The best show in the UK this year. Says it all really.
What They Say
This fast-paced anime is set in the 1990s and revolves around the members of Lagoon Company, a team of mercenaries who, via their patrol torpedo boat Black Lagoon and occasionally a 1969 Dodge Coronet, smuggle goods in Southeast Asia. The Black Lagooners' mission is this time to infiltrate the Japanese underworld. The final four episodes of BLACK LAGOON's 12-part second season, subtitled THE SECOND BARRAGE, are included here in the third volume.
For this review, I chose to watch the English dub – and as usual, the audio is excellent – accompanied by a strong English dub to counter the excellent Japanese, and despite the standard 2.0 format, the only reason why it doesn’t get the rare A+. Like the previous disc, there is some smart work in this disc involving using the Japanese on the dub audio during the Rock/Balalaika interpretation sequences. There was no distortions or slow down switching back from English to Japanese and it was presented perfectly.
There is some great attention to detail as the vibrant colours hit you once you get into the show. The detail in showcasing some of the visuals such as the weapons and the hyper fast action during the gun fights are quite remarkable, this is shown to perfection in the climatic battle between Revy and Ginji as Black Lagoon seems to have a definite personality that shines through beautifully to the screen. The panning/wide screen effect seemed to enhance the video quality on my screen, which again, didn’t show any lack of effort from the animators and the transaction to DVD. Along with the above scene, the fight at the bowling alley and the intense sense between Balalaika and Rock during a little stand-off are showcases at how well the video is presented – no problems with subtitles and timing in the slightest.
No packaging was supplied with this test disc.
A similar menu to the Black Lagoon discs has been used, scanning horizontal instead of vertical though is the Black Lagoon logo (with the words ‘Second Barrage’ showing on the bottom), with a scrolling horizontal background showing a poetic scene between Rock and a tired, beaten up Revy where you have to watch all the way through the disc to see what managed to damaged the badass Revy to a point where Rock has to support her. Screens are easy enough to navigate, albeit basic from set up and extras. Again though, the languages switch is in the set up, which actually briefly confused me for a moment because I’ve been so used to the language section being separate – not a big deal in the long run though.
The extras are very basic as we just have the trailers to Black Lagoon and new show Daphne In The Brilliant Blue (review coming shortly…)
I’ve mentioned it before that when I got this to review, I had no knowledge of the series beforehand. How ironic that one of my blind shows became my favourite UK release of the year. The combination of action, characterisation and visuals made Black Lagoon a stand out series alone, but 2nd Barrage adds to it with the settled relationship between Rock/Revy and how questions and motives still belittle Rock as he searches for himself, and he realises that some questions are better not answered.
We start off with a flashback to one of the more intriguing characters of the series (and there are a number) in Balalaika, how she was represented as a captain, the fall of the Soviet, the rebirth via Hotel Moscow, and just what goes on inside her head. Balalaika prior to this has been represented as a woman who get the job done in her own manner, but here she takes it one step further, ready to eradicate the Washimine clan – Balalaika in a number of instances throughout this disc has me scared of what she was capable of, and her thirst for war seems to have no bounds – she may have a reason for all her battles, but you can tell she enjoys the hunger for blood – in truth, she’s a frightening yet captivating character.
Meanwhile, Ginji is leading the attack on Hotel Moscow, but unfortunately Yukio gets captured by Chaka who, along with his gang, take her over to a bowling alley in a sick mind game with her and her family. Rock and Revy seem ready to wrap things up but Rock feels Yukio didn’t choose this life unlike him and wants to save her. Revy’s characterisation shows how much they’ve changed as she tells him what’s what in her own typical Revy way, but then says that as she’s just his guard, he can do what he wants. With Revy’s help, they go back to Yukio’s but encounter Ginji, who quickly realises that Revy/Rock didn’t have anything to do with the kidnapping. Using Rock as an interpreter, the three team up to save Yukio…
…which leads to the inevitable awesome action sequence where Revy’s guns and Ginji’s sword make mincemeat of Chaka’s men. Even Rock gets in the action when he knocks out Chaka temporarily and rescues Yukio. However, when the two get alone, it gets a touch deep and emotional as the two have a heart to heart conversation where Rock tries to get Yukio out of the criminal underworld, but Yukio telling him to stop it as she sees Rock’s attempts as a way to try and satisfy himself, as he is stuck between living his life in the underworld and returning to his normal life in Japan. She threatens him never to meet again, but Revy, after witnessing Ginji’s skill with the sword (including cleaving a bullet in half) seems excited about facing him in battle as the war on the Washimine group begins…
Balalaika destroys most of the Washimine group easily as Yukio faces reality and has to lead her remaining troops to survive. She shows some smarts when she figures out how Hotel Moscow have been leading their attacks and manages to get the police on their tail with a little criminal masterminding of her own – her revelation of enjoying the thrill of it shows that she indeed seems to have chosen her path, not forced into it as Rock suggests. However, she still shows the dreams of a young lady when she explained her path she wants with Ginji, even musing to start a group in Roanpaur. The end of the episode though is truly captivating as Rock meets with Balailaika asking her to stop her attacks on the Washimine group. Balalaika is truly frightening with her viciousness, tone of voice and putting in place both Rock and Revy, when Revy is forced to pull out her gun out on her ‘big sister.’ It’s definitely one of those moments where you know you’ve got a great series, as Rock finds the resolve to break off his own family ties, yet still has his own beliefs in what is right when it comes to other people’s life, even at the cost of perhaps his own life.
The final episode brings Rock asking Balalaika to totally destroy the Washimine group so that Yukio has a better chance to have a normal life. Balalaika agrees and destroys the rival Kosa group, but as Rock and Revy’s business seems to have ended, they get tailed by Ginji and Yukio, who manage to kidnap Rock to force him to lead to Hotel Moscow’s base. However Revy manages to track them down and leads to the inevitable fight between Ginji and Revy. The fight is great as whilst they are battling to the death, Yukio and Rock talk calmly as the revelations that Rock was right or wrong lead to the climatic (and bloody) finale between their hired hands. The end is gruesome where even Revy tries to stop Rock from witnessing it, but it’s a true end, one that proves that not everyone can go happy…it’s something that has to be seen.
The finale of BL: 2nd Barrage is one for the books, as whilst the arcs are fairly episodic in that the Lagoon has a mission of some sorts involving Hotel Moscow, the final arc is very different between Dutch and Benny have pretty much no air time, and the focus is all on Rock, Revy, Balalaika and the Yukio/Ginji combo. This allows you to get into the characterisation of Yukio a lot more than a lot of the other side characters and how Ginji simply wanted to make her happy, instead of being led into the path of the underworld. He draws his sword out of necessity, not because he chooses to. Yukio is a very tragic character in many ways, as her scene when the Yakuza cars collect her in the first episode and she leaves her best friend, knowing they won’t see each other again, is a testament to the Rock/Yukio conversation right at the end of the disc. Truly breathtaking in storytelling, not to mention the trademark action sequences, the characterisation (especially of Balalaika, she got a lot of air time in this disc to showcase what she truly is capable of) and the quality of the audio/visual makes this a release to be proud of. And the way Ginji finishes off Chaka…talk about brutal.
Black Lagoon was the start of something special. Whilst the arcs are pretty standard, the characters that are involved in them make this series and then some. The Yukio arc is just dynamite from start to finish, and the Rock/Revy relationship has come from annoyance to trust and confidants. Come for the action, but stay for the characters and story. With an on-going manga and a third series on the way, I’m converted from an unknown into a huge fan. Cannot recommend highly enough.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles