The year is still 1934. In fact, this is the same stretch of days from the previous book—as Firo was incarcerated from the wider world in Alcatraz, a mysterious group of unnatural individuals converge in Chicago. Their role there is unclear, even to them, but as the members of Lamia wait for instructions, the Russo Family is preparing their own defenses.
In the afterword of this book, Narita notes that the current 1934 arc is the longest yet for Baccano!, compiled into three books—but rather than merely naming each part 1, 2 or 3, both Alice in Jails books should be considered ‘part 1’: two separate events running concurrently to each other, and despite the distance, inexplicably linked.
With so many familiar faces in last volume, the amount of new characters in this one seems almost like it’s making up for the oversight. Subsequently the novel is filled with “lots of characters who [are] somehow broken or very colorful”, as described by the author himself, and plenty of time is spent on these newcomers.
The new members of Lamia, Huey’s group of failed hommunculi, introduced include: Sickle, a surly capoeira user; ‘The Poet’, who waxes nonsensically at every opportunity; Rail, a doll-like explosives expert who has more scars than skin; and Frank, an impossibly large child with the build of a bear. We also see the return of Leeza, Chi, and the twins Hilton and Sham; and Christopher, after his disappearance at the end of 1933 (Last) The Slash -Bloody to Fair- is also in this book, now as the personal bodyguard of Ricardo Russo, grandson of the current don who’s hoping to watch the Family burn.
Lamia have been called to cause trouble—whether as a distraction from New York, or as the main event themselves, is unknown—but the Russo Family has been given forewarning, bringing Graham Specter back to the city as insurance. Nebula, and their scarily innocent Director Renée Parmedes Branvillier, is still trying to produce true immortality liquor—and they want to capture the members of Lamia for their unaging bodies.
We also have the perfect integration of the Vice President of the Daily Days, and his accompanying photographer, Carol, bearing witness to much of the insanity. Anime fans will recognize these two as the framing device used for the television show, and it’s nice to see these two in action again. (In fact, it is in this book’s afterward that we get the anime announcement—surely not a coincidence!) Their dynamic give a grounded a rational counterpoint to the absurdity of the surrounds, and it’s nice to have some ‘normal’ characters around.
Most of this book is a giant game of cat-and-mouse—running around the sights of Chicago as both sides try to escape capture and apprehend the other. As always, nothing is ever straightforward, and the explosive finish draws us back to where we left off with the previous book.
I especially enjoyed the evolution of character given to Rail in this book. Although he was one of the newest to join the motley cast, his undisguised hatred for Huey, his creator and ‘master’ is a nice perspective we’d yet to have seen. Especially compared with most of Huey’s circle of supporters, Lamia, and Chane, the young boy’s fear and justified hatred is palpable. His relationship with Christopher also adds an element of unexpected humanity to the red-eyed, sharp-toothed man—which emphasizes his own changes during the year away from the group. Now with the confirmation of Isaac and Miria, Jacuzzi and his gang, and Ladd all heading to Chicago for our grand finale, it’s anyone’s guess to the scale of the craziness to come.
Alice in Jails: Streets manages the difficult task of being interesting throughout, despite the major lack of recurring and beloved characters this series has had so far. Whilst it does feel more like a supporting or companion piece to the last volume, the events are crucial for the events going forward–and as a transition, it keeps the action high and the pacing brisk. Baccano! fans won’t be disappointed.
Gee’s Rating: Mildly Recommended
You can purchase this book online via sites like Amazon (available in hardcover or as an ebook) and Book Depository (which offers free worldwide shipping). These are affiliate links, so a small percentage of sales goes toward this site.