You like guns? You like blood? You like guts? You like tough girls with more attitude than you can shake a stick at? You like down and dirty storytelling that's a hell of a ride?
Then what are you waiting for, stop reading this review and get Black Lagoon NOW!
Oh, you want more details? All right. Black Lagoon is the violent adventures of the Lagoon Transport company, a "transportation" outfit operating out of a fictional southeast Pacific country named Roanapur. The Lagoon company works under the aegis of a Russian crime syndicate known as Hotel Moscow, headed by a ruthless, scarred woman named Balalaika.
Lagoon's leader is Dutch, a big, bald, African American ex-special forces grunt who owns his own mid-sized cruiser equipped with torpedoes.
Next is Benny, a blonde Jewish tech and communications expert.
Okajima "Rock" Rokuro, the team's straight-man and sometimes translator, through whose viewpoint we experience this world.
And finally Revy, the only female on the team. She's half-Chinese, half-American and totally psychotic. She slaughters people at will without thought or remorse. It's all Dutch can do to keep her from flying off the handle TOO often.
The tone for the show is set in the first few minutes of the first episode --Dutch and Revy are on the deck of a ship, holding pistols on Rock, deciding whether or not to kill him. They had just finished stealing some computer disks for their "client" when Revy says to kidnap Rock, so they can ransom him to the big-money Japanese firm he works for. After being betrayed by his employers Rock decides to join his erstwhile captors and the structure of the series is set.
The Lagoon team takes jobs where the goal is to steal, hijack or otherwise acquire items (even people) for transport from point A to point B. It's a violent business and one that Rock struggles everyday to adjust to. Revy on the other hand revels in it. She hates Rock in the beginning, mostly because he reminds of her what her life might have been had she not been viciously abused and battered throughout her childhood. But after he stands up to her she begins to warm to him...a little. There's an episode where she tells Rock some of what made her the person that she is. Then she says, "If you ever use these stories against me, you stop being one of us. When that happens, I'll kill you." Of all the characters on the show she's the most three-dimensional.
One thing viewers will notice is that it's the women who are the most dangerous. My personal favorite is Eda, an expert pistolero from the "Church of Violence," a crime syndicate of nuns using their catholic parish as a front for their activities. She's has a rivalry with Revy and flirts with Rock as a way to twist the knife.
There's also a Taiwanese femme fatale who loves decapitating people, and even a Columbian housekeeper who's a mix of Robert Rodriguez' "Desperado" character and the Terminator.
Then there's Balalaika, whose ruthless schemes to expand her underworld empire to the ends of the earth in large part drives the series. Of all the characters in the show she's by far the most dangerous.
With Black Lagoon the Japanese try their hand at a Tarantino, Guy Ritchie type crime series and the best part is they pull it off! The stories are just the kind of smart, take no prisoners fare you'd expect from this kind of show. It often borrows from a lot of places, in particular American action and crime movies, but it's smart enough to put a fresh twist on things. The animation is well done. The music is a mix of hard rock for the action scenes, synth-orchestral for the rest. The characters are all studies in violence and corruption. If you enjoy gritty, entertaining tales about corrupt people then this is the show for you. Get ready to take a walk on the wild side!
Side note: if you're like me and you prefer English-dubbed to English subtitles, then you'll find the first season available in dual-audio, but not season 2.