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BLACK LAGOON: Cheesy Action that Makes You Think - - DVD/Blu-Ray Review

Is this MADHOUSE produced anime worth your time? Sam blows this show up and when the rubble clears you'll know for certain!

As I mentioned during my return to the Vice Pit, I marathoned BLACK LAGOON during my week-long sabbatical and, boy let me tell you, it breathed some life into my anime watching. So much so that I felt compelled to share my thoughts about the show here (in even more detail). Tom reviewed the first episode a while back and some of you Vicers have already dropped a handful of reviews about the rest, but I felt that all the talk about the show’s COWBOY BEBOP/Tarantino style missed one thing that will stick in my gut for a while to come...

This show is dark, man. I mean, morally pitch black.

Got that? Good, now hold that thought for later. First, let me summarize the show for you…

Revy: "HEY! Are you going to listen to this review at ALL?!"
Revy: "HEY! Are you going to listen to this review at ALL?!"

In short, a lowly Japanese salaryman, nicknamed Rock, is taken in by a modern-day pirate band that operates dangerous cargo and escort missions in the South China Sea. These outlaws - - Dutch, Benny, and the dual-gun-wielding, jean short enthusiast poster girl, Revy - - roll around various countries, mixing it up with neo-fascists, gangsters, assassins and even a murderous South American maid.

While there’s no shortage of gunplay, explosions and other assorted mayhem, Revy and Rock are the real axels which keep this show moving. Their constant interplay -- and their parallel arcs -- are what hooked me more than anything.

See, Rock’s life in Japan was pretty pathetic. Falling in with the Lagoon Company winds up being a way to strike out on his own and do something exciting. Revy, on the other hand, is a child of the streets - - a gal who’s been pushed around by the system all her life and developed a lust for violence to simply survive that pushing. Her ice-cold attitude is a refreshing, and highly entertaining, break from most female leads I’ve seen. Though she dresses in cutoffs with a bare midriff, Revy is no sexpot and there’s no love lost between her and anyone else in this show.

Well… save possibly for Rock. He develops his own intriguing contradictions in his arc, having to reconcile the incredible violence he willingly surrounds himself with and his own naivety about who’s innocent and guilty in this criminal underworld. I found myself both rooting for and pitying the guy as he gets further into this outlaw lifestyle.

Don't let this SUPER HOT image make you start smoking.
Don't let this SUPER HOT image make you start smoking.

There are no heroes or outright villains in this show. Every character has shades of grey and, when pressed, nearly every character resorts to increasing levels of violence to escape the situations they find themselves.

Yeah, it’s kind-of depressing… so let’s break from this discussion to talk about the action because, after the first couple episodes, things do get appropriately campy.

BLACK LAGOON absolutely kills it with exciting, innovative action. Really, the fun here is of the A-TEAM’s classic grade of explosive cheese. I couldn’t have found more simple, basic glee than I did just watching the Lagoon Company devise a plan, execute it and then be left with no choice but to blast their way out after all the planning goes to hell.

There are nods to various modern heist movies, John Woo shootout sequences and even a TERMINATOR 2 homage with the aforementioned killer maid. This really is the closest an anime gets to the unbridled machismo of a Schwarzenegger or Stallone flick.

Check that box for LOLITA CHILD ASSASSINS (+2 for twins!)
Check that box for LOLITA CHILD ASSASSINS (+2 for twins!)

Getting back to the heady talk, though - - in the midst of the Dolby 5.1 Surround supported massacre, the show finds crucial time to let its character moments breathe. We really get to know what is going on in these morally-ambiguous mercs’ heads and I was quite surprised by the amount of character development in this generally fast and furious thrill ride. The violence and humor is memorable (even the mildly-offensive combinations thereof, like the Taiwanese knife fighter who sounds like a stereotype of a nail salon worker) but what sticks with you most is these outlaws’ mean personal philosophies and the terse ways they all express those philosophies to the world.

On the highbrow, BLACK LAGOON ends up being a commentary on the nature of corruption and choice. Are you able to choose to live one way or another? Or do your surroundings corrupt you beyond repair? By the end of the show, you will know without a doubt where these characters stand on their view of the world, and what they do to affect it.

SIDENOTE: I’d be remiss not to mention that this show also has one of the most memorable ending credits sequences in recent memory. Its dirge-like, haunting, and... c'mon, you just have to watch it...

The final arc was described by some as weak compared to the others in the bulk of the show, but I couldn’t disagree more. Having to return to Japan as interpreters for a malicious Russain employer, Rock and Revy finally must face whether Rock will choose this pirate life or attempt a return to his old, corporate one. Using a pretty familiar Yakuza crime backdrop, this arc sees the tension ramp up to an uncomfortable zenith, leaving you truly unsure what was going to happen next.

I won’t spoil it for you. But I can tell you, it gets bloody. Well, much bloodier than usual.

I highly recommend BLACK LAGOON for your action anime watching, and with characters like Rock and Revy, this show will stick to you like the tar in their lungs from all those sweet, sweet cigarettes.

Sam Weller is a writer and actor who's scribed for shows like FIRST EDITION, GEEK THERAPY, and most recently BATGIRL: SPOILED. He also really likes anime. To know what is going to happen next, follow@cravesam

jj_jacksonon Dec. 12, 2012 at 1:07 p.m.

Good review. I didn't think the last arc was lacking at all either. If you havent you should defintely watch black lagoon roberta's blood trail.

Marshal Victoryon Dec. 12, 2012 at 2:35 p.m.

Said this before but this is the anime i use to get people into anime. Black Lagoon: Roberta's Blood Trail

is more or less the 3rd season is not out yet on dvd or blue ray .Shame that its not.

Great series even if you stop at 1 an 2. 3 just amps things up an wraps up some things.But its open ended enuff for for more.

YotaruVegetaon Dec. 12, 2012 at 4:51 p.m.

Remember that movie, The Losers? Some people do. Black Lagoon is what that movie was supposed to be. I love Black Lagoon so much it's ridiculous. I wish there was just one more season.

Marshal Victoryon Dec. 12, 2012 at 6:51 p.m.

@YotaruVegeta: yup i do. not seen it but it was based off of

How close to the source material it is i dont know.Looked good tho.

sotyfan16on Dec. 12, 2012 at 9:12 p.m.

For those who don't want to be spoiled by Sam's review I suggest giving The Beginner's Guide to Black Lagoon a read (yeah, I wrote it). It doesn't include Roberta's Blood Trail but oh well. Whoever loves this series yet hasn't watched the OVAs, shame on you and go do it! Like, now!

sotyfan16on Dec. 12, 2012 at 9:14 p.m.

@Marshal Victory:

That is because the manga is on an indefinite hiatus. Everything is left hanging because there is supposed to be more. No one (litterally, just ask Foxx) knows when it will continue.

samweller999 staff on Dec. 12, 2012 at 11:57 p.m.

@sotyfan16: Thank you for the plug Soty! I hope my review didn't SPOIL anything though... just giving an overall impression of the contents in this joint.

@Marshal Victory: I will definitely check it out!

Marshal Victoryon Dec. 13, 2012 at 9:22 a.m.

@sotyfan16: Did not know that.IS the anime close to the manga?Cause this show is lighting in a bottle .Converted two frends of mine to anime with this show .Before they thought of anime as pokemon stuff only.Now they se it as a legit entertainment for those of us who pretend to be adults /nod.

The Beginner's Guide to Black Lagoon i read it while back was a good write up.would ya agree with me tho Black Lagoon: Roberta's Blood Trail could serve as a decent end to series or a launch for more.It wraps up alot of thngs an opens doors to.It does what any good ova should do it stays true to the main seires an makes you want more.

YotaruVegetaon Dec. 13, 2012 at 9:26 a.m.

@Marshal Victory: Yes, I know that. My point was that the action of The Losers movie doesn't match up with its source material, but an anime certainly did. The Losers is a great comic, basically what the A-team would have to be in the 00s.

YotaruVegetaon Dec. 13, 2012 at 9:28 a.m.

@Marshal Victory: One day, I'll check out the manga. I still have "Roberta's Blood Trail" left.

Marshal Victoryon Dec. 13, 2012 at 9:38 a.m.

@YotaruVegeta: Atm im on a blue ray anme buying kick with my entertainment funds .When i cach up next month or so il look at getn the loser tpb an the dvd or blue ray .Both are worth looking at then?Say if we give Black Lagoon 5 stars as the rule then how many would the loser movie be?An no i dont have netflix .I do hulu some an other sites for anime an just buy the movies i like.that way when my dsl is down ( im in the hills of kentucky ) i can watch something.

xtremekidxon Dec. 13, 2012 at 10:19 a.m.

i watched this and it is a good anime no doubt but well,thats just it,it doesnt stand out as being beyond belief good!i will say this,this isnt supposed to be a show about believable and logical seens but there is only so much of levy OHKOing whole armies i can take....anyway gotta mention the finger seen in the first epi!!!!THAT WAS GUD!!!

sotyfan16on Dec. 13, 2012 at 2:49 p.m.


You didn't spoil plot points but, like I sometimes do, you reviewed various details that can take away the fun of realizing them for yourself (as a new viewer). You didn't even mention all the language this show has. You could even compare it to how many anime have lots of fanservice/nudity but little language while Black Lagoon (and others) have lots of violence and language but little to no fanservice/nudity. There is a bit of nudity in the manga and OVA though.

@Marshal Victory:

I haven't read all of the manga but from what I have looked at so far, it follows very closely except for changing when a couple arcs occur and taking out some dialogue.

The OVA series could serve as an ending since that is also where the manga left off. But with there not being any word the series was cancelled or finished, we hope for more. Plus, from a fan's standpoint there are a couple things left to see.

YotaruVegetaon Dec. 13, 2012 at 3:56 p.m.

@Marshal Victory: I usually am in the minority who want to see the film first, but read the book first. I think the movie is different enough from the books that it wont even be the same experience.

Chris Evans, as always, puts in good work. I mean, everyone's put in a good effort in the film, but Jock's art and Andy Diggle's plot are a great combo. The film just felt like they squashed the plot and lost the "camera angles."

I'm being overly harsh about the movie, but on rare occasions, I do feel like one of those "the book was better" snobs. I would give the movie maybe a 3.

Marshal Victoryon Dec. 16, 2012 at 11:36 p.m.


@sotyfan16: want some good news?

Manga creator Rei Hiroeannounced on Monday that he will "finally" resume his Black Lagoon manga in Shogakukan'sSunday GX magazine in January or February. The manga has been on hiatus since the middle of 2010.


zaldaron Dec. 26, 2012 at 5:19 p.m.

Interesting the few episodes of this I saw made it look like A-Team cheese without really any of the heady stuff that you mention. Perhaps I missed it I don't know. If I ever get through the backlog of stuff I have I may give this another chance. For crazy over the top action though...yeah you won't find an equal.

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