Black Lagoon

TV (12 eps)
4.125 out of 5 from 37,194 votes
Rank #506

Rokuro Okajima is a small-time salaryman who is carrying documents for his company, when the ship he's traveling on is attacked by pirates. Kidnapped, he discovers to his dismay that his employers' main concern is to ensure the documents don't get into the wrong hands, even if it means sending the carrier to the bottom of the sea. Now, with his former life ruined and his kidnappers seeming comparatively friendly, "Rock" decides to join their merry band of mercenaries, and sets out with a new career to the shadier corners of the South China Sea.

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StoryA note: This review covers both Black Lagoon and Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage, and the score is a composite of the two series. If I were to rate the two seasons individually, I would most likely give season 1 around a 7.5 and season 2 around a 6.5. Black Lagoon looks like a mindless action series. It smells like a mindless action series. However, it is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a mindless action series. To be sure, Black Lagoon almost certainly has mindless action in it. Minor characters spew streams of automatic fire at the protagonists without so much as scratching them. Buildings and vehicles explode at the slightest provocation. Villains emerge from flaming wreckage completely unscathed. Without doubt, these scenes are completely brain-dead, but this is not really what Black Lagoon is all about. In fact, more than three quarters of the show is reserved for dialogue. One might think that this would slow down an action series, but instead it is easily the best part of the show. Put simply, the show's script sparkles with wit and intelligence. Through an interesting blend of obscure pop culture references, serious philosophical debate and hilarious one-liners, Black Lagoon has some of the best writing of the year. Unfortunately, Black Lagoon is hampered by a disappointing final arc. The ending drowns itself in a seeming avalanche of petty plot details that I didnt really care about, and the things that made the first season so great (the black humor, interesting philosophical discussions, and risqué attitude) are almost completely gone. In particular, a large part of the normally excellent dialogue is carried out in English. While all of the English is grammatically correct, it's hideously voice-acted, almost to the point of being unwatchable. In fact, as a whole, the storyline is somewhat uneven. Some of the episodic arcs work well (in particular, the Twins arc at the beginning of the second season is wonderfully creepy), but others either are too ridiculous to really take seriously or get bogged down in unimportant details. Fortunately, as mentioned earlier, the story usually takes a backseat to the dialogue, which is fantastic.AnimationThe technical aspects of the show are serviceable, but certainly not outstanding. Animation-wise, the show looks fine most of the time but seems unsure of itself when it comes to the action scenes. Some scenes literally consist of two characters running in a straight line while shooting at each other, and are somewhat dull to sit through. Still, the character designs and backgrounds are top-notch.SoundThere are a couple of problems with the sound. For one, the show leads into the ED at the end of every episode. This slow and depressing instrumental piece is often at odds with the frenetic action that has happened right before it, and serves to dampen the mood of the show. Also, the aforementioned switch to spoken English represents a key misstep in my mind. Fortunately, the OP and non-English voice acting are both great, so Black Lagoon's sound isn't a complete failure.CharactersThe wonderful dialogue serves to create characters that feel much more real than the cookie cutter clichés that have come to dominate most of today's action series. Despite the inherent ridiculousness of the setting, all of the characters are believable and likeable. In particular, the two primary protagonists, Rock and Revy, are fantastically well-developed and serve as primary illustrations of the show's theme of moral relativism. As a denizen of the "normal world," Rock represents the core moral values of modern Japan. Conflict is wrong, life is sacred, good and evil exist, etc. Then, over the course of the series, his traditional beliefs are challenged again and again and again. These beliefs are most apparent in his conversations with Revy. In the beginning, whether he can help it or not, he judges her. He sees her as a thoughtless, cold-blooded beast, an amoral killer that should be both despised and pitied. However, over the course of several heated arguments, Revy slowly shows him that he cannot judge her, because he has no experience whatsoever in her world. He is an alien, a visitor. He does not live in the "night" like the rest of the people of Black Lagoon's accursed city of Roanapur (where even the church is corrupted); he can only peek in through the "twilight." Combined with the characters, this moral "twilight" is ultimately what makes the show what it is.OverallIn many ways, the show strongly resembles Cowboy Bebop. Both series can superficially be written off for their action or episodic plots, but both have significant and interesting things to say about the outcasts of society. While Black Lagoon fails to match Cowboy Bebop in sheer execution, the anime is certainly a step in the right direction for the otherwise increasingly derivative action genre.


Given how much I hated the first episode of this anime; I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was some depth lurking in the morass here behind all the gunfire and cheesy one-liners.  I’ll just say it now for any newcomers who might stumble onto this review:  Don’t judge this anime by its first couple episodes!  Without further adieu, I bring you a review that I absolutely cannot promise to be spoiler free.  This review encapsulates both seasons, and the OVA.  Let’s dig in:  ART: 8/10 – The art to this showis largely well done and fitting with the feeling the story.  The character figures are great; and extremely well emoted.  The action scenes are mostly pretty good too; with interesting effects thrown into the mix (I don’t think I’ll ever forget Revy slamming a pistol magazine in with her cheek!)  I do need to complain that some of the fights had that typical anime cop-out where all the action happens behind a still screen or a “flash”.  Annoying; and less forgivable for an anime that emphasizes action. SOUND: 8/10 – Much like the art of this show, the sound holds itself well; though isn’t terribly remarkable.  I generally wasn’t crazy about the show’s music themes, but they were ok.  The English dubbing was excellent; with my only complaints being:  Revy could have sounded a little less grizzly (and still been menacing); and the bad guys (think the Italian and Hispanic gangs) didn’t need to be complete laughable caricatures.  Minor complaints there, though.  The sound effects were outstanding, with every weapon and combat effect sounding mostly as it should.  STORY: 4/10 – The show by design focuses very little on the story.  ***Spoiler Alert*** The premise isn’t focused on hardly at all.  Rock gets captured by a company of the criminal underworld and joins them because “f*ck it, got nothing better to do” apparently.  Rock struggles assimilating in the new underworld, and this is handled wonderfully, but Rock doesn’t seem to struggle leaving his past world behind him.  Maybe if he had a lick of backstory, we could forgive this shortcoming.  But… nay.  It’s hard to attribute a show to have good pacing, when the show doesn’t seem to have any direction.  This is even harder, when the show expends an exorbitant amount of time fleshing out minor characters (Roberta, and her circle, the Japanese Yakuza circle); while virtually ignoring two of the four characters on the main crew (Benny and Dutch); and not even sorting out everything with Rock and Revy.  Still, the show never feels like a total drag, so I’ll allow a half score in the subcategory for pacing. The show had a lot of dumb action and cheese; make no mistake.  But it also had great layers of depth and maturity; and these scenes were remarkably powerful.  The scenes between Rock and Revy in the abandoned Nazi submarine were fantastic; and the related tension and philosophical dialogue that ensued was a real pleasure to watch. The show’s plausibility has to suffer for some of the ridiculous things Revy was able to get away with – and this is to say nothing of Roberta’s essential super human status.  The conclusion was al tank; and that’s true regardless of whether you take in the OVA or not.  The important questions simply do not get answered.  Most namely; what becomes of Rock and Revy?  You certainly see the dynamic shifts of the two leads (which I’ll address below); but you don’t see the real outcomes of these trajectories. It's worth reiterating that there’s almost no plot to speak of.  The saving grace here is that the show does touch mature and interesting themes – sometimes. CHARACTERS: 7/10 – The show’s cast is rather large; and as a result, there seems to a problem of supply and demand with how much screen time some of the more important characters get.  Still, Black Lagoon is a character driven show; and its characters are quite interesting on balance.  I ended up liking our female lead Revy a lot more than I initially expected I would.  Her dynamics shaped nicely.  She was crude, crass and brutish; and for the most part nihilistic.  These traits carried her behavior in ways that were usually disruptive, and this made her interesting to watch. A loose cannon, whose essential nihilism is mostly excused by her backstory and dialogue.  She plays more like a villain than like a hero most often, and that’s actually interesting, especially given how hard this makes her clash with Rock.  Rock is essentially Revy’s total and complete foil.  A well-natured (and well-mannered) man who essentially carries the etiquette of the civilized world to the underworld.  Some of their collisions (especially early on) in this vein were a blast to watch.  The lines of the philosophies of both characters seem to blur more and more as the show progresses (and especially in the final arc of the third season) – but I have no complaints there.  It’s fun to watch characters change; and I only complain that we seem to get cut short during these transformations. Dutch and Benny both appeared to be ludicrously underdeveloped; especially for being 2 of the 4 team members alongside Rock and Revy.  This was starkly disappointing, as even the intro tried to make them seem as though they were major characters (Dutch is their leader after all).  Some of the side characters (most especially Eda and Balalaika) had exceptional screen time and revelation (more so than development).  They were both interesting in their own right, with Balalaika probably being my favorite character in the series.  No complaints about the attention given to many of the secondary characters. It was probably gracious of me to give a partial score for backdrop; but the show did make some attempts; even if they were brief and hastily glossed over.  I felt the same way about the show’s catharsis.  The very last scene of the OVA was somewhat cathartic; but also felt unresolved.  Rock, in my view, still hadn’t figured whether he was going to be a gangster or not; and was the closest thing – if anything – to the point of the whole thing.  I’m realizing as I get older that I typically can’t stand open endings – this proved to be no exception. Overall: 7/10 – If you’re like me, and have mostly outgrown the thrill of pointless firefights and cheesy rule-of-cool action; you’re going to glower on this show dubiously at first, and at many points in between.  But then again, if you’re prospecting a show like Black Lagoon; the action might be a pure and simple treat to you.  Whichever camp you fall into; there are elements here worth seeing.  The main characters are dynamic and entertaining; as are some of the secondary characters.  The suspense really isn’t there (Revy is OP); but what is there, are several scenes that tackle deep themes and open up thought-provoking dialogues.  This is something I never expected to see in a show decorated with bad-chicks with guns, and this pleasant surprise hiked me to my gratuitous verdict:  Black Lagoon is a good show sprinkled with deep themes flanked with action and less-than-fanservice-y sexiness to keep you entertained between the good parts.  Enjoy. ART SECTION: 8/10General Artwork 2/2 (fits feel of the story)Character Figures 2/2 (outstanding)Backgrounds 2/2 (good)Animation 1/2 (some subpar choreography)Visual Effects 1/2 (hot and cold)SOUND SECTION: 8/10 Voice Acting 3/3 (great)Music Themes 2/4 (good) Sound Effects 3/3 (great)STORY SECTION: 4/10 Premise 0/2 (generic)Pacing 1/2 (ok)Complexity 2/2 (surprisingly rich at times)Plausibility 1/2 (some wild feats, but ok)Conclusion 0/2 (Open and unresolved)CHARACTER SECTION: 7/10 Presence 2/2 (strong)Personality 2/2 (mostly dynamic and interesting)Backdrop 1/2 (some)Development 1/2 (choppy and disjointed, but it’s there)Catharsis 1/2 (rushed and brushed upon, but it’s there)VALUE SECTION: 7/10 Historical Value 2/3 (stand-out in its sub-genre)Rewatchability 2/3 (quick and interesting enough to hold value here)Memorability 3/4 (interesting male and female lead with some amazingly powerful scenes)ENJOYMENT SECTION: 7/10 Art 1/1 (good) Sound 2/2 (solid)Story 1/3 (a bit aimless)Characters 3/4 (interesting and dynamic)VERDICT: 7/10

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