Anime Reviews: Black Lagoon: Roberta's Blood Trail
CAUTION: Contains spoilers to the OVA and the TV series.
For those who haven’t seen Black Lagoon, it’s an anime and manga series that pays homage to violent action films of the 80s and 90s. It centers on the Lagoon Company, a small delivery service based in Roanapur, a fictitious town at the center of the southeast Asian criminal underworld. Led by Dutch, an ex-Marine and a Vietnam veteran, its crew also includes Revy, a nihilistic Annie Oakley with a crude disposition, Benny, the mechanic and computer technician, and Rokuro Omajiro, a.k.a. “Rock”, a Japanese salaryman who joined up after they took him hostage on one of their jobs. Each episode/chapter has the Lagoon Company dealing with the most undesirable people in and out of Roanapur—gang bosses, jihadists, neo-Nazis, the yakuza, even a pair of homicidal children—usually seen through the eyes of the nonviolent everyman Rock. Sometimes there’s comedy, sometimes there are tender moments, but always there is action.
Madhouse has recently come out with a third season of the show, of sorts—Roberta’s Blood Trail, a five-episode OVA adaptation of the manga’s “La Baile de la Muerte” storyline.
Do you remember the Lovelaces? That rich South American family whose kid Garcia was taken hostage in episode eight of the series? They had that maid Roberta who turned out to be an ex-FARC mercenary who tore through Roanapur like a T-1000 trying to get him back?
Well, they’ve had a bit of tragedy in recent months. Garcia’s father Diego, the head of the family, is killed at the scene of a political assassination by a covert NSA squadron, and Roberta has disappeared on a one-woman crusade to bring his killers to justice…BLOODY, PAINFUL, MERCILESS justice. When the trail takes her right back to Roanapur, Garcia and his interim head maid Fabiola seek the help of the Lagoon Company, more specifically Rock, to help find her and get her out of town before she brings the fiery wrath of the U.S. Army down upon her…and also Roanapur, much to the chagrin of the local crime bosses.
The Black Lagoon franchise is built upon spectacle, where there are moments where you can’t believe what you’re watching. For instance, almost EVERYONE carries a weapon—mobsters, thugs, high school girls, nuns, children, you name it. Roberta the maid was one of those moments—in her introductory episodes she blows away a Columbian drug gang with a shotgun in her umbrella and some grenades dropped from her dress. In Blood Trail, however, her character is played more straight—still the T-1000 we know her to be, only more unstable and twice as deadly. Garcia grows as a character as well, from the scared little boy in the series to a young man determined to bring his beloved caretaker home while wading through the chaos in her wake and meeting his father’s killers face to face. As for the new maid, Fabiola gets her own shoot-‘em-up scene early on, but she’s not as lethal a combatant as her superior, and her background gives us some insight into the histories of other characters like Revy. The only character I ended up hating at the end of it all was Rock, who starts out fresh from dealing with the high school girl yakuza boss and the Hansel and Gretel killers and turns into a cold, calculating evil genius towards the end of the story, no different from the crime lords of Roanapur he has come to resent.
And don’t worry, you still get the same old ultraviolence that makes Black Lagoon what it is. As a matter of fact, since this wasn’t made for television, they amp it up a notch—not as high an on-camera body count as, say, Deadman Wonderland, but a lot of it is still pretty graphic. (They bring back Shenhua and Sawyer the Cleaner in episode three—’nuff said.) There are also some brief nudity and sexual situations as well, but nothing too distracting.
Roberta’s Blood Trail makes for a decent addition to the Black Lagoon series, the only noticeable changes being the lack of TV censor interference and some of the voices (Revy now sounds as if she has a cold). It does a good job of developing its characters and fleshing out the universe a little while making a suspenseful story out of what was originally conceived as a WTFOMGBBQ gag character and giving us the outright killfest fans of the series naturally come to expect.
Every bit as brutal and action-packed, if not more so, than the original series; gives more insight into its cast
Episode three is not for the squeamish; the abyss stares also into Rock
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© 2013 Adam Lafferty
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