Tag Archives: Black Lagoon

Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail- Trying to save the terminator maid.

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.

Roberta.png

Story:

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.

Characters:

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.

Art:

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.

Roberta1.png

Sound:

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.

Ho-yay:

There’s a lack of ho-yay in this series. Not that there’s much romance whatsoever.

Final Thoughts:

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.

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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.