In 2002, Rei Hiroe ("Gunparade March", "Phantom Bullet", "Blade Guns") would create his latest manga "Black Lagoon". Featured on Shogakukan's "Monthly Sunday Gene-X" and still an ongoing series today, the manga series would receive an anime adaptation by Studio Madhouse in 2006. The first "Black Lagoon" series featured 12 episodes and several months later, the second season titled "The Second Barrage" would air in Japan. And in 2010, the OVA series titled "Black Lagoon: Roberta's Blood Trail" was released in Japan via OVA.
Both seasons were released on DVD in the U.S. back in 2008 and 2009 from Geneon Entertainment and FUNimation Entertainment and aired on television via Starz Edge. And now the series will be released on Blu-ray as a complete set (not including the OVA's) in December 2012 courtesy of FUNimation Entertainment.
"Black Lagoon" is a series that has a strong following in the U.S. According to Rei Hiroe, the series was inspired by James Ellroy, John Woo, Quentin Tarentino and Stephen King and also the piracy cases that took place in the East China Sea back in the '90s. A big Tarentino fan, "Black Lagoon" pays homage to films by Quentin Tarentino but also films from the Coen Brothers.
"Black Lagoon" is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ration). First, I have to admit that prior to watching this Blu-ray release, I was expecting the series that would look good as an upconvert, considering it was made back in 2006. And because it's a TV series, expecting the usual TV series softness. But prior to the Blu-ray release, I always thought that "Black Lagoon" was a series that looked stunning on DVD. Felt that Studio Madhouse did a wonderful job with the character design and shading of the characters and really going out in bringing Rei Hiroe's characters and the "Black Lagoon" world to life in an anime series.
On Blu-ray, I will say that the series looks much better with bolder colors, better line detail and I wasn't detecting any major banding or artifact issues while watching his Blu-ray release. There is softness, as expected from a TV series, but for an upconvert, "Black Lagoon" looks very good on Blu-ray!
"Black Lagoon" is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0. And as one can expect from its lossless 5.1 soundtrack, there is better dynamic range due to the plenty of action in each episode, the 5.1 soundtrack utilizes the surround channels effectively, especially with LFE. Explosions, gunshots, this is an active anime series that sounds great on Blu-ray. But I also want to add that the English dub track was very well done! For a series that features a diverse group, the writers for the English dialogue knew they could make the storyline feel like a seedy underground environment and that is too have your characters become the badasses with profanity and all.
Where the Japanese soundtrack is very good and appropriate for television, "Black Lagoon" has an English soundtrack that works effectively because of its profanity and nature of the main characters. Revy is featured as a loudmouth, a person who can easily cuss up a storm and the writers took advantage of that. Especially making the characters feel real thanks to casting. The English dub track has is made better by its more mature dialogue.
"Black Lagoon: Complete Set - Season 1 & 2″ comes with the following special features:
The Crew Behind the Scenes of English Version Production - (15:36) Featuring interviews with the original cast and crew of "Black Lagoon".
CD Commercial (Japan Only) - (:16) A short commercial for the CD soundtrack in Japan.
Promotional Video 1 - (1:55)
Promotional Video 2 - (1:19)
Second Season Promotion Video - (1:19)
Japanese Opening - (1:31)
Japanese Opening for "Black Lagoon: Second Barrage" - (1:31)
Textless Closing Song - (1:41)
Textless Closing Song - Episode 15 - (1:34)
Textless Closing Song - Episode 24 - (1:19)
"Black Lagoon: Complete Set - Season 1 & 2″ comes with the entire series on both Blu-ray and DVD.
Once in awhile, you come across anime series that manage to entertainment American audiences more than the audience in Japan. Typically, these are series that tend to feature a lot of action and series that happen to be very violent.
And with Rei Hiroe's inspiration from Quentin Tarentino and Coen Brothers films, he knew what he enjoyed about those films and did his best to create a storyline that incorporate the seedy criminal underground life. Full of people who are greedy, dangerous and often are deadly.
"Black Lagoon" is an interesting and unique anime series because most often, series that showcase protagonists who are thieves often are comedic and tend to use a slapstick style of comedy. But with "Black Lagoon", it's a series that was cleverly planned in how various crime organizations from different countries are integrated but also the moral dilemma that arises when the Lagoon team brings in Rock as their newest member.
You have characters who have come from terrible childhoods and had to compensate by becoming a criminal. Revy is a Chinese American who has lived in poverty and will do all it takes to never ever be poor, but at the same time, not many have tried to calm her anger. There is so much pain, so much hatred in her character but no one was brave enough to stand up to her, that is until we meet Rock.
What is interesting about Rock is that he's not great with fighting, nor is he great with artillery. He's a smart man who knows his geography, linguistics but also a man who gave his company his all, and now his company pretty much did all they can to kill him off because they were trying to hide their illegal dealings.
As Rock sees himself as a dead man with no strong ties to his past, he moves on as a new man with the Lagoon Company but also a man who has morals, a man who finds it difficult to think why criminals do the things they do. Why men, women, children get killed. But as his fellow associates don't question their jobs, Rock is there to challenge, to question them. And it becomes very difficult for a person like Revy, who has lived her life hating or fighting for what she hates. She has taken on the worst of the worst with her gun but yet this one man, without a gun, fights back with his words. Not afraid to upset her, not afraid to get in her face and tell her how he feels, knowing that he will get hurt by her. He doesn't care, as long as he gets his word out.
You don't really see this in a anime series. And throughout "Black Lagoon", we see Rock getting involved with various crime organizations and those wonder how the Lagoon company could hire someone so "good". But they start to realize that even though he is a "good" guy, he's also a smart guy that makes good decisions most of the time, especially in the best interest of the client and his Lagoon friends.
And "Black Lagoon" not only offers a deep and clever story, it also offers a lot of action and violence. What would you expect from an anime series that was inspired by Quentin Tarentino films? Suffice to say, it's the action that gets viewers all pumped. Along with "Hellsing", "Black Lagoon" is an anime series that shows crazy violence, gun wars, explosions, people being impaled. But it's what makes "Black Lagoon"so popular is that it delivers in action and storyline and also for its time, Studio Madhouse really created a series that looked amazing.
But how does it stack up on Blu-ray via upconvert? Well, it is important for people to remember that these are TV series and while there is wonderful animation, great character shading and art backgrounds, as one can expect from a TV series, there is softness. And it's important for people to remember that the series was released in 2006 and I've always said it before that series made after 2008, are the type of series that tend to look more amazing in HD. But with that being said, I have seen some really amazing upconverts from FUNimation of older series and "Black Lagoon" can be put in the category of very good upconverts. Colors are bold, line detail is very good and I detected no problems whatsoever in terms of banding, artifacts. Fans of the series will definitely be pleased with this Blu-ray release. And the Blu-ray also contains a good number of special features.
Was there anything that I found bad about this set? Not really, unless you were really hoping that the OVA series would be included. But you get both TV series included in this set and for its price on Blu-ray, it's a pretty good deal (especially compared to how much people paid for the DVD set back then).
Overall, "Black Lagoon: Complete Set - Season 1 & 2″ has received a distinction in America of being one of the better anime action series to be released stateside. I tend to look at "Black Lagoon" as an action anime series with a unique storyline that is a rarity to see among the plethora of action anime series released each year. But for the most part, I enjoyed the series then and I enjoy it even now on Blu-ray.
If you are an anime fan who craves kick ass action with a well-written storyline, look no further, "Black Lagoon: Complete Set - Season 1 & 2″ is highly recommended!