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Black Lagoon
Reviewer: Aaron Murphy 11/12/2007

Rokuro Okajima is just your ordinary Japanese businessman.  Assigned the task of delivering a disc by his company, his boat gets hijacked by a mercenary delivery company named Lagoon.  They are after the disc he is transporting which carries sensitive information about his company, something he is entirely unaware of.   Deciding that they should take not only the disc but Rokuro as well, he is used as a hostage to be bartered for a ransom.  Things get complicated though, as the company he works for is much more interested in getting the disc back than they are about getting him back safely.  Sick of his old life and the disregard he is shown by his bosses, Rokuro ends up joining the mercenary group under the nickname Rock.  He may have gotten himself into more than he bargained for though.  He will be forced into an underworld of Mafioso, Neo Nazis, crazed assassins and an inward battle with his moral principles in a city of decadence.

An action adventure series with serious attitude, Black Lagoon is one of the most entertaining titles in recent memory.  Based off its manga counterpart, foul language, gunfights, and piles of dead are only a taste of what’s to come for anyone that endeavors to watch it through to the end.  This title is for those that not only love action, not only love killing with reckless abandon, but love a series with engaging characters and a flare for the profane.          
Focusing on a mercenary delivery company operating out of the hell hole called Roanapur, there is no lack of action or plot lines that will bring about the smell of gunpowder.  The Lagoon Company employs 3 key members which include Rock, the Japanese businessman that has thrown himself into a dangerous world after his company effectively strands him for dead.  He tries to make himself useful by using his brain to keep the others, especially Revy, from always fighting with everyone.  Revy, or two hands, is the real muscle of the group and with her quick temper and almost never ending anger is quick to draw and even faster to shoot.  Next you have the technical brains of the operations, Benny, whose computer expertise is second to none.  Their employer, Dutch, is the owner of Lagoon Company and the man who decides what jobs they will take on and is the secondary back-up to Revy when things get really hairy.  His torpedo boat is the vessel they typically use for making pick-ups and deliveries, but they will use whatever means necessary to deliver the goods to their customers.  One thing is sure though, no matter what delivery job they get they always seem to run into trouble.
As interesting as the main characters are and intriguing the premise of the show is, I can’t say that the stories in Black Lagoon are that profound, unfortunately.  Each story arc runs for around three episodes, and while they may not make you question your beliefs or scratch your head, they’re certainly entertaining and fairly original.  Whether it’s rescuing a painting from a downed Nazi submarine while being attack by Neo Nazis or battling an ex military maid looking to retrieve her young master, it keeps things fresh.  Situations can get rather serious given the premise of the title, yet they do try to keep things light with some comedy scattered throughout.  Such as the Neo Nazi muscle brain that stands there talking about how great his gun is and how he’s the only one in the world that can wield it, all while Revy slowly reloads her guns and shoots him.  Little things like that keep the series from becoming too dark that it becomes overpowering.      
Rounding out the things action series typically don’t achieve, Black Lagoon actually features some quality character development.  Being that Rock and Revy are the two main characters of the show, they receive the majority of development, mainly as a result of their effect upon each other.  They start off direly opposed, but as the season progresses their effects on one another become more and more evident.  As they work together and share personal stories of their lives with one another, and through yelling and threatening death, you can see their relationship grow.  It is a beautiful thing, and accompanied by strong writing, really elevates the series into something more than just another “shoot um up.”  But there is a problem here.  The time spent in the first season is not long enough to fully evolve this relationship and thus you are left with incomplete development by the end of the first season.  The other problem is that they are the only two characters really fleshed out, so the others are just left flapping in the wind, so to speak. 
The English language track for Black Lagoon is wonderful; I do not know how anyone could possibly have a problem with it, though people undoubtedly will.  This title seems much more suited to the English language anyway, as the original language has a number of scenes in English already and most of the characters aren’t Japanese.  The Japanese language track in fine, and I give the Japanese voice actors props from speaking in English occasionally, even if they do sound hilarious.  At any rate, I urge everyone to try the English track first.  The individuality of the voices and accents used carry it much further in English than the uniform voices in Japanese do. 
The animation, done by Madhouse, is very good overall, excellent even, but does lack in a few areas where detail is concerned.  In some scenes there is a distinct lack of detail on slightly distant shots of characters.  This is annoying since they are close enough that you would be able to see their face, if they bothered giving them one.  However, this is more nitpicking than anything else and is a solid production overall.  The character designs are another success in this series.  Revy has a very ferocious look to her, but when she isn’t pissed (not often) is quite easy on the eyes.  On the whole I thought the main characters were unique looking, even Rock who was most susceptible to being a temple character in terms of design.  This carries over to a number of extraneous characters which look quite distinctive as well, such as Balalaika; with huge burn scars all over her body. 
Consisting of a number of rock and heavy metal beats, the soundtrack is very fitting for the tempo of the series.  The opening number, "Red Fraction" by Mell, is catchy enough with its hard-line, in your face attitude, befitting the series and is probably the best of the rock songs in the show.  What really shines, though, is the ending theme.  "Don't Look Behind" by Edison actually sent a shiver down my spine every time I heard it.  A soft and eerie piece, seemingly foreshadowing sorrow, plays to Revy slowly walking down a beach, under the gaze of the moon, while firing clip after clip into the unknown… it is exquisite.  One of the best ending sequences I have seen.       
The first season of Black Lagoon is quite satisfying, with some light comedy, dark undertones and interesting lead characters; it’s a tough series not to like.  While the plot never gets deep enough to propel it into excellence, with entertainment like this it doesn’t detract too much.  Do yourself a favor and check it out.

The US release of Black Lagoon season one is complete, but with Geneon going under it may be tough to find the DVDs out there.  Currently, Funimation is looking at picking up some of the titles Geneon had, including Black Lagoon.  Cross your fingers.
The manga is still ongoing, with around one volume being released every year, so there is a possibility of subsequent seasons.

Black Lagoon
Black Lagoon
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Review Title:
Black Lagoon
300 Minutes
General Rating:
4 out of 5 stars
Suitable For:
Young Adults
Action, Shounen
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