Welcome all, to the 2nd week of Black Lagoon! This week we start to explore the wider world, expanding the setting and learning what kind of lives our leads live. There’s a fair bit to talk about this week so lets just dive right into it!
First up we have episode 3, “Ring-Ding Ship Chase”. Honestly this was a really chill episode for the most part, just exploring the group dynamic and introducing us to the city of Roanapur. And you know what? I really liked it. I said last week that Black Lagoon would have to search within its characters for story arcs, that it hadn’t set up anything larger with the intro, and that seems to be what it’s doing here. Black Lagoon is taking the time to show them interacting, getting to know each other, how Rock adapts to this new life. Sure, format wise it’s a random problem without much going on. But it serves as a quick and easy way to introduce us, and Rock, to Roanapur and its politics. It even manages to involve Balalaika, reinforcing her role in the story. That was cool!
Diving into specifics, look at what happens with Rock. The episode opens on just how gullible and out of place he is in Roanapur. Afraid of the barber, getting scammed on some weird fruits, he looks incredibly out of place in his white button-up and tie. It’s through everyone else, like Dutch, that we get a glimpse at what life here is really like. Meeting the locals, seeing what the politics are like, the dangers on the street. Basically Black Lagoon shows us where Rock is and where he eventually needs to be for survive in this life and fit in. And along the way we start to get hints as to Dutch’s past, mentions of money and airplanes, calls to personal clients and shows of loyalty to his employers. It’s good stuff!
Revy gets a similar treatment, the episode dropping bits and pieces of her history. Hints as to just how unhappy her life had been before Dutch, how killing has basically been her life as long as she can remember. Black Lagoon also puts a lot of focus on how she changes was she has a gun in her hand. Her eyes go dull, her smile takes a vicious edge. I can’t quite figure out if these are the moments where she feels truly alive, or if she’s shutting her emotions away to make killing five ships full of people easier. Either direction would work to be honest, Black Lagoon is spoiled for choice on what to do with Revy. Whatever it does though, it’s clear that Revy is just as emotionally unfulfilled in this life as Rock was working for that corporation.
Speaking of Revy and the boats, we get some action this week! It’s not great, Black Lagoon continues to be rather week on that front. with all the telltale signs of an early digital production. Still it’s conceptually cool. Revy jumping between the boats, getting in close for what, by all rights, probably should have been a ship-to-ship conflict. It’s very clear that she’s the muscle in this operation, carrying the team when it comes to combat. Sure, Dutch can shoot a gun, but his primary job is getting them work and driving the boat. Meanwhile Benny is intelligence. And Rock? Rock hasn’t quite found his place yet, but it should be fun to see what happens. I don’t imagine he will ever be much of a fighter, but he can probably get good at negotiation or something.
Finally let’s talk about what this episode sets up and where it might go, namely Balalaika. We get our first hints of political unrest here as Chin, a local crime lord representing the rest of the city, takes issue with Balalaika and the Russians slowly expanding into the city. Things happen, he tries to kill Dutch, and wouldn’t you know it? Balalaika uses that as an opportunity to remove a rival and send a message, brutally killing him in a public fashion, basically telling the rest of Roanapur that she’s here to stay. Obviously this is going to cause problems, and our crew will get caught up in them. But I like how clearly ruthless Balalaika is, despite how personable she is over the phone. Black Lagoon continues to toe the line between ally and potential villain with here and I’m here for it.
Next up we have episode 4, “Die Rückkehr des Adlers”. This episode was a weird one, mostly in how it was structured, though I came around to it by the end. The episode can be split in half, with one bit in the present and the other in the past at the tail end of World War 2, with Black Lagoon cutting back and forth between the two time periods throughout the episode. The World War 2 bit follows a group of Nazi soldiers escaping Germany, sailing to Batavia in a U-Boat to return a Japanese ally home, as well as an SS Officer trying to escape with an important painting. There’s a really nice conflict here between the Captain and the Officer on how they define “Duty”, one towards his country the other towards Nazi ideals, that I quite liked.
This all informs the other half of the plot, our crew taking a job to retrieve said painting from the U-Boat after it was sunk in the nearby waters. We don’t get much meat on this yet, as it’s a two parter and we spend most of the episode getting too the boat, but between the crews banter and the cuts to World War 2 I think it works pretty well. The only thing that was a bit iffy for me were the “villains” of the episode so to speak, the Nazis that show up at the end seeking to reclaim their painting. It just felt… sort of silly? And convenient? That a group of modern Nazis just so happen to show up on the same day, at the same time, as our leads without and sort of coordination? And they are comically evil Nazis? I dunno, felt silly.
Outside the main plot, I quite enjoyed seeing Rocks progress. Last episode he got scammed for fruit and was terrified of his barber, yet here we see him getting to know the locals, haggling for things, turning them down when the price is to much, etc etc. They are small moments sure, but it feels good to watch him grow into this new life. Plus Dutch buying the diving tanks he wanted, even if it was for a job, was sweet. I like to think that at least a bit of it was for Rock, and he will let him keep them once the job is done. It’s sweet to see the other crew members treat this random Japanese businessman they picked up like family, I like that he isn’t just on the outs for episodes on end because he’s “The new guy”.
It’s the same with Revy! Apparently she bought him an aloha shirt, and actively enjoys seeing him in it even if only to embarrass him? Plus she’s clearly concerned for Rock with this scuba mission. She jokes and banters, saying she will leave him for dead if he fucks up, but I think it’s obvious that this is her way of saying “Don’t fuck up, I don’t want you to die”. She’s clearly not emotionally equipped to just… say that, so she does it in a roundabout way. It’s possible I’m reading into things here, sure. To me though it definitely feels like she’s warming up to him as the episodes go on, just as he is to her.
Finally we have the only bad news of the episode: It once again didn’t look good. However this episode especially had issues. Not just in the action, that’s normal for Black Lagoon, but in the day to day scenes to. There were a number of shots where you could see the aliasing, characters outlines being jagged, colors being blown out, pixels out of place. I get it, Black Lagoon is an early 2000’s show, the digital transition was rough. But my god did some of these hurt. I can only hope that MADHOUSE figures their shit out as the series goes on, because these are starting to become rather noticeable.
But yeah, that aside overall I enjoyed these two episodes. Black Lagoon is taking a lot of care developing the characters and their relationships, and it’s at least trying to make the episodic jobs interesting. I like that it’s dropping hints of what is to come, of character backstories, even though the jobs themselves have nothing to do with whatever it is. It’s not that far off from how Big O handled it, giving us episodic “Monster-of-the-week” stuff while each job made the characters change just a bit. That’s the right way to do it, way better than a bunch of nothing episodes and a single “This is the main story” arc shoved in at the end. Obviously I’m looking forward to the main story stuff, but I can be patient. For a while. Probably. Suppose we will have to wait and see on that bit.
The post Black Lagoon – 3/4 [Ring-Ding Ship Chase/Die Rückkehr des Adlers] – Throwback Thursday appeared first on Star Crossed Anime.