Anime review: Black Lagoon
Status: abandoned after 3 episodes (of 26)
I once took a business trip to Winnipeg in the middle of winter. I packed my parka because I would just be going from home to taxi to airport to taxi to hotel. Then the airline lost my luggage and I had to go one full day in minus 20° weather with no jacket (or toiletries or fresh clothes). Black Lagoon’s main character would find my trip a resort vacation.
Rokuro is a mild mannered salaryman on a business trip to deliver a mysterious disk. Little does he know that it contains nasty corporate espionage type stuff. He gets abducted by a group of mercenaries who are out to steal the disk for the Russian mafia. After getting it, they decide to hold Rokuro for ransom as a bonus. Then he finds out his company – a Japanese heavy industries group – has sent its own mercenary group to get the disk back, and kill him. Obviously, they cancel his Per Diem.
Anyways, Rokuro finds some cojones, decides to join the mercenaries who kidnapped him and becomes ‘Rock’ – one of the most unbelievable changes I’ve seen in anime and that includes the 8 year old magical girl that transforms into a busty woman with unbelievable kung fu skills.
Black Lagoon doesn’t pull any punches. Like one of its main characters “Revy”, the show is brash, violent and unapologetically shonen. But from what I saw in the first few episodes, that’s all it is.
At first, I thought I smelt an Afro Samurai going on – something clearly targeted at an American audience. The action is fluid and bombastic. Style is definitely favoured over substance. And the characters are all stereotypical of the genre.
All except one, the main character, Rock. He makes me think that Black Lagoon is actually aimed purely at a Japanese audience because he’s the archetypal salaryman breaking his bonds and flipping the bird at Japan’s corporate culture. His best line, after downing a whole tumbler of rum, is “Don’t underestimate Japanese businessmen!”
But to insure there’s very little character development, that bar scene turns into the expected gun battle after which Rock asks “Is this a movie?” Revy answers “Don’t be stupid. This is a lot more entertaining than Hollywood.” In so many ways, though, this is Hollywood: insane action with little motivation.
And in trying so hard to emulate another “gun toting mercenaries who just don’t care” show – Cowboy Bebop – Black Lagoon proves why it doesn’t have what it takes. Yes, they have a lot in common. Everyone’s badass. The show is named after the ship they all ride. Revy, like Faye Valentine, is fan service incarnate. But what set Bebop apart was its characters and their world: deeply flawed bounty hunters in space, with a jazz and blues soundtrack. Bebop forced you to shift your associations with the action genre. Black Lagoon doesn’t. In fact, there’s very little of the juxtapositions that set Japanese storytelling apart.
I will temper this review with the fact that I only watched the first 3 episodes so I won’t give a recommendation one way or the other. If you watched more and were impressed, please comment below.