Review by: Clive Owen
Publisher: Geneon Entertainment (FUNimation Entertainment)
MSRP: $49.98 US
Running Time: 300 minutes
Rating: 16 and Up
Release Date: Available Now
Twice as much bullets means twice as much fun.
If you read our reviews of Rei Hiroe’s bullet-fueled action anime and manga, Black Lagoon, you know we have a fondness for this highly entertaining series. The first season’s box set was a genuine thrill ride but Black Lagoon, The Second Barrage Box Set, manages to outshine the first 12 episodes in every way.
Having made the transition between Japanese salaryman to crewmember of the Black Lagoon of the Lagoon Traders courier service in the ultra dangerous city of Roanpur, Rokuro “Rock” Okajima thought he has seen it all. Then again, Rock never imagined that the blood bath that claimed the lives of two soldiers of Hotel Moscow was caused by two unlikely assassins … and this is the first episode on the four disc box set!
In the wake of the massacre, for the first time the Chinese syndicate, the Colombian cartel, the Italian mafia and the Russian mob run by Balalaika work together to find the assassins with only one clue of their identity … they’re twins and they are children. Known as Hansel and Gretel, the two creepy kids dressed like Goth dolls have a healthy appetite for blood and torture. It doesn’t really matter to Balalaika, though, because she offers a hefty reward for anyone willing to take the twins down.
Of course, Revy is enticed by the reward money and she is joined by Edna, the “nun” from the so-called “Rip-off Church” that acts as the local arms dealer. In fact, assassins from all over the area start arriving in order to collect the bounty. Of course, none of them really realize how skillful these twins are as they not only turn on the people that hired them to take out Balalaika but they’re even able to give every skilled gun (like Mr. Chang, for instance) a real shootout.
Yet if there’s one thing we learn in The Second Barrage is that Balalaika is definitely not the type of woman you want to mess with because she sets up a trap that manages to take out one of the twins without a moment’s hesitation. She definitely has no reservation about taking out a child. Meanwhile, the other twin manages to get Eda to talk the Lagoon Traders to take her/him off Roanpur only to end up – to Rock’s horror – ending the story arc in tragedy.
As heartbreaking as the first few episodes of the set are it is the “Greenback Jane” episodes that kick up the action a couple of hundred notches. We meet Jane, a master counterfeiter and perfectionist that manages to piss off the impatient gangsters that hired her. Jane runs away with the gangsters giving chase only to confuse the “Rip-off Church” for a real church. Lucky for Jane, Eda and Revy are present as they defend Jane.
Sensing a profit, however, Eda talks Revy into keeping Jane nearby in order to get their hands on the printing plates Jane uses for her counterfeit bills. Unfortunately, the gangsters that are looking for her hire some of the deadliest professionals in the vicinity. This includes Shenhua (remember her from the first season?) as well as Sawyer the Cleaner and an assassin that favors a flamethrower.
The story takes a turn for the more interesting when these assassins make an assault on the offices of the Lagoon Traders that result in one of the most exciting battles that will give most action movies a run for their money. I won’t spoil it with details but those who have been waiting to see Revy go up against Shenhua will not be disappointed and even Rock gets into the action. We also learn a big secret about Eda aboard the Black Lagoon that is quite unexpected.
Finally, we find Rock and Revy in Japan with Balalaika who is looking to set up a home base in Tokyo among the Yakuza. Acting as an interpreter, Rock finds that he feels out of place in a world he once called home. When Revy suggests that Rock visit his family, Rock hesitates. Has he really become part of the underworld? A big part of him thinks so.
During their stay in Tokyo, Rock and Revy meet a high school girl named Yukio and her bodyguard named Genji who Revy says he “smells of blood.” It isn’t until Balalaika begins eliminating other Yakuza clans that Rock realizes that Yukio is the daughter of a dead clan member and thus one of Balalaika’s targets. Taking it up with Balalaika, Rock’s confrontation with her is surprising and violent. This is actually the first time we see Balalaika mistreat Rock. Their relationship had always seemed respectful until now.
Interestingly enough, Yukio takes her role as her father’s successor seriously to the point that those loyal to her father join her in attempting to restore honor to the clan. She suddenly gives Balalaika something to worry about when she lays a trap for her and the Russians. Meanwhile, Rock attempts to talk Yukio into stepping down to live a normal life. Much like him, Yukio feels she no longer belongs to the “real world.”
What results is one of the most impressive fights as a captured Yukio is rescued by Revy and the bodyguard named Ginji and then a final showdown that ends in a heartbreaking conclusion.
All is not grim in this second season set and this is what makes The Second Barrage an even more delightful season. With standout scenes like Jane showing her appreciation for a fellow tech geek as well as Revy playing with Japanese children, these episodes will not fail to put a smile on your face.
If the first season box set with like a thrilling rollercoaster, Black Lagoon, The Second Season Box Set is like a theme park filled with heart-stopping thrill rides. With some compelling storylines and hard-hitting action, The Second Barrage is anime at its most action-packed.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
A pair of twins with a troubled past turns Roanpur into a warzone as they take on Hotel Moscow. Then we meet “Greenback” Jane who runs from her employers and forces the Lagoon Traders to take a bullet-filled stand against professional killers. Then, in Japan, Rock and Revy become involved in a fight for honor and survival.
VIDEO QUALITY: B+
The episodes look great on DVD just as they did in the first season box set. There’s still a lot of blood but this time it’s a bit more gruesome.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
The English sub and Japanese voices are straight-up awesome and the music will get you pumping. It’s good stuff, indeed.
Each disc comes with Geneon previews but the fourth disc is dedicated to the more impressive extras such as an interview with Director Sunao Katabuchi (interesting), textless opening and closing theme songs and small handful of promotional videos.
The Second Barrage Box Set is Black Lagoon’s finest moment with episodes that raise the action level. Yes, the first season has a lot of memorable moments, but these episodes will stay with you for a very long time. Thank you, Black Lagoon, for make us addicted to your action all over again.