The action is escalating, as are the stakes and risks too, so I’m still enjoying this half of the season. I’m also expecting the narrative to check in with Mary soon, though we’re mid-battle at the end of the episode.
A few surprises in episode nine, and some handled… differently than others, but overall the tension is rising toward that big finish I’ve been craving. I’d really like to see a few characters drawn into the struggle more directly for the next few episodes, chief among them Victor.
As I feel like I’ve said many times before, I hope this does get a second season so a few scores can be settled, especially things that I don’t think there will be time for right now.
Happy that my guess from the last episode was right, but on the other hand it was more fun to see that nasty surprise from Wachowski near the end.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’m noticing the most of the more serious episodes use this blue, green, grey palette with the lighter ones going for warmer tones, though it’s not a bright show in any sense.
Despite the action and revelations here, it still feels like that ‘pause before the big finish’ I’ve been expecting.
I’m hoping for some rising tension to build quickly now, as we head to the end of the season. But maybe I’ll be extremely wrong and there’s only a really cruel cliffhanger coming, rather than a strong resolution?
I’d love for some other folks to return also, like Kronen, and he was at least mentioned here, so I have hope!
Again, I’m a bit short on stuff to say – basically, I still look forward to No Guns Life in spite of how much I grumble about what I consider to be pacing issues.
Ah, the cliffhanger – I’m on the edge of my seat a bit after having watched episode seven, both because I’m keen to see what happens next but also to see if my prediction comes true, re: Juzo and Tetsuro.
It feels like all the silence from Juzo in that final scene is meant to push me toward assuming one thing, but comparing it to the conversation he has with Tetsuro in the office and I suspect I’m meant to go with another assumption 🙂
Anyway, since this ep once again offered glimpses into Juzo’s past I was pretty satisfied and while I still feel like there’s not enough time to take on the Big Evil Corporation, I’m ready for whatever debris will fall when Juzo begins his wrecking ball act!
This episode plays out like classic film noir in nearly every way, and it gives us another glimpse of Juzo’s past. I enjoyed it more than last week and I’m slowly trying to adjust my expectations re: the storyline.
Maybe instead of a pause before the storm, what we’re in the middle of is the collecting of more allies and enemies? It feels like there’s already not enough time left to take on Berühren.
If so, that might be a battle for a future season. (Assuming, of course, a future season happens.)
Invariably, if I’m anywhere near correct, this suggests that Spitzbergen are going to serve as the main antagonist for now, with Tetsuro’s dilemma being linked up with Mary and Victor as the main emotional struggles. (Which I’m happy with too, of course).
Making predictions is still kinda fun, and taking screencaps ‘as I go’ very handy, but writing up weekly posts on an ongoing anime is hard work!
It’s not my usual approach because I prefer to think on an entire season once it’s done… still, I can now include a part in my final write up that addresses how well/not well I was able to pick up on foreshadowing and storytelling beats 🙂
Not the forward momentum that I was craving, but maybe this is a pause before a push toward the bigger things that must be coming.
The hyper-focus on the old pervert trope seemed to be the No Guns Life fan-service episode – or perhaps a critique of it – but I think it’s also clear that ‘x-ray eyes’ will be back, once he hooks up with Vincent and spills some secrets.
It was good to see Mary get fired up, but the highlight for me was another clue about Juzo’s past. I’m also pleased that the story is now bringing back a few characters that I’ve been curious about too.
Even if this isn’t my fav moment this season, at least the bloody nose exaggeration was funny. (There was also a refreshing change in the colour palette, as the greys and blues dominated the last few eps.)
Again, I’m doing only a couple of notes for this episode, as I’m juggling a few things at the moment.
First off – I’m pleased to see Juzo has recovered, but it was a fun surprise as to how, and so I feel like there’s a chance our heroes can move forward a bit now. For most of the season so far, the team has been locked into a reactive pattern, as they deal with and learn about important stuff, and stuff I wanted to know too.
But it’s nice to see that other key characters are being drawn back into the picture again, and I wonder how that will play out now that Tetsuro is being (sorta) blackmailed.
Here and there I’m noticing the occasional moment where the CGI jumps out a bit – usually when there’s less shadow to do the work of blending, I guess. And since this is a show I believe I’ll grab on disc one day, I’m curious to compare a few scenes.
Anyway, that’s a bit of an aside – once more, I must ‘suffer’ through an entire week before another episode 😀
More answers revealed this time around, and of course, more questions raised. While we didn’t check-in with Tetsuro at all, there was plenty going on with Juzo and Mary.
And seeing them face off against ‘Victor’ was quite satisfying, plus there’s a little comedic moment that I won’t spoil in there too. At this point, after getting that tiny morsel about Juzo’s past, I’m realising that I probably know more about the back-story of everyone else, so I’m ready for extra details in that department from the next few episodes 😀
What I continue to find (and not enjoy so much) is that even though I think I can comment, in the form of prediction/gut reaction, upon big picture things like ‘pacing’, is that it’s very hard. Ideally, before I attempt a series review of No Guns Life, I’d like to watch the whole thing in a few sittings first.
Glad that it seems Victor will take the role of significant villain (and ally, as it turns out) but when we no doubt visit Tetsuro’s storyline with the next episode, I’m hoping things start to surge forward.
It feels like the audience now has plenty of background, context and understanding around what’s happening and who is responsible for what – and once Mary (or someone else?) fixes up Juzo, I’m hoping it’ll be time to start drawing the main protagonists together!
So, how’s everyone finding the second season so far? (For me, each week certainly gets harder to wait for the next episode :D).
Now that the recapping/tiny wrap-up bits from episode 1 are dealt with, it feels like it’s time to move the story along again! (Though right at the beginning, I like that little nod to possible audience impatience with Juzo’s voice-over interruption :D).
A bit more action this time around, and more Juzo – so I’m happy there of course, as he’s still a force no matter his injuries. In fact, I’m hoping he and Mary take a moment for repairs soon.
But since they haven’t, I believe that adds a touch more tension to the upcoming fight between he and Victor. And, like episode one, we’re given a few more answers that lead to more questions. Big questions, especially around Tetsuro, so I’m growing increasingly keen for No Guns Life. In fact, it’s getting harder to wait – part of me wants to ‘save up’ a few episodes so I can watch back-to-back.
One thing I mentioned in the first half of the season, I’m still wanting to get a feel for a ‘main antagonist’. And it’s interesting to speculate upon whether Victor will take that role, since he has a connection to our heroes.
So far, outside of flashback, he’s been shown as ‘unhinged with some cunning’ rather than just being ‘broken + destructive’, so I’m kinda hoping he’ll end up in the ‘main villain’ category or at least in the ‘untrustworthy ally’ basket. I also hope that the plot doesn’t essentially discard him too soon, as there have been a lot of players entering and exiting the stage too quickly… so far.
Further to this, I still don’t quite ‘feel’ Berühren as the villain of the series, even if the corporation clearly must be, based at least on their activities and general stranglehold on the city.
Okay! Into the second half of the series now at last. It’s always tough to wait, but I’d obviously rather have the creators be safe, so in the end it doesn’t matter that the show was delayed, because it’s here now 🙂
This was a great ‘return’ with a focus on intrigue rather than action, and I got an actual answer on a few characters and their threads, one of which had been simply left dangling for a fair few episodes.
Several smaller hints have also been solidified here, and Vincent makes an actual (satisfyingly dramatic) appearance, so that was great. There are also two other characters introduced, and I’m keen for things to tie together to others who haven’t really returned (like Cronen) or other villains.
Still, watching + writingup weekly is fraught with issues for me – in the moment, what I think might be an issue with storytelling or pacing for example, turns out not to be, when things happen in a subsequent (or even the very next) episode.
So I’ll wrap this quickly and say I certainly enjoy the episode, but in the next one I’m looking for a bit more Juzo screentime 🙂
(and very quickly, I think I slightly prefer the older opening/ending songs and sequences).
So! I was pretty certain I’d enjoy this going in, and I certainly did, and so thanks to everyone who voted back in April!
I could probably centre most of this review on the OVA in a way (and most of my criticism) but I actually want to stay with the series proper for the most part. All I really knew about Black Lagoon prior to going in was that the setting was non-typical for anime, it was violent and that Revy looked good in shorts.
Somewhere around here at the Heap I’m sure I’ve already mentioned that I’m a fan of the ‘girls with guns’ genre, and I like action films and crime shows too, and so Black Lagoon had three ticks right off the bat. The fourth tick was the fact that it featured (on the surface at least) a ‘mismatched crew’ as main characters.
And the series does delve into the related idea of ‘found family’, something I also enjoyed – but the main focus is probably on shooting things. Bars and people mostly – sometimes vehicles too, but if you’ve researched the manga say, then that won’t be a surprise, as you’ll know that Rei Hiroe mentions being influenced by directors like Woo or Tarantino.
Here’s a quick summary from Wikipedia on the premise:
The story follows a team of pirate mercenaries known as the Lagoon Company, that smuggles goods in and around the seas of Southeast Asia in the early to mid 1990s. Their base of operations is located in the fictional harbor city of Roanapur in east Thailand near the border of Cambodia.
And that’s where I think I’ll move to first in this review – the setting.
Seeing Southeast Asia in anime is pretty rare, and obviously I was thrilled watching a show set somewhere other than a school, but also the clear blues and warm colours were so good too. You can almost feel the sun in so many episodes. There’s plenty of green, blue, and other bright colours too, and even night goes for yellows and purples a lot of the time. The city itself becomes an important character, and Rock critiques it in short monologues, while being aware that it affords him a certain amount of freedom too.
On the other hand, the series isn’t a nuanced exploration of another culture; it’s a story about various criminal factions and their competing interests in a fictional city, and one unlucky guy who has to navigate it all.
Black Lagoon is probably closer to a long action movie in some ways – so what you explore instead of another culture, is the lives of criminals and their shoot-outs. I think the rising tension in the pacing (and a focus on increasingly over-the-top action sequences) feeds my impression there, but the characters aren’t just shapes that happen to hold guns either. You will get to know the crew if you watch this, chiefly Rock and Rebecca, and even antagonist Balalaika.
However, I do wish I’d been given the chance to learn more about Dutch and Benny, who eventually became a little side-lined. And okay, I know that we all know that bare skin sells all kinds of media, not just anime, and Rebecca is an interesting character – no arguments there, but just a few more scenes on the background of Dutch and Benny would have been superb. (The manga doubtless does that, but I’ve not read it so I don’t know for sure).
Now, as I sometimes do here, I’m going to switch to dot points in an effort to curtail the length of this review – some of these are probably spoiler-y too:
You might like this show if you gravitate toward underdog stories, especially with Rock being sold out hard by his bosses.
To stick with Rock a moment, I found it interesting that he’s depicted as kinda disinterested in sex. Clearly, he’s surrounded by women he seems to find attractive but I wonder if his desire to stay in the ‘twilight’ helps keep himself at armslength from the interest he receives. Obvious counters to this could be Yukio or the possible implications in the OVA about him and a certain someone else… but I’m not sure.
The piece of music for the ending (and the footsteps) is really sinister.
Shenhua stood out because again, South East Asia in anime feels rare to me, and to see a Taiwanese character was great. She’s incredibly shrill, but setting that choice by the director or voice actress aside, I thought it was interesting that identity issues weren’t glossed over – you can see it play out a little between her and Revy in their back-and-forth.
Ginji needs a prequel series!
It was excellent to remember a time (via the U-boat arc) where neo-nazis were seen as actual villains, rather than described in some mealy-mouthed euphemism like ‘alt-right’.
The evil kids cliche + incest storyline felt a little off here, mostly because it occurs within the confines of a ‘shoot ‘em up’ basically, with no real time spent dealing with the horror the characters must have been put through prior to their appearance in the episodes.
Being an action/crime series, there are plenty of great action sequences, and even a few moments of humour here and there, but one of my favs actually comes from the OVA, where the intercutting POV shots and wider ones feel really fluid (during a scene in the The Yellow Flag with Fabiola).
Having talked a lot about the action, I want to quickly mention that the best moment for me is when Rock finally stands up to Revy and all her grandstanding bullshit. Close seconds probably occur more than once in the Yakuza arc.
And finally, Megumi Toyoguchi (who plays Revy) does an ace job with the whole ‘dead inside’ vocal performance, a sharp contrast from say, her work as Winry in FMA.
Onward quickly now to Roberta’s Bloodtrail, the OVA series that aired a few years after the second season of Black Lagoon.
So, the main series definitely has an ending, and plenty of chances to imagine ‘what happens next’, but ‘…Bloodtrail’ carries things on nicely. However, it once again sidelines Dutch and Benny for the most part.
The OVA is just as fast-paced and action-heavy as the main seasons too, but things are dialled up – from both violence to fan service and sexual violence too, so maybe take note if you were already on the fence about this show.
Roberta doesn’t get to be much of a character here, which is a bit of a shame, she’s mostly a Terminator instead. On the other hand, she actually takes some damage. I found that interesting, as if the nod to realism was almost ‘pushing back’ against a precedent Black Lagoon had set, where a character slices bullets in half with a katana for instance, and the focus is on stylish cinematic violence.
Reading around other reviews and comments, I see some folks didn’t like Rock’s development in the OVA and I am 50/50 on that myself. I think it’s more than reasonable that he’d be influenced by the villainy around him, but I wonder if the transition was handled a little bluntly onscreen?
I also wonder whether Balalaika almost became a little cartoonish for a moment (in episode 4 I think it was), but all in all I think the OVA is definitely worth watching if you enjoyed the regular seasons. It was interesting to see whether Rock’s gamble would pay off, and by the ending you’re left thinking he only got half a victory in some ways, perhaps a little more realism creeping in?