on October 5, 2015
A walking doormat by the name of Rokuro Okajima is taken hostage by a pirate group named the Lagoon Company. After pretty much proving his worth to the team. He's soon made into a member and renamed Rock. The Lagoon Company consists of three members; the leader is the African American male Dutch, the computer specialist Benny, and Revy the female loose cannon also known as "Two Hands". Rock, who is clearly a man out of place struggles with his new life as an outlaw. The Lagoon Company's purpose is to transport goods for different entities. The goods range from weapons to kidnapped individuals. -summary
It's no secret in anime over the last decade plus that barbaric violence and over the top comedy have been joined at the hip; therefore it's almost a guarantee that viewers will be treated to a title that wants to appeal to multiple audiences. While this is fine for a majority of anime fans, there are some whom simply loathe this artistic approach and will brush it off as genre clashes. Black Lagoon is one of the very few around this time period that manages to go against the grain on some level. It doesn't rely too much on gimmicks to drive its story, but the ones it does fall back on are actually pretty entertaining to watch at times. This is one of the rare modern titles I come back to.
Black Lagoon is still just as entertaining as I remember it, perhaps even more so. I have a soft spot for these characters since they feel quite believable, and the writing dabbles in heavy themes the likes of existentialism and strong atheist beliefs. The series handles these themes in ways I can relate to which adds to my personal enjoyment. Now the character development here isn't the greatest, but viewers will get to know Revy and Rock especially. The first several episodes develops their shaky relationship as they come from two different backgrounds. Revy's life was apparently very rough from the get-go, so her mentality is a heavy shade of black to the point where grave-robbing is far from beneath her. While Rock actually lived a decent life where his biggest complaint was kissing up to his bosses, so he doesn't get her at all. The writing is pretty solid bringing these two to an understanding, and it's actually easier for me to watch now. I feel the chemistry between these two, and some people will probably be hoping to see them get somewhere.
Black Lagoon is plot less for the most part with Revy and Rock's budding relationship being the only consistent plot thread. However, the series maintains a fresh feel through several stand alone tales and even a two or three parter here and there. The Black Lagoon company will go against Neo-Nazi's, crime lords attempting to rise in power, and even a near indestructible assassin. Make no mistake, the series is action-packed full of gun battles either on foot or in the sea.
While the series has a consistent flow from one arc to the other, and it does not follow the monster of the week formula. It's pretty far from flawless though; the writers have their moments where they can run the comedy smoothly, and the jokes along with insults can creep up on you hitting that funny bone. Unfortunately, you can also see when it's trying very hard to be funny, it also tries hard to be stylish too on some occasions when it didn't really need to be. It did a far better job letting these elements run naturally. The action scenes are very cool, but I still roll my eyes to some degree as they can feel a bit too corny pushing Revy's psychotic side. At times, I kind of think her cool factor is quite over-rated in comparison to her boss Dutch, whom doesn't need this over the top action to be cool at all.
Visually the anime isn't very impressive but it carries the action well enough. The vehicle and gun battles are very entertaining blanketed with plenty of shot bodies and explosions. When characters are shot with powerful weaponry, they're asses are sent twirling in the air. My only problem is that there are plenty of short cuts taken with the action; there's very little choreography with characters barely moving in which they try to cleverly work this into Revy's character, and it just comes off cheesy sometimes. Now I like the character designs as they have a mature look which abandons the usual chibi, big eyed look for everyone. The designs match their personality very well with the Russian Mafia crime lord Balalaika, along with Dutch, Benny, and Revy really standing out. The backgrounds are pretty nice in regards to the landscapes; the bright yet dull light shining on buildings, the night time atmosphere, it all looks very nice and even the CG blends in well enough. The only weakness I can think of are the background stills for the populace. This is something I will always take jabs at, because it renders everything lifeless due to the lack of movement. When I see a bunch of people crowded I want to see some activity.
The voice acting for the English dub deserves the biggest nod for its no nonsense and bold delivery. There is loads of profanity here and offensive content going around, and it fits very well with the characters personalities and design. The music gets the mood going for sure, with the opening theme Red Fraction which feels like a cross between rock and electronica leading the way. Unfortunately outside of that nothing really stood out as something memorable.
Overall, this first half of Black Lagoon is pretty entertaining with some good action and decent characters. It doesn't suffer from a huge amount of tonal whiplash either which will always be a plus with me. The high level of profanity, sexual references, and offensive content will more than likely bother some people though, so you're being warned on who this anime is not aimed for. In any case, even if you don't like anime at all, this is something you can probably get into. If you're an anime fan and didn't see this, well you don't need to add it to the top of your list but check it out someday.
Highs: Some stylish action and some type of character development, excellent voice-work
Lows: Action segments may feel a little corny at times, will be offensive to some
on July 28, 2009
This review is for the entire series. I have been watching anime since I first picked up a copy of "Battle Angel Alita" and then Ghost in the Shell from my local Blockbuster back in the early 1980s. Some anime is exceptional, some is not very good. This anime transcends its media and approaches cinema art. I was glad to hear a third series is in the works and is scheduled for release next year.
There is no need to describe the series any further than has been done in previous reviews and there is a very good detailed synopsis on Wikipedia.
I claim this is great anime for the following reasons:
1. The art work is outstanding. The viewer is routinely treated to incredibly detailed scenes like a view of the city from the harbor, the symbolic damaged idol, a blue butterfly from a boy's flashback. If you are a fan of weapons and equipment, they are drawn in incredible detail and accuracy in a Joseph Wight tradition. You will not be disappointed in the quality of this anime. Disney should take notes. While the series is compared to Cowboy Beebop due to its action nature and episodic style, visually it is far superior
2. The story lines are a collection of short stories that follow chronologically but can stand on their own. Unlike an anime like Ergo Proxy, you can spend an hour watching a few episodes and get a complete an entertaining story. Like in real life the stories are simple and full of action, but the characters are complex. There is quite a bit of philosophy snuck in, like Sartre, but it does not come across as pretentious or bog down the stories which are incredibly fun and mainly light hearted. The scenes are unashamedly cinematic.
3. The characters are complex. The viewer will not be spoon feed. With the exception of Rock, you never get the whole story about these characters. They all have their secrets. I especially like how the character "Revy" is allowed to be psychopathic, without an attempt to explain it away. The viewer's questions are left unanswered as to why the characters do all the things they do, just as we are in our relationships in real life. I appreciate as a viewer being treated as an adult without a 5 minute monologue of amateurish psychology attempting to reconcile aberrant behavior that all too common a tedious scene in anime. They are criminals like the Sopranos; I do not need their actions justified. In addition, the guest characters are incredibly rich. Fan favorites includes the assassin "Chinglish" who takes offense to Revy pointed out her broken English, and "Sister Edda", the nun equivalent to Revy. Every moment they are on the screen is a pure delight.
4. The sound track especially the intro is bold and fresh, as Revy quotes in one episode "It's not Jpop". Really sets the tone and gets your blood pumping.
As a warning to the creators of this anime, I will mention my only perceived negative I found in the series is by the end of the second series, Rock was being given way too much time and dialogue. The series ended with the character Rock wallowing in the way too typical young man of anime angst. If this continues in the third series it will kill it. The series is at its best when Dutch and Revy have most of the dialogue. As the creators appear to become more interested in the characters they have created, Rock is beginning to behave more like Shinji Ikari from Neon Evangelion and Revy's personality disorders are getting dangerously close to be explained. If that should happen the mystery of the series will be gone, and so will end the series. The first episodes worked so well because when Rock began to wallow in his typical Japanese anime guy angst winning, Revy or sometimes Dutch would cut him off either verbally or sometimes with a good punch. Some of my favorite scenes are when Revy is able to appropriately point out how ridiculous Rock's morbidity is. Too many anime's like Evangelion are heavily damaged by their young male characters winning about their indecisiveness. It's like some sort of adolescent male menopause.
With that said, if you are an anime fan, you should consider ordering this series if you like great characters, great animation, and great fun; this could be the very best anime series to date.
on July 16, 2010
My husband and I bought the Black Lagoon box set on a whim - the price was right, the back cover showed an interesting story, and anything that shows a woman with a gun on the cover seems to be interesting on its own merit (yes, we can be that shallow at times).
I am pretty sure I have done reviews for other Anime shows. If I have not, let me lay this out: my husband and I are big Otaku. Adding this to our extensive collection was only done after a review of the back cover and consideration for the quality of the animation. Most Japanese Anime seems to fall into two categories (to our opinions) really good, detailed animation, or lack of detailed, lazy animation. When we review an anime that we have not heard of (this being one of them), we tend to look at the quality of the drawings. If they are detailed, at least to our minds, the story tends to be better.
Black Lagoon has wonderful animation. The details are impeccable, from the environments (which range from a deprived city to the high seas), the mechanical aspects (the gunboat the pirates use is wonderfully drawn and very believable), and the characters themselves. Each has a distinct costume, and the facial expressions are varied. While there is a slight tendency for the wide-eyed cliche anime females, by-and-large the drawings are realistic and accurate.
That is to say, of course, that most of the females are, erm... well endowed, and in some situations, it would be physically impossible for the movement and/or way they are held up (I am sorry, things that large are never that perky). The series does tend to categorize the women into either a highly sexualized depiction (Revy, the main female protagonist in the series, saunters around in a tight tank top and short shorts), or as prude-like as possible (a nun, a businesswoman, or a maid in a very conservative uniform). Even with these somewhat sexist depictions, the characters themselves more than make up for the drawings.
The story for Black Lagoon starts out with action and ends with a shootout. The crew of the Black Lagoon have been tasked with boarding a vessel to obtain certain files from an employee of a Japanese organization. They end up kidnapping the employee, and amid the loud vulgarities uttered by the pirates, the soft-spoken demeanor of the businessman seems comical.
From here, the story takes off. Business intrigue, high-speed shootouts, Neo-Nazi subplots, and lots and lots of cursing. The characters themselves are modern-day pirates, and they acquire jobs from a variety of sources in their homebase, a city filled with the scum of the Earth. The police are corrupt, and various gangs are in control. It is the leaders of these gangs that give the jobs to the crew of Black Lagoon.
Now what about that employee? Well, he ends up joining the crew, and becomes the straight-laced booknerd member. I could tell you how he joins, but it would give away the plot of the first couple episodes.
Some other reviews say there is no discernable plot to the series, and in terms of an overall plot, this statement is true. The series breaks down individual stories into several plots throughout the course of the season. If there is any overall plot, it would be the background stories of the crew, or the slight sexual tension between the new guy and Revy (the lone female member, who carries two handguns and is the best shot in town).
The story, overall, is edgy, funny, and full of action. Fights, explosions, chases on the high seas, dark crime stories, and interesting dialogue litter the series. There are several veiled political comments made (the Neo Nazi plot, for instance, is one), and some vague historical allusions, which may or may not be accurate (I didn't research them, I'll be honest). Some of the plots may offend some people (if you do not like bloodshed and the Neo Nazi depictions, don't get this DVD), and the series has tons of cursing. I would not recommend watching this in front of children.
Music and Voice Acting
The music in the series is top notch, with maybe the exception of the theme song (a weird rock/techno/J-pop song that makes no sense, lyrics-wise). Most of the action sequences have a rock song playing, and combined with the excellent animation, you will stay glued to your screen. The music suits the atmosphere, and unlike some anime series, fits the content perfectly. I intend to look up the soundtrack!
The voiceacting is wonderful, also. The tones and emotions conveyed by the voiceactors is well done, and the lip-syncing is top-notch. Each character has a very distinct voice, from the rough voice of Revy, the softspoken businessman, or the baritone captain. Characters with cultural accents also have excellent portrayals without being cliche.
If you want an action-packed series that is a bit unconventional (there is no grand plot, rather, a series of smaller, defined plots), this is for you. Lots of cursing may turn off some, and some of the touchy subject matter will offend others. The great animation, voiceacting, music, and colorful characters, make this worth owning.