Losing not a bit of momentum, the second season of Black Lagoon is more pure violent joy.
What They Say
A recent string of murders is the talk of the town. Not that murder is anything unusual, but the twin killers are targeting Hotel Moscow! The delicate balance of power held by the mafia leaders crumbles as the sickening slaughter escalates into a full-blown war of attrition. No quarter is given and none asked for as Balalaika and her soldiers are forced to recall a time when their deadliest enemies were children.
Contains episodes 1-4 (13-16):
The Vampire Twins Comen
Swan Song at Dawn
Geneon has gone the extra mile with this release by providing three language tracks. There's the standard Japanese and English stereo mixes, both of which are encoded at a surprisingly low 192 kbps. There is also an English DTS 5.1 mix which is done at a full bit rate of 1.5 mbps. Having enjoyed many DTS mixes in the past and having become accustomed to 6.5 mbps PCM tracks on Blu-ray, a quick check of the opening sequence confirmed that this show must be watched in English. The mix is quite simply very strong across the forward soundstage with plenty of very appropriate bass. The rear channels didn't get to see too much activity and may have been a bit low to hear with the spacing we use but the overall quality of the DTS track is just solid. It literally changes the impact of many scenes. We did listen to the stereo tracks in different sections throughout but they didn't leave anywhere near the same impression. During regular playback we had no issues with dropouts or distortions.
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. With the DVD production being handled by Nightjar there is a certain amount of expectation I have as I am usually quite pleased by their care and attention to quality. Black Lagoon succeeds in this very well with only a few very minor uses that come up. One of them is something that's just inherent in the NTSC format in that during some panning sequences and the occasional zoom in or out there is a bit of aliasing going on. This isn't terribly distracting even on our large display and is less so on smaller setups. Colors look great and maintain a solid feel for most of the presentation though some of the color gradients are visible.
Black Lagoon is being released in both a regular edition and a special edition. The special edition contains the regular edition release plus a steelbook which is the special edition part. For the regular edition, the artwork is quite Japanese looking as it features the twins laughing and smiling against each other set against a great black background. This is made all the more engaging because of the blue shading used around the logo which gives it a really slick feeling. The background is black and the logo is large but is behind the characters. A brief rundown is included as well here that is surprising to see on a US release but I think works nicely in giving the show a different feel. The back cover is a bit more traditional with a dark background over which we have a strip of shots from the show and other standard pieces. The summary covers the basics and the discs episode numbers and titles are clearly listed. The features are strictly technical here as there aren't any extras and the remainder of the cover has some basic production information and a very limited set of technical information. The cover is reversible and has a similar looking style to the front cover but with Revy and Eda together looking all tough. The reverse side back cover is laid out different as well as it has more shots from the show and omits the summary and production information. An insert is also included which has a chapter list breakdown on one side while the back is chock full of production information. The two panel spread inside has a somewhat awkward shot of Revy but it's one that simply looks slick.
The special edition is done in one of the metal cases that Geneon has used for several releases to great effect. The "Steelcase" is quite appropriate for Black Lagoon and serves the purpose of also being minimal on space requirements. If you're the type that can give up keepcase artwork then this will work out nicely for you. The case is done in a gunmetal grey which comes across well with the front and back covers basically containing shots of Revy. The front cover has more of a mid body shot of what looks to be an actual model as opposed to a rendering. The back side shows off her back side appropriately enough with guns in each hand. It’s exactly what the show is and it’s simply perfect. The logo is across the center of the front done in black is more subtle than the first steelbook was. On the inside, the front panel contains the logo while the opposite side has a full color piece of Revy’s back shoulders with nothing on her so it can show off her tattoo and her expression as she turns her head.
When it comes to menus, Nightjar can make even a simple one seem exciting. With this release they kick it up into a 5.1 mix again while providing a static menu that has the logo in large scale while the background has some bullets and other visuals to tie it all together. The navigation is simple but they tie to some nice animated moments as you make each selection. This is one of the weaker ones that Nightjar has done but even as weak as it is there is a good sense of theme and atmosphere to it. The disc correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.
For the regular edition release, there are no extras.
For the special edition release, an entire disc of extras is included. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot here, certainly nowhere near enough to justify having a second disc. It’s all about the marketing with this unfortunately. This disc contains four items; a Japanese promotional video for the second season which runs under a minute and a half, the clean opening for the second season and the clean endings for the special episodes of fifteen and twenty-four (no spoilers in them). There is absolutely no reason at all to not have these on the main disc. I could give on the first special edition because there was a fair bit of material, but here it’s just far too blatant and a bad move overall.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The return of Geneon to releases via FUNimation is signified perfectly by their opening release. Black Lagoon: Second Barrage was one of their best titles during 2007 and was exactly what the company needed to release in addition to its more fan oriented titles. And what better way to signify that they’re back than to put out the second season of one of the best kick ass shows of last year? Black Lagoon: Second Barrage doesn’t spend any time catching us up on things as it simply drops us back in with a familiar crew of characters and lets the mayhem ensue.
There are a number of things that made the first season so much fun which returns with this season so far. The first is the characters. The crew of the Black Lagoon company aren’t characters that are terribly deep or anything, but they manage to evoke plenty of fascinating material all things considered. There was a scene in the first season that still resonates with Revy talking down Rock about his views on the world with what she’s seen in her life. That doesn’t crop up here, but the characters have such personality to them, much of which does come through the English language voice actors, that watching them in action is far more exciting than most series are in total. A single action scene here outdoes a regular action series by a mile. But without a great cast of characters to carry it off, the action wouldn’t resonate or be all that memorable.
The second thing that works so well is that this is very much a Western oriented show with the Japanese sense of action as influenced by Hong Kong movies. It has a much stronger international flavor because of it and the hodge podge design of the city in which it all takes place adds wonderfully to it. There is a certain freedom in the designs and the motion of it all that feels unlike a lot of other shows. You can see it not holding up to some higher production value series but there’s a fluidity to the animation and a warmth to the flow of it all that connects beautifully. When any of the characters dig into the action, or simply walk or drive down a street, it feels pretty alive and lived in without feeling forced.
But in all honesty, what makes the show work so damn well is that English language voice cast combined with the work that Nightjar has done on the 5.1 mix. The roughness of the dialogue, with it being punched up to match the opening song, is the kind of scripting that is admittedly not what most people want to hear if they want a faithful adaptation. The core of the script is faithful, it’s simply coarser than anything else Geneon has done before. And it works. Beautifully. This is the kind of series where it was designed to be like this and the cast carries it off with glee and eagerness. So many of them have worked on staid and quiet little shows at times that to do something like this for an anime series must be liberating and exhilarating. And they thrive in it as they provide more raw emotion than most series wrangle out in their entirety.
For the second season of the show, the first volume really sticks to one particular storyline and it does it pretty well. Introduced into the show with little fanfare and left mostly for chaos, we meet a pair of Romanian twins known as Hansel and Gretel, though they’re not referred to this much but rather just by reputation of violence. The two of them are curiously interchangeable as they trade the hair piece and gender roles when doing so, which gives them a very unbalanced and chaotic feel. The series has had plenty of violence before, but the twins give it a very different flavor as they’re violent and random about it without any remorse or concern. In fact, they don’t even play it as a childlike game at times but rather something they simple enjoy and revel in. Something that feels right at home in this series, but is unnerving because of the age and the way they seemingly trade genders.
The plot for the story is straightforward and in the end it really doesn’t matter much. Getting back into this show, getting familiar with the characters again, it’s really all about the spectacle. And it pays off in spades. The series in this season goes right for the action and because of the twins it goes over the top right from the start. Everything that I liked about the first season is here. It’s violent, crass, over the top and utterly charming. Whether it’s watching Eda and Revy’s gunplay or seeing Rock exposed to even more mindless violence and insanity, it all connects in a very blunt way that keeps you watching. Fans who lamented the loss of this show last year will revel in having it back, as this is basically everything we were promised just over a year ago and delivered in a great little package. Highly recommended for the mass of fans that loved the first season.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language, English 5.1 DTS Languge, English Subtitles, Promotional Video, Clean Closings
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.