The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 32 – Black Lagoon

Black Lagoon

One genre we’ve not looked into much so far is crime fiction. There are cop shops and detective series of various kinds, both comic and serious. This one covers the criminals.

Black Lagoon originally began as a manga in 2002 and is still going. There have so far been two anime TV series, both in 2006, followed by a five-part Original Video Anime (OVA) which came out between 2010 and 2011. The series mixes crime fiction with black humour and a lot of graphic, over-the-top violence.

Set in the early to mid-1990s, the story begins with an ordinary white-collar worker called Rokuro Okajima, but who later becomes much better known under the nickname of “Rock”. One day he accidentally finds himself in the middle of a smuggling operation and ends up being kidnapped by a band of modern-day pirates. They work under the name of the “Lagoon Company” and operate from the ship “Black Lagoon”. The other company members are Revy, the female “muscle” of the company who fights with two pistols and is very trigger happy; the African-American boss Dutch; and Benny the technician who is of Jewish decent.

Rock discovers that the firm he works for is involved in the smuggling and that his boss has faked Rock’s death to make things easier for them. As a result Rock decides to join Lagoon Company, where he displays his skills of accountancy, diplomacy, translation and negotiation. He moves into the company base, which is located in the fictional Thailand city of Roanapur, a city which is totally corrupt and crime ridden, with the rule being fought between various crime syndicates, including the Russian mafia branch called Hotel Moscow, and the Hong Kong Triads. The peaceful Rock therefore has to try and fit in with this new environment (something he never fully does what with him always wearing his usual business attire) while also having a clash of personalities with the violent Revy.

There are various elements that make Black Lagoon work. The main one is the action and violence. While Rock tries to negotiate everything, “Two-Hands” Revy will just get both her guns out and fire at everything and everyone in sight. Many of the villains and secondary characters that appear in the series also provide many entertaining fight sequences. One of the most popular of these is Roberta, an assassin-turned-maid who amongst her gigantic arsenal fights with a Kevlar-reinforced umbrella which also contains a sniper rifle, and a semi-automatic grenade launcher which she keeps in a suitcase. She is so popular that she became the title character in the OVA series, “Roberta’s Blood Trail”.

Then there are other things such as the dark humour that runs as an undercurrent in the series. The characters often make short witty comments, and then there are little things, such as a parrot which has been trained to say: “I’ll kill you”, over and over again.

Black Lagoon is a series which is best summed up visually. If you want to see action which grips you, may also shock you or perhaps make you wince a bit, this series will certainly provide such reactions.

Both TV series and the OVA of Black Lagoon have been released on DVD and Blu-Ray by Kaze via Manga Entertainment.