Posted by psgels on 31 December 2006 with categories: Anime Reviews

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Black Lagoon is a perfect example of a series which starts out magnificent, but gets rather ruined later on by such small elements. It’s a real shame. It’s an action series, featuring a salaryman who ends up delivering a package for his company, somewhere in the Asian side of the Pacific Ocean, gets attacked by modern-day pirates, abandoned by the company he works for and in the end, joining the same pirates that attacked and kidnapped him.

The pirates appear to have a sortof delivering company. The first thirteen episodes showcase some random jobs who have to be accomplished, with some of these jobs attracting quite some dangerous people. I really have to say that these episodes were amazing to see. I loved how they sketched a realistic picture of the hell Rock (the new name of our main character) ended up in. This first season also managed to create some of the scariest antagonists ever. Especially keep an eye out for the maid with glasses. I also really liked the cast of main characters. Rock, Revy, Dutch and Benny formed an excellent combination when they were with the four of them, with each one of them having their own unique personality.

Then the second season came. It started out quite nicely, with a great tragedy about two siblings who give the term “killer loli” a whole new meaning. But that’s also where this series starts getting off-track. While the first season featured random jobs, the second season places our main characters into situations, just because Revy is looking for a fight. What the second season also does is place Dutch and Benny into the role of mere “side-characters”, even though they were a large reason why the first season turned out so good.

To make matters even worse, the second arc of the second season also contained way too much useless action and way too little substance. Sure, the fights were nice, the aftermaths for the side-characters were interesting, but during the fights, I kept wondering what their meaning was. The third and final arc could have saved this, and indeed, it had an interesting story, but I was too much bothered by the horrible use of Engrish in the beginning. The creators tried to find a way to show a good conversation between characters who only speak English and the characters who only speak Japanese, but that didn’t work at all, seeing that we’ve seen the English characters speak Japanese for ages.

It’s such a pity. This could have become one of the major series of 2006, but because of these small elements, it just didn’t make it. Still, I definitely recommend Black Lagoon, if it only was because of its first season.

15 Responses

  1. alafista says:

    I really liked the tragic story on the Hasel & Gretel psycho killers in Second Barrage …

  2. pauloo says:

    I was excited after watching the first two episodes of the show, but I feel like the series is going downhill from there.

    If I remember correctly, the first two set of the episode focus on Rock’s interaction with the “team” more than the mindless gunfight between Revy and the antagonists. I was hoping to see the whole team work together to handle situation instead of watching Revy solving all the problems with her two little friends.

    Maybe I should check out the manga…

  3. psgels psgels says:

    Yeah, that’s also one of my problems with this show. It focused a bit too much on Revy and her gunfighting, while Rock’s interaction with the team was much more interesting to see.

  4. toro says:

    I disagree. This series would be perfect if Rock would disappear. Balalaika and Revy are awesome dark characters.

  5. phoenix says:

    This review is backwards. The first season is bearable, but not great. The characters are just being introduced, and the viewers and animators are just beginning to become acclimated to the pace and action of each episode. The story arc with the Neo-Nazis is nothing impressive. The best first season episodes feature the give and take of Revy and Rock, and the introduction of original ideas like The Church of Violence.

    The second season is where this anime shines. When animators allow more story arcs to take place over the span of more than one episode. The originality and graphic adult content of “Hansel and Gretel” is amazing, the likes of which you would never seen attempted in the American mainstream of any medium. The story arc at the end of season two which ranges over five episodes is action-packed and culminates in a great one-on-one battle that leaves you yearning for more.

    This anime excels when it leans more towards graphic realism in it’s battles and character development, as it does in the second season. My only complaint is that so many interesting just-introduced characters die so quickly, that you have have very few characters to set up more complex plots and stories.

    Black Lagoon is the best anime of 2006, and hopefully a third season will be forth coming.

  6. ana says:

    dug this baby up again to give it another shot.

    i can’t really say that i agree. the second season has a lot of character development, mostly how rock begins to see himself let go–first with his inability to save the twins, then with his ultimate desire to have yukio’s group destroyed, only to watch her die.

    the freakshow story arc, on the other hand, is ridiculous and ‘snatch’-esque diversion that shows off that this anime can be many things at once.

    i like it.

    it has many different angles, from dramatic, to stupid, to parodying american movies, to just having a dialogue that’s entertaining.

    i liked to hear revy say ‘damn, damn, fuck’ in engrish–but then i love tarantino movies.

    benny and dutch did get left out, but that’s because there were just as many fun characters to develop (the church of violence, balalaika, revy, rock, etc.)

    i still like it.

    a lot.

  7. GeassTekken says:

    the first season focused on the group in general (their missions their background etc) while the 2nd focused on the more main characters (Rock ,Revy, Balalakisha, heck a little of Eda). I loved the series hoping for a 3rd season. It was nice to hear Revy cuss in english with an accent lol

  8. Windspirit says:

    “The creators tried to find a way to show a good conversation between characters who only speak English and the characters who only speak Japanese, but that didn’t work at all, seeing that we’ve seen the English characters speak Japanese for ages.”
    => Um… You know, this anime was broadcasted in Japan. Have you seen Monster ? We hear people speak in Japanese in Monster. Though the story in set in Germany. And the characters are mostly German.
    You hear them speak Japanese because they are Japanese shows. In Black Lagoon, the characters are ACTUALLY speaking in English, but you hear them speak in Japanese so that the audience understands what they are saying.
    Don’t know if I explained myself well enough, but I hope you understood me. >_>

    About Black Lagoon… Probably the best anime in 2006 in my humble opinion. Sad thing that everybody sees this only as an action show, since it provides much much more, notably a perfect philosophy about real life. In Black Lagoon, there’s no “good” or “bad” : people choose to believe in this or this for their own reasons, and no one has the right to say anything about it. Remember in the Neo-Nazis arc when Revy told Rock about her atheism and her vision of the world ?

    In most animes, there is the “Good” and the “Bad”. I wouldn’t be wrong if I said that in 90% of animes, there’s a “Good Guy” oppressed by a “Bad Guy”, and the “Good Guy” wins. In Black Lagoon, this “Manichaeism” is totally inexistant and this is what makes it so much enjoyable. The universe is so dark, but still so real, cuz guys, this is real life.

    So Black Lagoon until then shines for its realism. What makes it even more realistic, excluding the very fluid action scenes (where the main heroine occasionely misses and doesn’t get 10 opponents with a single friggin bullet), is the multiple story arcs. These story arcs are so well thought, so well-developed despite being kinda short.

    Still, if there’s a word to describe Black Lagoon, it’s “adrenaline”. The action scenes, the universe, the perfect animation, the music, [b]everything[/b] is well-directed that the watcher is simply hooked to the screen, feeling hyped and boosted by the scenes.

    Until today, I didn’t really find any flaw in Black Lagoon. Can’t wait for the third season, and even if there isn’t, I think this is will be one of the only animes with which I’ll continue with the original manga. :)

  9. psgels psgels says:

    Hmm, I seem to have worded that one about the language a bit wrong. Of course, I agree that it’s perfectly fine to make English people start talking Japanese for better understanding. The problem is when these people start talking in real Japanese. Suddenly, people rapidly switched from English to Japanese and back, which made it really difficult to grasp in which language they were actually speaking.

    Also, I agree with the phylosophical elements of the series. My major problem with this series is the second season, though. It didn’t really add anything worthwhile.

    Also, I wouldn’t really classify the action-scenes as realistic. Revy gets never hit by stray bullets, and most fights are overblown to create as much of this adrenaline as possible.

  10. Windspirit says:

    M’well, yeah, “realistic” may not be the most suited word. I’d say “sufficient”. I mean, the purpose of action is to entertain, but there are times when it does way too much.
    Now that I think about it, I remember that I’ve watched Black Lagoon after… Phantom the Animation. O_o
    Have you seen Phantom the Animation ? The main heroine is a killing machine, you’d feel more secure cornered by twenty tanks, thirty helicopters and a hundred of soldiers with automatic shot-guns rather than in front of the heroine. This heroine moves smoothly, she dodges all the friggin balls are more importantly, she NEVER EVER misses her shots EXACTLY between her opponents eyes, and from this tiny hole come out 20 liters of blood.

    Compare this to Black Lagoon.

    The thing is, I don’t know if you understand me, but Black Lagoon just gives enough to the viewer so that he feels thrilled. And being a huge fan of action-shows, I didn’t find this feeling so often : in series like Naruto (which I loathe), there was just soo much that it became dull (getting tired of over-10-episodes-fights), in Phantom the Animation, too stupid, and in shows like Wolf’s Rain, not enough (though I loved Wolf’s Rain).

    Don’t know if you understood me. >_>

  11. Silenus says:

    This review is obsolete, because there’s a third season in production.

  12. imogen says:

    this is all crap dont listen to theise bitches and slap heads

  13. Drudgery says:

    Black Lagoon has turned out to be a huge disappointment after watching the first two seasons back to back.

    Everything the reviewer says should be taken heed of. In short a very enjoyeable show which sadly selfs destructs into meaningless philosophy and non-sensical violence.

    Pros – Good first season, infact some very good character development and excellent individual episodes.

    Cons – Poorly executed second season, Atrocious english accents from the Japanese casts. Main characters sidelined from the first season. Fails to establish a coherent balance between the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’, a shame really because this is where Black Lagoon could have been brilliant. I wish i could elaborate on this but this would spoil it for potential viewers.

    Still a recommended watch for the first season atleast, its a shame the second season came to such a self destructive and disappointing end.

    • Anonymous says:

      Fails to establish a coherent balance between the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’, a shame really because this is where Black Lagoon could have been brilliant. I wish i could elaborate on this but this would spoil it for potential viewers.

      >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> You fail at comprehension. This is an anime about criminals(evil people). Why should it create a distinction between ‘good’ and ‘evil’? Hell the BL crew can be seen as evil seeing as they helped in transporting Garcia Lovelace thus they themselves are kidnappers and acted as pirates when they kidnapped Rock.

      ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’ in Black Lagoon? You and the reviewer of this site fail and fail very hard.

  14. citizenofulysses says:

    This comment is gonna be way after the fact, but I would suggest watching the show in the english dub. The acting, the dialogue, the voices themselves; everything turns out better with the english dub as it actually suits the show. It makes a huge difference, especially in the second season. It all becomes a lot more dynamic, definitely a little less static in terms of the dialogue.

    Personally, I consider Rock’s conversation with Revy in episode 7 (you know the one) and Rock’s conversation with the Yakuza leader chick, Yukio, during the shootout at the bowling alley to number among some of the best scenes I’ve ever scene in anime.

    And the use of Sartre and Heidegger in that last arc really resonates with me (more h-digger than sartre, since sartre was just a poor man’s heidegger anyway), and knowledge of literature surrounding them or their philosophy will really enhances one’s appreciation of this work. Seen through that lens, this show really goes above and beyond.

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  • Bam
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 11:14 PM)
    Synecdoche is incredibly rich in detail, and keen return viewers can find a lot of things they missed the first time thru. Kaufman didn’t have a single teacup in a shot that didn’t mean something. Pacing is a bit of an issue, but if you notice the passage of time you can see that was deliberate as well. The movie could’ve been livelier, but for a movie about death and decay that would’ve been a bit of a sell-out.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 11:01 PM)
    @Emma: Birdman and Synecdoche have a lot of thematic elements in common, and given that Synecdoche was released in 08 makes me realize that Alejandro González borrowed quite a bit from it; although in the end they are different enough to justify Birdman’s existence. Where Synecdiche was a better written movie, I feel that Birdman was the better directed one.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 04:15 PM)
    And I’d go as far to say this beats out birdman for me by miles.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 04:14 PM)
    The film is a solid mood piece thanks to the in tone cinematography, a great performance from Hoffman that along with his characters drama makes for an emotionally investing film. And before it gets TOO sad theres all those bits of dark humour fitted in there that work out pretty well. This is probably my favourite work by Kaufman currently.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 04:14 PM)
    Well Bam, I had a go of synecdoche there. A bit of a slow burner, near the end slightly drawn out, however that last stretch was forgiven by that bonkers ending.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 01:23 PM)
    The voice of the main character got kind of annoying though, the dub wasn’t all that good either.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 01:22 PM)
    This was based on/was a homage to a series by the Gigantor creator and having grown up with gigantors 90s reboot this felt like a nice throwback, plot is fairly simple but used effectively. It’s a shame that it feels like there was more to tell but at seven episodes I suppose it avoids outstaying its welcome.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 01:20 PM)
    Decided to marathon Giant Robo, I think this was mentioned by someone on here before. I guess it was fairly entertaining, great action direction, looked good for its time, you don’t notice the hour long episodes go by, adequate characters, nice retro artstyle also, not sure if I got excited over this as big O and Mazinger however but still fun enough nonetheless.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 07:10 AM)
    Seeing Hoffman in before the devil knows your dead and his character being dependent on drugs, that was another thing that hit me a bit knowing the circumstances of his death. Watching most wanted man I could also see that he was wearing out physically.
  • Bam
    (Saturday, Jan 31. 2015 07:00 AM)
    This is not Anno bitching about otakus jacking off to his characters and turning around and selling Rei panties, this isn’t the idiots at Shaft throwing around meaningless camera angles and the oh-so-symbolic teeth brushing scenes, this is a human being looking you in the eye with fear and telling you that he’s dying; morbid, honest, moving and remarkable.

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