Based on the manga by Rei Hiroe, "BLACK LAGOON" is an anime series that was well received in Japan. This second season dubbed "The Second Barrage" aired in Japan around October, 2006 and lasted for twelve weeks with a third season just recently announced. Thanks to Geneon, U.S. audiences are finally able to have an official region 1 release with episodes 13-24. This second season boasts of some graphic violence and very cool anime action divided into 3 storylines--it also has very strong themes about existentialism, the moralities between right and wrong, choices and our own free will.
The second "Barrage" has been divided into 3 storylines that follows the adventures of mercenaries known as the "lagoon" company. Their base of operations is in the fictional town of Roanapur in Thailand and they transport good and does business with some shady characters. The first one being some killings occurring in Roanapur, being executed by children, twins to be exact. They are targeting the Russian crime syndicate called Hotel Moscow headed by Balalaika (voiced by Mami Koyama) and it is all out war with Revy (voiced by Megumi Toyoguchi) and Eda are caught in the middle.
The second storyline has Revy and Eda stumbling on a counterfeiter named Jane in a church--"The Church of violence", Jane was being pursued by a gang of lowlifes. Rock (Daisuke Namikawa), Revy and Eda have to fight off the hordes led by knife specialist Shun Hua, a fiero-maniac and a creepy chainsaw wielding chick. The third storyline (which was originally done in English) takes us to Revy and Rock's journey to Japan to aid Balalaika's negotiations with the Washimine clan of Yakuza. Little do they know that the Russian crime leader has her own plans, that puts Rock and Revy in a very compromising situation with a young teenager named Yukio (Houko Kunashima) and her master swordsman called Ginji (Kiyoyuki Yanada).
The series is not your children's anime. "Black Lagoon the 2nd Barrage" is a thematic affair midst all the action and mayhem. The screenplay by Sunao Katabuchi expresses its themes through its very strong intelligent dialogue and even by its characters' mannerisms and action. I do believe that this series displays some of the most effective definitions of existentialism as I've ever seen. Revy and Rock are opposites, Rock is more of an optimist while Revy sees themselves as "just objects". There are also quite a lot of atheist views as demonstrated by our characters as it is a common thought of existential ideas. According to existential viewpoint, "subjective values" are what drives people in their choices and in the belief that different folks have their own subjective values. As illustrated with the Yukio character, which saw her confinement to certain boundaries.
Cause and Effect also plays a part in this season's screenplay when it partly touches upon the origins of Balalaika. She was shaped by her experiences in the army when she served the Soviet Union. Some of the series' strongest point would have to be the conversation between Yukio and Rock as well as the origins of the twin murderers. They were powerful and quite disquieting. "Hansel and Gretel" the twins are very creepy and their experiences as abused orphans certainly got under my skin. Choices and familial duty are delved upon with the strong dialogue. Yukio wishes for something resembling a normal existence but she is inevitably shaped by her own circumstances. There are also some very sensitive issues in atheism, incest is mildly hinted at and alienation is definitely effectively portrayed. The last storyline also hints on rape and has a very strong graphic display of violence against women. (surprisingly the series has a mild amount of nudity) The dialogue is very sharp-tongued and mature, (has sexual references) please put the kids to bed when you see this.
The action is the series is nicely placed and keeps its very strong momentum. I thought the storyline with "Hansel and Gretel" (murderous twins) and the third one with the Yakuza clans were the series' main "meat" and showstopper. The storyline with the counterfeiter was entertaining but not really thought-provoking as the two. It was a welcome change in tone, as the series has a straight face; despite the doses of black humor. Also, "Black Lagoon" has a cast of awesome characters aside from Revy, Dutch, Benny and Rock. Shun Hua is a sexy assassin who uses an assortment of knives, there is one unstable killer who can't talk without her gizmo who uses a chainsaw, there is Japanese bodyguard who can slice a bullet with his katana and a weird oddball called "the Wizard". The action consists of fist fights, gunplay (as served up by Revy and Eda); and the encounter with Revy's two "sword-cutlass" custom guns and Genji's katana may be worth the price of the collection itself.
"Black Lagoon the Second Barrage" is one great collection and worthy to be included in any anime fan's shelf. The series has a very mature tone and while the animation by Madhouse studios may have some bits of anime conventions (over expressive facial expressions), the direction and screenplay was solid and methodical enough for it to avoid being a senseless display of action and mayhem. Chief director Sunao Katabuchi managed to keep the series grounded even with the assortment of directorial talent (different directors helmed different storylines). Revy and Eda represent a strong "girls with guns" attitude that can connect with all audiences and its thought-provoking undertones can satisfy those looking for "real meat" in the storyline. If "the Third Barrage" comes, then I am ALL in! The Second Barrage is one enjoyable anime experience.
Highly Recommended! [4 ½ - Stars]
Note: Using the original Japanese Language track is advisable.
Video/Audio: 1.78 anamorphic widescreen that looks very good. Clean, vibrant and sharp. Japanese Laguage/English Language 2.0 and English 5.1 DTS track.