Black Lagoon is one of the best damn shows you've never seen. This little piece of action heaven was originally in Geneon's hands back in the day, but when the publisher went under they took this title with it. I legitimately shed a tear thinking I would never get my hands on the second part of the show. Then FUNimation came along and picked up the distribution rights, once again bringing this show back into the limelight. Thank you FUNimation. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
In case you have not seen this series, Black Lagoon was originally released in 2006. It came from the mind of Rei Hiroe who created the manga back in 2002. The series collectively ran for two seasons and garnered 24 episodes before it came off the air (though there's apparently a third season on the way in 2010!). The seasons were sectioned off into "Barrages". The first was handled entirely by Geneon back in the day, but when FUNimation took over distribution that's when the second came out. We've already seen the individual volumes and season sets. Now, today, we're looking at the whole kit and caboodle.
Black Lagoon: The Complete Box Set collects all 24 episodes and all supplemental features from the show and presents them on eight DVDs. These are essentially the exact same discs that are already available, the only difference is that you get them in a nice little thin-pack (if you already own the steelbook cases there's little point in picking this up).
Taking place in the seas of Southeast Asia, Black Lagoon features an eclectic group of anti-heroes operating their business in one big messed up world. The Lagoon Company is a team of hired guns who will snatch anything and deliver it for a price. When the show kicks off we're introduced to white-collared Japanese native, Rokuro Okajima, who lives a rather mundane life working in mediocrity at Asahi Industries in Tokyo. He's given an assignment one day along with a CD to delivery, but little does he know that Lagoon Company is coming for the CD and they're not afraid to kill or kidnap anyone who stands in the way.
Rokuro is brought into Lagoon Company's stead in an effort to extort money for his safe return. It's only then that Rokuro finds out exactly what his life is worth. Asahi Industries decides to let him take the fall for the loss of the CD and they essentially cut him loose, leaving him at the tender mercies of Lagoon Company. Fortunately for Rokuro he convinces the members of Lagoon that he's worth having around and he has nothing to turn back to. Revy, Dutch, and Benny reluctantly welcome him into their ranks and nickname him Rock, forever changing his life.
Black Lagoon primarily focuses on the exploits of Rock and how he perceives the events that unfold around him. In the opening moments of the show this is especially true, but as the other characters are developed I'd say that the attention span of the series is spread pretty evenly. Each of the cast members gets a chance in the spotlight and several of the story arcs in this series give them the opportunity for more development. Revy in particular steals much of the attention of the series. She's a balls-out guns-blazing kind of gal who isn't afraid to die or take a bullet as long as it means leaving a path of bodies in her wake. Naturally this is unsettling for Rock at the start, but he grows more accustomed to it and even rubs off on her a bit. Much of the show focuses on their development.
An incredibly strong support cast fleshes out the series and when you take the vast amount of villains into consideration it gets even more insane. There are crazed nuns, Russian mafia members, fellow rivals of their line of work, and all manner of crooked people out to get them. They say you can judge the mettle of a hero by the quality of his enemies, and if that's the case then Lagoon Company is in a class all their own.
Okay enough about the cast, what's the show all about? Basically it follows Lagoon Company from one job to the next and has them settling old debts along the way. The world is in shambles and it's kill or be killed, use or be used. Lagoon finds themselves smack dab in the middle and it's clear that they do whatever they can to live outside the law. It's non-stop action from start to finish and the atmosphere is cool as hell. Think Cowboy Bebop but with more attitude and less music.
I can't stress enough how enjoyable this show is. At first it seems like mindless action, but the layers upon layers of background information and development that are poured into this show blew my mind as it progressed. This is one hell of a ride through to the end and I can't recommend it enough.
Black Lagoon is one slick looking show. The artistic style of the show is quite striking and there's a ton of detail both in the world and character designs. Despite the layer of grit over everything the transfer here is absolutely stunning with vibrant colors, sharp detail, and virtually no artifacts to complain about. Even grain is kept minimal apart from a few scenes. Madhouse did a heck of a job putting this show together and this transfer was produced with great care. The transfer for this release is identical to what's already on the market, so if you're looking for an upgrade in that department there really isn't one.
Black Lagoon is presented on DVD with English and Japanese dub tracks. The original Japanese language gets a 2.0 stereo treatment while the English receives some 2.0 and 5.1 love. In terms of dub quality both tracks are decent though I felt the Japanese dub won out, but that may just be a matter of personal taste. I thought the original language track simply added a little more to the experience because sometimes the dialogue in the show can be a tad dry. Technically speaking the 2.0 tracks play out just like you'd expect and the 5.1 offers a nice sense of immersion, especially when the action starts to pick up. Some of the effects where a little more subdued than I would have expected and in a few were a little underwhelming.
Considering these are the discs that have been on the market for a while now, the bonus features remain the same. On the six discs with episodes the only feature you're going to find are some previews for other shows. It's not until you get to the two "Extras" discs that there's anything really interesting.
First up is "The Crew", which is a fifteen minute long behind the scenes look at the English casts involvement with the production of the dub. This is one of the better produced English features I've seen for an anime before and it's definitely worth the watch. The rest of the material on the first Extras disc is arguably lighter fare. There is a music video for the opening song by Mell (Red Faction) and a Japanese commercial for the CD single. All that's left is the original Japanese opening, a clean ending animation, and some promotional videos for the series. The second disc is unfortunately skimpier than the first. There's a promotional video for the show, the original Japanese opening for Second Barrage, and two creditless endings.
Black Lagoon is an addicting show to watch. The intense action, fascinating world, and richly developed characters all come together in a glorious bloodbath that is quite intoxicating. There are few shows that can maintain this one's guilty pleasure pace and retain anywhere near the level of quality. From start to finish Black Lagoon is a winner and it's something that should be in any action fan's collection, anime freak or not. Highly Recommended
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