October 19, 2008
by: Adam Beck
Revy and Rock are back to face off against new troubles.
Hardware Used: Dell 42-inch—W4201C—Plasma display, Sony Playstation 3 with HDMI input set to 720p resolution and Optical out, Klipsch 7.1 Surround sound system.
Disc description: “I guess even a little demon like you has red blood.”—Revy
A recent string of murders is the talk of the town. Not that murder is anything unusual, but the twin killers are targeting Hotel Moscow! The delicate balance of power held by the mafia leaders crumbles as the sickening slaughter escalates into a full-blown war of attrition. No quarter is given and none asked for as Balalaika and her soldiers are forced to recall a time when their deadliest enemies were children.
Contains 4 original and uncut episodes (Approx. 100 minutes) 5.1 DTS Audio (English) 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio (English/Japanese) 16:9 anamorphic widescreen aspect English Subtitles
Content: (This section may contain spoilers)
Instead of attaching this to the first season, or even calling this the second season, we are introduced to the first volume of Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage. This season doesn’t start off at one, but instead, it continues where it left off at episode 13, starting a whole new scenario for Rock and Revy to dive into … well, make that a little less Rock and a lot more of Balalaika.
Starting the second season off for us are two psychotic and rather disturbing children who seem to be pulled straight from Children of the Corn. They’re equipped with one big-ass assault rifle—one which I don’t think a little girl of that stature could handle the kickback from—and a fast and deadly axe/hatchet. At first they come off as something out of a sick fairytale (and a little unrealistic), but getting into their back-story helped us understand how these children became what they are today. After being forced to participate in sick underage sex and snuff films, these two have gone through some of the worst times imaginable and ended up as coldblooded killers; not giving any remorse or mercy, even when it comes to innocence. It really was eerie to learn about this, because you can almost see this happening in other parts of the world.
Right away, I see these two as another wild obstacle both Revy and the gun-toting sister Eda have to overcome -- although, once again, they don’t do anything unless it’s for profit. After pissing off Hotel Moscow (Balalaika’s outfit), the two quickly get a bounty over their heads, but it only turns into a massacre, as the two ravage the city with bullets and blood.
This scenario happens over the course of three episodes. The first episode mainly introduces these characters, their origins and deadly skills—and it does not hold back one bit. You will see people being slashed up, limbs brutally shredded from gunfire, and—sickest of the bunch—twitching of a body when a nail goes into its head. Of course it doesn’t quite show that in the animation, but it is implied and the after-effects are shown. This is actually one of the slower episodes, with the exception of a little bar brutality near the middle of the episode.
The following two episodes are when things seriously pick up. The second chapter deals with catching the two kids as they are now wanted DOA—preferably dead. Mr. Chang—one of my personal favorite characters—makes his reappearance, offering a hand to Balalaika to take those kids out. He also shows off his gun power as he dodges bullets and picks off his targets with care. He really reminds me of Chow Yun-Fat in the way he can handle dual handguns, and in the end, always coming out alive from the most impossible feats. Also, one thing I noticed is how good everyone’s aim is. Usually in movies, you will see characters firing at each other and never hitting a damn thing. Here, each bounty hunter or pirate fires on a car from a building, almost hitting it every single time. It makes things a little more believable, up until you see Eda standing completely still and bullets from a turret fly by her head like it was nothing.
That's one big gun, for one little girl...
The third episode—last of the scenario—is one of the best because it really doesn’t hold back. I don’t know what they were thinking, but you would never guess that they would go all out and even blow off body parts from children. While they definitely had it coming, it just is sick to see massive bullet-holes in limbs, and pieces of someone’s body completely vanish in a sea of blood. It also shows how secure and well-trained the members of Hotel Moscow really are as there were no fatalities on their side. It makes me wonder why they haven’t taken over the city completely; with that much firepower, it’s almost like a small well-trained army. In any case, this episode ends very emotionally and changes the ending video to something more appropriate for the mood. While the twins may have been cold-blooded monsters, they did have hearts and it showed for one another, even though it was in a creepy way.
The final episode on the disc starts a brand new scenario as we are introduced to both old and new faces. It is about a young girl who is working for some American scumbags, counterfeiting American bills. She goes haywire as she demands more time and (rather brutally) doesn’t receive it. I am already not a big fan of this girl, if only because when she goes to get help, she puts on a rather self-interested attitude that doesn’t help her case. That said, I liked this episode because it involves the Rip-Off Church with Eda and the others, and contains a generous helping of action. One gunshot sends Eda and Revy on a rampage which quickly turns into a rather one-sided shootout. I was surprised there were no casualties, but I found it even more surprising that the cars they drove away in—the cars that the Americans were hiding behind—were completely untouched and didn’t even have so much as a ding in them. Besides that, the new girl’s speech is way too long and it showed as not only was I getting irritated, but Revy and Eda were, too.
In the end, the first volume of Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage is a stellar start to the second season of the one of greatest anime titles out there. The only thing people might not be aware of when they pick this up is that Rock becomes somewhat of a minimal character, only offering himself to express him opinions near the end of the volume. It is disappointing as we all love Brad Swaile’s voice, but then again, it probably would have only slowed things down a bit as he is still somewhat of an office stiff. The only reoccurring characters who make a big difference in this volume are Revy, Eda, Balalaika, and Mr. Chang. I like how it focused on these characters more, even though Revy appears in almost everything—though it is obvious, considering she is the main heroine. If you love to see over-the-top and unforgiving violence, you are in luck because Black Lagoon will blow your mind away. It will give you chills all through your body. I know it at least did it for me.
Mr. Chang can dodge bullets with ease.
Video: The video quality is most superb, just as the first season was. The video transfer is done in a 16:9 anamorphic widescreen aspect with very few minor hitches here and there. The only times when I noticed the transfer had gone downhill was once in each of the first two episode on the disc. Some of the color went out of whack and constantly fidgeted when there was nothing moving on screen, besides someone’s mouth. Besides that though, this is one of the best looking anime titles—you’ll see the blood shimmer in a lovingly sick way.
Audio: The Second Barrage contains 2.0 stereo sound for both of the Japanese and English tracks, and then a 5.1 surround sound option for anyone who has a more modern setup. The music is just ground shaking as my subwoofer continued to rock the house with terrific tracks that include both soothing and action-packed rock-fests. But don’t be surprised if you have heard the music before as I can’t find much different from the first season. What makes this series better than anything else is the voice tracks. You don’t have your regular Americanized voices—well you do, but keep reading—instead, we are treated to many different culture-based voice-overs (in English anyways) including, Russian, Italian, and even Chinese—even though Mr. Chang (who is badass, by the way) has a voice that doesn’t sound very Asian. Everyone else though has a unique voice track and I compliment how well they handled it.
Menus: If you’ve purchased any of the first season DVDs, you’ll pretty much get the same thing, just with a nice spray-paint animation displaying “Second Barrage”. There is a nice animation that takes you between menus as the front page gets shot up, but other than that, the menus are nicely designed and easy to navigate. Not to mention the advertisements at the beginning of the disc are skipable.
Dialogue: I don’t know any other anime series that uses the f-word nearly as much as Black Lagoon does. Almost every second sentence with Revy or some gangster or pirate—which fills more than half the crew—always has something bad to say. Looking past that, the dialogue is pretty well done for each character, as each has a specific style in speech and it really makes things interesting. As for subtitles, they are well done and very viewable.
Extras: Sadly, there really aren’t any special extras to talk about. We have some previews for other manga and credits, but that is it.
The Bottom Line: Black Lagoon is—personally—my favourite anime series out there only because it has style like no other. It’s fast, relentless, and a rollercoaster ride from beginning to end. So let’s see: interesting storyline? Check. Badass characters? Check. Action that will have you on the edge of your seat? Double check. With surround sound and terrific video quality, this is a fantastic start to the second season of Black Lagoon and I don’t think there is anyone who I wouldn’t recommend this bad boy to—within the appropriate age range, of course.
Say your prayers.