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Black Lagoon – 15/16 [Swan Song at Dawn/Greenback Jane] – Throwback Thursday

Welcome all, to another slightly late week of Black Lagoon! Turns out implementing Deep Q-Learning and then trying to teach it to play Snake is harder than I thought and I lost track of time. Grad school aside, we have a lot to talk about this week. Black Lagoon seems to have heard my issues and done a lot to address them. So lets dive into this weeks episodes!

First up is episode 15, “Swan Song at Dawn”. This episode concludes the Vampire Children arc, and you know what? It was better than I was expecting, a surprisingly effective ending. Not only did Black Lagoon manage to tie things up well, writing the twins out of the story and resolving Balalaika’s vendetta, it even managed to involve Rock and Revy in an arc that, really, they had no business being involved in. On top of that, it also dialed back the sadism I felt was holding the twins back while dialing up the victim angle just the right amount, at just the right times, too sell their scenes. Overall? I feel a lot better about this arc. Now onto the spoilers!

Right off the bat, it needs to be said that Balalaika is, without question, the best character in this arc. Maybe even the entire show. I absolutely adored how Black Lagoon handled her in this finale. How despite her words, despite the deaths of her men, despite her experiences in war, she didn’t want to kill these kids. She didn’t enjoy it. Rather, it was a necessary evil too her. If Balalaika didn’t kill them not only would they continue to terrorize her organization and go on to kill many more, she’d lose the respect of her men and the city at large. There was simply no world where letting those twins live was an option. And as brutal and bloody as it was, she herself mentions how much worse she could have made it for them. Balalaika settled for a clean, public execution, when she could have chosen torture.

As for the twins themselves, I already said I liked what Black Lagoon did with them. But as good as Hansel’s death was, Gretel’s whole journey was way better. She still had moments of weird sadism, but her time with Rock really brought her character together. His perspective, compared to Revy or Balalaika, brought that sympathy angle Black Lagoon was going for before. That, even through all of the terrible shit she did and all those people she murdered, he still saw the damaged child underneath it all. And he wept for he. And you know why it worked? Because Rock, as a character, is a naïve romantic at heart. Black Lagoon established this ages ago with the Nazis, and it’s paying dividends here. God, just… the way he looked at her body on the docks, asking not to cover her up so she could stare at the sun? Beautiful.

Oh right, I forgot to mention, Gretel dies too. That’s right, both of them die. And you know what? I think they had too. There was no other way out of this for them. Not only would we spend the rest of the series thinking about this sadistic murderer running around, Balalaika would have looked weak letting one get away. But by driving Dutch to this specific port via the Vietnamese navy? By paying off the getaway man to shoot her, effectively ending his career since no one would be able to trust him after this? It showed us just how tactical, powerful, and far reaching Balalaika is. She isn’t someone you can escape just by getting on a boat and going to another country. Where ever you go, wherever you run, she will find you. And while she might be professional about it, like with Dutch, she will win.

Honestly, the only “disappointment” , if you can even call it that, I can think of with the episode concerns Eda and Revy. I was rather sad with how quickly their standoff with the twins and Hotel Moscow was resolved. Yeah, Revy was smart and knew not to shoot at the Russians, just like I predicted. But it was over so quickly, with so little conflict or chase, that it felt like the interaction only existed to give last episode a cliffhanger. Take this scene away, as well as the ending to episode 14, and I don’t think anything really changes. Still, this is a very very small gripe in an otherwise fantastic episode. I would go so far as to call it a nitpick, that’s how little this bothered me. I only mention it because it was the only negative that stood out on review.

With that we come to episode 16, “Greenback Jane”. After the dark and gory nature of the Vampire Children arc, I’m happy with how light hearted this episode was. It felt like good, clean fun. Or well, as clean as mobsters shooting someone for not doing their job fast enough can get. You know what I mean, everything from the tone to the coloring was just brighter. The entire episode was filled with jokes, from mobsters being unfamiliar with Roanapur while their local contact tries to save them from pissing off Revy to Revy and Eda completely overreacting because it’s a hot day and they don’t give a shit. Even Jane, the titular addition, spent the entire episode having absolutely no idea how this town worked. It was funny!

Speaking of Jane, she seems to be the focus of the new arc. And you know what? I like her. Her whole thing is that she’s a white collar criminal to Roanapur’s more blue collar population. What I mean is, she doesn’t get her hands dirty, nor involve herself in any actual conflict. Really, if anything, she’s more a craftsman than a criminal. So focused on getting the “perfect counterfeit bill” that she and her team completely miss their target budget and date. She doesn’t care about the money really, just the craft. And that’s a refreshing, unique sort of criminal that we haven’t seen in Black Lagoon before. One who’s closer to Rock than Revy. I’m actually really looking forward to her meeting and interacting with Rock, because I think they would hit it off and appreciate each others professionalism.

Getting back to the story, Eda denying Jane sanctuary was actually surprising to me. I fully expected this to be a protection job from the beginning. And while it may still come to that, it looks like Eda is going to teach Jane a few lessons about how life in Roanapur works first. I’m of course talking about how she directed Jane to a very specific inn, tipped off all the local mobsters and bounty hunters, and is basically driving Jane into a corner so she has to accept Eda and Revy’s help but at a much higher price than she was originally willing to spend. Basically, Eda is tricking Jane into spending more money for a job they probably would have done anyways. At least that’s what I suspect is happening, the episode ends on a bit of a cliffhanger there.

Actually, on the bounty hunters, this little “reunion” was a lot of fun. I enjoyed how everyone seemed to know each other, a family in a small business, with no hard feelings between anyone for past jobs. Their banter, welcoming in the completely over the top new edgy new guys and asking about their gimmicks/weapons, or being happy to finally see Sawyer the Cleaners face for the first time. It was all good fun, keeping the tone light for what could otherwise have been a really serious meeting about how to kidnap a girl. Plus we got to see Shenhua again! I’m always down for more Shenhua, she has some of the best one-liners and banter in the show, completely unafraid to get incredibly personal with her insults.

So yeah, all in all I think both of these episodes were pretty good and a definite step up from last week. I’m having more fun with the series than I have in a while, both Balalaika and Jane are great characters, and having the brighter color palette back is a welcome sight. I really hope Black Lagoon sticks with this lighter atmosphere for the rest of this Jane arc, just as a sort of palette cleanser, before diving into whatever heavy shit it has planned for its finale. A friend did accidentally spoil for me that they go to Japan, which is a shame it got spoiled, but Rock heading back home for a job has a lot of potential so that should be cool. Hopefully it’s able to end strong!

Oh and P.S. the Vampire Kids arc having its own custom ED after Gretel dies was a beautiful choice, really caught me by surprise. Also Sawyer is kinda cute.

The post Black Lagoon – 15/16 [Swan Song at Dawn/Greenback Jane] – Throwback Thursday appeared first on Star Crossed Anime.

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