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Review: Black Lagoon Roberta's Blood Trail

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Sweet, sweet vengeance.

Black Lagoon remains one of my guiltiest pleasures. The series shares so much in common with v-cinema, from its harsh take on the human condition, to its unapologetic depictions of violence, and buried beneath, stories worth telling -- twisted, though they may be. It's almost as if Takeshi Mikke and John Woo had a love-child.

To that end, I've spent the better part of three years anxiously awaiting the domestic release of Roberta's Blood Trail. When FUNimation announced their license at Anime Expo 2010, nobody really expected to have to wait so long for just five episodes, but wait I did, and patiently at that. Was it worth it? Find out after the jump.

 

Black Lagoon: Roberta's Blood Trail OVA (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Studio: Madhouse
Licensed by: FUNimation
Release Date: 8/06/2013
MSRP: $39.98 [Buy]

Roberta's Blood Trail picks up at the end of season two and centers around -- you guessed it --Roberta, who after escaping a life of war, takes up service as a maid for the Lovelace family, a prominent family in Venezuela. The arc begins with a political assassination, which claims the life of her master, triggering Roberta's desire for retribution against the agents she holds responsible.

Following the assassination, she makes way to Roanapur, setting the stage for events to come. Once there she begins a bloody trail of torture and revenge, one which quickly escalates, threatening to engulf the entire city. In an attempt to save her from herself, a young boy named Garcia, the heir to the Lovelace family and her only charge, follows Roberta to Roanapur, where he attempts to hire Rock to assist in stopping Roberta's lust for vengeance.

In terms of what to expect, the series remains incredibly violent, with plenty of gun-play to around. The script is often hilarious, albeit vulgar and well-deserving of its mature rating. There's also plenty of fan service and a dash of nudity sprinkled throughout, usually coinciding with a steamy shower scene. Like the previous seasons, you can expect plenty of suggestive dialog and references to drugs, prostitution and pretty much everything else you could imagine taking place in such a den of inequity.

One of the more common themes of the show has been the constantly-shifting alliances among the various criminal organizations and assassins who inhabit the cesspool known as Roanapur. True to form, the miniseries continues this dynamic, allowing for some interesting pairings. For example, fan favorites such as the psychotic Sawyer, and knife-toting Shenhua find themselves fighting along side members of the Lagoon company.

This time around, they also spend a little more time developing characters like Mister Chang, who despite being a key player, has always remained sort of insular to the series. We're treated to a fair amount of growth between Rock and Revy, but not so much as far as Duke and Benny are concerned -- this is likely due to being relegated to the background for most of the arc. A shame considering they're part of the main cast, but as they're not exactly the most popular characters, I imagine most fans won't mind.

Roberta herself comes off as slightly unhinged, which I suppose is par for the course as far as the series is concerned. I often found her penchant for needless exposition irritating, while her interactions with targets -- I hesitate to call any of them victims -- were far more entertaining in a twisted sort of way. You'll come understand more about her as the series progresses and by the end, you may find it easier to sympathize with her methods and actions, no matter how reprehensible they may seem.

In regards to presentation, the animation is standard fare for a Madhouse series produced back in 2010, and looks great on both DVD and Blu-ray, although the high definition visuals are noticeably crisper. The English dub comes with a lovely 5.1 surround mix but the original Japanese audio is only available in 2.0 stereo. With the Blu-ray, there are no separate options for subtitles, which may seem confusing at first. Rather, the English subtitles automatically display when the Japanese audio is selected. This may prove inconvenient for some, but I imagine this has more to do with Japan wanting to discourage importation by Japanese consumers -- a serious matter as far as they're concerned.

Extras include a text-less version of the new closing theme, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," the U.S. trailer for Black Lagoon: Roberta's Blood Trail, as well as a few trailers for other FUNimation. I've grown accustomed to expecting less, so there's really no surprises in that department.

Roberta's Blood Trail is an excellent addition to the series. A brutal, yet exhilarating ride from beginning to end that'll leave you craving more. Fans have spent a long time waiting for the retail release, but it's been well worth it. This OVA is definitely not for the faint of heart, and despite the copious amounts of bloodshed, there is just enough depth to keep you hooked throughout.

8.5 – Great. A fine example of its genre that everyone should see, regardless of their interest. 


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Black Lagoon: Roberta's Blood Trail reviewed by Tim Sheehy

8.5

GREAT

Impressive effort with a few noticeable problems holding it back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.
How we score:  The Japanator reviews guide

 
 
 

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Tim Sheehy
Tim SheehyContributor   gamer profile

Tim is the former Editor-in-Chief of Japanator, a content media specialist by day, and pro-blogger by night. His posts can be found scattered throughout the Modern Method network. Also, he writes... more + disclosures


 



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