The first season of Black Lagoon was well-received, among Japanese and Western anime fans alike, for its fresh approach to the action anime genre. Impartial attitudes towards violence and criminal conduct are fairly common in anime, but Black Lagoon took this concept to a whole new level.
The second season of the BL, The Second Barrage, continues the story of the members of the Lagoon Company, a crew of pirates based in Roanapur, Thailand, who work the Southeast Asian seas, taking any job from any client, no matter what it might entail. The crew is led by Dutch, a shrewd businessman who looks out for his employees. Heading up his intelligence is Benny, a fugitive hacker and communications expert. Also aboard is Revy, a sexy but incredibly violent gunslinging woman who lives for two things only: booze and bloodshed. And last but not least, is their newest member, Rock, a former Japanese businessman who ended up joining their crew by chance more than anything else in the first season.
In any other anime, you’d expect Rock, the good guy, to slowly but surely convince his team-mates to change their wicked ways to some extent – but not in Black Lagoon. The Lagoon Company plays by the rules: they don’t ask questions, they don’t step on any toes if they can avoid it, and they always finish the job, no matter how dirty it is. Whether they’re transporting drugs, weapons, or even slaves, it doesn’t matter to them – as far as they’re concerned, they’re just a delivery company. Naturally, this doesn’t go down too well with Rock, who sometimes feels guilty and sympathetic towards the innocent people caught up in this mess – and that’s important, because it’s Rock’s job to remind us of how an ordinary person should view all of these atrocious acts. Without him, it would be just another throwaway violent anime, and we’ve got too many of those already.
If anything, the subject matter is even darker and more abrasive in the Second Barrage than it was in the first season. The first two episodes alone pose a very uncomfortable question, and the writers have seemingly gone out of their way to up the number of interesting conflicts in the series to the point where we aren’t even sure if Rock will be able to simply stand by and watch any more. It’s this quality which makes Black Lagoon such a success, and sets it apart from other unnecessarily violent anime with little real-world perspective on the violence.
Apart from that, it’s the usual Black Lagoon fare. The animation is pretty standard as far as anime goes these days. The art direction is solid, and both the Japanese and English voice casts are excellent. I’m partial to the English one myself, because the language is appropriately filthy and some of their lines are pee-your-pants funny. The action is fast paced and engaging, with a good balance of the typical anime “strategy-talk” and actual action.
Often, a second season is what ultimately makes or breaks an anime franchise, and in Black Lagoon’s case, after seeing the second season, all I can say is bring on the third.