Black Lagoon is one of those rare anime titles that manage to combine a near endless succession of violence and gunplay with a gritty back-story that provides far more than just a catalyst to advance the action-sequences along. What we're concerned with in this review specifically is The Second Barrage DVD box set released April 14th from Funimation. Thanks to collaboration between Geneon Entertainment and Funimation Entertainment, the Black Lagoon series is one of several titles in which while Geneon retains the license, Funimation holds the rights to the manufacturing, marketing, sales and distribution in North America.
In terms of the Black Lagoon mythos, The Second Barrage represents the second season of the anime (2006), which was itself based on a manga written and illustrated by Rei Hiroe.
Released across four discs and packaged within an ultra-cool steel book box set, The Second Barrage consists of episodes 13-24 (on the first three discs). The fourth disc contains a host of interesting bonus material including the show's Promo Video, textless opening and closings, and Funimation trailers. The show comes in at a total runtime of 330 minutes and wears a very appropriate TV MA (mature, 17+) rating.
Language options are standard Funimation fare with both an English dub and original Japanese soundtrack (English subtitled if so inclined to turn them on).
The show, for those who have yet to experience it, has a distinctly Asian-movie quality about it. While graphic violence segments are often retained from the manga source material, the core of the show's uniqueness comes in the form of spectacular feats of physical display during the intense and frequently occurring battles. Think slow-motion back handsprings to avoid a stream of dangerously spinning blades ala John Woo.
Fantastic visuals aside, the story shows several moments of gang-driven brilliance throughout. Rather than focus on a single character's trials and tribulations, the Black Lagoon saga is known for its penchant for popping around on several seemingly disconnected story arcs, which are ultimately tied together pretty nicely. The first season introduced viewers to the Lagoon Company, which was essentially a band of mercenaries who smuggled goods in and around the waterfronts of Southeast Asia in the 1990s. As expected with a group of pirates, the team were often placed into a wide variety of scenarios which included violent firefights, hand-to-hand combat (with gleaming blades a plenty), and nautical battles that would, of late, fit right in on the headlines of the news. When not involved in death-defying blood baths, the members of Lagoon Company could often be found scheming on the stools of The Yellow Flag, a shady bar in Roanapur.
I bring up events of the past because the first season made it quite clear that while Lagoon Company does business with a wide variety of clients from many nations, they are particularly friendly relationship with a Russian crime syndicate by the name of Hotel Moscow. The Second Barrage sets up the story of a string of disturbing murders taking place where twin killers appear to be targeting members of Hotel Moscow.
Without giving too much away, the plot this time around follows three story threads that delicately dance around one another but all progress toward the greater goal of getting to the bottom of the string of murders in question.
Often criticized for its violent content and heavy existentialistic-themes, the truth about Black Lagoon is that true enjoyment is often the result of zoning out and simply enjoying the nearly endless and incredibly cool action segments (one guy can slice a fired bullet in two with a swipe of his katana- it doesn't get cooler than that).
English dub work is solid although the emotion and intensity level is superior in the original Japanese soundtrack. The only problem with viewing the subtitled version is that reading the text can often distract from the lightening-fast action taking place at any given moment.
In all, Black Lagoon The Second Barrage is a solid continuation of a well-regarded franchise with enough new twists and turns to keep viewers (both experienced and new to the show alike) glued to the set. It's not for everyone, however, as the show is littered with adult-themes, violence, and gore. Fans of action-driven story telling, scantily clad women with big guns, and action sequences that are often superior to big-budget Hollywood feature films, reserve a space on your shelf for Black Lagoon.
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Steelbook Box Set contains Episodes 13-24.
Bonus DVD loaded with extras: