Reviews of yesteryear: Black Lagoon

Madhouse is a pretty unpredictable studio. For me, they’ve always been pretty hit or miss. Sometimes I really enjoy the anime they produce, other times I can’t stand it. Some of the best and worst anime I’ve reviewed have been from them. I’m not even kidding, I’ve given anime from their studio everything from 1-10. Most of the time when I get a request to review one of their works I have no idea what to expect. Today is an exception since I’ve actually seen the anime before. So re-watching it for a review didn’t leave me questioning whether or not it was going to be one of their good ones. You may wonder why I even bothered re-watching it. Well, the answer is obvious. So that I could more effectively talk about it. Let’s look at Black Lagoon.

There isn’t an under-lying story in Black Lagoon. There’s just a situation. A Japanese businessman named Rock… no, he’s not a blue robot… gets kidnapped by a group of mercenaries while carrying classified data. His company abandons him and he ends up joining up with the mercenaries. Why? Because… he had nothing better to do? Yeah, that aspect is a little strange. Anyway, the anime follows Rock and the three mercenaries, Dutch, Revy and Benny as they take on missions for profit. The missions follow a basic pattern. The Lagoon company goes somewhere to retrieve/deliver something, someone tries to stop them, action ensues. One thing I will say about the anime is that there are some strange characters that they run into during missions like gun-toting nuns and Roberta, a killer housemaid in traditional maid attire who carries an umbrella that fires high calibre bullets. These are both things that are pretty stupid when you think about it, but that are also awesome. It’s stupidly awesome. One issue I do have is that it ends on kind of a weak note. The strongest mission story takes place before the very final mission and it makes the last mission arc seem kind of anti-climactic by comparison. The worst part is that there’s not really a reason for it. They could’ve easily reversed the order and it would’ve made just as much sense both for this season and the second barrage.

This anime would be pretty unbearable if it had weak characters. Fortunately, it has a great cast. Most of the main protagonists are scoundrels, but also have good qualities that make them sympathetic and well-rounded. Revy is a badass who carries a lot of hatred and pain but also cares a great deal for her friends and will go to great lengths to protect them. She’s a very intense character and that makes her really interesting. Dutch is more laid back, but he’s still a great character. He’s got a lot of really good leadership traits. He can keep his cool in any situation, he’s cunning, manipulative and he has a pretty strong sense of honour, even if he is a scoundrel. Benny is less interesting that the others. He’s pretty laid back and highly intelligent, but you don’t really learn anything else about him, not in this season anyway. You don’t know why he’s there or what his goals are. He’s just kind of there. I poked fun at Rock’s joining the group earlier, but it actually does make sense when you consider his personality. He’s a man leading a life of quiet desperation. He does what’s expected of him, but it doesn’t bring him any happiness. When he joins with Lagoon it’s a way of breaking away from the expectations that he’s always lived with and finding his own path. I like the way he’s obviously in over his head but still manages to contribute.

One thing that does annoy me about his character is that he whines quite a bit, especially in the beginning. Yeah, it’s understandable and pretty realistic, but it’s still kind of grating. All of the major side characters get fleshed out decently. There isn’t a huge amount of time dedicated to them, but there’s enough to make them seem like real people and a lot of them seem really interesting which makes you curious about them. Especially the gun-toting nuns, Roberta and Balalaika, which is a pretty strong indication that Hiroe Rei knows how to construct characters really well.

The art is another aspect that really works. In a work like this there’s a temptation to make everything dark and have copious amounts of gore, but Black Lagoon doesn’t do that. The lighting is always perfect for the situation, sometimes dark and sometimes bright, but it’s never excessive with either so it’s always easy to see what’s happening. There is blood when people get shot/stabbed/punched really hard, but it’s not like Blood-C where they just spurt out ridiculous amounts, it’s always pretty realistic. Honestly, I find that refreshing. The backgrounds are really vivid and detailed, as are the weapons and various objects.

Then there are the fight scenes. Black Lagoon has some of the greatest fight sequences you’ve ever seen. There’s a lot of movement, but it’s never so hectic that you can’t figure out what’s going on. It’s very fluid and graceful. They also get pretty creative at times, especially the battle with Roberta. Some of the stunts are kind of over the top, but never to the extent that they feel jarring or completely out of place. I also love how expressive the eyes are in this anime. There are some great shots where you can just tell how a character’s feeling just because of the look in their eyes. They especially do it with Revy’s scenes. The only real problem I have with the art is that Revy’s outfit is ridiculous. She wears shorts that are so short you can see her buttocks. It’s probably for fan-service, but if it is it’s pretty subdued since they don’t focus on it or draw shots so that you can get a view of them. They just gave her a stupid outfit and, in terms of fan-service, that’s really subdued. One small issue I have is that Dutch always wears sunglasses, day or night. It doesn’t make sense and it kind of drives me crazy. You aren’t Corey Hart, take those things off when it’s dark.

The voice acting is really good in this. Toyoguchi Megumi gives a spectacular performance as Revy. Namikawa Daisuke and Isobe Tsutomu both do really well too. The music is well suited for the scenes. One thing I do have to mention about the music is the opening theme, Red Fraction. It’s one of those aspects that’s really stupid, but also really awesome. The whole thing is in bad “Engrish” and it’s hilarious. Just read the first few lines and try to keep a straight face: “I have a big gun, I took it from my lord. Sick with justice, I just wanna feel you. I’m your angel, only a ring away. You make me violate you no matter who you are.” I honestly haven’t heard Engrish that funny in an anime since… Star Gentle Uterus.

The yuri factor is a 1/10. There’s not any yuri in this.

So, Black Lagoon is a series with virtually no story, spectacular characters, gorgeous artwork, intense action and some awesomely stupid aspects. I think it’s pretty glorious. I enjoy the character building moments and I really like how complex they all are, especially given how easily this could’ve just been a mindless action series. It’s nice to look at and the goofier aspects actually serve to make it a lot of fun. I have to give Black Lagoon an 8/10.

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