Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage, gives the audience more of what they’ve come to expect. Lots of action, dark comedy, and brooding characters make this a worthy second season, though a prolonged final story arc and some needless things here and there detract from the overall experience.
1) More of the Same- The first two arcs of this second season contain all the sort of things you’ve come to expect from Black Lagoon. The first arc focuses on incestuous vampire twins and gets weirder and weirder the longer it goes on. The second arc focuses on a money launderer and the hunt for her by every baddie in Roanuper. The third arc deviates quite a bit from the normally fast-paced and action heavy script of the other arcs, but I’ll get to that later. The first two arcs show that the writers knew what the audience wanted. They focus on wacky action, fun characters, and that general sense of fun that pervades this very dark show. The fact that Black Lagoon can blend the merciless and brooding with the funny and entertaining remains a testament to its strengths. As I said in my review of the first season, it’s so hard to balance comedy and darkness, action and silliness. Especially in something as usually serious as Black Lagoon is. But this series manages to do so. The fact that the second season is more of the same isn’t a con because this is what the audience wants.
2) Revy’s Development- Revy continues to develop in this second season and manages to become an even better character due to this. While at the beginning of the series she was unapproachable, annoying, crass, and a total bitch to Rock; she’s really developed into something like a…girlfriend. I mean, she’s not dating him and she’s not overtly saying anything but the gradual softening of Revy is one of the more interesting and well done aspects of the show. In this season, especially toward the end, we see a different side of Revy. This is especially due to her entering Rock’s world and seeing what her definition of a normal life would be. She’s where Rock is, stuck between normalcy and piracy and not able to move one way or the other. So she plays with kids, she’s nice to Rock. She still kicks some ass, but she has feelings toward Rock that are never overtly stated. She’s a total tsundere without falling into the high school level conventions of the character. She blushes, she softens up, but she’s not loudly calling him a baka and crying in corners. I feel that out of every character, Revy was the best developed. Rock stays mostly the same through the whole series and Benny and Dutch aren’t even given much focus. This is the story of Rock and Revy. Any romance is implied, but not shown.
3) Animation- I don’t think I ever took the time to praise the animation for this series. It’s damn good. Even watching the DVD version on a sixty-inch the show looks like a freaking blu-ray copy. Even my friend mentioned that when we watched some of the show together. Black Lagoon has really good animation. Sure, from afar faces can look Picasso-esque, but close up the characters faces show all kinds of mixed, weird emotions that are fun to try to understand. Revy especially has these looks of disgust/boredom that are both hilarious and deeply integral to her character. The animation does a good job of expressing emotion and making the characters much more interesting because of that. The action scenes are also exceptionally smooth. There was definite care taken in making sure the series looked good.
4) Balalaika- Dis bitch cray. Balalaika pulls most of the strings in the series and while the first season gives us a good idea of who she is, this second season gives us a lot of her. She’s remorseless, cruel, and batshit insane. The final arc is fairly dull but the parts containing Balalaika shine. While I could have done without the part of her backstory concerning becoming a ballerina (is that all Russian women can attain to be?), the rest of her parts are great. The first season made Revy out to be the crazy bitch but this season really shows that Revy is nothing compared to Balalaika.
1) The Final Arc- The final arc isn’t bad in any way. The story itself is good, the action scenes are excellent, Revy and Rock getting in the middle of a war is pretty great, and the character development is wonderful. But it goes on way too damn long. This single arc stretches across half the season and the pay-off is forgettable. This was an arc that could have probably been about four episodes if it had neglected to show all the ridiculous high school antics and build a character who is both extremely boring (she can pull quotes from philosophers out of her ass), and just there to play point-counterpoint with Rock. Which is part of the charm of the character building, but, in the end, it wasn’t effective because the bitch was crazy! If it had been a normal girl, someone like Rock who got pulled into the world and was forced into being part of the underworld, who didn’t succumb to the craziness, it would have been so much more effective. If Rock had to realize that in order to protect people like her from the underworld, you have to kill in the underworld, it would have been more effective. I understood the tone and meaning of the final arc but it fell into a long-winded, very Japanese style of story-telling. Which just might be the point. We go from a very western, gung-ho style of story-telling then move to a slower, Japanese version. It’s part of the counterpoint to Revy and Rock’s lives. Ultimately, this arc left me with mixed feelings.
2) Panty Shots!- We got some Revy fan service in the first season. But this season, we get all the fan service we need in the second arc, when a silly girl who counterfeits dollar bills continually shows her panties every time she moves. Perhaps that’s part of building her character and showing her as silly, but at the same time, it’s rather pointless and, for me, detracted from the experience. There were more panties in this season then I would have expected. It didn’t totally detract, but was a minor nuisance.
3) Neglecting Benny and Dutch- While the focus on Revy and Rock is welcome; the series never gives much of a chance for the audience to get to know Dutch and Benny. They’re part of the crew yet we are only given fleeting glimpses of Benny and Dutch maintains a kind of stoicism through the whole series. There was a lot of room to build character that never got a chance.
Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage is a good follow up to the first season, though unbalanced. While not as strong as season one, it still makes for great entertainment.