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Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail Complete Collection UK Anime DVD Review

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Black Lagoon - Roberta's Blood Trail
Black Lagoon – Roberta’s Blood Trail
The return of Revy and company is far too soon gone, as this OVA does more than bring our favourite characters back, it showcases the development of Rock in Roanpaur, brings forth revenge and blood thirsty action, tying everything together, even glimpses of Revy’s past and all comes in one amazing package…

What They Say :
All five episodes from the OVA series of the Japanese anime following the adventures of pirates and smugglers known as the Lagoon Company. In this collection of episodes, Roberta (voice of Michie Tomizawa) is on the warpath, wreaking a bloody trail of vengeance through the harbour in Roanapur. Can the Lagoon Company face up to her formidable combat skills and stop her before she causes irreparable damage? The episodes are: ‘Collateral Massacre’, ‘An Office Man’s Tactics’, ‘Angels in the Crosshairs’, ‘Oversaturation Kill Box’ and ‘Codename Paradise, Status MIA’.

Audio/Video
Set up in Stereo 2.0 in Japanese/English, and a 5.1 Dolby Surround Track in English too, the sound release had no noticeable issues in regarding of quality or transition with subtitles or lip synching – the quality as expected is more pronounced in the 5.1 English release but had no issues in needing to adjust the volume to a higher amount in either the 2.0 English or Japanese releases. The Black Lagoon dub of course also is quite famous for adding the odd extra profanity in there so as long as you are fine with a loud Revy cursing every 5 seconds then you shouldn’t have any problems with the release. The video quality is extremely crisp and following, no static issues or pause issues with the video quality and no problems with either syncing with subtitles. Set in widescreen format, it is excellent on the big screen and very colourful and flowing.

Menu:
Both menus on the two discs are the same – we get a horizontal cinema like screen across the menu with playing shots from the OVA, whilst below in a fact file like setting you can select from Play All, Original Version Subtitled/Stereo/5.1 or just picking one of the episodes (1-3 on Disc 1 and 4-5 on Disc 2) – it’s very unique looking and easy to navigate from both the main screen and from the show itself to return to the main menu.

Extras:
There are no extras on this release.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Black Lagoon was one of my favourite series that did get a UK release – whilst not huge into action series, the show fascinates me in basically a rag tag band of pirates with very different backgrounds, ethnicities, religions and personalities all join together in what is the biggest region of hell/scum on earth. It left us wondering how our main male lead can justify his being there after a chance to return to his previous life was literally shot down and can he return to the Lagoon as the same or someone different? Well, thanks to the return of an old friend and nemesis, we get to see what is truly behind Rock’s psyche and just a little more…

The OVA starts with a bombing…but not in Roanpaur, rather in Venezuela. For those who remember Black Lagoon, that is where the Lovelace’s lived…including the infamous Roberta, a psycho Terminator style maid who a former mercenary was known as ‘The Bloodhound.’ One of the victims of the bombing was Garcia’s father who of course, was the one who employed Roberta as she tried to move away from her gunslinger past. Needless to say though, she is not very happy about this and sets a personal mission to kill those who caused this tragedy…which leads her back to Roanpaur. And considering the body count she left last time, the maid sightings in Roanpaur have made a lot of people nervous.

This naturally, leads back to the Lagoon, and in an ironic echo, they are at the bar where Roberta first came about, and with other gangs and cartels also worried, it leads to déjà vu when a maid appears…except she is a lot smaller. Meet Fabiola, probably my favourite character of the OVA, the only other maid in the Lovelace family with firearms skill (taught by Roberta) and is also a skilled self-taught master of Capoiera, and thanks to some help from Revy, she teaches a lot of the cartel members a lesson, as she wanted the Lagoon, or specifically Rock, to be hired to try and find Roberta, as they are afraid of what she has gotten herself into. This leads Chang, another favourite character from the series, to also get involved but the Lagoon disagrees because it basically means getting involved with fighting the US Army. However as the offer is specifically to Rock, he has to worry about his own morals, ideas and what his fellow Lagoon members think of this as well.

Rock does eventually agree to help, but with only Benny on his side and reluctantly, any info he could get with the guns of Revy next to him is a lot less successful. Roberta in the meantime is on the prowl, collecting the weapons and information she needs with some ‘interrogation’ whilst at the same time she seems to be overdosing on medication and drugs, as she sees things appear in front of her which are like the ghosts of her past. Rock, realizing that he needs help, has a long talk with Revy, and it is clear how much he is beginning to change. His plans to try and save everyone whilst noble, take a far more sinister turn as he seems to be the one pulling the strings, even getting into shouting matches with Chang over the phone and bringing analogies of how he is the bullet to Revy’s gun – as he is a dull piece of lead on his own but with her, he can destroy anyone. It does lead to a bit of a fun moment as well when Revy gets three old faces from the Calamity Jane arc, Sawyer, Lotton and Shenhua to help out too (funny as last time she faced them, Shenhua and Revy were in combat, Sawyer had lost her mouthpiece and the less said about Lotton’s way of losing in battle the better…).

With Revy in tow, they are a lot more successful in getting information (through violence or through some intriguing words when involved with a drug user – one of the most unique relationships in the OVA is Fabiola/Revy, ranging from comic to downright depressing) but Roberta is being hunted by more than just the US. With her considerable skills, she is able to leave a path of blood in her wake, searching for the US Army. However, when Revy’s group also begins clearing a path of blood, Garcia goes to find Roberta on her own. He overhears a conversation between her and a South American soldier where it looks like she no longer cares and is aroused by the guy and the stench of blood, but the fact despite her own drugged up head, she says she only cares for her current master Garcia. However, when she sees him, he thinks it’s another delusion and nearly shoots him…

The Americans then enter the scene, save him and Robert escapes, as despite her stimulants and drugs she is still on auto-pilot in causing plans and strategies. The help of both Eda from the Church combined with Hotel Moscow also entering the picture brings the Lagoon back into play and despite Dutch’s annoyance of Rock, thanks to Chang it leads the US Army get the hell out of Roanpaur whilst Roberta and Eda head on a plane to cut them off at the pass. Eda is actually quite the interesting character throughout as we see she actually has links to the FBI (which was hinted at during the Jane arc in Black Lagoon), at the same time she informs Rock of the moves, as it is now apparent that it is in fact Rock who is the chess master, and has managed to predict almost what everyone has been doing. This is why Rock’s character is so complex and intriguing – after Yukio’s death in Black Lagoon, he seems to have accepted the darkness surrounding him, and despite not being a fighter himself, his own unique way of fighting has always been documented, here, it is used to its full potential – the only one who seems to notice this is actually Fabiola, who even points it out to Revy that she isn’t seeing past Rock’s wimpy nice guy routine she thought he was on, and points out a few truths to Revy which nearly gets her shot, but instead does give some insight to Revy’s mindset, and a few flashbacks to her as a youth definitely shows a glimpse to how screwed up she became, and maybe the hope that Rock was a spark of innocence in her mindset may have been wiped out…

It of course leads to the final showdown between the Americans and Roberta. It becomes a bloody battle as Garcia, one of the American soldiers Shane who was directly involved with the bombing and Roberta have a standoff, which thanks to a trick by Shane, Garcia manages to snap Roberta out of her stupor, albeit at some cost. It ends with some ironic echoes (and a blank shot to Rock’s stomach courtesy of Fabiola) as Roberta won’t be the same again…

There is a lot in this 5 episode OVA which covers so much – mostly in the characters. Roberta is the antagonist, yet is as much a protagonist in terms of everything she goes through and that her enemies are practically anyone in her way. The lengths she goes through to battle the US Army are incredible just for her loyalty to her master, yet at the same time her genuine enjoyment in the battlefield showcases why she got the nickname Bloodhound. You do actually feel sorry for her that she is on this crusade, not knowing any of the stories, just loyalty to her master. The US Army actually have their own moments – in the first scene of the anime, you get a flashback to a Vietnam War scenario when Shane actually protects a young girl who looked like one of the soldiers was about to rape her. Roanpaur reminds him of this hell and even gives Garcia the option of revenge himself – which gives Garcia plenty of development too, as he knows he won’t kill, he just wants Roberta back and despite as Shane puts every right for revenge, he is easily the most mature person in the cast. And his relationship with Fabiola is really sweet, as like Roberta, he has upmost trust in her, more so because he has no idea if his head maid will ever be the same.

Fabiola however is my favourite mainly because how she has had tons of adversity from the slums of Venezuela yet whilst not always upbeat (and has a terrible temper) – her childish and mature sides come into one. She enjoys swimming in the pool but doesn’t want to bother her master for time off (despite Garcia knowing full well of her activities and accepting them) yet whilst has her morals (when Revy kills one alive soldier who gave her info despite promising getting him to a doctor, she gets really mad) she is also smart enough to know what the correct course of action is at the time. However, the fact she is able to make Revy, REVY, think about her choices in life and what she perceives her comrades to be, is quite the achievement. True Revy also gives her a few choice words but the fact they hid deeper into Revy shows just how smart and cool this Chiquita is. Not to mention the fact she was the only one who saw how manipulative Rock was throughout and able to get the last words in when everything was all set and done adds to her awesomeness.

This brings us back to our two leads – Revy and Rock. Revy, whilst is still the foul-mouthed badass she was in the original series, thanks to the above words of Fabiola does actually have to think about how much Roanpaur has changed Rock. She flashbacks to her own suffering back in New York and realizes that her words affected her much more (she’s quite quiet for the remaining part of the arc) than she thought. Until then, she is mostly the same – but when Hotel Moscow practically stop her from fighting any further, it’s interesting to see what she becomes when she actually has to think about past and current events. Rock on the other hand changes little and a lot at the same time. Little as in a lot of his demeanor is the same, yet the words he chooses and who he interacts with, all have an edge of darkness. The incidents in Japan have clearly haunted him and changed him further than he already was whilst in Roanpaur, making him an incredibly complex character, yet without losing the mannerisms of what he was before. Indeed, Revy now is looking at him a different way, Chang and Eda also respect him even more and Dutch actually gets angry at him for what he is planning and realizing just how manipulative he becomes.

The only minor complaint I have is that the rest of the Lagoon and some of your old favourites don’t get much airtime in the OVA. Dutch isn’t in it much bar when Chang convinces him to transport the Americans outta there, Benny is first Rock’s partner but vanishes when Revy is brought in, and whilst Balalaika has an excellent speech about her loyalties with Shane, Hotel Moscow are basically there just to make sure Revy’s group are out the picture and it is a battle between the US and Roberta. I loved seeing Shenhua, Sawyer and Lotton return (as it was shown they did survive the Jane arc, but the fact the three are living together (Lotton/Sawyer even playing video games!)) was unintentionally hilarious. That said, the part where Roberta faces those three was amongst the most horrifying…and they actually survived…

They had to get in a lot with 5 episodes of OVA – and from reading the manga a few bits are definitely cut out, but not enough to not get the full flow of the story. Roberta’s delusions, Revy’s conflicts, Garcia’s finale are all showcased really well, the parts of Revy’s past whilst brief do give enough to see why she is, and why she doesn’t want to see what Fabiola can see in Rock, and there is enough from everyone for it to flow well and to see the plot go from beginning to end. Overall, an excellent OVA to one of my favourite series.

Summary:
Black Lagoon is a personal favourite in both English and Japanese, and the OVA continues that trend. It is violent, but also thinking – there appears to be no true hero and villain as Roberta’s revenge for her master’s fathers’ death is only second nature to the Americans having a job (and making Shane likeable and thoughtful), everyone from your old favourites to the new maid gets linked together with enough characterization that the plot is flowing well, and the fact it is both action packed and thought provoking (especially with Rock) makes this a keeper for any Black Lagoon fan. I would recommend watching the series first though, but after you do, very recommended.

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade:A
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: December 2nd, 2013
Running Time: 125 minutes
Price: £13.99

Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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