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Black Lagoon [Anime] Review: Guns, Drugs, and F**king Torpedoes

Posted on January 28, 2013 AT 11:43am

Let’s start off with a few words of warning, because this is one of few adult-themed animes that certainty requires it. Do not watch this if you are easily offended. The characters toss around racial slurs and f-bombs like STDs. Do not watch this if smoking anything disgusts you. Every characters smokes cigars, cigarettes, or both. And above all, do not watch this you are not a fan of violence. Lots and lots of violence. Every episode involves a shoot out that could put old westerns to shame.

Black Lagoon is based of a manga series by the same name. The manga, to my knowledge, is on-going. The anime though, consists of two seasons, twenty four episodes total, twelve episodes in each season. Not too shabby. The first season is just called Black Lagoon, while the second is is Black Lagoon: Second Barrage. According to my quick research, the first season generally follows the manga, while the second season it’s own thing. That’s quite common for animes based on on-going manga series.

The story starts off with a bang, and sets the tone for the rest of the series. Rokuro Okajima is a Japanese businessman vacationing on the South China Sea. He has been sent out by his company to deliver some secret documents. Our story begins when the company’s yacht is captured by a small band of rowdy pirates called the Lagoon Company. Lagoon Company takes the documents and then also takes Okajima, hoping to get a ransom on top of the black mail money their Russian Mafia employers will already be giving them. Unfortunately, Okajima’s company decides he’s disposable along with the dirty documents and hire a squad of South African mercenaries to kill him along with Lagoon Company. While fighting to stay alive, he makes acquaintance with his captors. Their leader is Dutch, an African-American former marine who only cares about his company’s reputation, his employees’ well-being, their torpedo boat, the Black Lagoon, and of course, the bottom line. There’s the trigger-happy Revy, a Chinese-American NYC cop turned manic criminal and not a woman to upset. And finally there’s Benny, a graduate of the University of Central Florida and Lagoon Company’s resident computer hacker.

This is Revy. She’s kind of a badass.

After killing the South African mercenaries, Lagoon Company delivers their goods to their Russian employers. Okajima, realizing his company never cared about him, quits his job, takes the name given to him by Dutch, “Rock”, and joins Lagoon Company. From here the story follows Rock in his misadventures through the city of Roanapur, a fictional city in Thailand where crime reigns supreme and gangs are constantly vying for power, and the various jobs he takes on with the Lagoon Company.

The glass is censoring the awesome for your viewing pleasure.

The jobs make up the story, but it’s the characters that make it so much fun to watch. The main character, Rock is one of the few who doesn’t wield a gun, and given his background, seems to be the most out-of-place of the rambunctious bunch. Rock had a somewhat normal childhood, and after graduating college was immediately hired by a top company, starting his way up the cooperate ladder. At first, Rock is shocked and often horrified by the nefarious practices the Lagoon Company takes part in just to get by. In one epsiode, they are sent on a salvage mission to loot a very old German U-boat. The boat is littered with the bones of Nazis, and of course a lot of Nazi artifacts. Rock sees the boat as an undersea grave, and when Revy starts to grab at the iron crosses laying around, he asks her to stop and show respect. He shows he’s still innocent and unwilling to give in to the criminal life he’s chosen. Revy, though, explains to him that things are things no matter who they once belonged too, and things are always worth money and thus she has every right to take said things to make a living, in so many words.

Insert Nazi Joke here.

Revy and Rock’s relationship is surprisingly tame, given the nature of the show. It was actually Revy who originally invited Rock to join the Lagoon Company’s crew, however soon after she starts to regret that decision, realizing how innocent Rock really is, and at times, she shows a small amount of remorse for taking his innocence. Given all the drugs and guns in the show, it was a refreshing miracle the two didn’t end up in bed together. More animes should follow this example. Not every mis-matched pair needs to end up in sloppy kisses between the sheets. The two of them hardly ever show any sign of a romantic relationship, though it obvious by the end they do care for each other as friends. Even better, the show actually poked fun at that fact. One of Revy’s criminal friends, Eda, asks if the two are sleeping together, to which Revy replies with something along the lines of  “F**k no!” She likes swearing. A lot.

When Revy isn’t swearing, she’s shooting with her custom twin Beretta 92FS pistols. Revy is often depicted as being a manic, sadistic killer. Her ambidextrous style of shooting has earned her the nickname “Two Hand” among the Roanapur gangs and she has few rivals that can match her speed and power. After Rock joins, her character changes. While at first, as was mentioned, she doesn’t like the idea of him being on jobs. However as the two characters grow, her attraction to him causes her to be protective, focusing her manic tendencies and giving her a sense of resolve. For instance, a gangster named Chaka beats up Rock, and Revy then goes on a small rampage to get revenge.

It seems the one person who can keep Revy from destroying the world is Dutch. In the anime, Dutch’s background is never really given, not that it’s needed. He pilots the company’s boat, an ex-US Navy PT Boat, equipped with torpedoes and plenty of guns. Dutch appears to be an old war vet given his demeanor and the way he’s able to always reign Revy in from a rampage. Dutch is among the friendliest gunslingers in the show, and tries to avoid fights when possible, preferring to negotiate with clients and issue orders to Revy. However, when the situation requires it, he makes quick work with his Remington 870 Marine Magnum shotgun and Smith & Wesson 629 revolver.

He’s a gangster, bitch.

Another friendly face in the Lagoon Company crew is Benny, the crew’s resident computer geek. Like Rock, Benny was recruited by Revy. Apparently he really pissed off the FBI and some local mafia, so Revy saved his ass and they’ve been friends ever since. Benny handles all the crew’s technology needs, managing their communications and computers. Like Rock, he doesn’t engage in gun fights and also doesn’t own a gun. Benny’s a little more street-savvy then Rock, having joined the crew only two years prior the story’s start.

What a drag.

Though the story centers around the Lagoon Company’s crew, they’re nothing more then a delivery company. It’s their shady employers that really tell the story. Lagoon Company is primarily employed by Hotel Moscow, Roanapur’s resident Russian Mafia branch. Hotel Moscow is lead by Balalaika, a former Soviet Army captain who turned to the mafia after the USSR fell. Balalaika is well known for her ruthless army tactics, and indomitable leadership. She is noted as being of the few people in Roanapur to have Revy’s respect, and she also seems to hold Rock in high regard, often relying on his business knowledge. The one thing I found odd about Balalaika, and the rest of her crew for that matter, was their lack of an accent in the English dubs. It didn’t have to be a totally racist, stereotypical accent, but the woman was full-on Russian mob boss and sounded too much like an American with a very faint accent. It just seemed odd to me. That’s not to say the voice acting was bad, because, as is usually the case with Funimation, the dubbing was excellent.

Business as usual.

The interesting thing about the series is there was no clear “antagonist” and “protagonist”, since the show revolves around criminals just trying to eek out a living in their small corner of the world. The characters of the Lagoon Company, Revy especially, are played up more in the anti-hero role, in constant battle with those whom they had managed to piss off. Honestly, that was something I found to be very enjoyable about the series. There wasn’t some idiot criminal mastermind trying to ruin Lagoon’ Company’s day that they had to continually stop. It was always about a job they had to do so they could have money for booze, food and bullets. Lagoon Company is never depicted as being over the top heroes, and the first series makes a point of showing they’re criminals, but still human. Oh, so very human. The second season, on the other hand, concentrated more the jobs and stories behind the jobs, providing a different view on the story as a whole.

The series, though was not without its flaws. While Second Barrage concentrated more on the jobs, this also meant sacrificing character development. The only two characters then ended up with any real development by the end was Rock and Revy, where as in the first season, development was more evenly distributed. The swearing and shooting also got to be a bit much at times. Revy would shoot out an entire building in a split second and cuss out anyone for menial reasons, it was awesome and fun to watch, but also very excessive, and at times did little to move the story and character development along. I don’t mind f-bombs and whatnot, but that doesn’t mean they need to be said every other second.

Overall, it was a awesome series to watch. Not something to see with small children around, or for anyone who is easily offended, but still fun. It had its flaws, but the kick ass characters more then made up for it.

Summary: A shoot-em-up anime for the inner criminal in all of us.

  • The Good:The characters. All of them. From the manic Revy to the cowardly Rock and all the colorful gangsters in between. They all made for a dirty, gritty, fun bullet-fest.
    The Bad: Entire scenes of pure cussing and shooting really did nothing for the story and character development, though they were admittedly still fun to watch.
    The Ugly: N/A.

Score: 8.5

James Conrad is a Pokemon fanboy, lover of the arts and is forever broke.
Tweets: @JRCnrd

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