When someone kills Diego Lovelace, the only man to have been kind to 'the Maid' Roberta, any shred of faith and hope left within her is destroyed. For her, the only recourse is to find those responsible - allegedly agents of the United States of America - and make them suffer the same fate as her late master. Meanwhile in Roanapur, the mafia bosses are getting nervous about the world's deadliest woman running wild and drawing the attention of a superpower to their comfortable nest of sins. When Diego's son, Garcia Lovelace, arrives asking the Black Lagoon company to track her down, this seems the perfect opportunity to avert disaster. But can they stop Roberta before she reaches the United States Army and, inevitably, brings their wrath upon all of Roanapur?
Story 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. Animation 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. SoundI 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. Characters 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? OverallA 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.
Notice: This review covers all three installments of the franchise. No reason to make different reviews about the same thing.In a nutshell: A distillation of every bad or semi-competent Hollywood action flick cranked up to eleven, interspersed with some light philosophy, homage to other media (war films, Yakuza films) and some mature subjects like terrorism and child abuse. It got a cast like a Tarantino film, actually strong and competent female characters who don’t break down and need the male shoulder to cry on, and its tone and content is both over-the-top hilarious and at the same time features moments more mature than ten dozen Claymores and Narutos… That, AND boobs and guns.Black Lagoon can be a highly entertaining anime if you go all myopic on it; meaning to watch only specific aspects of it and have a blind eye to all the rest. To put it bluntly, it is a guilty pleasure series and you are going to watch it for the violence and the profanity. One should see it as a fun ride and not a profound deep show. Here is a list of the things it does right:- Very good production values, detailed backgrounds, exciting battle choreographies, good use of lighting effects, the BGM has its way of making your blood boil or making you feel the drama of the moment.- Extremity in violence, character personalities, battles, profanity, death toll, explosions, smoking, drinking, usually all of the above at the same time.- Gar fighters and butchy women. Uncommon at an era of moe girls and pitiful male protagonists.- Hints of seriousness thrown at intervals. Despite being a guilty pleasure series aiming at entertainment and not at realism, it was constantly throwing at you info about the harsh reality and how the cruel world really works behind the scenes. That was making it seem a bit intelligent and with some substance.- Making a parody of it all. It’s poking fun at the clichés of its own genre, thus becoming self-aware satire.- Best “chicks with guns” anime ever made thus far.You should not try to make sense out of it or you will hate it right away. The action scenes lack realism and a critical viewer will most likely bitch at how bullets never hit important characters while mooks die with instant headshots, or how the villains constantly freeze and stare like idiots or how useless they are at aiming at something standing half a meter away from them, or how the heroine can do some really impossible acrobatics to kill 10 men with a six-shooter.Besides the badass attitude of the characters at shooting bullets left and right, cursing, and laughing maniacally, they also have a softer side to them. Meaning they are not just hollow FPS caricatures; they get some fleshing out by revealing their backgrounds and things which affected them and turned them to what they are today. There isn’t much character development though, outside the main duo and even then it only appears in the last part of the franchise almost for playing against the stereotype.The story is mostly stand-alone arcs, but they don’t overstay their welcome and differ enough from each other in situations and gimmicks. Rock will be usually bitching about immorality, Revy will be shooting at everything that moves, and the discussions they will have with secondary characters during the intervals (while Revy is reloading guns, lol) provides a simple yet satisfying immersion to the story, leaving the viewer to ponder a bit about values… before Revy starts shooting again and all that matters is who remains standing up in the end of the battle. Since bullets change trajectory when they come near her and villains are complete idiots, well, there is little worry regarding if she wins or not.A point of notice is the gradual swift from mostly action to mostly social drama. Later arcs are longer with less action and better fleshed out situations and adversaries. It’s as if the creators of the show got bored with animating elaborate action scenes and went for characters that got fed up with their line of work. The badasses wanted to be pitied, while Rock had no more tears to shed and suddenly turned to a Machiavellian anti-hero. This reversing of personalities didn’t sit well with most, since nobody expected or wanted characters to develop in this sort of show.But anyways, if you manage to be half blind to the farfetched situations and don’t mind the emo-ness that slowly crawls in along the way, it is a great action show.
Right, it's confession time for me. If you have been reading my reviews than you may have noticed that I tend to rip the anime a new one. There is a reason for this though and it has to do with the fact that I can't turn my brain off when watching anime. I can't ignore the stupid shown in the anime and this is a problem as most anime are very stupid indeed. In this case I'm not talking about a 90 pound girl catching a multi-ton cruise missile and throwing it back. Yes, it is stupid but it is a stupid that I'll allow. It's anime. Things like this are normal here and I'm pretty much fine with it. It annoys me to be sure but I will not rant about it. So, having explained this lets rip into this anime shall we? Just a heads up: There will most probably be spoilers. The more I hate an anime the more spoilers there will be. ART: I really like art like this as I've had it with the massive eyes from the 80's. I would say this anime style is more realistic but there is some slapstick humor in there that may put some people off. Case in point is the episode where a villain gets a torperdo to the face and you get to see his goofy expession as he dies. SOUND: Opening song gets you right in the mood with heavy gitars and dito vocals so there is no mistaken that you are in for a ride. Closing song is very subdued in comparison and I kind of liked the contrast between the 2 songs. Voice actors did a good job overall. CHARACTERS: Main character is Rock. He is a Japanese office worker who gets stuck in one of the shittiest places on Earth. Despite his surroundings he tries to keep his values and get along with his new co-workers. Revi is a halve American, halve Chinese woman who has had a very bad childhood. She is called 'two hands' for her habit of dual wielding pistols which she uses with deadly effect. Her relationship with Rock is a bit of love/hate as she doesn't really agree with his viewpoint on life. Lagoon Company is basically a 4 man crew who runs operations from an old patrol boat. Dutch is an African American who served in the Vietnam war and stuck around in Roanapur. He is the brains and the director of the company. Revi is his muscle and Benny is the information expert. Rock is the latest addition to the company. Roberta is a former guerilla fighter who is now employed as a maid by the Lovelace family. To say that she is lethal is an understatement. STORY: After the murder of her master, Roberta, follows the trail of his killers to Roanapur. Bent on revenge nothing will stop her from getting it. Garcia Lovelace is trying desperately trying to stop Roberta and bring her home and he wants to hire Rock to help him. RANT: This is a 5 episode arc that takes place right after the Second Barrage series conclusion and centers around Rock. Although it says Roberta's blood trail on the cover this isn't really her story but Rock's. Simply put: Roberta is set on a path of destruction that will likely end her and tear Roanapur apart. Rock is trying to stop this and save the main players involved. As he's had a bit of a bad track record with saving people, then you can understand that this is a big deal for him. There is a lot going on in the series and it consists of 5 epsiodes that are 30 minutes long. On the one hand I liked it being 5 episodes as they could take their time setting things up but on the other.... It was a bit too long. The anime felt a bit stretched at times and I feel that with editing they could have easily brought it down to 4 episodes and it would have worked a bit better. If you liked the main series then you'll like this one as well. I thought it was one of the weaker arcs due to its pacing but I enjoyed it anyway.
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