Series Review: Black Lagoon the Second Barrage

Posted by Demian @ 6:11 pm, January 2nd, 2007

The second season of Black Lagoon was even better than the first, refining some of it’s rougher bits, and helping all of Black Lagoon become my best anime of 2006. Let’s look at how awesome the second season was.

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First, there was the emotionally powerful and dramatic Hansel and Gretel arc. I think this was the best story Black Lagoon has ever done. I believe this was due to the particular tragic villiany of Hansel and Gretel’s characters, an element that re-occurs throughout the season. Swan Song at Dawn was a perfect finish for the arc, excellent in both cinematography and the ending song, The World of Midnight, an absolutely stunning and sad song for the finish. The Greenback Jane arc was a fun side diversion, giving us such classics as gothpunk mute Sawyer and Rotten Za Wizardo. And then the whole season concludes with the epic Fujiyama Gangsta Paradise arc.

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The Highlight of this whole arc was Rock, and the payoff for all the small bits of character development he’s had over the series. We know he can be tough when he wants to, like figuring out how to destroy a helicoptor with a torpedo, or standing up to Revy. However, for most of the second season, I think Rock’s been in crisis about who he is. It began with his discussions with Gretel, before seeing her shot down. Rock knew how cruel and violent the world he lived in was, but this was an in your face example. This was struck in all the deeper when he talked with Yukio.

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Yukio was forced to sacrifice everything to step into the darkness, while Rock still stood in the twilight, undecisive on what to do. As she saw it, he was a man who didn’t know where to go or where he belonged, and was weak for it. But, as Rock found out, this so-called ” indecisiveness” was his greatest strength. He could still understand things like hope and love, and was able to abide by his own rules instead of following anyone elses, even in a world where might made right. While everyone else had already given themselves up for dead, Rock still saw the value of life, no matter how dark. This is why, after everything, Rock was the one still standing, while Yukio was dead.

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Yukio was a very interesting foil for Rock. Both had been dragged into the world of darkness without them wanting it. But Yukio fooled herself into thinking she had no other choice, while Rock always saw the other choices before him. As he said, Yukio could of ran away at anytime with Gin to start a new life, but she wouldn’t let herself do it. And by the time she realized this, it was all over. There were too many dead for this normal girl to account for, and she ended her life because of it. Through Rock’s realization of his choices, he’s finally decided where he stands, and to take full responsibility for everything he does. He chooses to live however he wants in the twilight.

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Even though this arc was great with all the manly Rock and all, the plot was really confusing for me. I’m still not too sure what all was going on. I guess I need to brush up on my inner workings of Yakuza gangs. The Revy vs. Gin battle, for this hyped battle of the titans, should of been more epic also. Revy in a skirt is still incredibly awesome, though. More development for Dutch and Benny would of been nice also, but I guess that’ll come in time. So, basically, the second season of Black Lagoon is an even better continuation of the first season, and should be watched by all action and drama fans.

Picks of ‘06 and Happy New Year’s for ‘07

Posted by Demian @ 12:47 pm, December 31st, 2006

Looking back, I guess I can say 2006 was an ok year anime wise. I finished a good number of series, most of which I can hardly remember so that’s not too good, and I started a blog to talk about said anime. However, for every one show I finished this year, I feel like there are three more I didn’t. It’s not that I have a huge backlog, it’s just that I seem to lose interest in shows and don’t feel like finishing them anytime soon. So when compared to anime I didn’t finish, the finished list is rather short. Then throw in stuff I did finish, but didn’t come out this year and…oh well. You get the idea. Here’s my picks for the best anime I watched this year, in whichever random categories I could think of.

Best ” Anime That Was Decent But Introduced Me to It’s Better Game “- Fate/stay Night

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Before Fate/stay Night came out last January, I had the vaguest of ideas of who Type-Moon was. The only thing I really knew was that everyone said the anime for Tsukihime was crap. But then I got caught up in all the hype around FSN and decided to watch it. I enjoyed it and decided to look into TM and their games. TM’s been an addiction of mine ever since. The stories, characters, mechanics, it all just sucked me in. I’m now a Nasutard, and eagerly eat up any new announcement about a TM game, anime, figures, etc. I even got to finally play Tsukihime. I have FSN to thank for this. It may not of lived up to the game, but it had it’s moments (Garcher, ep. 26 ending song), so it wins for introducing me to the wider world of TM fandom, a world I’ve yet to turn back from.

Best ” Guilty Pleasure ” show - Demonbane

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Anyone who read my early entries knows how much I love Demonbane. It’s the most perfect bad anime ever. The nonexistant plot, the bad cg mecha, the horrible sideburns on all the characters, the random loli fanservice. It was a show made to be mocked. The only good thing were the characters. Al, Hadou, Kurou, the butler, all so great. Best seen with a couple of friends to see who can make the most sex jokes. Cause there’s a ton of them. Also wins for finally getting me to read Lovecraft.

Best ” Overhyped but still good ” show - The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi

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I’ve never been a member of Haruhiism. I’ve never rewatched the show after it finished. I don’t collect Yuki fanart (only Ryouko, cause she’s a psychotic maniac) and I abhor Mikuru with a passion (too much moeblob). Yes, Haruhi was a good show I enjoyed, whether it was because of the plot or the animation is up for debate. But it’s not the best show evar. It kept me occupied in the long spring months, so it served it’s purpose. For this it wins my overhyped but still good category. I’ll still watch the second season when it comes out though.

Best ” OVA ” - Diebuster

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Because Nono is Loev.

Best ” OVA that didn’t come out this year but I finally saw ” - Gaogaigar FINAL

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Because it’s made of hotblood and gar. And Renais has a hot ass.

Best ” Stylish/Artsy ” show - Black Cat

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I’m probably one of the few people, that I know of, that liked the Black Cat anime. Maybe it’s because I never read the manga beforehand. People said it butchered the manga, and maybe it did. I’ve read some of the manga though, and let me tell you, it’s not shakespeare. But this isnt’ a best story category, this is about style, which Black Cat had plenty of. This was Gonzo’s artsy side at it’s best since Gankutsuou. Two episodes in particuar stand out to me: The one where Train has his final battle with Creed, and the last episode fight for Eve. Those were the highpoints of the series style, with the fights being the best. They were fast-paced and not like normal shounen fair where the stop every second. I still go back and watch those episodes just to enjoy the action. Gonzo did really well with this one (now let’s hope they do the same for Romeo x Juliet).

Best ” Show I’ll probably never finish ” - Higurashi no Naku Koro ni

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I love blood and horror, but by the time Higurashi got around to Satoko the show was boring as hell to me. The constant resets may of been innovative, but after two I was through. I thought the HEAVEN OR HELL LET’S ROCK! thing would get me interested again, but that was also meh. The only good thing I got from this show is great Shmion twincest porn. Really, that’s all that matters.

Best ” Action/Comedy Show Focused on Ramen ” - Muteki Kanban Musume

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MKM narrowly beats out Ouran Highschool Host Club for best comedy show. If Ouran didn’t have those annoying twin episodes it maybe would of won, but it’s hard to beat Miki, especially drunk Miki. Since I love both shounen and parody, a show that parodies shounen instantly wins for me. Even if the plot was ” Miki beats up everyone, doesn’t learn a lesson, rinse, repeat ” I still loved the whole thing. All the characters, Nya guy, Sensei aka. evil ghost, Megumi the assassin maid, Miki’s stronger than everyone mom, were so great. Also had one of the best OP’s of the year that I still listen to. I pray for the day this gets a second season.

Best ” Show Who’s Fansubs aren’t Done ” - ARIA the NATURAL

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It’s hard to call ARIA a best anything since I haven’t even finish it yet, but it’s so good I have to give it something. What exactly is there to say about ARIA? It’s a show you experiance, not describe and analyse. It’s about three incredibly cute girls goofin’ around, it’s about how beautiful Neo-Venezia is and making you want to drop everything and book a flight to Venice, it’s about those magic moments in life we rarely experiance anymore. And for all that it wins a special place in my heart. Maybe not for the best show, but certainly the most touching one. Also wins for Alice, the most awesomest moe girl evar! Short hair Aika is also great.

Best ” Show of the Year ” - Black Lagoon (both seasons)

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Hands down, Black Lagoon is the best anime I’ve seen this year. It has everything: action, drama, comedy, garness, engrish, necrophiliac crossdressing lolitwins. EVERYTHING. The first season was awesome, and the second one just made it better. The lolitwin arc and yakuza arc were both great. I’ve seen all the characters change, from Revy becoming softer, Rock more accepting, to Balalaika being nastier. Such a great cast of unique characters you won’t find anywhere else in animedom. Sadly we won’t see any new Black Lagoon anytime soon. It’s completely caught up with the manga, and that comes out kind of slowly. If there’s still interest maybe there will be a third season in a couple of years, but that’s forever in otaku time. I guess now I can only wish that either the manga is licensed or for it to be scanlated faster for my black lagoon fix.

Honourable Mention - Honey & Clover II

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The first season of H&C is one of the best shows I’ve ever watched and I still think that. However, the second season just wasn’t as enjoyable to me. I liked the drama, though certainly there was lack of comedy, but the ending just left a sour taste in my mouth. Specifically, the Hagu/Takemoto/Shuuji storyline. The way the whole thing ended just felt stupid to me and ruined the rest of it. The bumbling Yamada/Nomiya relationship didn’t help at all either. So H&C II gets a mention for me, just becuase it’s descended from it’s better parent. It’s still a series I have problems with.

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And since now it’s the last day of the year, I liked to wish everyone a happy new years, and best wishes for ‘07! I hope you’ll continues reading this crazy blog well into the new year. Also, just so you know, the girl in the yukata is actually a he. THANK YOU JAPAN!

Fujiyama Gangsta Paradise

Posted by Demian @ 7:22 pm, December 5th, 2006

So now were halfway through Black Lagoon’s final arc, Fujiyama Gangsta Paradise, and I guess it’s time for me to talk about it.

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Actually, this is at the end of the episode, but it’s just way too cool.

Two things define this arc so far: 1) Engrish and 2) tsundere Revy. Seeing as how all the action is in Japan now, the creators decided to enlighten us on how the whole cast speaks english, rather badly actually. There’s nothing quite like hearing a japanese women say “fuck you” with a bad accent. Though I must commend the seiyuu. The english has much improved since three episodes ago, to where I don’t cringe (as much) whenever Revy chooses to graphically cuss someone out.

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She even winks now?! How moe is that?

This brings us to the second reason why this arc is awesome: Revy is totally moe in skirt and stockings! She looks hotter when she puts clothes ON! It’s a paradox I tell ya! Revy’s also chosen to show more of her dere-dere side to Rock. It’s sweet seeing her actually care for the guy and not berate him for his views. They better kiss by the end of the show, or at least akwardly come close. I also love how much background were getting on Rock now. Due to his comment in 21, where he say’s he wishes everyone to grow up “normally”, it looks like Rock didn’t have as normal a childhood as we all thought. Watch him be the exiled son of the yakuza, or something like that.

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Yeah…that’s going to leave a mark.

Of course the main plot is the yakuza, and both their internal battles and their fight with hotel moscow. And I have to admit, I have no fucking clue what is going on. All I know is that the russians are fighting the yakuza (weren’t they aliies?), and Yukio’s being beaten up by some thugs. I can’t keep all these new characters straight. Fortunately the two main new ones are great. Yukio’s a change of pace, being a girl in Black Lagoon who isn’t a devil, and just being a normal person with extraordinary circumstances placed on her. The scene where the thugs beat her up was very brutual to me. Black Lagoon clearly isn’t afraid to show those sides of mafia life. That’s why the yakuza keep losing, their too idealistic next to the completely brutal russians, hung up on their honor. I used to think that’s romantic, but now it’s just getting them killed. Can’t wait till Rock manages to save the day. Someone needs to give him a gun. Oh, and Gin-san is cool too, though the most unrealistic character so far. I swear that guy got shot at point-blank and still dodged!

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Also enjoyed seeing Balaika’s past. Pretty cruel isn’t it? All she wanted to do was be in the Olympics, but then her father forced her into the military for his honor. By the end, the war was over and she had no rank or job. Seeing her staring listlessly in front of the TV was just shocking to me. Balalaika’s never looked like that before. Fortunately she managed to rally her men and take control of her life, even if it was in the mafia. Explains her calm/psychotic behavoir. Next time were going Stephen King on you ass and bustin’ down the Dark Tower. Can’t believe only three episodes are left.

Benny gets lucky, Eda gets sexier, and Shenhau gets owned.

Posted by Demian @ 7:06 pm, November 15th, 2006

If the twin’s arc was a tragedy, then the Greenback Jane arc is more of a comedy (though what exactly comedy means in Black Lagoon is up for debate). This arc was characterized by a bunch of wacky one-shot villians, weird panty shots, Shenhau goodness, and some Eda backstory. Works pretty well actually.

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First up is Eda, who was really great throughout the arc. She showed her smarts by setting up Jane and getting her to hire Eda as protection. Though she kind of messed up when there was no boat to escape in, but oh well. Despite being a rather normal fighter (she only uses a handgun) she was able to take out Shenhau in what was the first apparent use of strategy to win instead of luck that I can remember. Too bad it had to be Shenhau though. She’s too great a character to be shot at. Finally, we find out that Eda is originally from the US, was involved with a senator in some way, and was part of the CIA! Pretty amazing stuff. It’d be interesting to know if Eda quit the CIA, or is still working with them in some way. Imagine an arc where Eda leads a CIA team to attack Hotel Moscow, and ends up facing Revy? That’d be something, even if it might meant the end of Eda. Hard to know who she is right now, though she did seem remorseful when mentioning the CIA. And then there’s the usual ” OMG Eda is hot! ” which continues to be true.

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A lot of weird villians this time. The torch guy was annoying and fat. Good thing he blew up. Sawyer was…almost interesting? Would of been better if Rock took her down some way, instead of her just having an emotional break down. The americans were stupid, thinking just cause their american they can beat anyone without knowing the situation. Allegory for foreign policy anyone? I ended up liking Rotton ZA WIZALDO, just cause he ended up helping Shenhau live. I liked the whole exchange where Shenhau said he should be a host at Bordello’s instead of a killer. He just say’s he’s to clumsy for that. Umm aren’t you too clumsy at killing too? Still a nice guy though.

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And last of all, our eponymous heroine, panty-shot Jane! For such a violent and sex-ed up show as Black Lagoon, panty shots seemed really out of place. But Jane was a great character. She was as confused as Rock used to be, but still yelled at everyone. Pretty cute too. Benny really did get lucky in the end eh? Be nice if there’s some future reference to the two internet dating. That seems to fit their personalities. Anyone notice how every character in BL is a different nationality? Only one were missing is a frenchman. Dirty french. Anyways, that’s the end of this story. Next time: Revy in a skirt! The world’s gone mad I say! Time to jump into the Fujiyama Gangsta Paradise.

The World of Midnight (Black Lagoon 15 ED)

Posted by Demian @ 6:07 pm, October 31st, 2006

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While searching my anime soundtracks I realized that the special ending song from Black Lagoon 15, The World of Midnight, was on the OST released for the last season. Me being the kind of guy I am have uploaded it to megaupload for anyone who’s wanted the song. Sadly it’s only the tv size though. Still a beautiful song.

Megaupload link: www.megaupload.com/?d=152APOS7

In other news Greenback Jane is super moe, which is weird for black lagoon.

Swan Song at Dawn

Posted by Demian @ 5:45 pm, October 23rd, 2006

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Is it truly impossible to redeem someone if they have killed? At what point does killing create it’s own cycle of vengeance? Is this world really just a dark and worthless hell? Black Lagoon ask’s these questions in it’s own way at the end of this powerful three-part arc. It ends how it must: with the twins dead, Balalaika’s revenge satisfied, and Rock once again seeing the horror’s of the world. Cinematically this was a powerful piece of animation. The first half’s focus was on Balalaika and her calmness in battle. We hardly even see any action, only hear of it through Balalaika’s men. When Hansel does confront her it doesn’t last long. After a couple of taunts he’s quickly shot down and left to bleed to death, right after revealing the nature of the twins “immortatility”. Tellingly all Balalaika can say in the end is that she feels “tired”. Clearly the circle of violence is starting to wear on her as she get’s older.

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Revy and Eda need an entire arc devoted to just them arguing.

The cycle of violence appears again in the second half as we shift focus to Gretel, who has mananged to charter Black Lagoon as an escape route. Once again Rock acts as the people person and talks with her. Here we gain an understanding of the twin’s thought processes. After a childhood of being beaten and raped they eventually realized that killing other’s pleased their adults, leading them to only enjoy killing. This of course disgust’s Rock, who goes on to comfort her that there is goodness and kindness in the world. Gretel is moved by this, but sadly can only offer herself for sex as gratitude, so far has her mind degraded. Later Benny talks with Rock and can only say that it’s best to avert one’s eyes in this world. In normal Black Lagoon way it answers it’s questions pessimistically: yes this world is dark and the only thing you can do is avert your eyes.

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Ilya?!

Still there is some good news in the Black Lagoon universe. Even though Gretel is killed at the end by her handler, there is still the promise that she is with her brother now in peace. In the black lagoon world peace it seems can only come in death, but still it is a kind of peace that the living can’t enjoy. To this Balalaika starts acting as a foil, clearly a part of her beginning to want peace. And so the narrative cycle comes to a close. The main use of this arc was not for Revy and crew (well maybe Rock’s in it) but for fleshing out Balalaika, her motives, and the philosophy that governs this world.

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Well that’s enough of my odd philosophy. I really enjoyed all of this, especially the english song that was put in. It was a terribly poignant and melancholy song, perfect for the twins. Gretel’s death at the end, with blood streaming her face and her staring at the sky, brought me to tears. That’s why I stick with anime right there. A question though. Was the Gretel at the end physically Hansel? That would make sense since Rock was so repulsed when she offered herself. Kind of hard to tell since they both wear wigs. Next ep. seems to be lighter fair, with a female counterfeiter and more Eda goodness. Too bad she’s hanged up the whore clothes ;).

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More Impressions: Black Lagoon 2, Crescent Love

Posted by Demian @ 8:12 pm, October 6th, 2006

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Killer goth-loli twincest powers activate!

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Form of…a big-ass, light as air, unlimited ammo, super hax gun!

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Form of…a bucket of water! a crazed axe wielder!

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Anime needs no explanation.

From the studio that brought you Nazi’s: A Nautical Musical, and Terminator 4: Maid for Action, comes not one but twice the daily reccomeneded dose of Cannabalistic killer goth-loli’s, with a dash of incest and necrophilia on the side. Of course only Black Lagoon could give us these fucked up fairytales Hansel and Gretel twins. Best thing about the episode: hearing a little girl in a nightie talking about sticking an ” Ivan ” in her (note Ivan’s a corpse). That moe enough for ya? Points of interest also include the insanely huge gun the girl uses (anybody know what the real life equivalent of it is?) and how completely useless the boy must be with an axe. Reminds me of Shana where the girl twin was the brains behind the operation. On a plot note I really don’t think their vampires, because as out there as Black Lagoon is, it’s not supernatural. There’s probably some weird real world reason for the weirdness, something like russian human experimentation or something.

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omg torrentz plz!!

Highlights beyond the killer twins are: Eda the Nun: Street Whore Clothes Ver., the return of Revy’s hot ass, and how great Balalaika looks pissed off. For being involved in the world of mercenaries Black Lagoon seems like one huge femenine piece on why not to mess around with women, as some will kill you and enjoy it. A strong start to hopefully another long run of goodness.

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Taking a complete 180 now is Yoake mae yori ruriiro na - Crescent Love. I have mixed thoughts on this one. Throughout the first fifteen minutes of the show I kept thinking ” Boring anime is boooooooooring “. Seriously it was dull. However once Feena got introduced and there was all the great SD animation I started liking it more. In reality though following a series just for that isn’t a good idea. Also I find Natsuki and Mia the maid really annoying characters, as I have a tendency to hate childhood friend characters and gratuitous maid cameos (Sakura and Tama-nee the only exceptions). The sister was also getting on my nerves with the constant “oni-chan!”, unlike most of my peers I do not find that endearing, just annoying. She was saved from outright hatred by her excellent freak out expressions. See how much I’m banking on comedy here? I give this till ep. 2 to pull something off before deciding to drop it. Also why do the japanese think every country in space has to be a monarchy? I mean if your advance enough to have space technology I think Your gonna have a democratic system instead of sending princesses to earth.

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Best characters of the show.