Black Lagoon Vol. #3 (also w/limited edition) (of 3) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, August 19, 2008
What They Say
Filled with scenes of heroic bloodshed, Black Lagoon is Action Incarnate!
Dirty jobs are a part of life for the Black Lagoon but things seem to be getting worse by the minute. Their latest problem is a maid from Columbia. She's a killing machine out to rescue Garcia from the clutches of the Black Lagoon and will kill anyone who gets in her way. As if that wasn't enough, international terrorists make their move and set the scene for a showdown with the Hong Kong Triad, the C.I.A. and the Black Lagoon smack dab in the middle. Can Rock count on his new family to pull him out of a pinch or will he be left to rot?
Limited Edition Includes three "Full Metal" over-sized collector cards! (dual-sided, brushed-metal finish)
The first season finishes out with four episodes that play heavily to the shows strengths - violence, violence and more beautiful violence.
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.
The artwork is quite Japanese looking as it features Shenhua in her revealing outfit with plenty of knives strapped to her thighs. Similar to the previous volume, the colors really stand out even as dark as they are against the background and the sexuality aspect only heightens it. 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 and its manga and production origins. 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 side cover is quite a bit of fun as it features Roberta in her full maid outfit looking particularly dangerous. It's hard to choose which cover to really use for the release. 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)
There is simply something to be said for a show that doesn't really try to deal with a moral compass with its characters and instead just lets them exist and live in a very complicated world. The things that the Black Lagoon company has to do certainly puts them down at the lower rungs of humanity but even then they tend to not judge but rather just go with a by the book approach in order to get the job done. When you're dealing mostly with the underbelly of humanity to begin with, any moral compass can put you in a world of hurt.
This volume is split into two story arcs where the first one finishes out the Robert storyline and the second is a fairly self contained two part story. The initial storyline that carries over from the second volume with Roberta is just pure fun as it takes on a very Terminator-like tone. The arrival of the Rock and company into the bar where Robert is about to cause havoc with the men who are giving her trouble just turns an explosive situation into a nuclear one. Roberta's past as a highly capable terrorist is something that she's tried to put in her past but the need to rescue the young master has her pulling out all her old methods to accomplish it. Where her problem lies is in the simple fact that Revy is basically her equivalent in both ability and spirit. When they're thrown against each other it turns into a hilariously violent battle that just defies expectations.
The visual design of this particular arc is one that is fun simply because it pits a maid against a bitch. Not that Roberta is a good looking maid mind you, but she's all dressed up as she should be in a very non-sexual fanservice way and even her glasses don't give her much in that area. When she and Revy finally go head to head against each other at the docks it takes on a really intense nature since they're just out to win at all costs. There have been numerous shows where we've seen women beat each other to within an inch of their lives, but Black Lagoon just seems to have far more intensity to it. Even with all the guys watching it and alternating between being afraid of what's going to happen and amused by how far they're willing to go.
The two part arc that fills out the second half of the volume is just as much fun but for different reasons. This one brings in a character that just has intense appeal as Mr. Change, head of the gangsters on the island, is very much done in a Chow Yun-Fat model. Some big time political issues have caused him to seek out the Black Lagoon company to transport some documents for him that will blow the lid off of what's going on in the rest of the world. The actual plot and reasons aren't all that important though since the focus is entirely on the journey to get them delivered. One of five groups transporting things in order to throw of those that are interested, Dutch and everyone find themselves being heavily attacked and split up into smaller groups along the way.
The main focus is on that of Revy and Rock as they make their way across land eventually only to have Rock get captured. Revy is furious about it but she can't go and leave him behind so she forces the recovery team that came to get her to help her out. The team is highly amusing since it's made up of a guy from what seems like northern England and a Chinese girl. Shuenhua is done in an interesting way in the dub and it's hard to tell just how much if it is "original" to it or part of the original dialogue in Japanese. The end result is that we have a character that Revy nicknames Chinglish because of her accent. This fits in with the rest of the show though for some reason it does stand out all the more even against some of the other accents used in other story arcs. In the end though, she fits in nicely with the world design and the range of characters that we've seen so far.
Black Lagoon is a show that just can't qualify as guilty pleasure. It's exuberance in handing out the violence is almost intoxicating and it backs it up with great looking animation and a soundtrack that just gives it all the more intensity. The characters are fun and not cookie cutter stereotypes in their diversity. The stories may be a bit weak and drawn out, particularly the Roberta story arc, but for just about every minute of this volume I was smiling or on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen next. This show has been a great experience this year and has kicked all manner of ass in every department. Highly recommended for a good time.
Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 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.
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.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Black Lagoon