Rokuro was an ordinary Japanese businessman. A suit hired to entertain corporate high rollers and serve as a whipping boy for the big bosses with the real juice. A mission to deliver a mysterious disk to the deadly waters east of China seemed like his big break, but some things just weren’t meant to be. A ruthless gang of mercenaries fronted by a gunslinging femme fatale in scandalously short shorts kidnapped Rokuro and held him for ransom. When his company refused to pay, he became their property. To survive, he was forced to reinvent himself as Rock, the brains behind the beauty and brawn of the Lagoon Company: the most cutthroat crew of mercs ever to hustle the mean streets of Roanapur—a nightmare of a metropolis where the bad guys are really bad—and your friends might be even worse.
(The Lagoon Company, from left to right: Benny, Rock, Revy, Dutch)
Think for a moment. How many anime that you’ve watched use Japan as the setting of the story? Quite a lot, I’d say. Yes, it’s a no-brainer that anime comes from Japan, and that’s the primary audience for the medium. That’s fine; I don’t have a problem with that. But it’s really nice when you find a series that steps out of the normal path. Black Lagoon decides to travel someplace else: the South China Sea. It looks gorgeous. Astounding. Just plain beautiful. Roanapur, the city that acts as our crew’s home base, looks like it’s Hawaii or something. To sum it up, it’s a tropical paradise.
Because this doesn’t take place in Japan (primarily, but they pay a visit while on a job), our characters look rather diverse. Benny is Jewish-American, Revy is Chinese-American, Dutch is African-American, and Rock is just straight-up Japanese. Every individual member of Lagoon is distinct in design and personality, which helps them become more memorable as the series progresses. It’s not just them, though. There’s a Columbian maid and a Russian mafia, too.
Note: Video contains lots of swearing. And some violence. But mostly swearing. Consider it NSFW. It’s really not that bad, but be careful when watching it around other people.
Let’s get something straight. Black Lagoon’s English dub is a work of art. The writers/editors for this dub must have had a blast. Because we’re not in the Land of the Rising Sun, there was a lot more flexibility for the dialogue. A script with added flair, cursing abound, characters with distinct accents and solid voice acting gives you one of the best anime English dubs ever to grace the planet, and if you haven’t watched it, then suit up. You shouldn’t skip out on this.
Warning: Sort of contains Nazi imagery. If you are offended by that, don’t watch it. But the Nazi guy gets shot in the end, so there really shouldn’t be a problem.
Revy is the character that shines throughout the series. She always takes part in the action, and she enjoys it. She’s also a bit of a loudmouth, and can become impatient quite easily. When she loses her temper, it usually results in a good amount of dark comedy, often pulling her gun on someone in the vicinity (whoever is currently pissing her off). I also have to applaud her English voice actress, Maryke Hendrikse, because her voice makes Revy more of an enjoyable character than she could have been. There’s such a huge difference between both the English and Japanese dubs that I can’t even watch the Japanese dub.
I can’t find much to say about the soundtrack, but the point is that it does its job, and it does it well. The tracks are a treat to listen to, and they make you feel pumped for the action. The opening and ending songs (“Red Fraction” and “Don’t Look Behind”, respectively) also deserve special mention, as they feel like timeless classics. “Red Fraction” is played for every episode except for one. (That’s 23 episodes!) “Don’t Look Behind” is played for all but two episodes, and it’s an instrumental piece. Good stuff.
Because an action show doesn’t go that far without some entertaining action scenes. Hey, guys! Black Lagoon is animated by Madhouse! If that doesn’t tell you that you’re in for one hell of a ride, I don’t know what does. Even the back of the box tells you the action is amazing.
“Take a twisted trip to the city of your nightmares in this hard-boiled shootout inspired by masters of action like John Woo and Quentin Tarantino. “
Let me tell you that the entire series is 10 hours. Most of that happens to be people shooting at each other. Yeah, there’s bar fights, gangs that are easy to piss off, and there’s them Neo-Nazis, too. But sometimes, you just gotta make your boat fly... and unload some torpedoes on an attack helicopter.
When the anime heads into the second season (and nearing the finale that takes place in Japan), Dutch and Benny are almost nowhere to be found on the screen. The final arc in Japan is 6 episodes, and they only get five minutes or less of screen time. It’s sad, considering that they’re very entertaining characters, and Dutch was rather prominent in the first season’s action scenes. Hell, even Benny was, too; he was the driver for the crew, and that gave us some excellent car-chasing scenes. Well, at least their existences weren’t forgotten and thrown away in the depths of hell... right? That’s still not enough screen time, though...
Look at the workers and their equipment. It looks really weird. My image editing sucks, too.
It’s really minor, but some scenes are drawn very... lazily? Unevenly? I guess we can say that some objects are given more attention to detail than others. There’s not that many of them, but it was distracting enough for me show it off. These are only shown for a couple of seconds, so don’t let it bother you that much. They could also just be a zooming thing, but I’m not completely sure about that.
Black Lagoon is a one-of-a-kind show that looks like it came from America. It’s an action-fest that seems like a Hollywood film; it’s downright thrilling, and the soundtrack does nothing but enhance the experience. The English dub is nothing short of spectacular entertainment, which comes as a significant improvement from the original Japanese voices. Dutch and Benny are unfortunately left out of the spotlight as the finale draws near, but the enjoyment factor still exists without them.
Koko Hekmatyar is a young arms dealer who sells weapons under HCLI, an international shipping corporation that secretly deals in the arms trade. As one of the company’s unofficial weapon dealers, she sells weapons in a variety of countries while avoiding both local and international authorities. She travels with a team of bodyguards that are mostly former soldiers. The latest addition to her crew is Jonah, an inexpressive and deadly child soldier who hates arms dealers. What follows is Koko and her crew’s escapades around the world.
In the city of Ergastulum, filled with made men and petty thieves, whores on the make and cops on the take, there are some deeds too dirty for even its jaded inhabitants to touch. Enter the “Handymen,” Nic and Worick, who take care of the jobs no one else will handle. One day, a cop they know on the force requests their help in taking down a new gang muscling in on the territory of a top Mafia family. It seems like business (and mayhem) as usual, but the Handymen are about to find that this job is a lot more than they bargained for.
Black Lagoon is an ongoing manga series written and illustrated by Rei Hiroe. It has been published in Shogakukan’s Monthly Sunday Gene-X since 2002, and ten collected volumes have been released so far. It was later adapted into an anime television series by Madhouse, that aired from April to June 2006 for twelve episodes. A second season, subtitled “The Second Barrage”, ran for twelve weeks starting on October 2, 2006. A five volume OVA series, titled Roberta’s Blood Trail, was released from July 2010 to June 2011.
You’re reading Ani-TAY, the anime-focused portion of Kotaku’s community-run blog, Talk Amongst Yourselves. Ani-TAY is a non-professional blog whose writers love everything anime related. Click here to check us out.