Black Lagoon Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: MVM Entertainment
  • MSRP: £15.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Black Lagoon

Black Lagoon Vol. #1

By Christopher Homer     March 11, 2008
Release Date: March 10, 2008


Black Lagoon Vol. #1
© MVM Entertainment


What They Say
Rokuro Okajima is a meek, mundane and metropolitan man on a business trip to South East Asia. But things quickly go from pleasure cruise to festival of pain when modern day pirates board the ship and take him hostage! Revy, Dutch and Benny are merciless, maniacal and mean and together, they make up the crew of the Black Lagoon. A mercenary group has hired them to steal a data disc Rokuro was carrying and with it, classified information that threatens the peace and security of the entire world!

The Review!
When you bundle a salaryman with a psychotic girl out on the open seas? Trouble...and Black Lagoon.

Audio:
For this review I listened to the disc in English due to one of the extras focusing on the dub. The English stereo mix booms out loud with a soundtrack to match as the sounds of the voices and backgrounds come through crystal clear, whether it is speed boating down a river getting ready to launch a missile into a helicopter, or from a certain female lead jumping from boat to boat, causing massacre after massacre. There were no distortions regarding the sound - the only down side is that it actually sounds a lot better in English than when I changed it to Japanese as the audio whilst not in the 5.1 of course, does seem a lot weaker than other releases with similar audio for some reason. Otherwise, very good.

Video:
There is some great attention to detail as the vibrant colours hit you once you get into the show. The weaponry, the vehicles, the overflowing blue skies and sees, and the characters all seem 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. The change in scenarios from flowing sea to bar to 1940s Neo-Nazi submarines brings a true flair, variety and quality which shines out straight at you.

Packaging:
No packaging was supplied with this test disc.

Menu:
A very simple menu is showing for the first disc, scanning vertical is the Black Lagoon lago, with a scrolling horizontal background with a shot of Revy in all of her glory, all guns blazing. The screens are easy enough to navigate, albeit basic from set up and extras. 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.

Extras:
Two main extras fill the first volume of Black Lagoon. The first is a making of feature - the staff working on the English dub take centre stage, as we are introduced to James Corrigall (Director), Jiro Okada (Assisting Producer), Stephen Hedley (English Adaption Writer), Brad Swaile (voice of Rock), Maryke Hendrikse (voice of Revy) and Dean Redman (voice of Dutch). There's a lot of background research explained in the series, as well as their personal opinions of each character and about themselves. I particularly liked being introduced to Dean as this is his first major anime role and he talks about his background as an actor and a stuntman. It's very informative and enjoyable to watch.

The second extra is a Red Faction - Music Video, basically the music video of the opening theme tune, which literally hits you not only with its weirdness, but the fact the song is actually in English. It's...interesting to say the least. Surprisingly, there wasn't a clean opening or ending animation on this disc though.

Content:
I went into this series cold, knowing very little about it. By the end of the first disc, I think I'll just hope that I can get the remainder of the series, because it's definitely a good start...

The moment you hit the psychedelic English singing opening which gave me a flashback to Cowboy Bebop, you know you're in for a treat. We're quickly introduced to a Japanese salaryman, Rokuro Okajima who is very quickly bored with his normal life of work and ass kissing. But as soon as you hear the past tense he's talking in, we cut immediately to the current situation on the South China Sea - quite a different setting for the Asahi employee. The plot is that he's trying to deliver a disc to some clients of his employers, but some apparent sea pirates hijack him.

The first we see is a foul-mouthed woman armed and dangerous with a Baretta. We are later introduced to her as Revy, who is not too subtle of what she really wishes to do to Rokuro, after firing some shots in his general direction. The other pirate we see at this point nullifies her brash attitude and kick ass persona, an African American by the name of Dutch who is calm, cool and in control compared to Revy's violent tendencies. They hold Rokuro as hostage, hoping for a ransom from his employers - however interestingly Dutch seems to take a shine to the hostage, nicknaming him 'Rock' as they travel to a bar which is pretty much a hideout for criminals which leads to an interesting exchange between Revy and the newly dubbed Rock in a drinking contest. Never underestimate a Japanese salaryman in a drinking game.

However, things take a turn for the worst when apparent terrorists attack the bar. We're introduced to the third member of the group called Black Lagoon, Benny, who is more of a tech wiz compared to the hands on approach that Dutch and Revy are - especially Revy, who literally goes into berserker mode, with psychotic smile to boot as she takes pleasure in assassinating the thugs maliciously and with blood lust. It's one of the more shocking images I've seen in quite a while and gave me a hook to this series straight away despite knowing next to knowing about it.

As Rock realises he's in a different world, it gets even worse when he learns the disc is a prop for nuclear war and to his company, he's considered dead. For Black Lagoon, it means no ransom demand. For Rock, it means no existence as he waits to die. The moment when Rock throws a gun at the advancing helicopter is one of those great images that you know that the party has just started.

And this was just the first episode.

Cornered on the river as the helicopter approaches, taunting them almost as the Lagoon's weapons seem useless, Rock changes dramatically. From panicked salaryman always being threatened by Revy's Baretta, he gets an idea after surveying the environment how to escape. It's quite an idea actually involving something they past back on the river with the only good weapon they have on the boat but not exactly something normally useful for air combat, it shows Rock in an environment he's not at all expected...and revelling in it. It's a great viewing piece as well with the inevitable victory for the Black Lagoon, but even more poetic is when Rock's boss meets up with Black Lagoon's boss, a lady named Balalaica, and suddenly things change. Now they want Rock back, but Rock simply quoted back what they told him, that 'he's already dead.' It's a turning point for a man's life that looked dead in the water and almost a poetic turn for Rock, who keeps that name now. It leads to the inevitable recruitment of Rock, subtly asked by Revy of all people, as this wimpish man goes head to head with Revy's smirk as the duo already showed in the first episode that whilst very contrasting, are very workable as an on screen duo.

From the first two episodes of introductions and recruitment, the disc turns to a more episodic count for the remaining 2 episodes as the work of Black Lagoon is shown, they are seen as a group for hire so to speak as they enter a place called Roanapur - the episode initially shows Rock trying to settle in as Revy gives him advice in typical Revy style, whilst Dutch gets a blast from the past outside as an old colleague of his named Mr Chin tries to intimidate him because Balalaica has been taking his business from him - it basically leads to a revenge mission against Dutch with Mr Chin and his cronies hunting Black Lagoon on the sea. Whilst the episode seemed generic, it touched a number of things such as briefly looking at Revy's past as well as Dutch, an awesome battle sequence involving Revy jumping from ship to ship, killing and destroying everything in sight...

...and oh yes, Revy trying to get Rock to dress up in an Hawaiian shirt. Running gag perhaps? Maybe, but it sets up the unique Rock/Revy conversations/arguments so it's all good.

The final episode seems to again be episodic but looks like to be part of a saga for the series - we get a flashback to 1945 off the Cape Verde Islands and the history of a sunk Nazi ship which contains a painting of some significance/value and the Black Lagoon have been asked to retrieve it. The flashback sequence is rather engaging though the colours were a bit darker to fit in with the time and seemed to be a bit off pace compared to the vibrant action of the previous episodes. The painting turns out to be some form of Nazi artwork, and Rock and Revy go to retrieve it whilst Dutch and Benny hold the fort and try to avoid other ships see what they are doing. However, they are caught out by a boat called the White Heather, which turns out to be a boat of Neo-Nazi's also interesting in the World War craft as the episode finishes with them firing at Benny and Dutch whilst Revy and Rock are still underwater...

The show certainly is easy on the eyes. Some great action sequences among some great characters. Revy, Rock and Dutch are already very interesting and with the brief mentions of Revy's past, it's definitely intriguing. Knowing it's 12 episodes, I wonder how the future is going to come considering 4 have already gone however what I seeing so far is definitely getting me into it. Aside from the flashback sequence in episode 4, it's very bright and the action sequences along with the accuracy regarding the weapons and vehicles (as mentioned in the commentary) are spot on. Revy in particular is just an interesting character considering how bad ass she is, and just how she can snap and change to something more different - something more scary if that was possible. The banter between her and Rock is great and especially with Dutch to calm even Revy done you've got a nice medium between the characters which brings in great interaction. Not much on Benny though at the moment so can't say for him but hopefully the future episodes will bring him more into it as well.

Summary:
With this being the first series I've received with literally no knowledge beforehand, sometimes it's better just to get in the deep end and enjoy what you see before you. What I saw was an action series with flowing animation, great attention to detail and kick ass characters. With 3 of the main four we've already got some established characterisation, some great banter and lots of bloody violence. Whilst the plot itself isn't really a plot per say and is going in the more episodic nature, the first two episodes were enough to hook me in as you've got the four distinguished leads, the bad ass girl, the cool, calm muscle, the straight middle man and the panicked but intelligent comic relief. Hopefully more comes along of it and we get to a good story but in the meantime I'll settle for psychotic grins and underwater exploring as this series is definitely recommended so far.

And Hawaiian shirts. We need those Hawaiian shirts.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Making of Feature (Dub),Red Faction Music Video

Review Equipment
Toshiba 37C3030 - 37" Widescreen HD Ready LCD TV - Tangent Ht-50 Home Theatre System Multi-Regional DVD Players/Speakers - Tangent Subwoofer 50-150 Hz, Impedenced 8 OHM


COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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jnager 3/13/2012 8:25:58 PM

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