Within Thailand is Roanapur, a depraved, crime-ridden city where not even the authorities or churches are untouched by the claws of corruption. A haven for convicts and degenerates alike, the city is notorious for being the center of illegal activities and operations, often fueled by local crime syndicates.
Enter Rokurou Okajima, an average Japanese businessman who has been living a dull and monotonous life, when he finally gets his chance for a change of pace with a delivery trip to Southeast Asia. His business trip swiftly goes downhill as Rokurou is captured by a mercenary group operating in Roanapur, called Black Lagoon. The group plans to use him as a bargaining chip in negotiations which ultimately failed. Now abandoned and betrayed by his former employer, Rokurou decides to join Black Lagoon. In order to survive, he must quickly adapt to his new environment and prepare himself for the bloodshed and tribulation to come.
A non-stop, high-octane thriller, Black Lagoon delves into the depths of human morality and virtue. Witness Rokurou struggling to keep his values and philosophies intact as he slowly transforms from businessman to ruthless mercenary.
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
"This is way more entertaining than Hollywood is ever going going to be!" truer words like that have barely been spoken in anime in my opinion, and with the shit that's out now, I'm inclined to believe them.
STORY: Enter Rokuro Okajima, a typical meek japanese office worker of a large corperation who's the epitome of ordinary with a life so boring, bland, and not so envious with complains such as his boss kicking his ass, but his bleak life style comes to an end when a business trip cruise to South East Asia turns into hell as a group of modern day pirates take him
hostage and gives him much more to complain about than just a kick to the bum.
After a wild couple of bullet-filled days with said pirates, he decides to join up out of the feeling of excitement he experienced and the way his company has treated him like a worthless throw away and takes up the name, "Rock".
Rock's fellow crewmates include Benny the mechanic, computer specialist, and researcher, Dutch the calm, easygoing leader, and Revy the merciless, sadistic, foul mouthed gunner who's skill is almost unparalleled, she also goes by the name of "Two hands" cause of how she normally uses two guns in gun fights, heck any kind of fight.
The story of Black Lagoon is mostly episodic with a few arcs that normally last about three to four episodes, but the lack of on ongoing plot continues on towards the second season, yet it's no problem at all, though it would've been nice if there were some that involved more development of the main characters (Besides just Revy and Rock).
The anime follows the gang as they try to complete jobs so they can earn a living, just like the main cast in Cowboy Bebop except these outlaws usually get their jobs done.
And during their jobs they face against a wide array of foes including gangs, nazis, and several eccentric foes such as a nearly unstoppable maid, and allies like a taiwanese assassin, with the main cast in nearly endless gun fights. With most of their requests coming from Balalaika, a leader of a russian crime syndicate "Hotel Moscow."
The anime has a some what crude and black sense of humor, with mostly excessive cursing and yells and screams such as "I'll rip you a new asshole!"
But probably the funniest stuff is the insults, especially when Revy meets a certain assassin near the end of the anime, the insults bounce back at each other like a well written conversation.
Truthfully the anime might have ended up becoming a mindless bullet hungry action anime, and ultimately making it another waste of potential along with many others that have stacked up in the pile, if not for the characters, specificly the interaction between them.
Especially between Rock and Revy, through the daily dangers and learning about Revy's past that was full of unbearable hardships that bulids up to her character, Rock learns that his partners are almost the complete opposite of him, especially during one episode where the tension between he and Revy becomes so deadly guns are involved.
These interactions are tense, nerve wrecking, and may just be much more entertaining to watch than the fights, which is unique for a heavy action such as this.
But slowly and surely, Rock starts to become used to this new way of life he chose, and begins to fit in, yet still is faced with his decision, and is constantly asked, Is this world right for him? or is he simply just an outsider and nothing more?
ANIMATION: Great animation, displaying exciting gun fights, and little still frames with an overall dark feel to the series.
Good character designs being very diversed. The anime sometimes uses CG animation. but only during chase scenes in the vehicles, which thankfully doesn't look out of place that only the whiniest of nit pickers would complain about.
SOUND: Noticeable background music that fits in with most of what's going on at the moment, especially with the ending theme which starts playing during the anime and it helps to indicate whenever an episode comes to an end, and really feels a perfect song that will make you think back to the episode you've watched, and it has like a mysterious yet calm feeling to it, then ending with a rock conclusion that reminds you what the anime is (mostly) about.
The opening theme, Red faction, is an awesome theme, despite it being in engrish.
The english dub is by Ocean (Known for the dub of Death Note and Inuyasha), and is a one of a kind dub where it would feel weird to listen to in japanese, all due to the overall setting of the series.
But the stand out performance (Among a cast of great voice actors) is the voice actor of Revy, giving that crude attitude of Revy a great convincing performance and just makes every scene with her just entertaining to even just listen to.
+ Excellent characters and character interaction.
+ An incredible english dub that even makes the japanese audio seem out of place.
+ Good opening and ending theme music, good back ground music.
+/- Very violent and action oriented. / May be too violent for some.
- Lack of a continuing plot.
- Not too much of character development.
This anime just barely shy's away from getting a nine overall.
Each form of media entertainment has their crap, with more so than others, but it's anime like this is the reason way I choose to stick with this media.
And I guarantee you'll feel like a pansy if you watch something moe or fluffy after leaving the lagoon.
*Quick word on season two*
Season two is pretty much what I feared what Black Lagoon would mostly be about, absurdness with a penchant for wasting so many bullets that I'd feel sorry for the janitor who would try to clean it all up, but ends up getting killed by a stray bullet fired for no reason.
Not that I'm trying to say that it isn't entertaining, but just not more of the same gun and smoke. 7/10 for season two.
- - - - - [ Black Lagoon Season 1 :: Ep-12 ] - - - - -
- [ Intro ] -
Black Lagoon. That's a name that easily caught my eye. After reading the brief review, I said "why not?". And so I found a great anime that would get me hooked for quite a long time! And it definitely deserves rewatch! On with the review!
- [ Animation: Good quality and well-detailed -> 9 ] -
Let's set things clear now. Black Lagoon (BL) has one of the best animations i've ever seen! If you pay attention to details, you will like BL. The animators have
invested great effort in creating detailed backgrounds and characters. OMG! You can even see the demin texture on Revy's short sometimes! Now, another thing that amazed me is that both the characters and background are animated at the same time. I know, this sounds simple but no! These two are almost independent of each other but even them, you will see the characters interacting with the backgrounds in a number of ways. When the characters are being shot at, notice the number of bullet-holes on the walls increasing. Notice the gun smoke that dissipates when the characters walk. All these details make BL's animation great and lively.
The character motions are smooth and natural, even during the very fast-paced action scenes. Even then, the background does not lose its details. On one scene on a ship, you can see the rivets as Revy is fighting! Quite a number of details to watch out for. The play on lights and atmosphere renders a great effect too. The animators definitely knew what they were doing.
As usual, I don't pay much attention to sound. NOPE! Here, it got my full attention! The Opening (OP) and Ending (ED) credits music is very good, specially the OP. It really suits the mood of the series in my opinion. Now for the ending, you will notice that the music starts within the episode, starting at a very low hum to gradually attain its normal level as the episode ends. It's a superb blend. It's the first anime I know that uses this technique and I can say I'm impressed. It was a good idea.
Next, the in-series music is nonetheless amazing! It really enlivens the scenes to their respective paces. In dramatic situations, you will get the appropriate music. In fast-paced scenes, expect hard rock or similar. It was a good choice of music for the series. For once, the sound of an anime caught my attention. I am looking foreward to a Black Lagoon OST.
- [ Story: No real plotline ->7 ] -
Story? Don't expect any in BL! There is none. BL is a collection of short stories, pieced together to show you the lives of the characters at a point in time. There is no plot, not even in the second season (Second Barrage) of Black Lagoon.
However, the short stories are very good and definitely deserves watching if you enjoy action and gun-fights. They place the main characters in a variety of situations in which their work places them.
I have not introduced the story yet! Sorry. So, Black Lagoon is about a man, Okajima Rokuro, who is entrusted the mission of delivering a data disk to some people by his company. The man is travelling on a ship when the latter is attacked by pirates (not really pirates but anyway..). After some time, we are told that the pirates are after the data disk carried by Rokuro. The pirates, a man-and-woman team will eventually get the disk, but also take Rokuro as hostage to get some ransom from his company. However, the data disk contains sensitive data about the company, and merceneries are sent after the pirates to destroy them. The demand for ransom is immediately ignored and Rokuro is considered dead. Here begins the life of Rock, formerly Rokuro, as a delivery agent on the Black Lagoon speedboat, together with gun-slinger Revy, captain Dutch and computer whiz Benny.
As you can see, the plot is fairly interesting. You will soon see that delivering goods, specially illegal stuff, is not a safe business. Often, the characters are put in life-threatening situations and major gunfights resulting, specially with battle-maniac Revy around. Rock is sort of the negociator for Black Lagoon Company, negociating terms of business and often toning down conflicts. We are also presented with the clients of BLC, namely the Russian Mafia boss Miss Balalaika and Mr Chan, leader of the triads or even the Church of Violence.
The short stories are definitely worth watching, and seldom offers time for boredom. Watch if you need something fast-paced and energetic. There were no nudity, although some exposure was shown. Violence? BL is filled of it. Bad language? Same. Humour? Yes. Crude jokes and black humour is there for you. So, it's not an anime for young people.
- [ Characters: Development & Variety ->9 ] -
This is where the fun lies in BL, the characters. Each of them is so very unique in their own way that you feel that they really possess emotions. They fight for their own causes, have their own motivations which sound very heroic or plausible. They have their own strengths and weaknesses and can each be liked or hated by the viewer. The main characters of BL are each well-developed, this being one of the great parts of BL. The main characters are:
Revy: She is the gun of Lagoon Company who gets everybody out of trouble. Apparently she does not like Rock, but what she hates is his attitude. In fact, she will often go out of her way to help others and specially Rock. She is an expert when it comes to fighting techniques, who can single-handedly eliminate every enemy, armed with her twin-guns, Cutlass. Sometimes, she is so addicted to fights that she would go berserk. No one is spared then, not even her crew, as Rock saw for himself in an episode.
Dutch: He is the captain of the Lagoon speedboat. Tactial, he never does things rashly. He seems to be African, something rare in Japanese animes. He is equally talented when it comes to guns. However, he prefers to avoid fights when possible.
Benny: The computer genius of Lagoon. Not much is known about him. He never fights but is an expert getaway driver.
Rock: The newest member of Lagoon. Although he never fights, he is an expert in negotiations and at pacifying Revy, often at the cost of blows! He always try to hold back Revy and has a strong sense of justice. He will try to protect anyone and everyone, something which exasperates Revy.
Balalaika: The woman who controls Hotel Moscow. She was an ex-millitary and is very proficient when it comes to wars of any sort. She also commands a small army which often comes in play in BL.
As you can see, the characters of BL are varied. You have to see for yourself to enjoy BL. I can't say more.
- [ Value and Enjoyment: Very good -> 9 ] -
If you want action, and specially fast-paced action, BL is for you. But since there is no real plot, many viewers will be turned away. I, for my part, really enjoyed BL and even rewatched the whole series a couple of times, just for the action and butt-kicking. It kinda pumps up the adrenalin, if you see what I mean. The series, being short, is easy to rewatch without severe boredom. The small stories furthur eliminate boredom, and plotholes.
- [ Conclusion ] -
If you are looking for something good to watch, check out Black Lagoon. If you like it, there is a second season with 12 episodes called Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage. The situation is nearly same for Second Barrage. It's not really a continuation but just more short stories. There is no ending to BL, and I don't even know if there would be a real story. Some people have been speculating that the real Black Lagoon has not yet started and that we were merely watching the prequel. That would be the longest prequel I've ever seen, with 24 episodes! :S
I've got nothing more to say. Just go watch BL. The lack of a plotline made me give BL an overall 8. Apart from that, there are no major flaws. You won't regret it, in my opinion. And thanks for reading!
With a genre that deals with a lot of action set-pieces, a show of this specific genre is usually bogged down into mindless entertainment territory with absolutely no substance to it at all. There have been in the past many action films, and TV shows that have shown to become competent in the history of film-making, examples in mind are the works of John Woo, Michael Mann, and Quentin Tarantino. But what if I told you that there is an anime show that encompasses everything that is great about those three directors and succeeds on every possible level? The show in question is Black Lagoon,
a show that showcases a blend of mindless Hollywood action and juvenile humor in the best possible sense of the word juvenile.
Black Lagoon's story is mainly focused on our four main characters and their adventures together through plot arcs that tie in together through the chemistry that helps make them grow with each other. There isn't much of a deep, complex plot to behold in the show; it's about as cliché as any Seinen action show in the past decade. That may seem like a negative when you put it that way, but sometimes clichés are used to good effect when you have competent writing to flesh out your characters and set-pieces. Black Lagoon is a definite exception to this rule; it manages to pull off even the most ridiculous plot arcs that could easily be looked at with eye rolls and as a laughable premise. One glorious example is just how dark and witty the dialogue writing is that it hits the mark on every scene it creates within the framework of the show. It gives Black Lagoon a spark of creativity in its witty black humor that creates its unique personality to deviate itself from other shows like it, in terms of writing. It never gets old because it's not repetitive in how it's delivered by the characters sparingly and not done on almost every scene in each episode, it makes the jokes work more effectively with clarity and sensibility.
Now when you talk about the characters in Black Lagoon, the one character you must acknowledge the most is the one and only Revy. She's the prototypical "girl with guns" character that spouts off adolescent language and a dark past that shadows over the overall tone of the show to not only to become a dark comedy but a dark one altogether. So how is Revy different from any other female character in a "girls with guns" show? She does have similar characteristics that could be pointed out as being standard or generic from other characters like her. But it's because Revy is Black Lagoon. Her presence in the world of the show is very charismatic and alluring that demands your attention by not only her design, which is by far one of the sexiest I've seen in a long time, but by her character background and her hilarious dialogue. As I said before about the writing, the writers give Revy a ton of material for her to shine on-screen when she is either going into these well put together action scenes and her funny, snarky remarks at any of the characters. There is even a Tarantino kind of quality to her where she is this sick woman who only cares for money and violence, but she's also portrayed in a sympathetic light when she explains why her mentality is the way it is from her troubled past. They don't necessarily go in too much further in this season, but regardless it is a high starting point to a fantastic character.
With Revy out-of-the-way, the other characters may not have as much depth or even characterization as our larger than life heroine, but that certainly does not mean that they are wrong in any way shape or form. Our main hero, nicknamed Rock, does have some of the same levels of charisma as Revy and how he doesn't come across as a weak-willed character as most characters of his archetype typically are. It isn't as if Revy's presence overshadows his own because he doesn't have much of a personality, Rock carries the show by himself quite well and even together with Revy. The chemistry between the two is pretty unique in how they always are at odds with each other because of how different they follow life, but in the end, they still view each as part of a team whether they want to or not. No scene involves them immediately becoming friends overnight, the show takes it's time to build them up as a team that has to trust each other, or they might end up in a bad situation, and it's written intelligently by this very fact. The two other people in the group named Dutch and Benny aren't given much to go around as complex characters, but this does not automatically make them evil characters, what little background they bring on the table for them is still much appreciated in how they even offer some great scenes with each other.
The antagonists are hit and miss in how little depth some of them have when they seem. One, in particular, involves an army of Aryan neo-nazis that look more like just fodder characters that don't get a lot of deep characterization that, while I can forgive it, given how it's portrayed in an action show, it would've been more than what it already was. For the one that does hit the mark is oddly enough a Roberta maid who is given some context for her intentions on being who she is. The show handles it very well despite her strange terminator-like persona that wasn't given much explanation. Then again the show is nutty enough to let it pass as just another Black Lagoon style of logic put in for good measure.
For the style of animation that Madhouse put together back their swell days, it still definitely holds up as a great visual treat. The action scenes are done with absolutely great visual flair and technicality that are inspired by the works of John Woo, as I've mentioned in the beginning. Although not perfectly seamless in how slick the characters move, it is nonetheless spectacular to see how the animators put their hearts and souls to not cut any corners whatsoever in detailing every aspect of Revy and the rest of the environment on the sights of her gun. The violence and carnage in Black Lagoon are not necessarily as gory or blood-splattering as many would argue; there is no question that it celebrates its carnage, but it's not done in a way that is so blatant or in-your-face where it gets tedious or loses its momentum in how effective each shot counts. There are some that do fit in that class, but for the most part, it handles its violence with nice precision and intelligence that make every scene brimming with fascinating acts of carnage that is more exciting to watch than just rolling your eyes in boredom. There are even some elements of neo-noir in the case of how it handles the violence how it cuts immediately away from Revy shooting a man in the head at close range; not to mention the show has some great camera angles that make the scenes have some profound impact to them.
The music is about what you would expect out of an action show like Black Lagoon. Standard rock and metal music that isn't very memorable to even try to buy an album for since it's just there to fill up the show's audio production and nothing more, not to mention the shooting and the characters shouting over the music doesn't help either. It does its job well to create a fun dark humorous vibe to the action scenes. The voice acting, however, is what makes the dialogue spice up to new heights. I've only listened to the Japanese voice actors in Black Lagoon, and they all own their roles. The one to mention out the rest is Megumi Toyoguchi who does a helluva performance as Revy by giving her a tremendous sarcastic essence to her voice that makes her so alluring and almost sexual. It fits the design of Revy so perfectly that Megumi almost becomes Revy just through her voice alone. Daisuke Namikawa, as usual, does an excellent job voicing Rock and doesn't seem like a novice compared to Megumi's performance, as do the rest of the cast members with some that aren't noteworthy to discuss.
For what it's worth, Black Lagoon is about as silly and stupid as one could get out of an action show that would even make Steven Seagal blush, not that Black Lagoon quality-wise is comparable to his films, just from a contextual point-of-view. Stupid is usually used to describe something without context or substance when relating a story or character in any medium, but if the show is self-aware of the fact that it is and takes advantage of this aspect. It is clear that there are some genuinely serious moments found in Black Lagoon, even though they are effective in achieving the dark tone that it is known for. Even with that said, it doesn't seem out-of-place or distracting from the humor of the show because of how greatly paced the narrative of all the arcs. All of these are what make Black Lagoon easily one of the most entertaining and hard-hitting action shows that treats its audience as grown adults and creates some of the most well-choreographed action courtesy of Madhouse; one terrible aiming bad guy at a time.