Every once in awhile a series comes along that I missed upon release, whether in Japan or the U.S. It is a series that once I finally get around to watch, I actually feel regret in not watching it sooner. Before I had even finished Black Lagoon, I already had those feelings of regrets. While I can sit here and ramble about how I deserve some kind of punishment for taking so long to watch it, I would like to give my thoughts on the series.
First off, Black Lagoon is a series about a Japanese businessman, Rokuro, who goes through life with each day on repeat. That all changes when he is asked to deliver a disc for his company, and ends up abducted by a group of pirates. Next thing he knows his company has told him he is better off dead, and he has nowhere to return to. Tired of the everyday in and outs he decides to join the pirates, who are actually Black Lagoon made up of Revy, Dutch and Benny. They are more of a “trading” company, as they will take on any job no matter how dangerous as long as money is involved. Thus begins Rokuro’s, now known as Rock, new life.
The characters are the key to what makes Black Lagoon great. Nearly every character is unique with an interesting back story. When it comes to the Black Lagoon, the show does a great job of not overindulging information on the crew, and leaves much of it up to imagination. Rock goes through an emotional roller coaster as he has to adapt to his new environment, friends, and everything he is now involved in. There are times you expect him to give up and walk away, but he always manages to prove tougher and smarter than that. Even by the end of the series, Rock sometimes doesn’t know where he stands. It is the the tough decisions he continues to make that truly determine who he is and what role he plays in the events around him.
As soon as he joins the group, he clashes with Revy, the Chinese-American woman in Black Lagoon. Known also as Two Hands, she is ridiculously skilled with guns. She is hot-headed and acts with violence instead of thinking things through. Even though she initially has trouble dealing with Rock, she comes to terms with him, and there is a lot of emotional tension between them. They never flat out admit they like each other, but there are key moments that symbolize their feelings for one another. Dutch is the leader of Black Lagoon, and while very violent himself, he maintains a rational thought process. Benny is the computer geek, who is much more like Rock, and doesn’t get involved much with violence.
While the relationships between the characters are top notch, so is the action. Sadly I have seen too many series lately that lack a thorough amount of action, and prefer short bursts each episode. Black Lagoon is not one of those shows. When the action gets going, it kicks it in full gear and is not afraid of pushing the violence factor. While most of the action sequences are fun and get the viewer to the edge of their seats, there were even a couple scenes that even made me cringe while watching them.
Black Lagoon also knows how to mix in the perfect amount of humor as well, which turns out to be another key element to this series success. At times it can be light-hearted, while other times a bit more dark. The timing to the humor during action sequences is what makes it so outstanding. Without pulling the viewer out of the action, the moments of humor keeps things fresh and helps improve the pacing of many firefights and battles. Without the humor, it would be easy for this show to easily fall flat due to focusing too heavily on the action.
The only issues I had at times with the series was how a few times it managed to show its age when it came to animation. When this happened, the characters tended to not blend in well with their backgrounds. This wasn’t a common occurrence, but when it did happen I was able to easily recognize it. Luckily the majority of the time the animation and character designs are top notch, especially during the action. I really enjoyed some throwback anime expressions present during the series, especially when it came to Revy and Eda. A lot their expressions reminded me of Riding Bean or Gunsmith Cats.
I knew Black Lagoon was going to be an excellent ride from the very first episode, but what validated just how good this series was came after I finished season one and had just begun season two. I ended up persuading a friend to watch the series. He is into comics, but never held an interest in anime outside of anything on TV back in the 80′s. The next day I received an e-mail that brought a smile to my face. He had gotten so sucked in to the show, that he even missed the NBA Playoff game he was so adamant about watching. Needless to say, he finished the series in just two sittings. It always says something about a series when someone not even in to anime itself, can sit down and immediately get sucked in. Black Lagoon can transcend those boundaries and reach out to a larger audience.
It is too bad that the series itself is no longer easily found in print at a reasonable price, and I do hope that Funimation gives it another release in the near future. Unless you are someone who has an aversion to violence, Black Lagoon is a series that is a must watch. It is hard to find a series that understands how to blend action, humor, and a strong story and characters in to one fine tuned package. Black Lagoon does all of that, and it all plays out with a certain rhythm that will make it hard to put it down and not try to watch it all at once. I’m sure at this point, most don’t even need my recommendation and have seen the series. For those who may have missed this initially like I did, take some time away from current activities and enjoy the fun filled ride Black Lagoon offers.
*This review was based off of the Complete Series release by Funimation that includes both seasons one and two. This review does not include the ongoing OVA season.