Creepy, bloody, psychological and utterly enthralling – welcome back to Black Lagoon.
What They Say
Filled with scenes of heroic bloodshed, Black Lagoon is Action Incarnate! A recent string of murders is the talk of the town. Not that murder is anything unusual, but the twin killers are targeting Hotel Moscow! The delicate balance of power held by the mafia leaders crumbles as the sickening slaughter escalates into a full-blown war of attrition. No quarter is given and none asked for as Balalaika and her soldiers are forced to recall a time when their deadliest enemies were children.
For this review I listened to the disc in Japanese. The atmosphere is truly captured in the audio, both in the backgrounds, speech and sound effects – unfortunately for Second Barrage it appears both English and Japanese tracks are in the standard 2.0 format, which is a shame because as quality as the audio is, you wonder how much better it could have been (at the very start of the first episode, the verbal audio seems to be muffled by the effect of the rain in the background for example). However, there are a lot of moments which showcase the audio’s quality, namely the gunfights and the hunting’s for the twins as examples. Both languages in Japanese and English were mostly clear and no problems with distortion or translation, an excellent track to listen to.
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, 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. The brief skirmish between Chang and the twins is a good example of how well the transition has gone through, as it’s stunningly beautiful and flowing.
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 with a shot of the best unintentional comedy duo in anime, Revy in her trademark clothes, and the returning Eda in her casual wear similar to Revy’s outfit. The 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 – however it does include the unique clean ending to episode 15 – the opening and endings to Second Barrage are the same as Black Lagoon but episode 15 has the bitter sweet ending to the Hansel/Gretel saga which is…different to say the least. Also on the extras are trailers to FLCL and Starship Operators.
Black Lagoon became quickly one of my firm favourites due to a wide variety of characters and personalities, some excellent action; detail with animation and despite a variety of episodes, the show never got boring. So to my pleasant surprise, despite the problems it should have had to be released, the UK got Second Barrage fairly quickly and I’m happy to say it hasn’t missed a beat as the first disc starts off with an incredibly thrilling 3 episode saga which draws you in for the fact it hits you just how screwed up the Black Lagoon world is, and finishes with an episode leading to another saga where you wonder how you can fit so many assassins and bounty hunters in one place without any bloodshed spilling…yet.
Episodes 13-15 (or 1-3 if you prefer of SB) is what I’ll call the Hansel and Gretel arc. It focuses on two deranged twins of those names, who seemed to be the most screwed up kids in all of anime…and there’s been a lot of them. Balaliaka, the boss of Hotel Moscow and contact of Black Lagoon is very upset that a couple of ‘drifters’ have come into Roanapur and killed two of her men. She along with a welcome return to Mr. Chang, bring a number of bosses in the area to discuss the situation, and though Chang wishes for unity, Balaliaka says she’s kill these outsiders herself. The twins are very strange and creepy – in that they enjoy murder and torture, possibly incestuous and also have some sort of personality disorder where they switch personalities…even genders.
Anyway, with our favourite group the Black Lagoon, we learn of a bounty on the twins heads, and as Rock and Revy are hanging out at the Yellow Flag bar, a welcome return for the character Eda (the young ‘nun’ from the ‘Ripoff Church’ back in Season 1) in Revy like attire, and after flirting with Rock (and annoying Revy) she suggests a team up. Almost like the Shenhua/Revy partnership at the end of Season 1, the Revy/Eda partnership immediately becomes the comedy part of Black Lagoon as they are so similar it’s scary. Balaliaka actually gets help from Rock in identifying who the twins are thanks to his language skills, showcasing that Rock is now a vital member of the Lagoon.
The next episode shows just what Black Lagoon showcases in touching a lot of sensitive subjects. Throughout the series, violence, sex, drugs, etc are all part of the parcel, but in trying to find out the twins identity, Balailaka finds out the twins were part of a black market scandal in Romania that forced them to be part of child pornography and snuff films. It makes your stomach turn whilst nothing is seen fortunately, just the fact BL has to mention Balailaka forced to watch all these videos to find their identity can make you uncomfortable. Even more so when Balaliaka shows no remorse for the twins situation as they killed two of her men, so they will pay. She even says that if Black Lagoon get in her way, they will be taken out as Eda/Revy are also after the twins, and after realising Balailaka has tricked most of Roanpaur to the twins whereabouts, they go to find them, not realising Balaliaka has unleashed her own personal army with the skill to fight a third World War after them…
The finale of the saga is extremely deep and draws you in – it’s like a car crash, it’s extremely disturbing but you can’t look away. There’s a lot of bloodshed as you can probably guess, but it leads to a finale between Balaliaka and Hansel, with Gretel separating and threatening Eda to help her escape. Eda is forced to enlist Black Lagoon to help her escape, leading for a Black Lagoon/Hotel Moscow battle to see if she can escape or if she will be killed (including a member of ‘good luck’ from Dutch and Balaliaka to each other). The real crux of the episode is again, just how Rock fits into Black Lagoon. Gretel takes a surprising liking to him and even details their past towards him. This causes Rock to feel sympathy for the twins, indeed, Gretel doesn’t snap even once and seems like a normal kid…until she shows her ‘appreciation’ to rock by flashing at him. Rock immediately leaves, looking to throw up as the twins mental disorder showcases how screwed up they are – Benny actually gets a moment to shine when he has to snap Rock out of his stupor, and Revy being Revy, is certainly NOT sympathetic to their plight. The last scene is extremely atmospheric, and despite the fact the twins liked to kill for fun, the ending did actually make me feel sorry for them. It takes a good show to do that considering how twisted they were.
The final episode looks set to be another arc, a woman named Greenback Jane who is an expert counterfeiter, has broke a deal with her bosses and is forced to escape to Roanapur, and she flees to the church, where Eda and Revy are both slacking off. Eda refuses to let her in, but when the mafia after Jane shoot at the church and commit the sins of ruining the church door and smashing Revy’s glass full of alcohol, the two girls retaliate as only they know how – full guns blazing. Even the apprentice priest, a new character named Rico, a much calmer character, it’s amusing to see him load a heavy duty machine gun to help out. After the mafia take the hint and leave, Jane shows her skill at counterfeiting (and nearly boring Eda and Revy to death) and Eda gives her some advice to escape…the moment she leaves, she’s selling the information to the highest bidder. Even Revy is taken aback by this but it’s just so funny how they interact. From this, we are introduced to a lot of new characters, all bounty hunters, after the bounty on Jane led by a cowboy like character named Russell, who seems to be comic relief treatment for the hunters – we get a welcome return for Shenyua and some interesting other characters, in particular the mute Sawyer character, who uses a chainsaw and has to use an Ultravoice to speak. As the episode ends, the Black Lagoon are heading to Jane’s motel as the group of hunters are let loose…
Black Lagoon’s imagery, particularly in the Hansel/Gretel arc, is truly disturbing and yet stunning. They take no prisoners in showcasing the violence going on in Roanpaur, and what depravities go on in the various activities (scaring a porn shop owner, asking for every Romanian snuff/kiddie porn video he has and then having to watch 250 of them to find the identities of the twins is not my idea of a boss activity) show what a forsaken world Black Lagoon is set in. But at the same time, that shows what importance a character like Rock is in the heart of Black Lagoon. Indeed, the Revy/Rock relationship is nowhere near as hostile as before (Eda even comments if Revy has slept with Rock, to which Revy doesn’t reply or even react), and the introduction of Eda as a semi-main character gives Revy another foil to play off, their relationship is absolutely fantastic. Balaliaka got a lot of screen time as well, as she showcases whilst she is ruthless, she also has a heart and she couldn’t forgive outsiders killing her subordinates and went on an ingenious plan to avenge them. There are a lot of characters to keep in your head now (especially in the current arc) so it’s a tad confusing, however the core group always steal the show and with several arcs involving the Lagoon, despite being different, never verge into filler territory and are very entertaining, enthralling and at times, downright disturbing.
Black Lagoon: 2nd Barrage returns with a bang, and what a bang. It’s not a show for the weak of heart (the 18 rating is there for a reason), the violence, references and the disturbing goings on at Roanapur mean that you may want to check your mind into another place before you watch it, however, you can’t help but being drawn into their world. Whilst Revy and Rock take a little step out of the spotlight for the moment, Eda and Balaliaka fill in the void in their own ways and there’s still a ton of action for you to enjoy, and a lot of thinking about how the world is – Black Lagoon a thinking show? You’d be surprised. A welcome return to Revy and the gang and highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Closing (episode 15 special ending)
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.