DVD of the Month - May 2007

Black Lagoon

Volume 1

SCREEN

Black Lagoon is a violent, no-B.S. thriller of the kind they don’t make all that often anymore. There’s no pandering cutesiness, there’s a lot of dark humor, and the show even has the guts to take itself seriously from time to time. Other times, though, it’s about launching a PT boat in the air to torpedo a helicopter gunship to death—but balance in all things is crucial, you know?

“Black Lagoon” is the name of the boat, the property of a delivery company in a modern-day Thai port city. This may not seem like the most exciting concept, but the South China Sea is a pretty exciting part of the world, one where piracy remains an entirely viable career option. Dutch, a grim-faced army veteran, drives the boat; Benny, a laid back American hacker, handles the electronics; and Revy, a Chinese-American hellion in a tank top, Daisy Dukes and O.D.-green jungle boots, shoots anyone who hassles Dutch and Benny.

The show really begins when the crew kidnaps its fourth member. Rokuro Okajima (“Rock” for short) is the point-of-view character, a low-level flunky on an errand for a Japanese company. He’s carrying information that’s a lot more valuable than he thinks, and pretty soon all four of our mix-n-match heroes wind up in some very hot water.

It wouldn’t be right to describe the plot in too much detail, because Lagoon actually features some pretty clever plotting, complete with dialogue smarter than it has any right to be. Action animation tends to skimp on the writing—“utilitarian” would be the best word to describe it—but Lagoon’s script does far more than just move events forward and serve up the odd corny punchline. Revy and Rock have the best scenes together, what with juxtaposing a gun-toting gutter rat and the squarest guy on the face of the planet.

This is not to say the show’s all talk—studio Madhouse earned its money here. The guns come out in the first 30 seconds, and the action keeps up a good clip from there on. The style’s about 50/50 Hong Kong blood opera and big-time American action flick—animation has the advantage of making any scene possible, so the Hong Kong influence gives us two-fisted gunfights, and the Hollywood school throws in spectacular chase-and-crash scenes.

Black Lagoon has it all—violent action, the script to back it up and some great supporting characters. Mami Koyama (Captain Gladys from Gundam SEED Destiny) is perfectly cast as a cool, slightly screw-loose Russian mafia kingpin. Volume 1 ends on a cliffhanger (part one of a three-part story), but you’ll probably be hooked by then anyway—this is already one of the year’s best releases, so any action fan better not miss the boat.

—David F. Smith

Trigger Happy

For firearms freaks, Black Lagoon makes the most interesting viewing since Gunslinger Girl. Revy’s shoulder holsters contain custom Beretta 92s—long barrel, wider grips, extra recoil compensation—but she also keeps a Steyr TMP machine pistol, a Vietnam-vintage M79 grenade launcher and a massive Barrett .50 sniper rifle for special occasions.

COVER

  • Available: May 2007
  • Publisher: Geneon Entertainment
  • Running time: 100 min.
  • Rating: 16+
© REI HIROE, SHOGAKUKAN / BLACK LAGOON COMMITTEE

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