Black Lagoon Complete Seasons 1 & 2 (Cert 18)
6 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment/Kaze UK) Running time: 562 minutes approx.
So, you spend all your days in an unpleasant work environment, bullied by both your boss and co-workers but you don’t have the guts to stand up for yourself. Then a light at the end of the tunnel appears: a special assignment to take a cruise to Borneo via the China Seas to deliver a disk with important classified information. Things are looking up right? Unfortunately your ship is hijacked by a group of mercenaries who have been who have been hired by the Russian Mafia to retrieve the disk. Worse still, the hijackers think that because you work for a high-profile company you’ll earn them a pretty penny in a ransom payout. Except your company still don’t care a jot about you and are more concerned about the disk’s well being then yours.
Do you: a) sob quietly while awaiting your fate at the hands of your abductors? or b) say “Sod this for a laugh!” and join the mercenaries on a series of high-octane, violent, bullet ridden, politically sensitive ass kicking missions across the world? If you answered “b” then your name is Rokuro Okajima and you have just joined Lagoon Company, the most wanted trio of bad asses on the high seas and beyond.
Some of you reading this may already have this title in your collection via the original MVM releases back in 2008. Now the good folk at Manga Entertainment and Kaze UK have re-released the complete first two series in one six disc DVD set and – for the first time ever – two single BluRay releases (see above cover image). If however you happened to miss out first time around and this sounds like a tempting prospect, let me tell you that you are in for a real treat.
Initial viewings of Black Lagoon incurred accusations of it being “Cowboy BeBop on a boat” but it doesn’t take long to see that this show is operating on a different level. Amidst the violence, gunplay, bloodshed, bad language and other adult themes, there is an underlying sense of an existential exploration. This stems mostly from Okajima, now nicknamed “Rock”, who, once the initial “Stockholm Syndrome” has worn off, tries hard to reconcile how freely his new companions can kill with such ease and lack of compunction, while developing respect and admiration for their gutsy, fighting spirit. Coming from a life of uniformity and discipline, Rock finds it hard to adjust to a world of unpredictable adventures on the other side of the law and the personal risks that accompany them but over time the somewhat askew philosophies of his new team mates seem to make sense for them even if they don’t for him.
Lagoon Company operates out of a tiny office building in the fictional city of Roanapur in Thailand, and get around via their torpedo ship, the titular Black Lagoon. They are essentially an autonomous collective but tend to rely on a Russian woman named Balalaika who runs a mafia group called Hotel Moscow for their missions. Making up the initial trio is Dutch, a stoic, no-nonsense Vietnam vet who gives the orders and pilots the ship, Benny the laid back technical wizard with a penchant for loud Hawaiian shirts, and the undoubted star of the show, the sexy, profane, heavy drinking, chain-smoking, tattooed, walking annihilation machine that is Revy, a Chinese woman whose supreme gun firing skills earned her the nickname “Two Hands” as well as a formidable reputation. Over the course of the series, the focus stays more on the proverbial “chalk and cheese” dichotomy of Revy and Rock leaving Dutch and Benny as almost supporting cast. As a result Revy has since become something of a modern icon and cosplay favourite, the reason for which will become apparent after a few episodes of seeing her in action. While making a refreshing change to have a female as the muscle of the show, Revy does meet her match in the form of Roberta, a Terminator-esque maid to a Venezuelan rich kid who proves to the only person – male or female – to go toe to toe with our feisty anti-heroine. Roberta had a five-part spin-off OVA revolve around her made in 2010 so fingers crossed that gets picked up for UK release.
The adventures in this twenty-four episode run range from the political based, usually due to Balalaika’s influence to straight forward deliveries/collections by any means necessary, which are either single stand alone fares or run across a few episodes. While the first series is set mostly around Asia and South America, the “Second Barrage” sees Lagoon Company work further afield to Europe but the end result is usually the same – bullets flying, body counts piling up, buildings destroyed and asses kicked. The stories get progressively darker as the series rolls on and the content often more graphic and shocking; the tale involving two Romanian orphans contains some particularly unsettling moments. In complete contrast to this, the show can deliver some fun lighter moments such as Revy’s drinking partner, the gun wielding nun Sister Eda of Church Of Violence! Try missing one of her masses!
This review is based on the DVD version of this new release – which is sadly lacking the extras of the original MVM releases – but if ever an action show required further appreciation through an HD transfer on BluRay then Black Lagoon must top the list. Arguably the most intelligent, energetic, insane, exhilarating action adventure show of the past decade, this is not only an easy recommendation for those who like edgy, violent and adrenaline fuelled mayhem but there are no excuses for not having this show in your anime collection!
English, French, Italian and Spanish Language
Japanese Language w/English, French, Italian and Spanish Subtitles
Ratings – ***** /5
Man In Black