Themes: girls with guns, mafia, mercenaries, pirates
Plot Summary: Okajima Rokuro is a normal, abused Japanese businessman… who get’s his lucky break as he’s sent by his company to the tropical seas of Eastern China to deliver a disc…only his boat gets hijacked by a band of mercenaries that were hired to steal it. “Rock” (as he is newly dubbed by his captors) catches the interest of the only female merc “Revy”, who takes him captive for ransom. Things get complicated really fast for Rock, and he ends up becoming one of the mercenaries known as Black Lagoon. From there, life takes a whole new meaning for Rock and his crew-mates, something that Rock is finding hard to define…..and possibly worse for Revy herself…
Story – 3.8
Black Lagoon is a fleshly, exciting bit of fun, all wrapped under a sad premise of the undeniable draw the underworld has. The show offers us whatever sensual and exciting adventure you want to go: From submarine treasure thieves, to counterfeit makers, to punks and pimps, the life in the safe-haven city of Roanapur is full of vibrant and dubious characters. Each mini arc is fresh and I felt well strung along.
Our main character (since Hero would assume too much) Rokuro Okajima goes by the name ‘Rock’, and while he’s excited at being useful for once in his adult life with a mercenary team called Black Lagoon, (something Rock was forced into) he can’t help but be bothered by the apathy its members show to innocents involved in their contracts. So Rock sets out to change people and hopefully Black Lagoon itself. I thought this was a good beginning arc plot, and set the tone with all the excitement and gunshots that you come to love the gang for.
My first impression, however, can’t go very far without mentioning the language and then the content. Lets face it, there’s a lot and alone earns the MA rating. If I had to describe Black Lagoon in a few words, it’d be crass, sexy good fun. Meaning there is a LOT of cussing in the series, something that may get really annoying, and did for me (irony is the SUB version has less in translation). There is such a plethora of the words early on, that one might even say the script writers hadn’t heard of a dictionary or a thesaurus. As the series extends beyond the initial arc, though, the cussing calms a little—at least enough to explain the constant dropping F-bombs.
While the explanation is nice and dandy, a lot of what is spoken is rather crude—if not graphic.
Another error that steals from the show is the introduction of some partial nudity. One arc has us going in a pimp’s “Gentlemen’s Club”. No reasons for it, accept maybe to prove to Revy that Rock is a possible romantic interest, after all? Even if that is the reasoning it is pretty weak. Not to say that this is all that occurred. We are even “entertained” with a shower scene with Revy (all but exposed vividly) which served nothing but as fan-service. Even though they were rare, it was unacceptable and steals from the characters involved.
As we turn back to the story, it turns out the woman Revy had a nasty childhood which resulted in her killing her father out of disgust at first opportunity. Her coarse talk and senseless lust for slaughter are really the walls she puts up to avoid the guilt and vanity of her choices.
I must say, it is this part of Revy’s life where Black Lagoon jumps to being pretty good. The arc in the submarine— where Revy can’t handle talking about the reasons she kills, only to snap in despair when she gets above on that Nazi ship (great episode)— was pretty cool.
Revy, as I mentioned, has an issue with being stuck in this awful cycle of murdering. She sees Rock as a possible way out of it, and at various points we are humored with a brief mentioning of where her heart is. Even though we are following Rock, the show is really about Revy, and therefore does not complete her journey in this series.
And as the show progresses we find Revy’s hope in Rock is perhaps very much misguided. Rock is confused as to how justice and goodness are supposed to differ!
This unfortunate haziness blurs the lines, and when you consider the moral ineptitude of Rock to distance himself from Revy (albeit, Revy and Rock suck at the playboy game…big whoop), you realize very quickly your watching two stumbling fools. Rock just ‘hasn’t had the experience yet’, as Revy correctly points out…that’s all that really separates them!
Thus Black Lagoon is a moral tragedy, where Rock at the beginning episodes thinks he has the moral high ground, only to ultimately slide down to naively settling on “trying” to eliminate the need for killing in the (political oasis)…as if somehow by Revy just not killing anyone can magically heal the sins she has endured and inflicted on her self. This naive world view slowly is ripped apart for Rock, and flies full force in his face when we get to the last arc involving Rock’s homeland, Japan.
The ending arc was perhaps the most interesting: Rock is trying to save a young princess, from a competing clan in Japan, who doesn’t realize the Russians who she hires wants to kill everyone out of blood-lust.
Rocks insists, at this point, his hobby is to save people here, betraying the despair that he is going through while he watches everyone slowly get killed. For this crowd he has become accustomed to cares for not for life, and ultimately seems to drag him down an ever ending spiral to death.
Black Lagoon won’t offer a very satisfactory ending because it’s just part of the journey for Rock, and at this point the author is more concerned with leaving Rock in the dark for now than rectifying the deepest wounds our two main characters must deal with (namely, whether they want to return to an innocent life through repentance).
Thus overall, aside from the lackluster script in the beginning, Black Lagoon scores solidly even if its negated for its objectionable content.
Emotional Draw – 3.7
Generally, I wouldn’t ascribe greatness to Black Lagoon here. it does know action well, but mostly the empathetic seems are played out ok…not masterfully. Some of this could be explained in the early portion of the series on dialogue (the lack of originality) and the rest on the moods just not being let settled in enough.
That being said, whenever Revy is concerned, you can expect an excellent presentation, and I believe made up a lot of ground. Whether its seeing her snap at Rock when he hits a nerve of hers, or just contemplating her misery and longing for a little of the piece of sanity that Rock has managed to retain, those scenes came across very nicely.
Humor is somewhat limited, or frankly crass material (think Revy looking at those “security” tapes of that weirdo pimp owner). Most of the humor though is around someone biting the dust, so it does feel appropriately dark for a tale that is tragic.
Much of the best dialogue occurs after the initial episodes, (which, not surprisingly, is after they learned what writing scripts is about) between Revy and Rock. Kinda like a couples love spat, it was great fodder.
Since we are on the subject, romance is more implied through the show than shown, since we are often treated to Revy’s being asked by her weird CIA agent friend and rival Eda why she hasn’t tasted the fruit with Rock—and that’s the general extent of it. It is clear that in this one area (big whoop as I said), that Revy is terribly bad at love and Rock is oblivious too, so Revy’s frustration comes off pretty humorous.
Will Revy ever find her refuge from her life? Not in this show, but we do see a little of her envy of Rock’s “innocent” nature, and it was appealing enough for a lot of empathy.
Remember those twins? Weirdest arc that actually hit some great points, and I felt hit very well emotionally and was very sad. Seeing that foolish girl get shot in the head, after she rejects Rock’s plea to leave the road she’s choosing, hit the spot nicely and brought a nice slice of justice into play.
Favorite scenes include Revy coming out of that Submarine looking like the Devil as she mows down Nazis…man, don’t get on her bad side. Or how about that fight scene with (a swordsmith dude) at the end…actually that whole arc was exciting. You were routing for Rock and Revy the whole way.
Characters – 4.53
Revy – 4.8
As crass and harsh as can be, Revy has a soft spot for Rock, the one person she feels can pull her out of her misery. Irony says she berates and argues with him throughout the show, to the point of threatening his life on a number of occasions. Iron says Revy is one of the most moral of the characters (aside from Rock, which is saying a lot). Maryke Hendrikse does Revy very well in the English version, her performance makes Revy a lot of fun and helps grab your empathy to her like popcorn goes with movies.
Rock – 4.3
At first more of a wimp than anything else, Rock’s purpose to cleanse the city is great—until you realize he’s confused on how different the right path is going to be. He’s right about murder, but has little to say on being a bounty hunter of sorts for bad people.
Brad Swaile’s performance initially was rigid, but gets much better as time goes on, and he wont disappoint too much on consistency then. I thought Brad was able to grasp the emotions fairly well by the 2nd Barrage, something important since in that arc you have some very powerful moments occur.
Cool, collected and downright awesome, his attitude and speech should catch your interest fast. I thought Dean Redman did an excellent job in the English, and it was fun just to hear him speak. An initial search may point to Mr. Redman’s performance being his first in professional Anime, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him find future prominent roles in other series. You can find him currently in the American show Wolverine vs. Hulk.
Dutch does have fewer roles when we enter the 2nd Barrage arc, which is a shame for such an excellent character.
Creativity – 4.5
Black Lagoon’s first impression with Red Fraction by Mell told you all you needed to know. Excitement, liberally expressed visions of guns and also a few crass and rude words are precisely what Black Lagoon is. (the song does use ‘Christ’s sake’ in vain and does include a few typical curse words)
I’ve always said that a good show is usually portrayed with great music, and the same can be said for Black Lagoon throughout the show to help push the emotions.
As a topper for it all, Edison’s Don’t Look Behind helped cement the sober impression regarding both Rock and Revy in their eventual train wreck.
Overall drawings were pleasant enough, with a lot of focus on the two major attractions of the human body, both male and female. While not like an Ecchi show, the skin might be a little much for some. That being said, added to fan-service was some fantastic scenery soak up. From jungle scenes to an aerial view of Roanapur, to some of the fight scenes, artistically there is a lot to admire about the show.
Final Score – 4.005
(Black Lagoon offers an almost satisfactory look from the bad side of society and the slow decent into darkness many of its members ultimately are doomed with.
A crowd pleaser that’s also very much for a mature audience only, Black Lagoon offers a solid performance.)