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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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04/30/2007 Archived Entry: "Anime review: Black Lagoon"

Black Lagoon, Vol. 1
Release date: May 22, 2007

Review by Tom Good

I've been wondering if a new anime would one day arrive to become the "next Cowboy Bebop," and it sure looks like Black Lagoon could fill those shoes. I had the opportunity to see a screening of the first four episodes at Sakuracon. Black Lagoon not only held my interest with its fast-paced action, but it held me on the edge of my seat a lot of the time.

From the first lines of the opening theme song -- I have a big gun / I took it from my lord -- and the frenetic music and graphics of the title sequence, it is obvious that this anime wants to be a tough, larger-than-life adventure. So right from the start, I had a feeling that the show could be great, but also had the potential to be awful if it pushed too far in the direction of cheesiness and action film cliches. Luckily, even the most implausible scenes are really fun. In fact, one battle between a boat and a helicopter contains a jaw-dropping "stunt" that would make James Bond proud.

Rokuro "Rock" Okajima, a shy yuppie businessman, winds up captured by modern day pirates and trapped in their violent and frightening world. Though he starts out as their hostage, as time goes on he becomes a willing member of the crew. The interplay between Rock and the mercenaries provides some laughs, but without letting Rock turn into merely a goofy sidekick. Instead, he develops into a realistic and sympathetic character.

One of the mercenaries is the beautiful, tattooed Revy, who resembles Cowboy Bebop's Faye Valentine. Rock notices her physical charms, but he is understandably put off by her being a hardened killer who seems to enjoy gun fights. Her attacks involve acrobatic leaps and spins with two guns blazing -- an elegantly choreographed violence that brings to mind the cinematic style of John Woo. But the action can have a grim edge. In one scene, as the group escapes from a battle, Revy casually executes a soldier who posed no real threat, as if she just felt like firing one last shot.

The leader of the Black Lagoon gang, Dutch, is a tall, muscular bald guy with a beard, so he reminds me of the character Jet Black in Cowboy Bebop. But Lagoon is not just a copy of Bebop. In fact, one of the best things about it is how completely different Rock is from Bebop's hero Spike Spiegel. Where Spike is a suave martial arts expert who exudes confidence, Rock is like a fresh young intern at a complex and dangerous job. He is a smart guy, but completely out of his element.

The characters in this show use a huge amount of foul language, and not just the usual standard curse words. They also come up with bizarre and creative streams of profanity that can be quite funny. And in general, the dialogue is more inventive and off-the-wall than I expected. At one point Rock says, "These moments make my prehistoric blood awaken!" I saw the subtitled version of Black Lagoon, so I can't comment on the English dubbing, but I enjoyed the writing.

Black Lagoon is full of mysteries as well as action. Mysteries such as: how do Revy's shorts stay on? She always has her shorts unbuttoned and partly unzipped. Wouldn't they fall off? After careful thought, I developed two theories about this. One possibility is that she glues the shorts to her legs using that special sock glue, the stuff Japanese high school girls use to glue their "loose socks" to their legs so they won't fall down. On the other hand, her shorts could be so many sizes too small that she has to unbutton and unzip them just to be able to wear them at all. From the graceful way she moves, I'm leaning towards the glue theory.

"This is a lot more entertaining than Hollywood," Revy tells Rock as they make an escape. I laughed at this line, because at another level it seems Revy is obviously talking to the audience, casually telling us how good Black Lagoon is. Put a line like that in your show, and you'd better be right, or else the viewer will groan and reply, "no it isn't." In this case, the creators of Black Lagoon have nothing to worry about. Revy nailed it. This show is a lot more entertaining than many Hollywood movies I've seen recently.

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