Okajima Rokuro is a Japanese businessman...in a town full of Japanese businessmen. His normal day consists of social drinking with clients and being kicked around by his bosses. He finally gets a break though, as he's sent by his company to the tropical seas of Eastern China to deliver a disc...only his boat gets hijacked by a band of mercenaries that were hired to steal it. "Rock" (as he is newly dubbed by his captors) catches the interest of the only female merc "Revy" as she thinks he's worth a ransom, taking him hostage. However, the disc turns out to be more trouble than its worth, and complicates things both for Rock, and the mercenaries known as Black Lagoon.
Black Lagoon is the highest calibre of action anime. It outstrips the competition - a masterful montage of homage and parody that never loses itself thanks to a cast of memorable characters and remarkable stories and sequences. In many ways the experience is akin to an excellent blockbuster with all the great and gaudy elements that made stars of Schwarzenegger and Stallone but this time with the most beautiful badass babes you could ever hope to cower before. It is certain that the manga writer and creator Hiroe Rei has an ardent appreciation for Western cinema and his series is laced with a hundred winks to some of the greatest writers, directors and live action moviemakers. It has the kind of cinematic synergy that films such as Kill Bill aspire to, capturing and all the best elements of Hollywood and Hong Kong action cinematics in an impeccable anime package.
As a team of mobile mercenaries, the closest thing to home for the Lagoon crew is a godforsaken dive, a tropical city for lost souls called R Nothing is sacred and no one can be trusted. Maids and nuns intermingle with the triads, mafia, and yakuza. Mercenaries and militia stalk the shadows and allies and enemies are endlessly interchangeable.
The series is no stranger to extremity. Elegant and uncompromising, it never shies from depicting desperation, nor the darker recesses of humanity. Many of the characters delight in destruction, while others have to turn their reluctance to resourcefulness in order to survive. As a result the cast are a vibrant mix of multinational maniacs who always keep the audience guessing. The lead or grounding protagonist, Okajima Rokuro (Rock) is an ex-salaryman with a penchant for negotiation. His progression and development is fascinating as he makes the transition from innocent bystander to integral member of the Lagoon Company.
The violence is graphic and in many places glorified but it is a show that revels in the raw quality of the fights that are the meat of gangster films and spaghetti westerns.
The use of violence and extremes, however, changes its nature from time to time. Of particular note, to ward off the faint of heart, is the story arc concerning the twin assassins known as Hansel and Gretel. It is a notorious section of the series that recklessly trounces taboos. The deadly duo are two children, sadistic killers completely unhinged by their savage past in snuff films. It is without a doubt one of the most shocking story lines in a mainstream anime series but it also represents a total departure from the swashbuckling guns and glory that is prevalent throughout the other chapters.
Black Lagoon is not a series to judge by its cover. At face value it is brash and rife with sensationalism. Trigger-happy Revy in her super cropped shorts with cigarette between her foul-mouthed lips is no conventional anime heroine and yet somehow she commands a fond fan following. Thanks to Hiroe's expert hand at designing and rendering exquisite (and incidentally erotic) female characters she has a vibrant and feral allure that is pretty hard to resist.
The animation quality is not merely good or even consistent – it's amazing. It is clear that the production team worked tirelessly to bring the manga to life in a faithful and fabulous form. Unforgettable and essential watching for fans who like to be at the heart of the action.