RONAN DALY SHARES HIS THOUGHTS ON BLACK LAGOON: ROBERTA'S BLOOD TRAIL, THE FIVE-EPISODE THIRD INSTALMENT OF THE BLACK LAGOON ANIME SERIES, BASED ON REI HIROE'S MANGA OF THE SAME NAME.
Set in the mid-'90s, Black Lagoon follows the exploits of Lagoon Company, a team of mercenaries and pirates operating throughout Southeast Asia. The real-world locations and relatively contemporary setting for the series set the scene for what can be considered a 'more realistic' anime series - at least insofar as there is a lack of magic, monsters or superhuman abilities. However, action scenes still tend to be over the top and may feel slightly more at home in a world where characters could also slice mountains with their eyes or run on water. Nevertheless, the show remains grounded in its realistic premise, making few other concessions to the fantastic.
The plot follows Roberta, the unstoppable killing machine and Colombian head maid to a wealthy Venezuelan household, on her vendetta against several members of the USA armed forces who killed her master. Needless to say, there is no small amount of bloodshed and dramatic confrontation as Roberta carves a bloody, twitching trail across much of South America. Racing against the clock and several other angry parties, the crew of the Black Lagoon, along with the remaining members of her household, struggle to keep up with Roberta's massacre in the hopes of taking her down before someone else collects on her head.
The main characters, the crew of the Black Lagoon and their comrades are given little in the realm of personal development, with two significant exceptions. Rock, the main protagonist of the series (voiced by Daisuke Namikawa from Gantz and Fairy Tail in Japanese and Death Note's very own Light Yagam, Brad Swaile, in English). As the series originally started, Rock was an unfortunate scapegoat taken captive by the Lagoon crew, eventually joining them (possibly through the effects of Stockholm syndrome) and becoming the mild-mannered businessman of the crew. Over the course of Roberta's Blood Trail, Rock's more callous, sinister side comes into play, as we see him calculating complex variables and turning people into his unwitting pawns, shedding any qualms about the lives of innocent bystanders.
The other character to undergo development is Revy (voiced by Fate/Zero's Megumi Toyoguchi in Japanese and Maryke Hendrikse from Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny and Powerpuff Girls in English). Revy is a cold, vicious killer, easily one of the most deadly and skilful characters of the series. Her ambidextrous abilities with guns earn her the nickname 'Two Hand' and she has little hesitation in killing anyone in her way. Revy's character becomes a little more vulnerable during RBT and her always ambiguous relationship with Rock becomes just a little more tender. Aside from this and watching Roberta's grief-fuelled descent from furious but dignified dutiful servant into utter lunacy, there is unfortunately little in the way of characterisation.
With a title like Roberta's Blood Trail, it's possible that the average viewer may not be hoping for great moments of introspection and character growth and might be expecting more in the way of blood, violence and mayhem. That being the case, this series should not disappoint. Roberta (voiced by One Piece and Vampire Hunter D's Michie Tomizawa in Japanese and Death Note's Tabitha St. Germain in English) does indeed leave the violent and messy path in her wake that the title suggests. Gradually breaking down from robot-like assassin into a snarling, unhinged animal, Roberta's transformation, as well as some of her more creative kills, are the most interesting and appealing aspects of the anime. Action scenes are bloody and fast-paced, with little speech to interrupt or hinder. The animation is not outstanding, but more than adequate for the purposes of the show, with blood spurts and injuries, in particular, rendered both vividly and memorably.
Black Lagoon: Roberta's Blood Trail is a story of vengeance told many times before, but with just the right touches of ultra-violence and tension to keep a vicelike grip on our attention.
Black Lagoon: Roberta's Blood Trail is available now on DVD and Bluray
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