The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Black Lagoon

Title: Black Lagoon
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Madhouse Studios
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 8 Apr 2006 – 24 Jun 2006

Synopsis: Okajima Rokuro makes his way through his Japanese salaryman job brown nosing and ass kissing like all good Japanese salarymen should. However, when a trip through the Southeast Asian seas to deliver a special data disc goes awry, with the disc stolen and Rokuro kidnapped, he learns his higher ups couldn’t care less about him, prioritizing the disc above his life. Abandoned by his corporate masters, the newly dubbed Rock exhibits some talent that earns him at least a temporary stay of execution with his captors, an opportunity he must seize if he is to adjust to a new life on these rugged, lawless waters.

The Highlights
Pirates: Arrrren’t the ones you expect.
Action: High-octane shootouts and chase scenes reminiscent of Hollywood favorites.
Characterization: Surprisingly digs deep under the surface of our two main characters.
Conclusion: What conclusion?

We in civilized society retain a romanticized image of pirates. They are eye-patched, peg-legged, and hook-handed, brandishing sabers and the familiar skull-and-crossbones. And you’d believe it’s so, since you’ve probably never seen one in real life. But modern day pirates aren’t the jovial “preemptive nautical salvage experts” we see on Halloween. They’re well-armed thugs and thieves who terrorize shipping and fishing channels across the India Ocean, pilfering cargo and commandeering whole ships, holding crews for ransom. Some pirates are mercenaries for hire for powerful crime mafias and shady corporate business transactions. It is this dangerous underground world that Black Lagoon steps into, providing plenty of thrills and explosions and a bit of character insight in this action hero spectacle played straight.

Black Lagoon wastes no time getting into to the good stuff. Rock gets shipped off to deliver the disc, only for his boat to get hijacked by the mercenary team of Revy, Dutch, and Benny. Kidnapping Rock in hopes of extracting some easy extra cash for his ransom, they actually are baited into a hectic shootout at a bar and then chased across the seven seas on their own boat by a malefactor with a nasty disposition and an attack helicopter. End episode one. The series covers this and other ludicrous plotlines as Rock and co. salvage treasure from a decades-old submarine wreck versus a crew of Neo-Nazis, cut arms trades with drug-trafficking nuns, and deal with one very bad maid.

However the fun isn’t derived simply from the delirious scenarios they run through, but the competency with which the anime delivers the excess of bullets and blood. Played for the most part straight and serious, the script has enough intelligence not to beat the quirks over the audience’s head but instead allows the series’ unique mania to manifest on its own. There are absurdities present for sure, but there is an underlying reality in Black Lagoon’s harsh depiction of the region’s lawlessness and destitution.

There are two characters that rise above the din of typical action movie archetypes, the central duo Rock and Revy. Coming from two very different backgrounds, the two mesh like water and oil as their ideologies and personalities clash. Revy is an aggressive “shoot first ask questions later” character, but unlike other dumb action girl types she has a real streak of nihilism rooted in her poverty-stricken upbringing. Rock has the subordinate personality and softer sensibilities befitting his comparatively privileged life, and initially lets Revy bully him around. Yet my favorite scene in Black Lagoon isn’t the conclusion, the helicopter-boat chase or Roberta’s thunderous introductory scene at the bar, but when Rock grows a massive pair and stands up for himself against Revy’s very serious threats. When the main characters show so much depth, it’s starkly apparent how foolish and one-note the bad guys are.

The way the season ends is a bit of a let down. There’s a sequel season and OVA to look forward to, but it should have at least found some resolution to conclude on rather than just stop. Another nagging annoyance was the Engrish lyrics in the opening credits. They are so laughably incoherent it makes me wonder why they were written in English at all.

Black Lagoon is a solidly produced action spectacle. With a fair bit of intelligence, stabs at invested characterization, and a taste for manic flair, it’s an anime action junkie’s dream come true. Black Lagoon sells exactly what it advertises and not much more than that, but what it has to offer is good enough for most.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: kadian1364

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