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Black Lagoon 001
Writen by Tectonic
Posted on June 20, 2007 at 11:27:49 pm

Black Lagoon is the anime American fans have been waiting for. While not garnering the popularity it deserves, it was probably due to Japanese not quite knowing what to make of the series, much like the famous “South Park” episode of FLCL. Made as a response to the plight of the Japanese salary man, Black Lagoon is kind of an anomaly to the typical nationalism present in most animes. Instead of uplifting Japanese culture, it spurns it for something out of Die Hard or Scarface. The results are truly unique and its artful execution demands your attention.

   

Story

Rokuro Okajima is your typical Japanese salaryman – day in day out he’s abused for the sake of his boss’s egos and in return he’s given a slim chance at promotion through the ranks of Asahi Industries. While sent abroad to transport a very important disc to a client, he and the package get taken hostage by a small group of modern day pirates. Instead of taking steps to ensure his safety, his company abandons Rokuro to preserve their integrity. Facing death and a bit of Stockholm Syndrome, ‘Rock’ decides if he can make it through Asahi Industry’s attempts to make him and the disc ‘disappear’, it’s a pirate’s life for him thereafter.

   

Thus begins a show comprised of Bebop-esque storytelling for what is known as the “Lagoon Company”: Dutch the captain, Revy the gunwoman, Benny the technician, and Rock who takes his place as negotiator. What keeps this gunsmoke sinfest fresh is how it juxtaposes cultures: Latin maid Terminators, loli vampires and Neo-Nazi sailors are but a sample of the kind of opposition Rock finds in his new life as a pirate on the South China seas. Allowing for campy dialogue when it fits but switching to badass one-liners to keep tension high is evidence that this show was intelligently crafted.

   

Art

The artwork of Black Lagoon is quite exemplary. The backdrop art crew obviously put a lot of effort into breathing life into Roanapour, the unmarked town Lagoon Company calls home. Either painted clouds on the open sea, a dodgy back alley, or a seedy bar, the artwork is very effective in drawing you in.

   

The animation is also quite unique in its use of American comic-style perspective. The shots aren’t pretty or clean, they’re dirty and quick. The results are action scenes that are truly chaotic and embrace the gritty style of the American action movie. So don’t blink; every second is two handed gun-slinging, car chases, or big explosions – all the things that sets a gaijin’s blood on fire.

English Dub

First, yes – they do swear. This isn’t a show for kids – that becomes more and more apparent as the series goes on. English OR Japanese dub, there’s F-bombs everywhere. The shows cast is entirely comprised of mafia, pirates, corrupt cops – and they all have a mouth to match. If you were expecting the re-dub to be less vulgar, this just isn’t the case.

   

While there are by no means any problems with the Japanese translation, this show’s attempts to blend American and Japanese cultures gave the dubbing team some options: Americans know American movies better than Japanese – why not zaz things up a bit? Thus Dutch sounds more like Wesley Snipes, Benny sounds exactly like a white geek from Florida should sound like, Balalaika sounds more Russian, and Rock sounds more like a whiney businessman (but that fades as his character develops). The one voice that’s a bit of a detractor is Revy’s – they wanted her to sound like the loud-mouthed &@$!# she is, but it seems to be too much. Her original voice over was more cruel or seething, and the new belligerence found in her English dubbing comes off as overbearing.

The Bottom Line

This is one of the rare rated R anime series that comes out, so if you’re tired of watching shows that (despite being well crafted) just don’t speak to your age, pick up Black Lagoon. Studded with a cast comprised of original twists on action hero staples, you really can’t go wrong.




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