Category Archives: Black Lagoon

Maid To Thrill II: Maid To Win

The power of Black Lagoon does compel me.

This is what you get when you smash a maid between the top of a car and the side of a cargo container

To no surprise, I expected nothing less. After seeing what I saw from episode nine it was a tough order to fill out, and the folks from Madhouse did a wonderful, although less-than-perfect job.

Maybe the best way to do this rant is to show, tell, and wrap it up with just how badass these two episodes have been for me.

Here are two good cuts:

Despite the fuzz filter, you can see all the details well shaded on the flag and on their uniforms

Notice the mechanical detail and lighting

Two OK ones:

Look at the gun and then Roberta's sash. And what happened to her boobs?!

Notice Levi's facial details and top of her hair

And two “you can do better:”

Totally dropping the detail on the foreground; bad reuse of BG

It's not that bad, really.

Today’s anime is generally made by a group of teams, each team responsible for a section of material. There is an overseeing person/persons to ensure quality consistency and actual animation consistency. Often however that kind of supervision leaves holes when push comes to shove in today’s busy animation scheduling. It’s hard work and it’s usually what drops the bomb when you see a dip in animation quality mid-season.

It’s not to say any of that happened to Black Lagoon (or if it did, I haven’t really noticed it enough to call it a “dip). But it probably explains the difference between some of the sequences in terms of quality in shading, in the CGing, as well as the use of the background. I mean, you can probably see for yourself.

And it is really with a fine-tooth comb that I’m critizing animation quality of TV anime–something that is just not really worth doing for more than 90% of the time. TV anime is crap compared to animation that is well-funded and produced with good scheduling. I think it’s praise enough that I can even do this reasonably to a show, that there are some good scenes worth looking closer in contrast to its not-as-good scenes.

To wrap it up: I’m certainly satisfied. I was treated with something good. It’s not the greatest and the smartest and the most awesome fight scenes, but it’s funny, charming mercenary drama with something edifying at the end of the day. I’m an easy customer when I like what I see, still.

Maid to Thrill

The age old debate between ninjas and pirates ends with Black Lagoon. Maid wins.

Roberta 2000

Words were barely sufficient to describe how it feel to watch Desperado or Terminator 2 the first time for me. Little more can be said about this masterpiece of an episode that is Black Lagoon episode 9. I really had little to share aside from awe and “I wanna … watch this again and again and again!” It’s all I can do to keep that image of Roberta’s humble-looking shoes rotating counterclockwise along with the regular-pattern lace trims of her uniform from replaying itself to burnout in my brain. Oh, it would also fast forward to the rotating umbrella and when she does a “peek-a-boom!” Or I could replay, in my head, how she forms into a rigid, flat-fisted running style while whipping out that combat knife. Well, actually what I did immediately was make Terminator 2 jokes first, then to relish the goodness that was this piece of animation.

You can feel the love brimming from this episode. The people who worked on those scenes must have loved what they were doing. It is the only logical explanation.

To be fair, I was seriously bugged about Roberta at first. I read the manga for Black Lagoon after realizing I would be digging this show seriously. I stopped at volume one because I get the feeling that this manga is going to do what I thought it’s going to do exactly, for better or worse. Sure, the series is about outrageous mercenary action with a bent towards a realistic-feeling grittiness. Thematically it deals with the scummy real life of criminals versus the somewhat crummy real life that we know. It does escapism well; the action scenes are smart but unfortunately the manga falls to mediocrity when it tries too hard to pander to conventions (maybe on purpose).

Remember Noir? I’m one of those people who thought that he liked what he saw in Noir, only to be totally bugged by the fact that it turns into this weird lesiban slide show with secret societies. To be honest, it could have worked out if not for Chloe. Roberta, as a result, reminded me of Chloe–both in their outlandishness but also, heh, they are SOLDATS! Oh, of course, they’re both badasses in a fight.

Hmm. Noir would have been a better show if Chloe was a maid, don’t you think? Thankfully we wouldn’t have to ask the same about Black Lagoon. It’s Maid to win.

Actually, there’s also a part-2 to this entry… It started with Gunslinger Girls.

Hi Jose!

There’s nothing wrong with killer maids, nor is it such a novel concept. The dichotomy was probably best explored in an anime context through GSG, so it’s no surprise Roberta reminded me of it. But in light of our other girls in Black Lagoon, what sort of concoction would Roberta be? Just another daily special at the Yellowflag?

Certainly if Rebecca was Suzumiya Haruhi, Balalaika would act a bit like Nagato Yuki and stop and save…Rock (and Dutch and Benny) from their certain death? It explains why I rather was taken by Asakura Ryoko.

Black Horse

You, yes you.

A curious bit about Black Lagoon is, at this point, the play around with the female archtype. One person so far have found Levi identifiable with Faye Valentine. I am not so sure about the claim’s veracity, but nonetheless it goes to suggest, perhaps, a larger picture of uncertainty and confusion.

I’ve yet to laid eyes to the manga, so I can’t say if this was something originally a part of the show. Still, in painting a realistic approach to today’s open-sea piracy, snubbing character archtypes does go a long way. Just how hot can Tessa get while still being down with the gang without losing respect? Or a mofia boss?

It’s an escapist’s ideal for the hot anime babe who is also some kind of leader. It’s no surprise in Frank Miller’s Sin City (for example), that the same idea found itself well-rooted in the arts on this side of the Pacific. Is that it, though? I wanted to find out. But where should I start?

1. The ending sequence. The sorrowful instrumental score heaps in bringing out cheap emotional responses to a, so far, straight-up babes with guns kind of affair. But look at it closely, it really tries to go for something else. Where is Lavi hiding her shotgun? Is it a ploy? Just because a girl may be stripping down, it doesn’t mean she’s packed? “Look up?” It also triggered my memories about other anime ending sequences with a similar motif. Nudity is a common thing, so I probably won’t be surprised if others were expecting “more” from Lavi. Or less.

2. The in-show characterization of Lavi. It seems to be the centerpiece here. She doesn’t get the majority of screen time, lines, or attention from the narrative. She is centerpiece only when there’s action, and oddly enough, when it comes to Rock. Episode 3 dove into a bit of her backstory, but it wasn’t much you wouldn’t expect. I had a hard time all this time, however, taking my mind off of what’s front and center–her ridiculous outfit.

Lavi's Portable Rig
Is that how she holds up her short shorts? QED!

No, really, adding music the same way as Miyamoto Rebecca would, except in a different context–that’s just my kind of fanservice. But still, fanservice? Undeniable sex appeal was something else that’s loaded like Levi’s tools akimbo. She’s a girl with many guns, yes.

3. Which brings us to the OP. It’s to tease. It’s to please. It’s to take your bank account number and make the number it represent decrease. But she’s not like that at all in the show. A laid-back mercenary who knows what she’s good at and knows that’s a big part of what she does. She’s like just another guy. Actually, she’s like the archtypical annoying guy in the team.

Beating around the bush, ultimately, is the question of what exactly is the “babes with gun” archtype? Levi is too masculine to pass for Rally Vincent. Definitely not a Faye, as I presume (but I can see how that could happen). I guess what’s masculine about Rally is true for Levi, but what’s masculine for Levi isn’t what’s true about Rally, who’s actuall a rather through-and-through 80s archtype. The 90s wasn’t too kind to the masculine anime babe all in all. Perhaps we still have Priss, but she’s not really all that masculine IMO… more like Madoka.

I guess what bothers me in the end about Lavi is still just how she can straddle the line; having the appeal, be “dumb” enough to pass for another guy yet still have some of that cuteness showing. Should it even be like that? It’s inconsistent, no? Looking at probably a more well-rounded anime character like The Major, Levi just seems odd.

Odd enough to blog about, fo sure.

New Season Checklist 3

And 40 days after the flood of new anime had stopped, The Bad Guy opened a window and let loose a pair of CRV7 70mm rockets.
Black Lagoon 1

I think the winners, barring the remaining contestants, are clear.

Notice how each of those are spearheaded by a different significant production studio. Deen, for example, has their lovely Simoun flying machines complete with sound effects akin of Vader’s Custom TIE. It’s a war out there. Well, with exception of Bones and Madhouse, who also manages to hit really, really hard with Juuousei, the Lord-of-the-Flies tale of survival and becoming something more; and Black Lagoon, probably my #1 selection for the masses this season. Sucks to be Gonzo right now, though…wait a few months? This season, it seems, the studios have taken cues from 1-2 years ago and suddenly every one of them produced shows that started at around the same time, all very appealing.

And they fight like as if it’s a war–in the flea market of our minds. Some of the arsenals include kiss. Lots of kisses–girl-girl, girl-boy, boy-girl, boy-boy (well, we tried to avoid this one). Lots of blood, even more action (some involving kissing); comedy shoujo-style, comedy-no-style, no-comedy. No romance, lots of romance, mostly in-between. Low blows. Guns; lots of guns. Hot moms, lots of sisters; bunny girls? CG, fake CG, CG-looking-like-it’s-not, REALLY BAD CG. Snail-pace, non-linear storytelling, action-packed. And of course, fanservice; the shoujo/josei crowd is still at the lead of that (so much sex in Nana, so little time), of course, closely followed by the snuffy Tokko (funded by Manga Entertainment???). Can maid boys beat out magical girls from the 90s? Only if you’re a dream user…

The casualties are lost in the mindshare bloodbath, deemed to wander in the obscurity known as “faint recollections” when one browses through a list of anime at their favorite torrent site or wallpaper listing. Who the hell cares if your close friends are gargoyles or a badass tank AI?

It’s fierce, and as well it should be. That said I am not holding my breath; the second half of this year has some of the more exciting titles coming out. UFOTable’s newest project and more KyoAni in the form of Kanon are just some rememberable teasers waiting to happen.