Black Lagoon – Anime Review

Japanese Title: BLACK LAGOON

 

Related: Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage (sequel – included in review)

Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail (further sequel OVA – included in review)

Similar: Cowboy Bebop

Jormungand

Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom

Baccano!

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Action

Length: 12 episodes (season 1), 12 episodes (season 2), 5 episodes (OVA)

 

Positives:

  • Off the funking chain action.
  • Unrestrained characters.
  • Excellent dub work.

Negatives:

  • Several action scenes go beyond suspension of disbelief.
  • Doesn’t blend comedy and dramatic moments as well as it could.

Cigarette burning between her lips, a string of vulgarities spewing forth, Revy fires her twin Cutlasses into a poor unfortunate soul. He doesn’t stand a chance. And there you have it, Black Lagoon in a nutshell.

Black Lagoon begins with the kidnapping of Japanese businessman Rokuro by the Lagoon Company of mercenaries for the secret disk he carries. However, the company he works for abandons him to die. This ordeal opens his eyes to the dreary corporate life he lives, and he decides to stay with the Lagoon Company, forsaking his past and name. As the liberated ‘Rock,’ he accompanies Revy, Dutch (pilot of the Black Lagoon ship), and Benny (tech) as they take on various missions – cargo transport, salvage recovery, guarding, destruction, etc.

Though the narrative sets up Rock as the protagonist with nothing to lose and trying to find a place in life, Revy is the true star. Without her, Black Lagoon wouldn’t be half as fun to watch. I love her foul-mouthed attitude; you talk smack, you get capped with a vulgar cherry on top. She is at her best when paired with her weapon-dealing nun of a friend who chews gum all day.

The action is fun, fast paced, and explosive, though it does push the boundaries of belief at times, even for fiction. Several scenes have characters walk through a hail of gunfire or they stand static and never take a hit. One scene in particular stands out in memory: a thousand bullets miss a stationary woman from a few metres away, and then, without aiming and using a long barrelled gun like a pistol, she fires three shots and gets three kills. It’s a bit ridiculous and distinctively uncool; it cheapens a character to have to cheat in such a manner for them. Excluding these few scenes, the action is good.

Setting aside the action, Black Lagoon does occasionally take a breather to let us meet these characters. We delve into their pasts and their philosophies. And while many of these scenes are interesting – most conflict within the team stems from Revy – they are dissonant to the comedy and over-the-top nature found in the remainder of the series. The heavy moments and comedy didn’t blend with the skill found in the likes of Full Metal Panic. The problem, I think, stems from the transitions; it suddenly jumps from one end to the other between scenes, almost feeling as though I had changed anime. However, watching in English reduces the gap, as their personalities are stronger in the dub and carry over between the comedy and drama, reducing separation. Furthermore, the superior second season doesn’t suffer as much as the first from this issue.

The second season is a notch above the first mainly because of the villains. Season one’s villains are rather typical – gangster, weapon dealer, etc. – but the second season brings out some truly twisted types – the twin children’s story is particularly disgusting; they left me disturbed, and thus, engaged.

Black Lagoon is the rock ’n’ roll of anime: partying, guns, foul mouths, smashing things for no reason, flipping cars, sex and alcohol. It is high action and a good deal of fun.

Art – High

Good art with nice animation to match the hectic visual pace.

Sound – Very high

The Japanese is fine, but the English takes it to a whole new level with accents, language to make a sailor blush, and much stronger personalities. There is no contest between the two languages. The rock music is jammin’, but it’s probably best not to realise the OP is supposed to be English.

Story – High

An ordinary Japanese businessman joins a mercenary group to find a purpose in life. High action and vulgarities throughout. The story could have married the heavy and light better.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: An easy recommendation for action fans. However, if you aren’t going to watch in English, it probably isn’t worth your time; the original doesn’t have half the personality or quality writing of the dub.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive:

Positive Recommended English Voice TrackStellar Voice Acting

Negative: None

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