When it comes to action-oriented anime, I could probably say that the anime series “Black Lagoon” is among the best I have seen. Based on the manga by Rei Hiroe and directed by Sunao Katabuchi, season one of the anime the series pitches existential themes, incredibly sexy femme fatales, subtle black humor, non-stop action and an ass-kicking musical score performed by Mell. This is one anime series that watching it in its original Japanese language track made for a different experience than the English dubbing. The original language captured the proper mood, tempo and balance in the flow of the story. The English dub track may have a more upbeat tone with its focus to course language, but it also loses a lot of the emotions pitched into each scenes.
I know I reviewed its second season called “The Second Barrage” almost 5 years ago during its initial release, and I thought it was best for me to re-watch the entire series (to refresh my memory) before I take on its next season of 5 OVAs called “Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail” in a few days. I do have to approach this review as if I did not see season two as of yet, and so, to make things short, the series follows the adventures or misadventures of the crew of the Lagoon shipping company. Headed by Dutch (Tsutomu Isobe), Benny (Hiroaki Hirata), Rebecca “Revy Two-Hands” (Megumi Toyoguchi) and a new recruit nicknamed “Rock” (Daisuke Namikawa) whom they take in after a melee about a disc, the quartet do very different jobs of transporting, some legal, but often illegal as they tangle with pirates, mercenaries, modern day Nazis and other shady characters.
I suppose the first thing that attracted me to the series when it first came out was the way it rendered each episode with loads of action set pieces. Being incredibly action-packed as the Lagoon company go about their jobs and business is sure to attract any anime fan, but having a competent core story in its screenplay certainly aids in the experience. Episodes 1-4 showcase the characters and how Revy and the gang make contact with Okajima (later to be known as Rock), as the screenplay makes the gun-slinging psycho-bitch named “Revy” its central focus in many ways. You get to see just how the Lagoon company work as a team and just how skilled Revy is skilled with almost any kind of firearm. By episodes 5-10, the series takes a more intricate turn as it begins to flesh out its characters and generate what many may call as the ‘bread and butter’ of the entire season. Every season has what it can call ‘best moments’ and these were found episodes 8-10 in this season. Nonetheless, the direction did a good job in fleshing out its characters, finding a balance in its themes, humor and drama.
Dutch and his companions, Revy and Benny may come light in characterization, and they are all what we can call anti-heroes. They aren’t bad guys, but rather they deal with bad guys to put food on the table, and they try to remain neutral between the mafia, triads and yakuza. I suppose this season brings more light to the Revy-Rock relationship and just how they are so different, and yet they appear to have this sort of tension between them. This first season had several exchanges between the two of them that spoke a lot of its existential themes, and just how everyone seemed to carry baggage, and they just differ in the what, the why and the how one chooses to deal with them. It also gives some subtle hints as to how the woman called “Revy Two-hands” became such a cold-calculating gun-slinger whose scent reeks of blood. Revy is indeed the most interesting of the bunch, as there was something about her which was an enigma; the short glimpses of her past life gave subtle hints, but her actions speak volumes as the viewer is privy as to how she appears to revel in killing. In one of the episodes where she takes a darker turn, she takes down a ship full of Nazis and really, the scene is not for the squeamish once you take in the message between the lines. Rock does represent the series’ moral stances, he is somewhat of a pacifist and yet, somehow he appeared to be stuck and attracted to this new way of life with the Lagoon company. Shady characters indeed who deal under a shade of gray; the Lagoon company is a group of individuals whose goal is to make a living and their side is the side where the company of the underworld does lurk.
Yes, the series is action-packed, but what made it more effective was the way the series introduced supporting characters that dictated its pace and made the action even more exciting. The head of the Russian Mafia, Balalaika (Mami Koyama) is a woman who has suffered burns and she enough power to control a group of ex-Russian military. The series takes its time to introduce her before her character becomes truly fleshed out in “The Second Barrage”. I also enjoyed the “Rip-off” church ran by nuns who are also arms-dealers. There is also a character called Chang (Tomoyuki Morikawa) who appeared to have been inspired by Chow Yun Fat’s character in “A Better Tomorrow” The gun-toting nun Eda (Jun Kurasawa) and a dagger wielding-knife throwing sex-object called Shen Hua (Yuko Sasaki) could definitely make Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez green with envy and sad that they did not think of these characters first. But really the grand-daddy of all the characters introduced in this season is Roberta (Michi Tomizawa), the blood-hound from Florencia. Hers was a tragic story that stood out in this first season, as she was someone who looked so harmless, a maid who could not clean and yet, she may be the only woman who could match Revy in skill and fighting spirit. I found it quite refreshing that the series had females as the more ruthless, stronger, and more dangerous characters than their male counterparts.
The animation may look simple and conventional but the movements were indeed very fluid. The camera angles were made to showcase the ala-"John Woo" action sequences as blood and some scenes of mild gore were present to express the intensity of the scenes. The visuals and sound were indeed impeccable and yet it showed a sense of restraint that it was careful to not allow its superficial qualities to take over the series. “Black Lagoon” may be animated, but it is definitely not for children. The series has mild nudity, drug use and mature themes that every parent may want to withhold from their kids. Gun battles, fist-fights and even wholesale murder occurs in the film, some scenes emulated Mexican stand offs as Revy may indeed be “death and hell followed with her”. Megumi Toyoguchi was amazing in the Japanese voice track, as she exemplified the enigma, the mystery and the sensuality of the anime character. The voice cast was fantastic as they had given the characters a lot of personality that I could buy into their cynical nature.
There is just nothing sexier than a femme fatale, but really “Black Lagoon” has a lot to offer than just sexy bad ass females. Themes of existentialism and injections of subtle philosophy carried its tempo that it made this season quite efficient in making its viewers drool for more. Of course, there is also something to be said for the dimensions of each character as this first season serves to tease and prepare its viewers for more excitement in season two. “Black Lagoon” is one of the more entertaining anime series as the graphic violence, visuals and musical score makes our sexy gun-slinging heroine a huge hit! Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
I'll be totally honest, at first Black Lagoon didn't seem very interesting. It wasn't my kind of anime to watch. My boyfriend was the one who kept pushing me to watch an episode. Finally, I sat down and watch the first episode, and I'm glad I did. The series seriously did kick butt. The main characters were fun, the storyline was fun, and everything about this series was interesting. There were some parts that were pretty damn creepy, and others that were horribly hillarious. There are two seasons … more
Black Lagoon is an anime series and a manga series written and illustrated by Rei Hiroe. There are currently two seasons and the third is in the making. The story follows a team of pirates/mercenaries known as Lagoon Company, who smuggle goods in and around the seas of Southeast Asia in the 1990. Their base of operations is located in the fictional city of Roanapur in Thailand, and they transport goods in the PT Boat Black Lagoon. When on land, they move around and conduct business using Benny's Plymouth Roadrunner (with tail lights from a Dodge Coronet). Lagoon Company does business with various clients, but has a particularly friendly relationship with the Russian crime syndicate Hotel Moscow. The team takes on a variety of missions—which may involve violent firefights, hand-to-hand combat, and nautical battles—in various Southeast Asian locations and when not doing much, the members of the Lagoon Company spend much of their down time at The Yellow Flag, a bar in Roanapur.