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Black Lagoon: Complete Collection Season 1 and 2(TV) (2006)
Rokuro's mundane trip to South East Asia turns from pleasure cruise to festival of pain when modern-day pirates take him hostage. Revy, Dutch, and Benny are the ruthless crew of the Black Lagoon. For them, getting shot at while smuggling drugs, guns, and stolen goods is part of a typical day at work - and Rokuro is joining the team.
For more about Black Lagoon: Complete Collection Season 1 and 2 and the Black Lagoon: Complete Collection Season 1 and 2 Blu-ray release, see Black Lagoon: Complete Collection Season 1 and 2 Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on November 29, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Brad Swaile, Maryke Hendrikse
Director: Sunao Katabuchi
» See full cast & crew
Black Lagoon: Complete Collection Season 1 and 2 Blu-ray Review
Open up and say "Arrrrrrh".
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, November 29, 2012
There seem to be two schools of thought about pirates nowadays: they're either lovable rascals, a la Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and the wonderful Nick Park creations in The Pirates! Band of Misfits in 3D, or they're vicious and violent thugs, like the Somali brigands who have wreaked havoc in that part of the world for the past several years. Rather interestingly, one of the first fictional pirates to capture the world's imagination, Long John Silver in Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, had elements of both sides of the character equation, something that hasn't always been properly exploited in any of the film or television adaptations of that iconic work. But there's at least a little of that ambiguity on display in the often interesting anime Black Lagoon, a series that deserves credit if for no other reason than that it deals with a subject very infrequently (like almost never) dealt with in the annals of this particular subgenre of animated entertainment. The pirates in Black Lagoon are hardnosed mercenaries who don't blink when they're dealing with the Russian Mafia (their favorite "client"), and who have no bones about taking hostages (including the main character in the series), but who also have their relatively "kinder, gentler" side, a side which is not so coincidentally played for laughs as the series continues.
The main character of Black Lagoon is in fact a hapless kind of office errand boy who has been taken hostage by the series' band of pirates. Rokuro Okajima is a twenty-something shlub who sleepwalks to his office every day and has become used to being abused by his superiors, with the only glimmer of hope in his life being that one day he might be the abuser taking out a lifetime's worth of frustration on some newcomer upstart. That hopeless yet weirdly comfortable lifestyle is interrupted rather dramatically (including how it's handled in the series' opening episode) when Rokuro finds himself in the middle of a pirate operation which has come aboard a ship he's on while on a delivery mission for his employer. It turns out Rokuro has had a top secret data disc in his possession which the Lagoon Company wants to retrieve for their Russian Mob clientele. One of the more seemingly unbalanced members of Lagoon Company, a vicious female named Revy, decides pretty much on the spot to take Rokuro hostage since the Lagoon Company is being, in Revy's estimation at least, seriously underpaid for this particular effort, so she wants the opportunity to rake in some extra moolah via a ransom placed on Rokuro's disheveled head.
The Lagoon Company is comprised of a disparate group of characters, a couple of whom at least reminded me for some reason of various Matrix characters. Dutch, a supercool hulking African American gentleman could very well be an anime version of Morpheus, while Revy could just as easily be a slightly morphed version of Trinity. The third regular member of the Company is Benny, who might be thought of as one of those Matrix supporting characters who was devoted to Morpheus for personal reasons and who handled some of the more technical aspects of the virtual world. Now this is a somewhat silly analogy, I know, but in a way it's apt because Rokuro, nicknamed "Rock" by his new cohorts, is in a way a bit like Neo himself: he's thrust into a completely new reality where everything he thought he knew about the world, and indeed about himself, is suddenly upended.
If Rock is the putative focus of the series, there's little doubt that Revy is the real standout character. This gun toting, profanity spewing female is one of the most distinctive relatively recent creations in anime history, a wisecracking but often incredibly violent formulation who never quite seems to realize just how abrasively she's coming off. There's a little bit of psychobabble about Revy's backstory provided in the first season, but it's not really especially illuminating, and in fact kind of detracts from the fun hyperbolic nature of her character. In terms of Revy's nonstop use of the f-bomb, something that is actually shared by several characters in the series, it's actually kind of funny to put on the English subtitles, which are ostensibly a translation of the original Japanese language dialogue, as the actual English dub plays. It's like watching two radically different versions of the same storyline, with the Japanese (via the English subtitles) being resolutely PG while the English dub is undoubtedly R perhaps even moving perilously close to X more than once.
There are a number of interesting stories that crop up over the two seasons of Black Lagoon. While a multi- episode arc which finds the Black Lagoon brigade fighting neo-Nazis and trying to retrieve a priceless painting from a sunken U-Boat almost seems like a slightly more scabrous version of a Jonny Quest episode, a later arc featuring yet another hostage, this time a young boy, and his almost robotic maid, who turns out to be a guerrilla for the FARC organization is a lot of fun and kind of plays like a combination of Sergio Leone with Quentin Tarantino. Unfortunately, things get a little more unseemly in the second season with another arc featuring snuff films and pedophilia. Obviously, this is not a show for the meek and mild otaku.
Black Lagoon ends up being incredibly entertaining despite its occasional missteps, due largely to two interconnected facets: an unusual setting and very distinctive characters. The show doesn't play to the lowest common denominator and in fact requires a certain awareness of some modern day sociopolitical elements for some of its plot arcs to completely make sense. That said, even those without an overarching knowledge of various hot spots around the globe will be able to relate to the adventures of the Lagoon Company, especially when the show explodes into any of its fun and frenetic action set pieces.
Black Lagoon: Complete Collection Season 1 and 2 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Black Lagoon is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Funimation Entertainment with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. This is one of the lushest, most vivid looking anime in recent memory, with really brilliantly designed characters that fully exploit the full gamut of different body types and looks, something that isn't always the case in this genre. We get everything from Japanese middle managers with obvious comb-overs to the hardbodies of Dutch and Revy. Some of the series looks intentionally soft (it's not clear whether this might be one of those Funimation releases which are oddly labeled HD native even if the source was actually SD but delivered in its licensed form pre-upconverted). That tendency aside, the series boasts impeccable line detail and wonderfully saturated color. This is a very cinematic looking anime, especially in some of the action elements, and that aspect pops very well in this high definition presentation.
Black Lagoon: Complete Collection Season 1 and 2 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Black Lagoon is one of the few Blu-ray releases I personally can remember where there are both DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD audio options residing side by side. In this case the 5.1 English surround mix is presented via DTS- HD Master Audio, while the original Japanese language 2.0 track is presented via Dolby TrueHD. Both of these tracks are incredibly aggressive, though of course the 5.1 option is the hands down winner in case of ubiquitous LFE and sometimes actually startling surround activity. The series is awash not just in huge action set pieces, many if not most of which feature violent explosions and gunfire, but also in the swarming inner city vibe of the Southeast Asian port where the Black Lagoon craft docks. Dialogue is usually cleanly presented, though occasionally in the 5.1 mix it tends to get a bit buried in the noisiness of the sound effects. Fidelity is excellent and dynamic range is extremely wide.
Black Lagoon: Complete Collection Season 1 and 2 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Black Lagoon: Complete Collection Season 1 and 2 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Black Lagoon is one of those rare anime that manages to exploit an unusual premise, exotic locale and incredibly distinctive characters while at the same time maintaining a very consistent and highly enjoyable tone. The series becomes quite dark about halfway through the first season, and the kind of bantering quasi-romance between Rock and Revy isn't particularly innovative, but despite the sometimes unseemly elements that crop in various plot arc, Black Lagoon generally delivers an exciting and really interesting combination of action and more serious character beats that makes it an incredibly unique anime property. This Blu-ray looks great and sounds fantastic, and comes Highly recommended.
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