Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail fully exploits the OVA format to deliver a grittier, grimier ride through Roanapur. While the franchise traditionally splashed more explosions on our TV screens than gloopy ruby-red blood, that trend reverses here as our heroes slice, dice, bludgeon, and even saw their way through a bunch of unimportant nonentities. And that’s probably why we’ll love it despite some of its unfortunate blunders.
Broadly speaking, this third outing is Black Lagoon suited, booted, and ready to conduct poker-faced business. Of course there still throbs a vein of chaos in this violent story: young maid Fabiola Iglesias’ ball-smashing debut fight in a bar is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser worth watching on repeat. Not to mention, the plot – one barmy housemaid against the US Army – sounds as though it was brainstormed with the same respect for plausibility as a Family Guy sketch. Nevertheless Black Lagoon: RBT reveals a new flirtation with sobriety, delivering more introspection and fewer action sequences to push the narrative along. Dense characterisation and naval-gazing discourse are the main courses on its menu, so that as the story progresses the action becomes progressively thinner on the ground.
The main reward of this approach is the greater prominence of the dialogue, a peculiar Black Lagoon hallmark that has let it comfortably occupy a place at the top table of intelligent thrillers. Its playfully ironic repartee, as vague and metaphorical as it can get, also has superb comic timing and an urgency that skips and dances even when its intention is to slow things down. If anything, it thickens the characterisation precisely when the characters threaten to morph into silly cartoons.
Even so, the bottom line sees Black Lagoon: RBT all too often abandoning the straightforward fantasy of Roberta’s revenge hunt for unnecessary, ultra-complex politics. In this murderous game everyone gets to play, from the various mafias to government agencies, and the viewer will often have to take for granted that the developments are natural since untangling everyone’s motivations becomes a mental assault course. Related to this is the unconvincing shift in Rock’s personality. The normally reserved salaryman transforms into a scheming antihero who can outthink even the most twisted of villains. At one point he predicts in preposterous detail the contents of a discussion happening miles from him merely because he thought hard about it. Assassins dressed up as maids – yes, this we can accept; gentle Rock in a sudden Death Note turn – no, no, no. It is a transformation that seems as unwelcome as it is sudden. The fact that the plot mechanics hinge on him becoming as cunning as the murderers he hunts only leads to the events at times appearing contrived and overcooked.
Dingy alleys and crammed slums. Guns gleaming with dark, phallic pride. Scowling faces with penetrating stares. And all of this overhung with a semi-permanent sunset lighting in which violets and reds and pinks and oranges simmer and smoulder in a sultry symphony of colours. On the other hand, blood splatters. Blood splatters on the ground, blood on the walls, blood even on the implied camera lens.
Black Lagoon: RBT’s animation envelops the viewer in a thick atmosphere and a gory conception of realism. The characters, unlike the backgrounds, look conventionally flat and move with no extraordinary dexterity unless required to during action scenes, but the show remains nevertheless damn beautiful to watch.
I adore Mell’s ‘Red Faction’, which explains my acute disappointment at the bland remix that serves as the opening theme. I would have preferred either a new offering entirely or the old version with all the lyrics in place. The rest of the score functions well but evidences no notable artistry.
Anyone notice that the deadliest and bat-shit craziest people in Black Lagoon: RBT are the women? And queen of the cuckoos Roberta brings in a mesmeric performance here. She swallows handfuls of pills, which she then distractedly chases down with a straight whiskey. That merely suggests she didn’t read the packet instructions. But then we must consider her burning desire to take on the United States Army! This involves running around like a she-wolf in a butcher’s shop while the would-be warriors in her path become only so much sausage. Ferral and howling, she recreates a particularly awesome kind of animalistic rage: she slinks across rooftops light as a cat, she vaults and somersaults and lands on all fours; her eyes are always darting, her teeth shine in the moonlight, and the wolfish grin she wears is something straight out of A Clockwork Orange. Yet, we cannot dismiss her role as mere gimmickry. While she’s boldly caricatured on the edges, she displays the satisfying two-dimensionality that we’ve become used to from this franchise. During her monologues with ghosts of people she has killed, we witness a human as tortured as her squirming victims. Only, her scars are invisible.
It seems almost unfair how uninteresting the guys are in comparison, with most of them popping up just to die anyway. Only Rock continues to have any significant impact, with his neutral, peace-seeking ideals morphing into something more unnerving. The good part is that his performance here relies far less on his interaction with Revy; whereas he seemed to exist mainly to serve as her foil in previous seasons, here he becomes a force in his own right. In fact, Revy mostly contents herself with sitting in the background, in turn glaring and smirking at events around her until called upon to back him up. My concern is mainly with the suddenness of the change in Rock. The show spends too little time laying the groundwork for his performance to convince, leaving us instead with an uncomfortably confused character. Moreover, I question the future utility of Rock, who represented the last glimmer of morality in the darkening cesspool of Roanapur: with powerfully enigmatic antagonists like Balalaika and Mr. Chang already commonplace, can a moody, scheming Rock still stand out?
A growling, pounding funfair of violence and collateral damage – like Disneyland in reverse – Black Lagoon: RBT offers a fascinating maturity in style. Moreover, in terms of dialogue, its humour and self-awareness remain gleefully intact. Only Rock’s unnatural performance as a tortured antihero skulking and plotting mysteriously in the shadows bogs down an already overcomplicated plot. Instead of a whirlwind narrative with a bemused, morally upright salaryman at its eye, we get a web of intrigues and personal subplots that binge on melodrama once too often. Still, for all its flaws, Black Lagoon: RBT remains one of the few shows still giving us what we used to take for granted in the 90s: pretty-looking violence, rampant fun, and wit as sharp as an oiled machete.
You know, this is similar to the last 12 episodes of Death Note for several reasons.
1. They were both added in for the sake of Madhouse milking the series dry.
2. They both have dissatisfying cop out endings.
3. They both represent the nadir of each series both narratively and character-wise.
Black Lagoon: Roberta's Blood Trail is like one of those extra things you add in. It feels like it's gonna be good, but when you delve in it fails to deliver. This is one of those. I was much expecting this series to do some good for the anime after Second Barrage turned out to be a disappointment for being repetitive. What we had here was a missed opportunity where we have the Roberta (the maid from the first series that knocked Revy out) who goes on a killing spree to avenge Garcia's father's death. It starts out pretty well with the Lagoon crew going for the maid in expectance of getting paid, but then Chang wants the money for himself. It was also quite amusing to see Revy get a group of her own to hunt the maid, but then things took a turn for the worst when Rock started making plans. I expected more out of him, but NOOOO he had to try to save a life. And then we get to this bland ending where Garcia makes out with Roberta and everyone who didn't die lived happily ever after so to speak (despite the fact Roberta killed almost EVERY one of the soldiers and was pardoned for it). What the hell?
Ultimately, it was a complete waste of time with overkill action where one could easily call bullshit. Unless you're a die hard Black Lagoon fan I recommend you skip this, and even if you are I STILL recommend you skip this.
Plot and Characters
I loved Revy in this, Same cold stare and with that zero f's attitude she keeps in her pocket. The sexual advance she made at rock was awesome and how she took rejection was even more interesting. Revy has done zero harm to this anime and I'm glad they're writing more manga.
Rock... sucked. I mean I expected a lot of what he did, but I detested how ideological he was. I mean... He's always ideological but they went WAY overboard during the OVAs. He's always quick to share what's on his mind and that makes for unnatural dialogue. I knew one guy like Rock and the guy was a complete tool. The string of events leading up to the maid's capture seemed lame and unbelievable. The fact that Rock orchestrated this makes it even more unbelievable.
The Maid - I love how she totally loses her mind to the point where she can't tell what's reality. Her logic and backstory make it easy to see why she's so batshit crazy. Loved it.
Balalaika - I loved her in the first two seasons... but they kinda changed her personality in the OVAs. Definitely the same old mob chick I love but something was off. She doesn't have anything to prove to the Americans and she already knew that. So, why would she do what she did? Why would she go on her crazy little rant to the Americans. Mind you, this is coming from the same chick who said she only wanted to see how long she could dance in the pit of hell.
Lovelace kid - He wasn't too bad. I didn't hate him and he's kinda required considering he's the Maid's boss now. I think he was a positive force in the OVA.
Mini maid - Not goanna bother to look up her name but she was interesting and consistent with the Lovelace family. The clash she got into with Revy over finishing off a dying man was pretty epic.
Eda - I disliked the part where she spoke with Mr.. Chang through a voice modulator. It was mostly out of character... And Eda wouldn't do that...
The OVAs are definitely worth watching however several of the characters have sudden personality changes from previous seasons. Far too much to be considered character growth.
Usually an anime series loses some of its magic when its time for the second season. This is happens because of a lot of factors, mostly the fact taht the second season only exists for money(do you hear me Sword Art??). So how is it with Black Lagoon.
The first season was interesting, but, to be honest, none of the episodes could come even close to the pic first one. The atmosphere was dark and unique, but the pace was a bit(sometimes very) slow. Apparently the writers had the same idea, so they made the second season and the OVA way more action packed, but maintaining the same atmosphere and style. I liked the first season, but it isnt my favorite, I liked the second season more and Robertas Blood Trail is even better. The same can be said about the music, animation as before, but the story got a bit more complicated(in Robertas Blood Trail I think the story is really good) and at last we dont just get a glimpse of the evil genious in our japanese friend, but hes actually a smart, cunning badass for the whole OVA.
Congrats, you did it!
I can recomamned the first season, but if you liked it, whats waiting for you is even better!
The second barrage: overall 7.5
Robertas Blood Trail: overall 8.25
Quickie Review: Black Lagoon Roberta’s Blood Trail
Having reviewed the two halves that comprise Black Lagoon’s main series I feel it’s not necessary to go all out to reiterate what I’ve already said. Roberta’s Blood Trail exemplifies all the positive traits of Black Lagoon, creating a fun story, developing established characters, and letting the bullets fly. Rock’s further development into a conniving psychopath after the death of a girl he cared deeply about in the second season brings out the character the audience wanted him, yet did not want him, to be. His becoming this monster and Revy’s subsequent hate of what he’s become and distaste with the person she’s come to actually care about brings out a deeper side to her character and gives us the chance to delve deeper into what made her the way she is.
That being said, the main focus of this five episode arc, as the title suggests, is Roberta. She was an interesting and badass character in the first season that finally gets some more back story and is given the spotlight. Her boss is dead, she wants revenge, and so she gives up her quiet life as a maid to once again take up the gun and become the blood craving dog she once was. There was an interesting juxtaposition between these two lives in the first season that is further explored to greater depth here. Roberta’s insanity renders her unable to see things right and her dependence on drugs makes her unstoppable. Some of the fight scenes in this five episode series are ridiculously awesome because of this seemingly unkillable quality she possesses.
As far as a story arc goes, it holds up better than the last arc of Second Barrage and it definitely puts the focus on the right characters. The problems come with the needless fan service (shower scenes of our two “heroines”) and the animation seemed surprisingly mediocre.
If you liked Black Lagoon, you’ll love Roberta’s Blood Trail because it’s everything you want. It’s in no way perfect, but it is entertaining. And in the end, that’s what counts most.