Judge Steve Power has a big gun. He took it from his lord.
Back With Guns Blazing!
The Black Lagoon crew is back: Dutch, The Vietnam Vet turned professional mercenary and team leader; Revy "Two-Hands," the young, beautiful killing machine with an unstoppable appetite for carnage; Benny, the computer whiz; and Rock, former Japanese businessman turned accountant and errand-boy. The plots are more complex and the action remains every bit as explosive, but does the Second Barrage manage to hit as hard as the first?
Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage consists of a 12-episode season that covers three separate story arcs:
The first 4-episode arc returns us to Roanapur, the fictional Asian city of bandits, cutthroats, and crime syndicates which the Black Lagoon company calls home. Two sadistic teens with white hair, silly gothic clothes, and a penchant for violence are slaughtering members of the local crime families. It's up to Balalaika, head of the Russian syndicate, Hotel Moscow, and her gang of ex-Soviet Special Forces to take them down. Tossed into the mix is everyone's favorite unstable, foul-mouthed killing machine, Revy, and Eda, one of the nun gun-runners from the Church of Violence. The body count rises until Balalaika finally springs her trap, and Rock learns a lesson or two about what kind of world turns a child into a heartless monster.
The second 2-episode arc introduces us to Greenback Jane, a counterfeiter whose anal retentive attention to detail gets her into hot water. When she goes on the lam—dragging Revy, Eda, and the rest of the Black Lagoon Co. into the pot with her—bullets fly, with every merc and bounty hunter in Roanapur coming out to claim the reward.
The final 6-episodes take Rock and Revy to Japan, working for Balalaika and Hotel Moscow. It seems the Russian syndicate wants a foothold in Japan and is willing to tear apart two rival Yakuza clans in the process. Rock finds himself at odds with his past and future, attempting to help a young Yakuza leader escape the life of crime awaiting her. All is not as it seems, and the truth is more disturbing than Rock initially imagines.
For people who saw the original 12 episodes of Black Lagoon, this season has matured a little, feeling darker in tone with more focus on the drama. Some things remain unchanged: Revy still spews verbal diarrhea every time she opens her yap, laced with f-bombs and other profanities; Rock is still a whiny bitch without any kind of clue as to what he's doing; while Dutch and Benny have about as much character as balsa wood and even less to do. That said, when Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage goes back to what it's good at—that being action and aping Cowboy Bebop—it's a hoot and a half, with far more to like than dislike. While you don't get the same degree of violence as the first season, the stakes are higher and the action has tighter direction.
The animation by Madhouse (Ninja Scroll, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust) is fantastic and there are times where Black Lagoon reaches theatrical quality. It's as good as or better than most of the anime currently on store shelves, using CG more effectively than excessively. The early nighttime footage of Roanapur looks beautiful, with neon reflecting in wet roads. The final arc in Japan carries a suitably subdued color palette and background designs which are more convincing and "alive" than most series. The animation also keeps up with the extremely kinetic action, and the quality never dips.
Geneon and Funimation have done a fantastic job on the audio and video presentations. The transfer throughout all three discs is clear and natural without any aliasing or noise; just pure perfection. Upscaled in high def, this show looks marvelous. The DTS 5.1 soundtrack rocks the room, with explosions and action surrounding the viewer. The cheesy title song hits with brute force and all of the action beats reverb with authority. Only the English dub is presented in DTS 5.1, which is preferable, as the Japanese language voice actors range from hilariously dull to hilariously over the top. It may tick off purists, but if you want Japanese dialogue, you'll have to settle for 2.0 Stereo.
As extras go, there's a bonus disc which contains some openings and endings with production text removed. The packaging claims there's an interview included, but it was nowhere to be found. Slim pickings to be sure, but I'm used to it where anime is concerned.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Rather than simply wearing its heart on its sleeve, Black Lagoon tries too hard to trick the viewer into thinking there's some kind of intellectual engine burning under that all-action hood. Little philosophical discussions pop up frequently, and characters start quoting noted authors and name dropping dead poets. It all feels like they're trying to add a sense of sophistication to a show that's essentially about a bunch of pirates blowing the crap out of criminals. It rings about as true as you'd expect, which is to say not very. It's not that Black Lagoon is wrong to get into the psyche of its characters, but it's done in such a sloppy manner that the effort often falls flat. More often than not, the characters come off as whiny, as they spit philosophical mumbo jumbo. A big part of it is the translation, which ranges from average to poor. In fact, there were times when dialogue exchanges left me scratching my head in bewilderment. This isn't a deep show and often comes across like style masquerading as substance. Thankfully the story beats work well. There's some solid drama alongside the gloomy introspective stuff, which feels completely out of place amongst all the carnage.
While the show definitely has issues, it redeems itself with slick action and production values. The translation gets mired in nonsense every now and again, but overall the characters are pretty cool. I just wish Revy didn't have to cuss so much. Fans who enjoyed the first season will definitely get what they're looking for from Second Barrage, but it's definitely lost a step, failing to use all of its characters to their fullest.
Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage is guilty of poor translation, significant character neglect, and attempting to convince us the show is something it's clearly not. Sentence suspended because the action is just so damned fun.
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Scales of Justice
• Textless Open
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