Black Lagoon Vol. #2 (also w/limited edition) (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, July 05, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, July 24, 2007



What They Say
Filled with scenes of heroic bloodshed, Black Lagoon is Action Incarnate!
The Black Lagoon Company gets into a brutal head to head battle with a bunch of neo-nazi freaks after the same sunken booty. Revy and Dutch blaze a trail full of blood and bullets in an attempt to get back their bounty and make an exit in style. The tension between Rock and Revy builds up to such extreme levels that an easy day of running errands has almost fatal consequences! Will they kiss and make up or will Rock get a bullet in the head?

Dog Tag is enamel coated and features engraving on Both Sides!

The Review!
Finishing out the storyline from the previous volume as well as a couple more smaller stories, Black Lagoon kicks it up a few notches.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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. That at least is source related. The areas that stood out significantly is during the episodes where there is a time spent underwater with lots of dark and green colors. There's some visible blocking going on there with the different shades of black that are being used but it's over within a couple of seconds at most.

Packaging:
T the artwork is quite Japanese looking as it features Balalaika in her uniform and heavy coat with plenty of smoke and darkness surrounding her. The background is black and the logo is large but it is behind the character artwork. The first volume had some text that went over the basics of the show on the front but this one provides just a brief rundown of the main characters. 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. Due to this being an early review copy it's not a reversible cover. An insert is included which has a chapter list breakdown on one side while the back is chock full of production information.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Nazi's. Why did it have to be Nazi's.

The central arc of the series which shows up in this volume revolves around what started in the previous volume as Revy and Rock have dived to the bottom of the ocean to where an old Nazi submarine crashed during the war. The goal of retrieving a valuable painting from there that they've been contracted to get is the main focus but Revy is also intent on grabbing as much other stuff as she can get down there that may be valuable. Lots of mint Nazi paraphernalia can sell easily on the black market of which they partake in. At the time that they're down there, a modern day variant of the Nazi cause has come by in order to retrieve the painting themselves since it will allow their leader access to people in places of power. That will gain them what they need in order to move into power themselves some day.

Naturally there's plenty of confrontations going on once Revy realizes they're there, including a fun scene in the submarine itself, but like the previous volume the best thing about the show comes from its interactions. The underwater segment has some great moments as Rock really questions taking things from the submarine other than the painting since it strikes him as something wrong to do. The discussion that he and Revy have about it, or rather the talking that Revy does that explains her views on things, does a lot to really flesh out and illustrate what makes her tick so well.

Black Lagoon is filled with lots of violence and action as well as a good mix of comedy when appropriate. Having Revy and Dutch strolling through the Nazi ship topside with their guns blazing is fun to watch as it's done with some great style and a real sense of impact (particularly with that amazing DTS mix). But even with all the big guns and fast action moments, it has a lot of real character to it as well. The tension between Revy and Rock that starts to gain more traction here leads to a beautiful blowup between the two in a marketplace while they're out doing various jobs for the company. In a short amount of time the two characters have such an intense argument about each other and themselves that it feels like more went into this than most other series do in total.

Black Lagoon has been about a real rawness since the start in different areas. The raw brutality of Revy provides a great visual. The dialogue itself across all of them is filled with vulgarities that fit perfectly with the situation and the characters. The opening song itself is a rough piece of accented English that primes you beautifully for what's to follow. But the real rawness that's delved into here is that of the souls of these characters and both Revy and Rock come out great here. The visual presentation of it is simple enough but it's given just as much attention as the real fluid action sequences. More series need to have this kind of raw intensity when it comes to discussions like these.

In Summary:
Black Lagoon continues to be a fairly simple series all told but it's execution is simply top notch in just about every way. Madhouse has created a visual treat in the series while Geneon has managed to raise the bar by getting Nightjar to tweak the soundtrack. Combined with an effective storytelling style and a fun series of small plotlines to follow, it's easy to drop into and it simply makes me smile. It's a rare series that works better in English for me but it's even rarer for my wife to listen to it in English. Black Lagoon simply rocks once again with this set of episodes and has me eager to not only see the next volume but to watch the first two again. Very recommended.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Limited Edition: Black Lagoon Dog Tag

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Black Lagoon