A 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.
The 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.
There 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.
The 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.
In 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.
Story: The story centers around Rock and his gradual acceptance into a group of "delivery boys", a group of mercenaries/pirates called the Lagoon Company. The story delves into the underbelly of gangs, mafia, and Russian ex-military. With a rich cast of characters and plenty of action, the story is quick-paced and thrilling.
Animation: The animation is clean-cut, sharp, and everything one would expect from an anime filled with flying bullets and short-tempered gunslingers. What it lacks in the soft contures of a shoujo anime, it makes up for with dynamic angles and sharp detail.
Sound: A good mix of background music to set the pace for both action and lulling intermediate areas. The OP "Red Fraction" is one of my favorites, and is definitely fitting to the anime.
Characters: From shirt-and-tie Rock to the nuns of the Rip-Off Church to the ex-military Balalaika, the characters of Roanapur are a rough-and-tumble bunch. Though violent and deadly, the characters of Black Lagoon are sure to keep your attention.
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: 8/10
General 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)
Watched on Blu-Ray DVD Release- Covers Fisrt And Second Season
Daisy Dukes, gunfights, nazis, attack choppers, pirates, samurais, smoking, bad language, asscheeks, and MORE GUNS! All of what you can ask for in an action anime rolled up into one nicotine and scotch flavored burrito wrapped in a testosterone tortilla. This is Black Lagoon & here's ya boy Wiru-san's take on it! Let us begin!
The city of Roanapur it's where all the filth accumulates, all the crooks and the theives congregate here basically nothing good comes from here
Like a certain website
Enter our pal Rokuro Okajima,he is a buisnessman for a large company that seemingly deals with data and stuff like that. He is brought along as a translator and pushed around to do basically whatever his superiors want
Pushover is his middle name
He lives a pretty mundane life that he's content with. He goes on a cruise because of a business trip with the company and this is when he gets a warm welcome
Say hello to Mr. Smith & Wesson and his Lady Friends Beretta
Rokuro's company ship gets hijacked by pirates known as The Lagoon Company, kind of like Captain Phillips with less africans and more Femme Fatales with daisy dukes on. The Lagoon Company kidnap Rokuro in hopes of ransoming him to his company and getting some extra money. Shit hits the fan and it turns out Rokuro's company had a CD that was being transported that carried nuke algorithims on it that they were going to transfer to someone and Rokuro happened to be on the boat that contained said nuke codes....So they kinda say fuck you and make it their goal to destroy everyone on that boat so the secret doesn't get out
Sorry buddy you're not worth it
His past life is now gone, they already have the funeral planned. To everyone he ever knew in Japan he's a dead man. Now the Lagoon crew are pissed and Rokuro joins forces with the ragtag group to try and get out of this flustercluck
From Left to Right: Benny, Rokuro, Revy, Dutch
He must join forces with a black guy,a jew, and hot headed gun toting chinese american. After they get out of their quagmire Rokuro meets up with his boss and The Lagoon Company helped set up a transfer,however Rokuro abandons this offer and decides to join the Lagoon Company, he is no longer Rokuro but is now Rock and accompanies them throughout all their misadventures.
The plot is very episodic but the events that take place carry over, they follow the characters and because of that it stops just being a action show about blowing shit up. You want to see why Revy is so pissed or why Rock is feeling sad. The episodes range from mindless micheal bay type shit, to touching and serious, to funny and it's never a dull moment in between. Each episode felt satisfying, some things they hint at in the story and never really fully explain what or how it happens. That kinda ticked me off don't bring it up if you aren't going to at least give a smidge of information.
I'll tell you one thing about MADHOUSE they LOVE their guns and I love the models for their guns. I mean look at this show and Gunslinger Girl they always do a great job and realistic portrayal to their weapons.
Not only do the weapons look great the overall animation is badass too. Characters pull off shit straight from a John Woo movie, and speaking of that this anime is just oozing with western cinema tropes. They actually make referecnes to western action flicks, Sunao Katabuchi probably loves these action flicks and you can see the influence just by watching it
You can't tell me Chang isn't supposed to be Chow Yun Fat
Not to mention the ever so blatant homage to the best 90's action film there is...mohterfucking T2 I jizzed when I saw this reference
That's fucking amazing, you see it has the influence from western and gunslinger movies as a whole here and the gun fights look fucking badass too.
There's never really a moment when the animation looks shitty. It isn't top notch at all times but it's never bad either.
I laughed so fucking hard when I saw this
Animation: 8 (Lotton 10)
Let me just clear this up now, if there is one thing that definately is bad about this anime it's the fucking Opening. That Op sucks eggs, I don't know why they thought it'd be a good idea to have some lady sing in Engrish. It's skippable and I can't imagine someone listening to the entire song let alone the op more than once but I guess it's not super terrible at least it has a good structure?
As for the other music two things stand out.
There's the song "The World of Midnight" which is used in the conclusion of my favorite arc, it gave the show a different tone. The song is a beautiful one that paints the characters in a different light who I believe are another movie reference. I like the solo version better
There's also the ending theme that is remnisent of some orchestral piece in minor. It's a sad piece and it's cool how the use it to end the episode
Also each time there's a fight scene this typical heavy guitar badass theme plays and that was pretty good got you ready for the scene. It was aight
As for the sub and the dub, the voice acting for both were good and the curse words just flow better in english (because that's my native tongue) however I prefered the sub's voices over the dubs. They were both good though so you'd be good with either one
From left to right: Balaika, Eda, Revy, Shenhua, Roberta
The cast of Black Lagoon is full of badass characters and most of them are female too. Lets focus on the main four though
Let's start with "everyone's favorite femme fatale" Revy or by her real name Rebecca which no one ever calls her, if someone did she'd probably kill them. Revy is the gunman of the Lagoon crew and she's damned good at what she does
She's like a fucked up version of Lara Croft
She's not lady like at all and doesn't give a damn what other people think of her, she does what she wants when she wants. She drinks her rum straight and curses like a sailor and is the definiton of badass. Rock is the main character but you will see her on the cover & posters all do to her badassery.
Straight Bacardi...Now It's a Party
Revy is not only a musclehead she actually develops as the show goes on. She's had a damaged childhood and shows no remorse for her actions until Rock joins them. Rock is like the polar opposite of Revy and with him here she starts to think about her actions more often, something she isn't fond of doing.
Revy is awesome and there's no denying that but I want to take a moment to adress all the people that say Revy's character is sexist and all that other bullshit. There's no denying that they use her for fanservice
I'm not denying that, but so what if they are. They are in the islands of Roanapur and it looks like it's pretty fucking warm over there. Revy looks like the type to get pissed off in the summer and cut her pants into shorts, that's probably what happened. That's just how she is, and all of the female cast are the most badass out of everyone in the show. I mean my favorite character in One Piece like never has on a shirt and is ripped as fuck that doesn't make his character sexist
He looks like a gay cowboy stripper
Now if that isn't manservice then my name is Edwardo Jamestown Jerimiah the 4th...and it's not
The things I do for lulz
There's also this
Revy raised Hilda and you can't tell me otherwise
Then we have Dutch the leader of the Lagoon crew and captain of the ship. He is philosophical and very wise. He's a mysterious man, one thing we do know is that he knows a lot of people and cares for his ship and crew. What we don't know is if he actually cares or is it because they make him money? I like to believe the former but I could really see it going both ways, although Dutch doesn't seem like an asshole. We never really know about Dutch's past and that's one of the main things with the Lagoon crew anyway you don't have to discolse that and they rather you didn't.
Dutiche leads and Benny does machines! Benny is the tech guy that does...er tech stuff. Him and rock are two sanest indiviuals in the entire show. Benny is a pretty chill guy and we never know that much about him either. He's always by their side and without him they wouldn't get anywhere
We have our protaginist Rock who at first glance looks like he might turn out to become a Shinji and let me tell you it's the exact opposite it's what Shinji should've become. We see Rock grow the most and he has an influence on the Lagoon crew it's badass to see him stand up after he's been ordered around his whole life
These two here
There's this obvious attraction going on between them although you could argue that it isn't a romantic one, but that's not what i want!
Just do it!
A character that deserves a worthy mention
Balalaika is the head of the Russian Mafia and she gives the Lagoon a bunch of their jobs. She is hands down the most powerful person in the entire show and we all want to know...
How'd you get those got damned scars
She is cold blooded and a total badass there are parts where I think the show wants to you to root against her but I always found my self rooting for her. She's just too badass.
There are more characters that are also cool but these are the main ones you'll be seeing the most of
Black Lagoon is an action packed anime that starts off with a sprint and is able to keep up the pace even though each episode brings different elements: some serious, some funny, and some that are dark. The show is consistently badass and it rarely lets up
Something that is grate takes you on a great journey and ultimately leaves you satisfied. Any bumps along the road are taken with stride and don’t take away from your experience
If Quentin Tarantino were to make an anime, this would be it. It has a pretty solid cast and you may not like them, but they are pretty damn complex. The pacing is magnificent and connects from story to story without slowing down too much. My only real gripe with this is that the show is a little too phylisophical, which can handicap the pacing a bit.
Honestly, watching this was one of the best experiences I've ever had and I'd be glad to watch it again.