The action continues to be intense as Roanapur is the central stage for much of the fighting, at least until the gang heads to Japan.
What They Say
Filled with scenes of heroic bloodshed, Black Lagoon is Action Incarnate!
What's better than earning money? Making it! Revy teams up with Sister Eda to save a brilliant counterfeiter from getting wasted. Of course they care less about her and more about the money they stand to gain for getting her to safety! Later, Rock makes a return trip to Japan with Revy as his escort and bodyguard. Japan hasn't changed but Rock is fundamentally different after a year aboard the Black Lagoon.
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 half bit rate of 755 kbps. 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.
Only the first volume of the series comes with a steelcase (much like the first season) so this one is done in a standard black keepcase. Like the first season, the covers here are really striking with so much black space and the logo being done with large text and blue shading. The central focus of this volume gives us Ginji as he dominates the pairing with Revy who is in some rather feminine clothes for her from her trip to Japan. 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 reverse cover is nicely done and a bit more upbeat as it has the colorful pairing of Janet and Benny together. An insert is included which has a chapter list breakdown on one side while the back is chock full of production information..
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.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After getting reacquainted with Black Lagoon in the previous volume, we get the second volume less than a month later and all is good with the world. Black Lagoon: Second Barrage really manages to do just about everything right when it comes to the stories, the action and the dialogue. This set of episodes has some nice carryover from the previous volume which concludes with two episodes while the next storyline begins and will conclude in the next and final volume of the series. All of this just makes you want more of it to come quickly and hope that the third season will rock just as hard.
The two episodes that kick off the first half of this volume are definitely very different from the two that follow it. This storyline is generally all about the action and violence as it brings us back to the story of Janet, aka Greenback Jane. With the Cowboy after her, she’s worth quite a lot of money which is why Eda is all about protecting her and getting the plates so she can have all of that potential. Hiring Revy and Rock for the mission, she’s off to pick up Janet before the Cowboy’s goons can get her and she’s come up with a highly elaborate way of getting her out of there. Done with perfect visuals and sense of urgency and humor, watching Janet go through the hurdles that have been set up and having Eda narrate it while waiting outside is priceless, especially since they decide to leave early on the idea that it won’t actually work. Four out of seven times isn’t too bad, right?
The bulk of these two episodes involve either chase scenes or defensive positions. The chase scenes are a whole lot of fun as you get to see Eda in her nun outfit hanging out of a car shooting behind her next to Revy or a really great sea sequence where everyone is onboard the torpedo boat with the “bad guys” on there as well. The variety of those going after Janet is pretty amusing as you get “Chinglish” in there and a few others with some amusing quirks. The flamethrower gentleman even feels like he’s a mild parody of Hank from “King of the Hill” with how he talks and moseys about his scenes. On the flip side of the chase scenes, we get Revy, Rock, Eda and Janet holed up in the Black Lagoon offices trying to hold off everyone that’s after them. It’s a great scene where there’s so many bullets flying and different ways to look at things that it’s completely engaging. Even more so when Dutch is driving towards it on the boat and he realizes it’s on fire and gets completely pissed off.
With all the slam bang action going on during the first two episodes, the quieter and more subtle episodes that follow it are most welcome. Echoing parts of the first season when Revy and Rock have their very important discussion about life, this storyline takes the events that happen often in Roanapur and places them in Japan. Returning to his home country as an interpreter for Balalaika with Revy as his bodyguard, Rock is finding that even places that are completely familiar to him now feel alien and different. When he meets a young woman who he does feel connected to, he starts to feel a little different about things, but Rock’s luck is certainly not the best as it turns out she’s part of the group that Balalaika has come in to destroy completely.
The back story for this storyline is one that is pretty decent as the Russian connection is exploited well. Balalaika is brought in to Japan to save the bacon of another Russian, one who bought his way into the mafia rather than earned it through violence and reputation. The Japanese group is intent on making their enemies submit to them and dominating them, but they aren’t prepared for the kind of plans that Balalaika has. She’s spot on perfect during all of this and she comes across as such a vicious and cold wolf that you can’t help but shiver and be delighted by how she acts and talks. The small revelations she provides throughout here about her personality only make her a far more engaging character. And seeing Revy having to deal with the Japanese people and the way they live only adds more flavor to all of it.
The Japan arc of the series is one where the English language adaptation really does some nice work. With Rock back home in Japan and there being issues of language and translation going on here, they could have done these scenes in a couple of different ways. When the negotiations are going on, the original Japanese voice actors dialogue is used with Balalaika and others speaking in English. When Rock translates, it’s the original voice actor as well and then shifts to the English voice actor when required. Unfortunately, the only area where they didn’t go truly international is by having Balalaika speak in Russian when she shifts to that, so there are little nods to indicate that Rock and others can’t understand her when she does that. All told, the international flavor of the show is one of its strong points and they handle it really well here.
The middle installment of this three volume series is yet another strong entry in a very strong franchise. The English language adaptation continues to be to me one of the best dubs I’ve heard, period. Everyone gets into their roles wonderfully, it goes over the top at the right times and it reins it in when required as well. The actors seem to get into being able to really let loose with the dialogue and it has a very natural feel to it. Combine the performances with a solid script and a very enjoyable series of events and action and you get something wonderful. It’s certainly not for everyone, but it’s reminiscent of so many older shows and Asian live action films that it feels unlike most anime series that come out these days. With a Western flair to it and strong design ideas, Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage is once again one of the best releases out there.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English DTS 5.1 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
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.