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Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage
Reviewer: Aaron Murphy 12/06/2007

Synopsis:
A year has passed since Rock first joined Lagoon Company, a delivery business specializing in illegal goods.  Still trying to reside between the world of the living and the dead, figuratively speaking, Rock cannot fully immerse himself into his new life.  This is truly the least of his problems though.  Psycho killer children are running amuck, protecting a counterfeiter has Lagoon Company up against a horde of assassins, and a mission to Japan could mean the introduction of the Russian Mafia to the peaceful Japanese society.  This trip back home could mean big changes for Rock as he wrestles between his past life as a Japanese businessman and his current life, as the man facilitating the destruction of his homeland.

Review:
Black Lagoon the Second Barrage continues the story of Rock as a member of Lagoon Company, a life he surely never saw himself being a part of.  Keeping most of its charm from the first season, we are again treated to an action series with mature themes, a willingness to take things to the extreme, and, while a little toned down, still carries a fair amount of attitude.  The stories have more meat and more emotional undertones this time around, which makes for a thoroughly enjoyable sequel that propels itself past its predecessor in overall quality.

With no real lapse in time between seasons we are immediately introduced to a new story line, one that centers on child assassins who like to torture their victims and bathe in their blood.  They’ve been sent to kill Balalaika, but keep getting sidetracked with killing everyone else in Roanapur.  While the premise may shock and the events sadden, it has quite the emotional impact if you don’t mind the subject matter.  The next arc focuses on a woman counterfeiter who’s running for her life after failing the mafia gang that had hired her.  She employ’s the Lagoon Company to help her escape, but with Dutch and Benny gone, they’re going to have to hold down the fort against a horde of assassins until they get back.  The last story line actually covers six episodes, or half the season, and is the best Black Lagoon has had to offer.  Rock returns home to translate for Balalaika, the Russian mafia leader, as she looks into expanding her operations into Japan.  Revy accompanies him, as his bodyguard, which creates a number of situations in which Rock and Revy get to interact with each other, a situation which further develops their burgeoning relationship.  A welcome development indeed, as we get to see a different side of both Revy and Rock, a slight role reversal if you will.  While all of the stories within the Second Barrage are quality, the second one is the weakest of the three.  It seems to set itself up as the lighthearted/comedic break between the two more serious story arcs, which it is successful at.  It just doesn’t have emotional underpinnings the others do.

Much of the cast from the first season is back, but the focus has shifted somewhat.  While the first season did center much of its time on Rock and Revy, the second season does so to an even larger extent.  This results in decreased interaction with Dutch and Benny, which move into much more supportive positions than their previous level of involvement.  Balalaika takes a much more fundamental role in this season, and is thoroughly entrenched in two of the three story arcs.  Having the series focus on Balalaika is a very strong point for this season, as it keeps the stories with known characters and uses her entire mafia group as a facilitator to larger operations that couldn’t be happening with just focusing on the jobs Lagoon Company gets.

Not much can be considered a disappointment in this release, but maybe in relation to the previous season.  Those who were drawn in by its action/comedy tagline may be a bit dismayed by the lack of both.  As they move their focus more towards the stories and characters themselves, there will naturally be a decrease in other areas, so it is certainly a forgivable transgression.  The only other problem I really had was that the “child assassins” aspect seemed a little ridiculous.  Not so much the use of child assassins, but that they would be able to survive a huge gun battle with dozens of trained Mafioso for any length of time.  They are still children after all.

The animation continues to be impressive, except for the same detail problems that persisted in the last season (A lack of detail on characters marginally far away).  I also noticed a few detail problems in a couple fight scenes, but it isn’t anything major.  Since there was only a four month time gap in production between seasons, there really isn’t much of a quality difference between them.  The same trend of fairly unique character designs continues, but to a slightly lesser extent do to the Japanese location of half the season.  Also a result of production being so close, or because they were lazy, the soundtrack is almost exactly the same as the first season.  They continue to use the same opening and ending themes as well, except on two specific occasions.  At the end of episode 15 and 24 there’s a new ending sequence and song specifically to close off each story arc.

Given the downfall of Geneon, I was unable to listen to the Second Barrage in English, as I had the first season.  While the Japanese language track succeeds in correctly casting everyone, as per usual, it just doesn’t have the same appeal as the English dub.  It lacks the individuality that the accents in English brought to the table, and continues to have hilarious Engrish throughout.  But hey, no one should really have a problem with it, so until we get a release with an English dub it will appease the dub fans and work great for sub fans.

Black Lagoon the Second Barrage has all the qualities of the first season, but with more character development, relationship growth, and above all, Revy isn’t such a bitch to Rock.  More of the same could have been the tagline for the second season, could have been.  Luckily for us, Black Lagoon the Second Barrage deviates sufficiently from its previous season in story and development that we are left with a non-derivative continuation of a great first season.  So while the action and in your face attitude remain, the stories are more sinister and in-depth this time around, purveying the message that Black Lagoon is truly a series coming unto its own.  Here’s hoping for a third season!
 
Miscellaneous:
The Black Lagoon manga is still ongoing, and with the Second Barrage having been produced in 2007, the possibility of another season is conceivable, if nothing else.

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Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage
Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage
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Review Title:
Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage
Type:
TV
Episodes:
12
Duration:
300 Minutes
General Rating:
4.5 out of 5 stars
Aired:
2006
Suitable For:
Young Adults
Genres:
Action, Shounen
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