Locked and loaded for the 2nd episode of Summer of A.S.S. featuring Black Lagoon.
I’m a pretty open person about a lot of my hobbies/interests, save for anime. Now, obviously if you’re watching this, it’s apparent I’m not that closed-off about it online; I mean in more public or work related areas. Anime is a niche interest, one that often has a stigma about it. Adult cartoons in the west can still be seen as an almost ‘lazy’ form of entertainment, and childish, because children watch cartoons, adults watch live-action programs. Trying to explain anime to an outsider is getting easier, especially from twenty years ago, but people are still unsure or unfamiliar with the medium. But, if there is ever a time that someone new to the fold requests what’s a good-to-great series to start off with, I have a few options. And Black Lagoon is often always near the top of that list, because it’s a perfect blend of studio Madhouse’s ability, with the Hollywood and Hong Kong action films style that captivates worldwide audiences. If you like movies like John Wick or The Raid, then Black Lagoon is just that: only animated, thus making for more unbelievable action to devour.
Black Lagoon is almost ‘foreign’ to anime in the sense of its principle, presentation, and plot. Yes, it’s a Japanese cartoon, but that’s as about as ‘uncertain’ one should be towards Black Lagoon. It’s way more Hollywood than anime, showcasing bombastic gunfights and eye-blistering car chases through various cities around the world that harken to a totally different style. There are no big-eyed, half-naked “are-they-even-legal-aged” characters to lust over, no “person-screams-for-five-episodes- to-power-up” moments, and no unnerving or wacky Japanese animation tropes that a lot of people inside and outside of the industry criticize it for. Black Lagoon is a relatively grounded presentation of pirates, gun-wielding mafiosos, Yakuza, neo-Nazis, vampires, and everything in between. There is rarely an episode that doesn’t have at least a single gunshot, since nearly every character is as trigger-happy as can be.
The eponymous Black Lagoon is often the main transportation of the Lagoon Company, manned by pirate mercenaries Revy, Dutch, and Benny. The company picks up the metaphorical viewer to join their journey in the form of Rock. Rock is a Japanese salaryman after his supervisor used him as unsuspecting pawn and abandoned him in an illegal smuggling incident who quickly gains his sea legs. Unlike the rest of the crew of the Black Lagoon, Rock is more diplomatic, eagerly trying to dissolve situations with words over gunfights. It’s rare his views prevent bloodshed, but he still insists on brains being greater than brawn. However, the seedy crime world of the 1990’s Roanapur (a fictional city in Thailand) hardly has time for his good intentions, and to ensure their livelihood can continue will do all they can to prevent Black Lagoon’s interference. Fascinatingly enough, Roanapur conveniently houses nearly every disreputable group imaginable: Yakuza, Mafia (Russian and Italian, the Colombian Cartel, you name it. Battles will range from bars to on-the-high seas throughout Black Lagoon’s twenty-four episode run.
The world of Black Lagoon is not glamorizing the scenarios by any means. Every battle, no matter big or small, takes its toll on the combatants, and despite the machismo on the surface, the lasting effects linger on mentally and physically after the dust has cleared. But, given that this is an anime, there are several supernatural, suspend-your-disbelief moments that only something in this medium can do. Practically everything from cars to bots onscreen is seemingly a bullet sponge or requires extensive damage to finally subdue them. It’s not a deal breaker, no, far from it, but it’s certainly something to understand and accept going in: the world is fraught with danger, but it’s highly unlikely any of the main characters are doomed. Much like a James Bond book or film or Sherlock novel, its creators have made their creations superheroes, they cannot and will not die. At least, not by nothing but age or disease. Yes, they can be injured with broken bones and bruises, lingering effects, but the possibly of them ever dying is a non-issue. And that’s okay. Given the presentation and type of show that Black Lagoon is, you do not actually wish deadly harm towards your protagonists, because they’re the soul-force and reason the show is as exciting as it is. True, knowing this is a kind of ‘spoiler’ but if you also read comics (which is safe to assume you do too, NERDS!) then you realize that Batman and Spider-Man’s chance to die forever is 0.00001% a reality. What I’m trying to hammer down is that Black Lagoon is a show you never take too seriously.
It’s a show that you take in small arc by small arc, typically contained within 3-4 episodes with each telling its own self-contained escapade. Of course, it helps that Geneon/Funimation have done arguably some of their best work on the dubbing of Black Lagoon. Considering this was dubbed over in 2008, and the industry still hadn’t quite landed its foothold in the US at this time, Geneon/Funimation fully embraced the style of Black Lagoon and created a memorable, perfect dubbing. The dialogue fits every mood and gunfights as applicable, with smaller, more tender voices suiting their respective moments, while swears litter the battleground just as much as any bullet casing. Every one’s voice fits their character and radiates personality. If you enjoy zany, unrealistic action flicks of the ‘80s and ‘90s, and tolerate a ton of gunfights interspersed with exposition from time to time, then Black Lagoon is an anime for you.
Black Lagoon’s legacy will forever remain one that is instantly accessible to those a bit wary of the anime medium. If you can tolerate action to an absurd level and have a weekend to spare indulging in it, go check it out. And if that’s not enough, there is a full arc that’s devoted to killing a ton of neo-Nazis, and given the current landscape, that’s as refreshing and welcoming as anything else I can ask for. No, no, I do not condone genocide, it’s despicable, but I do condone violence towards neo-Nazis and their laughable ‘cause’. Fuck them! Anyway, Black Lagoon is glorious, I cannot recommend it enough and you can find it on Hulu and Funimation subbed and dubbed.
Like most people here, I’ve been watching anime for many, many years. I owe blocks like Toonami for getting me into the medium. Shows like Dragonball Z and Ronin Warriors shaped my beginning years, while shows like Neon Genesis Evangleion and Cowboy Bebop showed me that there’s some true artistic ability and expression found within anime (moreso than big burly dudes punching and screaming for hours on end). I now try to watch anime showcasing many genres and storytelling. Anime is just another great, creative medium for telling stories, and I’m happy to share my thoughts on the series I enjoy with you!