Welcome all, to week 3 of Black Lagoon! This weeks is the conclusion of the Nazi painting story, filled with blood, anthems, and Revy being a bit upset over it all. Without further ado, lets dive in!
First up is episode 5, “Eagle Hunting and Hunting Eagles”. This picks up where we left off last time, Revy and Rock are in the U-Boat and Nazis are starting to come aboard. For the most part, it’s a lot of fighting over the painting, losing it to the Nazis, chasing after them, regular action stuff. And that’s all great! On top of that, this is the first episode that’s really impressed me with its animation. There’s still some aliasing issues in spots, either from being an early digital production or being upscaled to Blu-ray, but for the most part it’s good. I especially liked the water as Dutch and Benny were dodging some rockets. While the action takes up most of the episode, the real meat however comes in the quiet moments. More specifically, between Rock and Revy.
Allow me to say, I really, really liked this interaction. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Black Lagoon is going to live and die by its characters and their interactions. So for it to dedicate so much time to these two just… philosophizing? Discussing their world views, Rock’s romanticism, that there is meaning and emotional value in memories, versus Revy’s pragmatism, the idea that they and everything around them are just “things” to be used and discarded. It speaks a lot about where they are as people, how they ended up here. Rock took to this life looking for something more, to actualize himself. He chose this life. Where as Revy? She seems to hate it, to have not chosen it at all, the only real joy she takes from it being that moment of control when she takes another’s life.
What’s interesting about this is that Revy seems aware of this as well. She was the one to initiate the philosophical waxing, talking about this underwater forgotten graveyard, how nothing they do or say can change the terrible way these men died. It felt to me like she was talking about herself there for a moment. Like she’s resigned to it all. And I think that’s why Rock’s comments get to her so much. He’s criticizing who she is now, what she had to become to survive, making her feel lesser. Like a hired gun, a whore, rather than an equal. I’m sure I’m missing a lot of things, we’re only 6 episodes in at this point, but I do appreciate how Black Lagoon is developing their relationship. How Rock will no doubt come to admire her strength while she will probably want to protect the innocence she herself lost.
Beyond Revy, I think Black Lagoon also handled the Nazis well. I know I critiqued them last week for being a tad too cartoonish, but I think I missed what Black Lagoon’s point was. Namely, just how different these modern day buffoons’ are to their old counterparts we watched in the flashback. Obviously they are both still evil, horrible, racists. However we see one at least takes what they are doing… Seriously, so to speak. They saw the war as a duty to their country, their homes, their families. It wasn’t a game to them, the same way it is to these cartoonish monsters that we see in the present day. These new Nazis, they have no loyalty, no duty, no creed. They’re just a bunch of loud racists on a power trip. And nothing makes that difference clearer than Black Lagoon’s next episode.
That brings me to episode 6, “Moonlit Hunting Grounds”. Again, the bulk of the episode is killing Nazis, raiding their ship, and taking back the painting. Regrettably the “action” isn’t as great as the previous episode, and I use quotes because most of it is just Revy walking through the ship shooting people while the Nazis spout stupid one liners, but we do get to see more of what I mean about how different these men are to those of the past. How unprofessional and uncoordinated they are, how they lack any sort of conviction or training. It’s almost like a fad to them, with one even going off about his golden gun and how incredible it is, then being upset when Revy just shoots him while he’s monologuing. Aside from the animation dip, it’s good stuff.
Black Lagoon only drives this point home harder when we finally meet the man in charge of all of this: Alfred, a real Nazi and former SS officer. He’s also the man who hired both Dutch and the Nazis to retrieve the painting, insuring he got it either way and testing both sides to see if they were the real deal. That was… I wasn’t expecting that, and if you remember one of my criticisms last week, it also explains how they just so happened to both be there on the same day, looking for the same thing. That’s cool! This is the kind of stuff, where concerns I raise are immediately answered, that makes me feel like a show is taking itself seriously and thinking things through. It’s a nice feeling to have on my end, and I’ll gladly keep being wrong if this is what I get.
Anyways getting back to Alfred, I really liked how… casual his racism was compared to the cartoonish Nazis. Alfred never screamed or whined, never interrupted Dutch or insulted his intelligence, he wasn’t even much of an asshole about it, there was nothing comical about his words. It was just small comments, bits of casual racism, backhanded compliments and such. He was still able to have a conversation with Dutch, despite lamenting him being a black man, because he was that sure of his own racial superiority, that’s how ingrained it was in him. While I obviously don’t condone it, I do think it’s a much more convincing portrayal of such an evil person. It definitely makes you take him more seriously I think. Alfred isn’t a cartoon. Metaphorically I mean, obviously he is literally a cartoon.
Finally we come back to Revy, and her little… episode aboard the Nazi ship. I get what Black Lagoon was trying to go for here. We’re seeing how poorly Revy does when faced with the other side, when confronted with that peaceful, normal, part of life she was never allowed to have growing up. According to Dutch, this isn’t even the first time she’s done it, reacting similarly to Benny, only Rock hasn’t lost near as much innocence as Benny has. And while on that front it works, making it very clear what her issues are and just how terrible her childhood was, I can’t help but find it a tad… Over the top? Edgy? That whole thing with killing the non-combatants, the “oink oink oink”, all that stuff, it just felt like a bit much even if it succeeded at what it needed to do.
So yeah, all in all these were a good pair of episodes. Black Lagoon took my doubts about the previous one, the cartoonish nature of the Nazis and my desire to focus on the cast, and handled them well. That makes me a lot more comfortable trusting Black Lagoon to do whatever it wants moving forward, trusting that the decisions it makes will have a pay off. And that’s sort of the crux here, with how I talk about a lot of series on this blog, that lack of trust I have for most modern anime. It’s something that needs to be earned by taking doubts, taking concerns, and addressing them. It’s why this I trust this seasons Apothecary Diaries or Frieren so much for example, because they earned that trust. And now so has Black Lagoon. I’m looking forward to what it does next.
Oh and P.S. That “game” with the Nazi captain and who he would try to shoot was pretty funny. Good joke that.
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