The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail

Title: Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail
Genre: Drama/Action
Company: Madhouse Studios
Format: 5 OVA
Date: 26 Jun 2010 – 22 Jun 2011

Synopsis: Diego Lovelace, an influential figure in South America and the political world, is assassinated during a speech rally, driving his faithful maid Roberta to the brink of insanity with murderous rage as a result. Her unquenchable thirst for revenge takes her to Roanapur, where she lays waste to the town and leaves a bloody trail along the way. While various groups get embroiled in her path of destruction, the Lovelace family heir Garcia and understudy maid Fabiola make a deal with the Black Lagoon company and the Chinese Hong Kong Triad to work together in order to track Roberta’s activities. During their meeting, they learn the identity of Diego’s killers: an 18-man SOCOM unit codenamed “Gray Fox Command Group”.

The Highlights
Roberta: Dramatic transformation from T-1000 in a maid suit to an unleashed ravenous beast.
Approach: More emphasis on character exploration than action sequences.
Pacing: Slow at first, but picks up gradually and doesn’t slow down ever since.
Atmosphere: Darker, more grim, and more visceral than the previous series.
Adrenaline factor: Like a game of Russian roulette played in the Golden Triangle wilderness.

People who have watched the Black Lagoon series may remember it for various reasons. Some may recall how the dialogue is littered with vulgarities and unadulterated content; others may reminisce on how their screens are regularly decorated with spewing blood and flying limbs, and there are those who may cherish how the characters love to settle the score with their weapon of choice rather than with words. I, on the other hand, treasure it for the unique cast, particularly a certain maid who proved to us how amazing she was by being utterly badass while keeping her apron white and spotless. And just when I thought I couldn’t get enough of her, Roberta’s Blood Trail did me and probably a lot of viewers a huge favor by turning her into a rabid bloodhound who eats human beings for breakfast.

Roberta’s drastic transformation is a prime example of what makes Blood Trail truly beautiful: the cast undergoes immense development, and their newfound roles completely change the way we have come to know Black Lagoon. Roberta now takes center stage and shines gloriously; the antagonists are a group of soldiers who exhibit genuinely noble traits; Revy takes a back seat and becomes a mere observer, and Rock now assumes the post of a blackjack dealer who gambles with luck and people’s lives in order to meet his goals. Since it has basically become a free-for-all battle royale, it renders the story unpredictable and therefore highly riveting.

Another major difference between Blood Trail and the series is its approach towards storytelling. Unlike Black Lagoon and Second Barrage, which are simply out-and-out action fests with dramatic elements, the OVA focuses more on the drama and the action plays second fiddle to it. The show eventually resembles a war drama, a cerebral one that delicately intertwines profound characterization with an intriguing cat-and-mouse story. And of course, an aspect that is imperative for any war drama is tense atmosphere, which the show is not lacking one bit. The suspense keeps viewers constantly at the edge of their seats as events slowly develop and unfold, and when something big happens, it comes off in spectacular fashion. The sheer tension is similar to watching a timebomb ticking and counting down to the massive explosion.

As amazing as Blood Trail may be, it isn’t without a few flaws. The pacing is slow at first, which is somewhat uncharacteristic for a seinen title that is popularly known for fast-paced action. Although the slow pacing may serve as good buildup to the story, it still feels like it could have been a notch faster. Also, the dialogue is a tad heavier than those from the series. Although esoteric and symbolic content in the conversations aren’t anything new in Black Lagoon, it occasionally comes off as too flowery and even unnatural. It is clear that the exchanged words are meant to drive the plot and develop the characters simultaneously, but things would have been better if there’s more balance between the two aspects so that the dialogue becomes more succinct.

Despite issues with pacing and dialogue content, it’s undeniable that Blood Trail is one vicious roller coaster ride. It starts deliberately slow, building up tension as the carriage escalates to the top of the initial climb, and finally rolls down into an unstoppable and exhilarating frenzy just when the riders begin to have that sinking feeling that they’re in for a terrifying experience. It’s a bloody ball of sadistic entertainment, but unlike most shows of similar nature, there’s a lot of depth and meaning in almost every scene. Better yet, Blood Trail is to Black Lagoon the same way The Second Raid is to Full Metal Panic: a gutsy attempt at re-inventing a good title into something better that pays off handsomely. Madhouse has added another powerhouse to its list and I certainly hope that it continues to push boundaries when it comes to making provocative titles.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: AC

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