When vengeance consumes Roberta, nobody is safe.
What They Say:
Deadly assassin-turned-maid Roberta returns to the criminal’s paradise of Roanapur, dead set on revenge – no matter the cost. In a backdrop of violent chaos, the smugglers of the Lagoon Company team up with Roberta’s employer to save her… or at least to stop her bloody rampage.
Contains OVA episodes 1-5:
An Office Man’s Tactics
Angels in the Crosshairs
Oversaturation Kill Box
Codename Paradise, Status MIA
The audio presentation for this release is very good overall as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo while the new English language dub is given a 5.1 mix, bofh of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is one that works the forward soundstage well in general but the 5.1 mix bumps it all up and adds some solid throws to the rear channels to keep the action alive and moving. There’s a lot of excellent action sequences that really works well to bring a lot sound to the overall stage and it comes across clear and beautifully. Dialogue is a bit lower in general, which gets you to up the volume more, but the end result is a pretty immersive mix that keeps things moving and draws you in. The Japanese track is a bit more straightforward with its strictly forward soundstage design, but it holds its own well and provides plenty of punch and impact when it gets to the bigger scenes.
Originally released in 2010, the transfer for this five part OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is kept to just one Blu-ray disc that clocks in just under three hours and looks quite good throughout, though like the TV series it suffers in some areas. The similarities in the two comes down to the gradients that are visible which introduces some noise and minor breakup in a few areas, some more noticeable than others. Some of the murky colors, like the browns of Dutch’s boot bottoms, tends to show more noise as well. A lot of the high impact scenes are encoded with a high bit rate, but some of how the source works just operates against it overall. colors generally look good and there are some beautifully vibrant scenes throughout that really draw you in. But the setting is one that is mostly dark and murky and it works to maintain a good look at the detail and general color design.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case with a slipcover that’s identical in design with the artwork, though the slipcover comes across as a bit glossier. The front cover gives us a striking image of Roberta as she has the mad dog look about her and is dressed to the nines in weapons with blood splatters all around, making for something that definitely catches your eye. The logo along the bottom is nicely familiar with the additional subtitle to it and it definitely defines it as Roberta’s show overall. The back of the cover goes for a lot of white, whic works really nicely, as we get a good breakdown of the premise of the show and these episodes and particular, while also showing off some fun Revy artwork and a selection of six images from the series. The technical grid along the bottoms lays out the details of both sets cleanly and the production credits are tiny but easier to read than I would have expected. I still wish they’d keep the show runtime in the technical grid itself like they do the extras. The release has artwork on the reverse side which has a striking illustration of Revy that spans both panels while below it we get the logo along with a breakdown of the episodes by name and title as well as the extras, making it worth reversing to see more of it on a regular basis.
The menu design for this release is one I’m hesitant to call better than the one for the TV series, but mostly it just feels poorly designed and put together in term of visuals. Functionality for it is smooth and easy as we’ve seen with most FUNimation releases, but it works with a blinking style logo through the center to play up Roberta’s fractured mindset while getting some black and white shots behind it. The navigation block along the bottom has a lot of browns to it and there’s a few gun shell casings strewn about, but the whole thing just feels kind of odd and not really tying together well. It’s the kind of menu where you do look at it and wonder what they were thinking. Submenus load quickly and easily and we had no problems setting up the show. The language tracks are locked so you can’t turn the subtitles off in the Japanese selection nor do you get subtitles available during English language playback beyond the song lyrics.
The only extras for this release are the clean opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Black Lagoon proved to be one of the more engaging shows when it debuted in 2006 with the two TV seasons and for me, it felt like the most Western anime series I’d seen in a long time and still feel that way. While the show did well overseas, it didn’t catch on in a huge way in Japan, which made it resurfacing in 2010 as a five part OVA series (continuing on with the TV series episode numbering) all the more surprising. The series definitely feels like it has a lot more appeal overseas and one of the big draws for me was that it had an excellent dub and worked better in that form than in Japanese since it features a wide range of international personalities. Thankfully, FUNimation worked with Ocean Studios to retain the dub cast for this incarnation of the property and that provides for some great continuity for the fans. Getting back with these characters again after all of these years is just fantastic.
With Roberta’s Blood Trail, the self contained story goes back a ways to give us a bit of the past first, introducing us to a group of soldiers in Vietnam back in 1969 who had some serious morality issues and ended up in conflict themselves, which lead to a group of them becoming mercenaries down the line. Now, some twenty-six years later, placing us in 1995 where Black Lagoon takes place, they’ve taken on a job that involves an assassination in Venezuela that ends up killing Garcia’s father, the boy that Roberta has spent her time looking after as a maid. While Garcia is able to handle it fairly well because he has things to hold onto in his life that mean something to him, the whole event that occurs in front of Roberta’s eyes just wounds her deeply, savaging her really. While she managed to hold things together well as we saw before with her time in Roanapur, you knew there was something potentially much bigger going on with her under the surface. With the loss of Diego, vengeance is all she’s about and she makes an intriguing trip that draws in this group to Roanapur after a while, as she builds an elaborate trap in that den of scum and villainy, with the intention of eliminating all of those that have caused the pain to the family that she intends to protect.
There’s a lot of little political aspects to this that are interesting to watch form as it goes on, what with the NSA, CIA, Hotel Moscow, the Columbians and so many more getting involved as well as Chang overseeing everything from his particular little perch. The Black Lagoon company does its best to stay out of it as Dutch just sees bad things all around, but it becomes an interesting game between Rock and Chang over how best to proceed with everything. While Chang is one of the players, it’s a bit part overall and instead we get to focus more on Rock, who seems like he’s falling sway to Roanapur more than ever before with a lot of expressions that makes him seem more like Revy than his usual self. There’s legitimate reason for it all and his larger plan is certainly interesting in its own way, but just seeing Rock being there for as long as he has been and gradually affected by it – especially after the previous Tokyo arc – really fits well and puts the character through his paces.
The five episodes that this runs does get convoluted at times and with the various factions involved and rivalries that come up at times making it more complicated if you can’t keep track of it all, it really does come down to an Everyone Versus Roberta kind of idea. It’s in this that it really does shine as we see Roberta just going all out here – and with the freedom of being an OVA – killing in an absolutely brutal way with heads smashed in, exploding and more. Some of the key personalities from the series show up at different times here (I felt really bad for the owner of the Yellowflag) and it’s fun to see so many personalities essentially guesting in the show for the arc. But when we see the really disturbing stuff such as people being chainsawed in half or even more brutal deaths, it just shows how far Roberta has gone around the bend here. She’s fascinating to watch as she cuts loose and becomes completely unhinged. From her expressions to her dialogue and even the positively scary yet enticing scene involving sexuality, Roberta commands a presence here even when not on screen.
I love Black Lagoon. It’s one of those series that just hits all the right notes with solid character growth, verbal sparring, beautifully choreographed violence and an English language dub that I’d likely call the best of the best. Roberta’s Blood Trail is no exception as it gives us a five episode story involving revenge that spans continents, nationalities and a number of power structures that is set to light Roanapur on fire. With a wide range of characters from the TV series showing up and all sorts of configurations coming from it, there’s a lot to like here. Some of the areas may be a bit slow and sometimes it takes an odd turn, but as a whole it’s a spot on work and definitely a worthy addition to what’s come before. Very recommended.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: C
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: August 6th, 2013
Running Time: 168 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.