill everyone onboard the train, in exchange for the powerful explosives he’s transporting.
Obviously, Chez is no ordinary little boy. His unique circumstances make him incredibly wary of the other passengers, catalyzed when introducing himself to Jacuzzi and Nice, Isaac and Miria, and Mary in the dining car last book, he had had to use his real name. That moment had tipped him off that not everyone was what they seemed, and he is willing to sacrifice everyone else for his own safety. Chez is a fascinating character, and one of my favorites within the series—and the (proper) introduction we get to his character in this book is impactful, shocking and heartbreaking.
We also have Chané, devoted daughter to incarcerated terrorist Huey Laforet, amongst the black suits. An accomplished fighter and entirely mute, she seems to have caught the eye of both Ladd’s excitable murder-rush and the monstrous Rail Tracer, although for entirely different reasons. She is also a target within her own allies, who would prefer her dead in their lust for power. All of this culminates on a showdown atop the roof of the train—crazed murderer against crazed murderer as the Flying Pussyfoot barrels onward.
The terrifying path of destruction caused by the Rail Tracer is shown and explained within this novel too—his presence a ghostly threat, throwing unruly passengers off the train and unnervingly protecting the peace of the rails. For Rachel, who doesn’t buy tickets and hops from train to train in protest, she’s witnesses firsthand the terrors of the myth—becoming a target herself.
This book is a second conclusion to the first 1931: The Grand Punk Railroad. Fleshing out recognizable characters and fan favorites, we finally come to an end of this wild train ride for now, but the impact of these events don’t end here. With the Grand Punk Railroad story, Narita proved his ability and the validity of this series—gambling on an almost entirely-new cast and different setting, and it worked! Baccano! persists as one of the most consistently-great light novels available, and it’s easy to see why so many have loved it for so long. If you’re sick of the same recycled isekai plots currently being published, come join the crazy ruckus of Baccano!
Gee’s Rating: Highly recommended.
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