Review: Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Trail

Genres: action, drama, psychological

GNXA-7050

Themes: crime organizations, girls with guns, revenge, tragedy

Objectionable content: Intense (let’s just say you’ll want to read on for it)

Plot Summary: The assassination of the head of the Lovelace family in Venezuela sets his maid, a former terrorist named Roberta, on a quest for revenge. She eventually comes to Roanapur, causing a massive commotion in Thailand. Garcia, heir of the Lovelace legacy and someone who regards Roberta as a precious family member, also travels to Roanapur to stop her before its too late…and perhaps take vengeance himself.

DUB version done by FUNIMATION (Photo found public)

Story – 4.0 (-0.8 for moral violations)

A storied sequel to the first two series (combined together in my review), we move from Japan back into Roanapore where the maid Roberta whom we were introduced in the series, makes her OAV debut hunting down her master’s killers.

Roberta’s Trail certainly offers plenty of fun, healthy material but scores an even higher rating in maturity because of the partial nudity included…a terrible mistake. Roberta, the main antagonist to the main characters, is uncovered with a random bath scene and her entire back side, complete with a side view of her chest, is revealed….that’s probably bad enough if Revy wasn’t also condemned to the same stupid fate later on…
I almost stopped watching from this immoral trash. Those scenes offer nothing beyond fan-service. They don’t push any of the characters along, nothing important is said, and it’s purely from the stupid desire to be bad. Ultimately, what such scenes do is degrade the characters, especially Revy who we are all supposed to have empathy for.
I guess my anger with this junk is made more deep with Revy being exposed. I can understand some trash like Roberta (maybe), but someone your supposed to respect and have sympathy for is now reduced to being eye candy to be consumed visually? No way! This was a clear violation of morals and a classless vulgar attempt to pan to the male audience…of which there is no reason to do so since they already like the show! Thus, substantive points were taken from the rating to reflect its violations. A shame indeed.
There are also the usual racy scenes, and a few with Revy herself that are used more in the saddened context for our girl, but in general, including the language, it isn’t as prevalent as the original series, with the dialogue maintaining its consistency. Naturally, you still have Revy cussing up a storm on a few occasions, including using blasphemy…but those are quite mild for Black Lagoon.

Now I know I’m bashing the show early on, but let me encourage the reader that Roberta’s Blood Trail offers all kinds of intriguing plot twists and intellectual discussions which make it worthwhile, if not even great. Roberta, Rock, Revy, and Garcia (the surviving head of the Lovelace family) all present great material to chew on.

First, lets take Roberta herself, the title’s direct character: Roberta is quite the conundrum. Half-insane with her guilt from a life of a terrorist, despite Garcia and his father’s kindness to her when they took her in as a maid, she is pushed over the edge when the young lord’s father is killed via collateral damage by the US army in a sting operation.
I felt like the discussion with Roberta’s reasonings and “solutions” she finds vain, was a good discussion on how far love is willing to forgive. Even though we see tragically that Roberta doesn’t distinguish friend from foe very well, as she’s murdering innocent blood in her war path…how then can one forgive and still save that person? That question is alluded to often in the show. You have scenes like that seduction of her former co-compatriot who Roberta kills with an interesting weapon…weird and wrong. Everything about Roberta screams for her death. Yet her master will not give up on saving her…and this only drives Roberta more delusional in her guilt. I liked the twist this brought to the show and felt like the beginning was very strong.
Aside from the almost insane thought of saving someone so far down as Roberta, our brief views into her mind, i thought, made an interesting point about good works. Good works do not erase what has been done. Clearly Roberta’s years in servitude has not dented her shame of her former years as a terrorist. Without forgiveness, there is no peace. And yet without God giving forgiveness there can be no satisfaction in it even when it is offered. We see this with Roberta going more bonkers as I said whenever Garcia tells her she’s been forgiven. In the end, Roberta was unable to find her own way and the point sticks. Just great stuff.

Spoiler Alert!

Now having said all this, One might say that Roberta’s ending is rather bittersweet since Roberta never finds repentance and loses so much of herself in the process (literally), so I understand if the viewer might be unsatisfied by the conclusion offered.

1) Ok, so she’s insane, but we see Roberta knows she also always has a choice, but because she wants to justify herself, she continues to reject the chance to be redeemed even after getting saved. And that is tragedy at its best.
2) Roberta’s guilt and crime demands she loses her life, so having her freedom stripped via losing limbs may not feel like justice.
However, to that last point her life really is gone now, so in a way she has been judged fiercely for the rest of her life and in a way gives her an opportunity to atone for her sins in a more meaningful way however long her miserable existence is. It is highly ironic that Roberta, trying so hard to provide for Garcia, now has to be provided for every little thing by the same Garcia for the rest of her life. The other point to remember is don’t take away from the American’s or Rock’s choices to show empathy for Garcia’s sake in sparing Roberta’s life. Because those points were rather good and helped keep the score up from that scathing penalty.

Next we have Garcia:
The young lord Garcia of the Lovelace family is an interesting young lad. You have a simple rich child who’s having to make a lot of grownup decisions really fast, of which one of them involves whether or not to avenge his father. Sometimes shows have a child make remarkable progress in a few short moments, but in Black Lagoon the progression is slowed perhaps a little more realistically. And at least for Garcia, his peaceful life has also meant not having to make the “big” decisions, so it is especially hard on him that everyone he loves are violent people by trade and something that translated well on the screen.
At an early point we see Garcia get his opportunity at justifiable vengeance when he’s saved by the American Commander Shane Caxton’s team, after what they felt was a dangerously confused Roberta about to slay the boy. I felt impressed with Garcia’s decision because of the people involved, and really makes it one of my favorite scenes in the show.

Perhaps this is the best time to talk about the pro-American views Roberta’s Blood Trail expresses: When the young lord came to take revenge for his father on Shane Caxton, Caxton tells his men to stand down and offers Garcia his apologies, even going as far as offering his life in front of his stunned men (and audience).
Shane Caxton is surely justified in his explanation of the sting operation, yet, he is willing to die if that would truly make peace for the Garcia. Such is the character of Mr. Caxton and what, my readers, makes America so great. As Mr. Caxton shows us, we depend on God and will fight for the best solution even at the risk of our lives for a total stranger.
Shane never met Garcia before, yet his humbleness towards the hard nature of war along with his acknowledgment in the righteous duty of Garcia to uphold his honor was the catalyst for Garcia’s passing into manhood. I think we often like to jump to either extremes of war in either saying all killings are murder (and end up denying any of the innocent victims to protect their honor in taking vengeance for their family name), or we have we justify brutality by saying it was coming to them and end up destroying another generation with guilt…since in this case Mr. Caxton is quite the humble man.

What Caxton did was allow Garcia to see justice isn’t about the cold hard facts or silly rules…it’s about what is just in terms of the best solution, even if that may lead to outwardly throwing away pride and family honor. Consequences are hard to foresee, and certainly for Garcia it was difficult to decide whether he would ultimately be doing the right thing by avenging his father through his own hands. But once Garcia decided, he found the results far better than he could ever dream of, culminating in seeing Roberta saved in the end and Garcia having a high respect for Americans like Shane Caxton. It really was great fodder.

If there’s one thing that is out of character in Roberta’s Blood Trail, it’s probably Rock. He takes a flair in being overly smart, strategizing like he never could before. The show offers little reasoning behind the sudden genius, and for that plot point alone it may lose a few style points for being too convenient. But beyond that, what happens is pretty cool, and shouldn’t hurt with the viewers.

The previous series touch on it, but we delve further into Rock’s mad desire to change Roanapore into a respectable place. Rock has always assumed naively, that getting rid of the biggest crime lords alone will solve the cities problems. Using his superior intellect, Rock pits Lords against Lords and even uses the US military to snuff out one of the major bosses of Roanapore while at the same time stopping Roberta’s mad play.

I thought this well-intentioned ploy brought a decent topic on what makes or breaks a city. Rock knows that simply flipping the top card isn’t in itself the answer, because there are too many people in the system itself that keeps the city in bondage. So in trying to utilize the USA, with their love of justice, to come in and clean out the baddest members of Roanapore, Rock hopes to finally free the city….something he finds not easy nor what is really on his mind.

I really liked what this did to Rock. His real effort is trying to justify himself through Roanapore’s salvation. Remember, Rock hasn’t done much in his life…so being useless isn’t something he wants to return to. But even more than this, Rock also has been struggling with the Black Lagoon being the sword of whatever contractor offers money. While a few innocent souls have been spared, far too often Rock has been the grease to the grinder, the enabler for those deaths, all the while he has claimed the higher road. I really thought it excellently played out his frustration with this arc.

For various unnamed reasons, I’m also going to delay Revy’s part to the Emotional section, but suffice to say, Revy is the focal point of Alberta’s Blood Trail and was very impressive to watch her story slowly unfold.

As you can tell, Story scores really well with me. Yet the rating plummets a bunch, and that is because of the moral lapse i noted earlier hurts gravely how strongly justice is presented. And such a distrust bites at the heals of any moral presented in the show. The viewer may find him or her scoffing at the “high” moral barometer that Rock thinks is, and it doesn’t help that immoral influences, and vulgar talk just paint a rather plain and placid picture of justice. I mean, if not killing or not enslaving people is the heart of truth, then why does Rock seem concerned at the small things? Again, I believe that looking at the story as a tragedy makes a difference, and helps avoid the stigma of a worthless Ecchi show where justice is often relocated to being in the bendy rules of ‘the laws of sexual attraction’ and equating that with Angels and purity.

Timeless stories are also the ones that promote the best, or teach about it. Something that ultimately the OAV may have snatched from the jaws of victory.

Emotional Draw4.7

Humor is more limited than the original series, but not out of place when it happens. There are a few funny moments with the young maid assassin, and between Revy and Rock as usual. Mostly though, Roberta’s Blood Trail is more serious and appropriately keeps humor limited so that the viewer doesn’t lose focus of the sad tragedy that is unfolding with all the characters.

This Tragedy even stretches to Revy’s view of Rock. All this sudden change in him is making her very uncomfortable, if even freaked out, and plays out well. We see Revy attempting to figure out Rock on a couple of occasions, and when that doesn’t get her anywhere Revy goes as far as telling Dutch that after this current contract to find Roberta, she doesn’t want Rock around afterwards. Quite the revealing scene.
Even with the young maid who travels with Garcia (and as violent as the rest), Revy cannot escape her dilemma when she is pointed out serious flaws in her reasonings and her belied dependence on Rock.

We clearly see Revy is relying on Rock to get out of her horrific past, and seeing that threatened by his apparent callousness (in using people to kill others intentionally) really bothers Revy. If Rock, who is this shining White Knight, is plummeting down to Roanapore’s hellish world in just a few short years, what can Revy do?
Such is the despair which squeezes out of the normally confident Revy, that she is unsure if she can survive the ordeal should Rock become one of Roanapore! What an awesome series of scenes it was!
This heavy predicament of Revy’s was quite touching, and while we won’t see the answer (it is called ‘Roberta’s Trail’ after all), I believe it will impress the viewer appreciatively towards the OAV’s favor.

And since we’re talking of powerful scenes, there are a few scenes with Roberta in her most distressing moments, and let me tell you, it’s very well done. Where you need to hate her, it’s really easy and where a little sympathy is called for, it is captured fairly well. Every time Garcia’s dad manifests before her (clearly a delusion), Roberta looks as pathetic as a scorned dog, and there is a tremendous push for empathy upon the poor soul…until she’s at it again of course. But such scenes were powerful in their own right.
Overall you’ll find the exciting stuff exciting, and together with the intellectual realization of the tragedy I spelled out seem that much more. Without a doubt, one of the better points of Roberta’s Blood Trail.

Favorite scenes include the young Lord when he attempts to slay the US Sargeant. that scene, along with the Caxton’s commitment to saving Roberta was simply cool. And as an American, I was proud that the show didn’t deviate from American Idealism and from the moral superiority that the USA often holds in the worst of affairs.
Another favorite scene was when Revy tells Rock he’s changed and wants him out it gets any worse. Revy looks so pathetic, (you know she’s hurting badly inside to say that) she is practically crying inside. Very touching. Plus, as a bonus, we get to see rare glimpses into just how much Rock means to her.

Characters4.63

Rock_thumb


Rock insaneRock – 4.1
Rock’s performance by Brad Swaile (English dub) is fairly consistent, but don’t expect him to wow you in most of the scenes. I do like how Brad actually fits more in line with the show in terms of who Rock is, so I don’t believe this will impact your view too much.
Rock is easy to follow, and doesn’t waste much of your time being decisive. He’s come a long way since Revy first met him, and seeing him go off the hook over Roberta’s opportune misadventure has you going “oh, no…now what”. He’s a man who now talks tough when it comes to anything but himself…just where are we being taken?

Revy serious

Revy not in  good moodRevy – 5.0
A rascal and demon in one, this loveable red haired killer really stands out in the series. I love Maryke Hendrikse’s performance and how she nailed all of the important scenes with her. She sounds scared when she needs to be and a cold hard killer when she usually is. Great stuff here.
Revy’s life and character further gains empathy with the viewer, and doubtless will be one of your favorite characters. Her almost suicidal lust for blood is being put at bay, but more because Rock himself is scaring her. Great character.

Roberta Deranged

Roberta in her PrimeRoberta – 4.8
A crazy woman who is as murderous as they come, Tabitha St. Germain’s performance on her was great. If you haven’t learned to hate her in the first few episodes, then maybe you like people like that…ok ok, just kidding. But seriously, Tabitha made her a solid character, which in turn helped greatly those intense themes come out and prove Roberta is truly a part of what made Roberta’s Blood Trail a success.

Creativity – 4.6

Roberta’s Trail is filled with action, even more than the series. A lot of strategy is employed, and I felt looked realistic in many respects. Roberta is probably the one exception here, but a rage like hers can’t be denied as dark, so seeing her mow people down in old fashion was intense…and a little gory.

Artistic drawings are the same as the original of course, but you can see a few things ironed out and that the attractive nature of the women is fine tuned a little. Fantastic scenes though like the hut we surround towards the end with a panned out view of the scenery. Buildings, plants, people…Roberta’s Blood Trail definitely took pride in their work.

Music was great and loved the whistling tune at the end helped to remind the viewer how the USA is awesome!!!! Seriously though, such music like “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” by EDISON fit neatly and naturally pulls towards the USA. Overall, such music helped keep the show from becoming too overbearing watching all the main characters fail over time. In the end, the Caxton is the real hero in all of this, saving Rock and Garcia from a terrible conclusion by virtue of his character and undying loyalty to his word.

And hey, When Johnny Comes Marching Home is a catchy song.

Grade Overall4.44

(Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Trail probably needs a filter, but its worth its weight in gold for entertainment that has intelligence. If not for moral lapses, it would arguably be in my top 10 Anime favorites.)

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