The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage

Title: Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Madhouse Studios
Format: 12 episodes
Date: 3 Oct 2006 – 19 Dec 2006

Synopsis: Okajima “Rock” Rokuro is now a full fledged member of the Lagoon Company, playing the role of the team’s negotiator whenever they have to deal with mobs, triads, gangs and such in the depraved and lawless town of Roanapur. Now, their newest job involves the gruesome deaths of six Russians that took place within a single month. They learned that the ones behind the incident are called the Vampire Twins. Who are they, and what motivates them to commit killings so vile that they ruffled the feathers of the most powerful crime organizations?

The Highlights
The baddies: A boisterous new assemblage; the Vampire Twins redefines the term “twisted”.
Action sequences: Just as exciting as the first season, except with more blood.
Story: More longer, condensed arcs; the Washimine arc particularly stands out.
Character analysis: More emphasis given between the Lagoon company and its antagonists.
Summing it up in two words: Ballsy and gritty.

Judging from Black Lagoon‘s positive reception, many people would agree that a second season was warranted. It comes as no surprise to all its fans that indeed there would be one, and they were naturally ecstatic about it. I on the other hand was very cautious; what worried me about Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage, like many other second-season shows, was the freshness of its material. If the show had offered more of the same sort of content as the first season, then I’d be mildly disappointed because a formulaic approach would quickly leave it stale. Fortunately, my anxiety was put to ease when Second Barrage deliberately leaves the no-holds-barred action perfectly intact while taking subtle changes in direction towards character development and storytelling. Not only does it sidestep the common pitfalls of sequels, it also steers away from the shadow of the first season and establishes itself as “Round 2” of a vicious rollercoaster ride.

The deliciously exhilarating action sequences from the first season are left unchanged for Second Barrage, and it couldn’t have been a better decision. For those who were hoping that the second season would not inexplicably tone the violence down, rest assured because there’s nothing to worry about; the bullets still fly all over the place, limbs still scatter all over the floor and blood still gushes all over. Better yet, the series introduces a new batch of iconic baddies with even more destructive weaponry to bring the carnage to a new level. It doesn’t matter much that the charismatic Roberta isn’t featured in this series, especially since the show generously compensates the loss with the Vampire Twins and Ginji; the former are arguably the most disturbing underaged villains and the latter is a tribute to Kurosawa‘s evergreen classic Yojimbo.

What separates Black Lagoon from other action series is its focus on character development underneath the gunfights and melee, and most of it highlights Rock’s relationship building with his newly found mercenary colleagues. In Second Barrage however, while this still continues, most of the spotlight shines on the interactions between the Lagoon mercenaries and the people involved in their jobs. The Washimine arc puts several main characters under the magnifying glass and views them in different light. The characters that people thought are the good guys aren’t exactly the most honorable or heroic, and the people who stand on the opposing side as the Lagoon company and Hotel Moscow aren’t exactly malevolent either. There is a conversation between Rock and a yakuza leader in one scene that paints more color to their respective background than most shows could only do with a few episodes.

Like the first season, Second Barrage will be remembered for the action sequences and homage to classics from both the East and the West. As a second season, it retains the spirit from Black Lagoon but subtly distinguishes itself by introducing a new set of iconic figures and refurbishing the narrative from the more shorter arcs in the first season, to lesser but longer arcs so that more emphasis can be given to develop its focal characters. From a bigger picture, Second Barrage is one prime example of how second-season shows can be just as good as their predecessors by, in a contradictory sense, being different yet identical at the same time. Best of all, the story of Black Lagoon is now heading towards the main event with its third and possibly final installment, so sit tight and get ready for the finale.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: AC

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