Saturday, August 31, 2013

:anime: Free/Low-Cost Anime Pick of the Month:: Black Lagoon (+ The Second Barrage & Roberta's Blood Trail)

Black Lagoon (+ The Second Barrage & Roberta's Blood Trail)

Official Sites: Japanese, English
Additional Links: ANN Entries [S1] [S2] [OVA], MAL Entries [S1] [S2] [OVA]
Video: Hulu [S1 & 2] [OVA],

With the end of August and Labor Day comes the unofficial end of summer, and with both coinciding on the very same weekend this year, that distinction has become all the more definitive. This time of the year often represents the end of the summer movie business, as well, so it perhaps only makes sense to recommend a title that is as close to your typical summer action blockbuster as any anime, or show for that matter.

That title happens to be Black Lagoon, a show that I have elated about on previous occasions which is available in its absolute entirety--across two 12-episode seasons and a five episode OVA follow-up--on Hulu and (and the latter in question, "Roberta's Blood Trail", was just released a few weeks ago, make this all the more apropos)! The series follows exploits of young, ordinary Japanese salaryman Rokuro Okajima, who is abandoned by his company in the East China Sea upon being captured by mercenaries during a courier mission. After a failed ransom attempt and a few dances with death, Rokuro--with no life to go back to--falls in with his former captors, who dub him, "Rock" and together, they get entangled with forces from the likes of Neo-Nazis and terrorists, to a vengeful maid perhaps more dangerous than any of them…

Written and directed by Sunao Katabuchi (chiefly a director of family-friendly anime, but you would hardly know it here), Black Lagoon is a very faithful adaptation of the titular manga by Rei Hiroe, a bombastic, action-filled story deeply in the vein of American-style action flicks. The influence is strong in not only its bullet-riddled hostilities, but also in its profanity-loving dialogue, American pop-culture references (and not the lazy type, either), its use of English as its in-story language of choice, and its multi-ethnic cast.

As you might suspect, the series makes for a pretty good entry title for someone not familiar with anime or those who don't normally watch it. It doesn't hurt that as solid and entertaining as the romps can be, it also doesn't shy from delving into the more serious and treacly side of its underworld pinings or the professions of its denizens, not to mention pushing the envelope on occasions (as the second season's opening arc does in spades). Premium cable shows have grown in popularity for their content and boldness and with its broad appeal, intensity, assortment of interesting characters, and strong production values, this Madhouse-animated series has a lot to offer to that audience and beyond.

I have often called Black Lagoon the best action/adventure series of its kind since Cowboy Bebop, and with all 29 episodes available for free, you have the chance to see why I have awarded it so high a distinction. Unsurprisingly, it is definitely one for mature viewers, and said controversial arc from "The Second Barrage" may certainly be discomforting for some (though by design). All three parts are available in Japanese with English subtitles at Hulu, though the first four episodes of its highly-lauded English dub are present, as well. (Personally, I didn't like it and prefer its superb subbed form by a wide margin. Megumi Toyaguchi's rendition of the double-gun-slinging Revy alone makes it the superior version in my eyes…). also features same videos for free, but offers the rest of the dub for paid subscribers of its Elite video service, not to mention textless OP & ED and a behind-the-scenes clip with the dub cast.

Summer and its ever-present blockbuster movie season may be ending, but you can send them off in style with some of the fine gunplay of Black Lagoon. There's a lot more runtime than your average shoot-em-up flick and more plot and depth to boot, so prepare a couple of bags of popcorn and kick back for good day's (or two) marathon!

Hope you enjoy the series and your Labor Day weekend!


P.S.: Originally Aimed for Aug. 31, Posted on Sept. 1. Reason: Work related…

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