BLACK LAGOON: Roberta’s Blood Trail – 01
After a nearly four year hiatus, we get the glorious return of Black Lagoon with this OVA series, titled “Roberta’s Blood Trail”. Even though I say it’s an OVA, this is in fact the third season of the series, which is indicated further by the episode itself being counted as #25 of the anime. With the lack of material from the manga to base a complete season off of, MADHOUSE decided to use the recently completed “El Baile se La Muerte” arc, compile it into a 5 episode long OVA, and label it as the third season of the anime. Obviously, taking this approach is a bit controversial. On one hand, we can’t enjoy the nail biting, stomach churning story of Black Lagoon on a weekly basis, but on the other hand the budget obviously prospers from this format, and it shows in the action sequences and lighting effects. Compared to the first two seasons, this OVA is like night and day as far as art and animation are concerned. Taking into account the quality benefits that the OVA format awards to anime, I don’t mind waiting a month between episodes if I get to enjoy this type of quality consistently this season. Speaking of that, it’s great to see our favorite characters like Rock (Namikawa Daisuke) and Revy (Toyoguchi Megumi) sporting 2010 quality, which is only augmented by the glorious Blu-ray HD the episodes are released in.
It seems fitting that the third season focus on Roberta (Tomizawa Michie) and her Young Master, Garcia Lovelace (Ikura Kazue), as we haven’t seen the pair since episode 10 and yet the battle maid probably left one of the biggest impressions on the fanbase in the series. Certainly on Revy at least, considering the beating she gave her is pretty hard to forget, I’d imagine. This time around, it appears Roberta’s become even more insane after watching Garcia’s father and her employer/protector, Diego Jose San Fernando Lovelace (yes, that’s his name), be blown up right in front of her. This event causes her to take up her old “Bloodhound” persona again and go on a hunt to find her benefactor’s killers. If nothing else, she proves very successful in this endeavor, tracking down, maiming, and torturing her pray in order to fulfill her lust for vengeance. I definitely got a chill down my spine watching Roberta twist her face into that shit eating grin that you would expect to see out of a psychopath, and yet I also found it strangely sexy. To be honest, I wouldn’t mind being the poor bastard chained to a boiling pot if it meant being raped by THAT. I mean, who could honestly resist that? Anyway, her streak of terror doesn’t appear to be ending soon, with her entering Bao’s (Saitou Shirou) now totaled bar and demanding a location where she can purchase all the tools necessary for war. Yes, my first thoughts were also “Holy shit”. I can’t begin to fathom exactly what kind of horror Roberta is planning to bring down onto Roanapur’s unsuspecting villains, but whatever it is it’s guaranteed to bring hell with it.
Over on Lagoon Company’s side, Rock is still trying to get over the unfortunate fate of Washimine Yukio, which he was a direct witness of. It’s nice to see they pick up right where season 2 left off, despite it being aired almost four years ago. It’s unrealistic to think Rock could just get over something like that easily, and it’s obvious the ordeal scarred him significantly. Of course, life goes on in Roanapur and there is work to be done for Lagoon Company, and as long as there is money to be had personal conflicts come second. Although, just as quick as life moves, it ends in this city of thugs and warlords. As Rock and Revy arrive at Bao’s bar and begin to exchange information with Dago, we’re introduced to yet another battle maid (this time of the loli persuasion) in the form of Fabiola Iglesias (Yukino Satsuki). This one’s definitely a bad bitch, kicking thugs in the nuts with hidden shoe knives (cue every man’s reaction) and laying waste yet again to Bao’s beloved bar. Her action sequence was a great showcase of the improved budget and quality in this third season, with the movements being more fluid, the guns being far more detailed, and even the gunfire looking that much more realistic. I got goosebumps watching that little girl take on an army of men by herself and then blow the bar and a mini van sky high with a concealed rocket luncher. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say she’s even better than Roberta. Of course, all that fire power can’t save her from looking a child in the face of the Chang (Morikawa Toshiyuki) (a.k.a. Neo). As you would expect, Fabiola is one of the Lovelaces’ maids and was sent to track down Lagoon Company to request their assistance in tracking down Roberta. In particular, they want the kind-hearted Rock’s help, who they believe will offer it without requiring money be paid for services. It’s quite obvious Rock will accept their plea, but whether or not he can actually save anyone remains to be seen, as he hasn’t been exactly good at that since arriving in Roanapur.
All in all, it’s just good to see Black Lagoon back after four years and looking better than ever. I sorely missed the gun fights and raunchy atmosphere that no other anime seemed to be able to mimic. This story is most certainly not your usual light hearted anime with unbelievably uplifting outcomes and unrealistically optimistic and idealistic characters. This story is built off of the idea that all humans are scum on the inside and can only go deeper into the gutter once they’ve stepped in it; a psychological analysis of what makes “villains” tick through the eyes of a “normal” person looking in from the “twilight”. No doubt this season will be a sobering experience just like past seasons of Lagoon; I don’t expect to come out feeling good about the world or the possibilities of the future after watching this, but I’m sticking with it until the end. Will you?