One of the most underrated storytelling approaches that are rarely used in anime is a little something called an ensemble cast. As the name suggests, an ensemble cast anime, or another form of visual storytelling for that matter, means the story employs multiple characters that have roughly the same amount of screen time, as opposed to the traditional single protagonist approach.
There are several popular and mainstream anime that use an ensemble cast, such as Nichijou, Soul Eater, and Durarara!, just to name a few. Some of the newest anime even begin to move into ensemble cast territory as the story progresses, such as Delicious in Dungeon, Bungou Stray Dogs, and also Attack on Titan.
However, there is one particular anime that is arguably the perfect ensemble cast anime ever made. It was a 2007 anime called Baccano! For this article, let’s take some time to dissect this anime in order to find out what it is that makes Baccano! so much better than other ensemble-cast anime.
Stories Through Different Characters’ Point-Of-Views
As mentioned above, the most important aspect of an ensemble cast anime is equal roles and screen times between the major characters. Not one character is allowed to take the spotlight more than the other cast members. It’s an orchestra with no solo piece. That is pretty much the case in Baccano!
Every major character in this series has a unique and distinct personality. There’s the scaredy-cat Jacuzzi, the aloof Luck, the happy-go-lucky Isaac and Miria, the psychotic Ladd, and the easy-going Firo, just to name a few. All of them are charming and interesting in their own way. So it’s quite easy to get invested in this group of characters.
Furthermore, the characters not only get relatively the same amount of screen time, but we also get to see their individual life before their tale converges on the same path. So in a way, we get to see the stories unfold through the eyes of different characters, each bearing a piece of the puzzle that is necessary in order to complete the whole picture.
A Unified Storyline
At the beginning of the series, one of the minor characters talks about something along the lines of when something surprising happens, there will be as many stories about the event as there are the people who witness it, and only by knowing and inspecting every single one of them can we get to the truth of what has actually happened. And that is pretty much the mantra behind Baccano!
Every character has their own goal and motivation that drives their actions and decisions, which means they basically have their own sub-plots going on at the same time. However, all of them will eventually converge into a single, unified storyline. Only by knowing and understanding those characters and their individual stories can we finally make sense of the nightmare that is about to happen aboard the Flying Pussyfoot train.
Ladd Russo wants to embark on a murder spree, Isaac and Miria want to visit their acquaintances, Jacuzzi and his gang want to rob the train, and the Lemures want to take the passengers, hostage, in exchange for the release of their leader, and many other objectives colliding at the same time. Different people with different goals are all tangled up in one massive bloody incident.
Letting the stories properly unfold through the eyes of its multiple characters while also leading them into a unified storyline at the same time is pretty much a great recipe for an ensemble cast anime. But there is one more thing that makes Baccano! clearly stands out from the rest, which is their non-linear storytelling approach.
You see, the story about numerous immortals from different walks of life accidentally meeting on board a train that leads to a bloody nightmare is already interesting enough to entice most audiences. But when we found out that the story actually unravels in a non-linear manner, that is just the perfect cherry on top.
When you watch Baccano!, the very first episode basically shows you fragments of what would happen at the end of the series. You don’t know who the characters are, and you certainly don’t know what led to such a disastrous outcome. So we spent the rest of the series tracing back the events and getting to know the life of the quirky and enigmatic characters.
This is such an interesting way to tell a story. In a way, it challenges the viewers to gather clues and tries to figure out what happens aboard the Flying Pussyfoot, before the story itself explains what happens that fateful night. And the fact that not many anime use non-linear storytelling makes this one stand out that much more.
Crafting an ensemble cast anime where the characters do not merely have the same amount of screen time, but also collide into the same storyline while also presenting everything through non-linear storytelling is, for the lack of a better word, incredibly hard to do.
That is why not many anime even dares to attempt to do anything remotely similar to that. But Baccano! managed to accomplish such a feat with flying colors. And that is why Baccano! is one of the best, if not the greatest, ensemble cast anime ever made!
Do you know any other ensemble cast anime that you think deserves to be called one of the best? Let us know in the comment section below.
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