One word that keeps propelling itself to the forefront of my head when I go to describe this show is: ‘refreshing’. Generally, I tend to avoid those anime which are blatantly action-oriented, because an action anime series so often means that it will be generically shounen, or be some kind of absurd mecha-combat series; very rarely can I find an action series which does not fall to those and other traps, and Black Lagoon is one of them. From its premise to its execution, the show provides thrilling action sequences, from boat and car chases, to messy fisticuffs and bullet-spamming gunfights, the show covers all ... typical action bases you could expect from hollywood, but which, for one reason or another, anime rarely delivers. Although its depiction of battle features the usual problems of character shielding and the Stormtrooper effect, overall the show is very much grounded in reality, with no magic or science-fiction elements whatsoever. I found this refreshing because, typically, the only anime you are likely to find set in present-time reality are slice-of-life, revolving around dramatic or romantic themes. So Black Lagoon was a great change of pace; a hollywood style action/adventure shoot ‘em up but with a darker and more thoughtful approach to themes and characters (as is often found in mature anime) - it’s a splendid mix.
The production values for the show are certainly excellent, some of the best to have come out of 2006. It shines during the action scenes, which are very fluid and detailed, but overall has no real flaws other than the occasional lapse in consistency. The character designs are all attractive and original. The music is not something that impressed me; there isn’t a lot of score music in the show (which is slightly refreshing given anime’s habbit of blasting violin and choir over every scene), and what it has is fitting, but not really memorable.
The characters are well defined, although I felt the focus given to the characters was rather strangely distributed; Revy and Rock (the two main characters) aside, the rest of the Black Lagoon barely garnered any attention, and their involvement was so greatly reduced by the end of the series that you had to wonder why the show was even named after the group. I am not kidding that the majority of the villains the group encountered received considerably more character exploration than either Benny or Dutch (the other two Black Lagoon members). I understand the importance of giving depth to the antagonist perspective, but I got the feeling that the original creator just kept falling in love with the antagonists he introduced, and neglected the protagonists in order to delve indulgently into the villain’s pasts and characters. The best example would be Hanzel and Gretel, the goth-loli twins and their arc. They were given so much background, and such a poignant send-off yet had so little effect on any continuing plot, or on the characters.
Revy was certainly an interesting character. I’ve seen the hardened, indifferent criminal stereotype before, but Black Lagoon takes Revy to the next level and actually glorifies her as colourfully maniacal. It makes the show fun to watch because you never know how to feel about Revy; sometimes you’ll side with her and cheer her on, or feel sorry for her, but then the next moment she’s slaughtering innocent people for enjoyment. Essentially she’s a juxtaposition of ‘cool’ and ‘reprehensible’. Rock is a character who is much easier to make a connection with, in fact I like to see him as being the representative for the audiences perspective on the show as it traverses the challenging lands of immorality. He is described in the show as being ‘in the twilight’, neither living under explicitly righteous terms, nor wholly endorsing the injustice of the underworld. This allows him to be constantly critical of the actions of those around him, but from an intelligent objective position (ie he does not decry their actions through blind morality). His criticisms of the actions Revy and others around him take make for the most profound and thematically crucial dialogue in the show, and despite his outwardly plain personality, also make him a fascinating and important presence in the show.
This brings me to the real crux of the matter: the show is really about the criminal mind, and the life of crime in all its forms. It paints an alluring portrait of the attraction to such a life, but never forgets to challenge that attraction by showing the kind of sacrifices one has to make of their humanity. It shows crime as a dangerously beautiful thing, and also shows it at its most sickening. All the exciting action is secondary to this. In conclusion, Black Lagoon should be watched by all action fans, but is a step above most shounen series due to its challenging and, at times, risqué foray into the heart of the criminal world. It is for mature audiences, because, despite having such character and being so colourful about murder, it is also very dark at times. There are flaws in the way it is paced, and the way some of the characters are neglected, but it has some very sharp dialogue, and is regardlessly entertaining thrill
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Japanese: BLACK LAGOON
English: Black Lagoon
Status: Finished Airing
Aired: Apr 9, 2006 to Jun 25, 2006
Premiered: Spring 2006
Broadcast: Sundays at 02:35 (JST)
Duration: 24 min. per ep.
Rating: R - 17+ (violence & profanity)
Score: 8.031 (scored by 441633441,633 users)
1 indicates a weighted score.
2 based on the top anime page. Please note that 'Not yet aired' and 'R18+' titles are excluded.
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