A Japanese mid-level businessman, Rokura Okajima, gets kidnapped by a group of career criminals while delivering a disc belonging to the company he works for. It is a testament to how much his life massively SUCKS that he chooses to stay with the titular group as one of their own, rather than return to his previous life as a professional suck-up. (Eh, Stockholm Syndrome?) What follows is a mash-up of action movie references so wild and deliciously violent that it would make a Tarantino movie (to which much homage is paid) look like a Disney flick.
On the technical side of things, Black Lagoon's animation is economical. Shortcuts are taken to hide the only so-so budget, but I'm happy to give the show a congratulatory gun blast for getting away with it so well, thanks in part to detailed, realistic art and clever direction.
I rarely say this, but it should be no surprise that as far as voice acting goes, Black Lagoon is more rewarding in English. It's not that the acting is better, no, but it's more realistic, as canonically speaking, the language commonly spoken is English, and Rock is one of the few characters who actually speaks Japanese. During the "Fujiyama gangsta" arc, this is made obvious, and the Japanese is face-palm worthy in its butchering of the English language. Brad Swaile and Maryke Hendrikse steal the show as Rock and Revy respectively. Brad Swaile does well as the practical voice of reason with just the right amount of craziness that he must have picked up from playing Light Yagami in Death Note. (I guess he took a potato chip and ate it too, ha ha, okay, sorry, I couldn't help it). Hendrikse kicks all kinds of ass, with a great mixture of femininity, ferocity, and a mouth so foul that she's a blast to listen to. The romantic and sexual tension between the two was perfectly done as well, so much so that they would have to be one of the only anime couples that seemed not only inevitable, but actually something to root for, although it was only hinted at, so again, kudos to the show for pulling it off.
I compared this show to a Tarantino work, so those Tarantino fans know what that means: an anachronistic, cheesy, over-the-top, cliche-ridden shout-out to samurai films and Westerns. All style and very little substance. While that is exactly what Black Lagoon is, I was surprised to find that it isn't stupid. The script is not only wonderfully witty, it contains some interesting insight about outcasts and one's place in society, much in the realm of Cowboy Bebop. It never reaches the level of Bebop's maturity and depth, not even close, but it is praiseworthy in its cleverness. At the very least, it's certainly a re-watchable and wish-fulfilling action series, with everything an action junkie could want: bar fights, gun fights, fist fights, sword fights, cat fights, Russian mobsters, Chinese mobsters, bad-ass chicks, scary chicks, hot chicks, boat chases, car chases, bad-ass nuns, combat maids, cool one-liners, funny one-liners, children toting machine guns, really, there's just too much action--packed goodness to really summarize.
That being said, this is not for everyone. Like a Tarantino movie, it can go very overboard with the violence and sexual content. It is also genuinely funny, but it's gallows-dark humor. And while I compared it to Cowboy Bebop, unlike Bebop it doesn't develop most of its characters much, (although watching Rock and Revy change and complement each other is wonderfully rewarding) and some of its stories are rather hit-or-miss. However, it not only survives by the Rule of Cool, it thrives, and clever writing saves it from being too cliche or predictable. It's close to three and a half stars (on a four star scale) but a lackluster ending arc and ultimately unsatisfying conclusion drop it down a little. I give thoroughly this enjoyable and impeccably quotable tribute to spaghetti Westerns three "gun-slinging babes" out of four, and I highly recommend it to action lovers, anime fan or not.