Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Anime Corner: Black Lagoon (2006)

Over-the-top mercenary gunfights galore, Black Lagoon mostly abandons the piracy angle pretty quickly and with it goes a lot of its charm. A show that started out feeling very original dropped into more exaggerated anime cliches and ridiculous caricatures when it decided to make the antagonists spend more and more time on land than on their boat. Which is a shame, because I was really enjoying it before that -- even if some of the better individual episodes were in the second half of the show.

The obvious highlight of this show is one of the leads, a cold-blooded killer with a filthy mouth and a tendency to fly off the handle with little to no provocation. She's definitely something, and while the attempts to make her seem badass do tend to come off as very forced, in the end she is still very entertaining and one of the more (surprisingly) reserved characters once you get into the latter half, which as I said before is pretty packed with "flavorful" killers; gun-toting nuns, Romanian vampire children, and a girl with a chainsaw and an emotional attachment to her electrolarynx, just to give a few examples. It's all more than a little ridiculous, and it's a shame they let the leads fall into the back of the story by the end.

While I mostly enjoy the exaggerated action and general sense of stupidity, I do wish this show had managed to grab ahold of me in a more emotional way. It's hard to care about a show that pulls you through 8 hours of action with very little emotional consequence. I'm not saying I need to cry every time I watch a show, but to laugh more frequently or feel something inside would have been favorable. Not to say it isn't injected with a little humor, but considering how insane the show is, even more self-awareness would have worked well for it.

The animation is pretty good, nothing extraordinary, but I really dig the music. The more solemn tracks are sometimes haunting, and others very introspective. The moments that work best in this show often implement this music and are handled quite well, which ultimately becomes a problem because of how much untapped potential there is. This show has moments of greatness peeking through the cliches, but rarely chooses to follow through with anything other than pure violence. And violence is fine. But it doesn't mean anything if you don't increase the emotional stakes.

Not the most artful show I've seen, but it's a solidly entertaining action series with one particularly memorable character, some great music, and enough variety in tone and setting to keep it from getting repetetive. I only wish they hadn't let the lead characters get swallowed whole by an overarching story I didn't particularly care about. In the end I enjoyed it, but didn't love it.

Episode count: 24

My grade: B-

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