I’ve talked about Black Lagoon once before. For those of you who don’t remember, it’s an action series about a group of mercenaries. Dutch (who wears sunglasses at night), Revy (who shoots everything), Benny (who does machines) & Rock (the rookie). The first series aired in 2006. This OVA was released in 2010-2011. Judging by the title, we can safely say it puts the focus on the killer maid. So, let’s look at Roberta’s Blood Trail and see if it’s as good as the first series of the anime was. Please tell me it also has an absurd engrish theme tune.
We open with a political event in Venezuela. Naturally, the United States can’t stand not interfering with South American politics, and they bomb it. This results in several people, including Roberta’s master, dying. She swears revenge and disappears from the mansion, taking a big gun from her lord. This prompts her young master to go after her with another maid. The trail takes them to Roanapur where they solicit the help of the Lagoon Company to find her and bring her back safely. Can they save Roberta and when will America stop bullying small South & Central American nations? Possibly and only when Trump’s ill-conceived tax plan gets them so far in debt they can’t afford to be dicks.
The biggest problem with the OVA is that there’s a lot of time spent on set up. Black Lagoon has never been a series with particularly strong writing. It works by quickly setting up a situation and then giving you some stupidly awesome action. That’s where it shines. Having long segments of Rock playing strategist or of Roanapur politics isn’t particularly compelling. Nor is the planning on display very good. It’s one of those scenarios where he basically knows exactly what’s going to happen and what he needs to do because he read ahead in the script and not because of any actual cleverness. The politics aren’t exactly robust either. A lot of it is X owes Y a favour because of Z or group D thinks E because of some really shallow reason. And I do understand that it’s Black Lagoon, it’s not supposed to be complex or clever. My issue is that they’re wasting large chunks of time putting on a thin façade of cleverness and complexity and the segments are boring. It’s also a little odd that they include flashbacks of events from Revy’s past that we already knew everything we needed to know about. It’s like their only purpose is to pad out the whole thing.
I will credit the OVA for having a strong sense of tension. It builds suspense off of what’s going to happen to Roberta and whether or not she can be saved. The OVA does do a really good job of illustrating exactly what obstacles she’s facing and how daunting they are. The segments showing her descent are really effective. It’s definitely at its best when it keeps the focus on Roberta.
The OVA gives us more of the Lagoon company but the main character focus is on Roberta, the things she’s been through and how they’ve impacted her. Which serves to make her a really compelling character. It also tries to illustrate how much Rock’s grown as a member of the Lagoon Company via all of those bland “strategy” scenes and by having a conversation where he talks to Revy about what he hopes to accomplish. That aspect works significantly less well due to the aforementioned problems with those scenes.
Black Lagoon is one of those series that illustrates just how good Madhouse’s art can be. The lighting works really well. It can be a little dark at times, but it’s never excessive. The action sequences are excellent. The various guns and backgrounds look really good.
There are some really strong performances in this. Toyoguchi Megumi is as good as ever. Namikawa Daisuke does his role well. Tomizawa Michie, Ikura Kazue & Yukino Satsuki are amazing. The opening theme tune is a remix of the series’ regular theme and, unfortunately, one that isn’t very good. Aside from that, the music is nicely done and quite good.
There’s a lack of ho-yay in this series. Not that there’s much romance whatsoever.
The biggest issue with Roberta’s Blood Trail is that it has some long, dull scenes that don’t convey what they’re trying to very well. However, when it keeps the focus on Roberta, those who consider her family and their situation it’s pretty damn great. It might not be at the level of the first series, but it still manages to be a good viewing experience. Next week I’ll review Flying Witch.