Black Lagoon – 8 – Best.maid.ever

I write this post in lieu of discovering that Black Lagoon, surely the best anime airing in Japan at the moment, will only last a measly 12 episodes, and although I have heard rumblings that it should be continued in OVA form (no doubt adapting as yet unwritten manga chapters), 12 damn episodes just isn’t enough for a series as outright fun and exciting as Black Lagoon.
Now with that emotional outburst cleared from my system, it is with a reluctant joy that I can say that episode 8 is possibly the best yet. In terms of sheer climatic build up, the last 12 minutes were close to perfection. We’ve already had the absurdity of nuns with guns, so it seems worryingly natural that the newest character would be a military-trained South American house maid. It’s the way this character is introduced; the music is ripped straight from The Godfather as this cute-looking killer wanders from person to person, innocently inquiring about where to find the local Columbian mafia. Her young master narrates her journey, slowly building the powerful aura surrounding her and then you have the sunglasses, such a fucking cool look.
All this and we’ve yet to even see her in action. Just as she shoots her umbrella, the ending theme seeps in and that’s it. More next week. It’s one big tease, but damn, it’s really something.


Black Lagoon – 7 – Personality clash

The ticking time bomb of Revy’s personality finally explodes in the face of Rock, though gratefully he also snaps back and unfurls a passionate rant all of his own. It’s easy to imagine Rock being your typical male doormat, but here he stands up for himself and proves he too has an unbreakable steely quality beneath his tentative nature.
Revy, who often uses Rock’s middle-class background as a reason to insult him, is firmly put in her place and suddenly they have a new-found respect for one another. Rock has proven to Revy that he is willing to risk it all for the Lagoon, even if it took a black-eye and a gun to the head.
Amidst all this, there is treasure chest of absurd humour and quirky gimmicks to found in a wily mob of arms-dealing, drugs-smuggling nuns; all headed up by a sweet old lady with a specific taste for quality tea. I love how Black Lagoon is set in such a dead-pan and colourful paradise for unconventional criminals of all shapes, scars and sizes!


Black Lagoon – 5 to 6 – Nonchalant massacre of Neo-Nazis

It’s clear by now that Black Lagoon will be Rock and Revy’s show; the action scenes in these episodes are as expected absolutely kick ass, though the majority of what Black Lagoon is driving at is Revy’s humanity (or lack there of). Having slaughtered dozens of Neo-Nazi bastards, she nonchalantly explains to Dutch that she can no longer work with Rock.
Revy’s super human killing instinct is borne from an absolute disdain for life (including her own); she can kill so many people because to her they are nothing. However since Rock turned up and started questioning her brutal ways, Revy has started doubting herself too, and it’s that split second of hesitation that can cost her life. Assassins can’t afford to have morals.
On a totally superficial level, it was great to see Dutch kicking some Nazi ass too; he is the cold, calculated hit man to Revy’s indiscriminate kill-everything-that-moves motto of death. The inevitable Nazi showdown was edgy in how it soundlessly depicted Revy just walking from room to room, shooting men by the dozen. There is such an exhilarating discard for life during these moments that you can’t help but love it.


Angel Cop – Repulsive, Uncomfortable, Anti-Semitic

Growing up as an impressionable teenager in the mid-90s meant that my first taste of anime came through Manga Entertainment’s infamous VHS releases; sex, violence and science fiction were the orders of the day and as cheap and nasty as this kind of anime often was, I must admit I still think back on that time of my life quite fondly.

Angel Cop is the epitome of everything Manga (at least in the UK) used to stand for; it’s sinister, bereft of moral fibre and overflowing with such uncompromising violence. And when I say violence, I’m not talking about your sweet Elfen Lied rag dolls. Here is a morbid attention to detail which often forces some quite repulsive and uncomfortable scenes of murder and mayhem. I can best describe it is truly visceral gore. The titular lead character is Angel; a harder, nastier version of Matoko Kunsagi with a hatred for terrorists so deep that she is willing to kill a young kid if it means taking down her unenviable target.

Reading up on Angel Cop shows that it caused quite the controversy when first released in the West due to (according to Anime News Network) “… a rather blatant anti-Semitic slant, however both the dub and the subtitles were altered to a certain degree to cover this”. I am yet to see anything approaching racism in these first couple of episodes, though such an offensive subtext would hardly surprise me given the director is Ichiro Itano, who has previously worked with such questionable content in Violence Jack and to a lesser extent, Gantz.

Based on these opening episodes, I must admit that I am quite enjoying my look back at Angel Cop. Nostalgia often has a way of making things seem better than they actually are (imagine my disappointment when I realized Transformers: The Movie actually wasn’t the greatest film of all time, for shame) but this is still holding up today, despite being produced as an OVA series way back in 1989. The action is fierce and shocking and the visuals are reassuringly striking, combining those wonderful (read: ugly, Brian May-esque) hair cuts from the 80s with an exciting science fiction plot involving special government agents fighting psychically-powered vigilantes and pumped up cyborgs. What more could an action junkie want?


Black Lagoon – 4 – Neo Nazis

The beauty of Black Lagoon is that it knows exactly what it is; pure action, and then forcing the volume way past maximum. If last time flying submarines weren’t enough for you, how do Neo-Nazi’s sound?
The Black Lagoon is after a precious Nazi painting (commissioned by none other than the Fuhrer himself, Hitler) that has been sleeping with the fishes for a good 50 years, since the collapse of World War 2. It’s an easy 50k for Dutch and his crew until a regiment of hard ass Neo-Nazi’s crash the party and decide they want the painting too.
Of course, it’s unfair for me to label Black Lagoon as all action, because while the gunplay surely plays a pivotal role in this show, the characterization and setting is equally as strong. In just 12 minutes, I found myself carefully invested in a doomed Nazi submarine captain and feeling his subordinates’ claustrophobic horror when told they have but 2 hours left to live.
The kid within me just wants to go giddy at the flashy, powerful style of Black Lagoon, but its true strength lies within a compelling ability to weave personal stories within the context of such sheer explosive madness.


Tokko – 3 – When Phantoms from Hades attack!

The mysteries behind Tokko are slowly starting to unravel amidst yet more greasy siscon innuendo and extreme blood letting. As blunt as Tokko often is, it makes a refreshing change to watch such a traditional horror show for once. It is said that the monsters (or as they will now be known; phantoms) have “literally crawled up from Hades” and are attracted to their victims by the strong scent of survivors (people who, including Ranmaru, have survived previous phantom attacks).
Every episode is bound to have its moment of extreme violence and here, it happens right at the end when a group of doctors are attacked by a heaving swarm of screeching worm-like parasites- the end result of which being that they are all transformed into mindless, rowdy zombies. Cue samurai swords, exploding eye balls and the rest; if nothing else, Tokko is good for a few exploding eye balls.
It’s funny how after all this happens, the characters can still switch back into their playboy modes and head out on the lash; episode 3 ends with Ranmaru and his sister taking part in an utterly horrific-looking group date, a date eventually crashed by the hilariously thick-witted, obviously perverted TOKKI boss, no doubt on his way back from the local yakuza meet.


Black Lagoon – 1 through 3 – Adrenaline Rush

It took me a few weeks to catch onto Black Lagoon, but now I’m fully convinced of its (loud) qualities. I had avoided it up until this weekend because the reviews I’d read gave the impression that it was another typical girls with guns anime. I was wrong and it’s much more than that. I’m sorry for doubting you, Madhouse.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though- Black Lagoon is a purely action driven series, but (like Gungrave) rather than simply wallowing in style, the story sprinkles enough compelling character development to really capture the moment. The star of the show is Levi- an absolutely badass mercenary capable of killing her enemies by the dozen. So far, she has shown very little in the way of emotion- preferring instead to swear, get drunk and basically kill anything that moves. Her foil (and opposite lead) is Rock- a Japanese “salaryman” whisked away from the boring world of corporate business. He’s still searching for meaning in his life and opts to become a sailor of the Black Lagoon rather than go back to his boring old life of monotony. Rock is living the epitome of every salaryman’s dream.
The rest of the Lagoon crew are just as likable- particularly captain Dutch, who defines macho cool in very 1980s Schwarzenegger way.
It’s notable just how immoral the story has been up until now. Given this is about modern day ‘pirates’, the action is not so much as case as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, rather how much Dutch and crew will be paid – there is no respect for human life. The characters are criminals, but remain sympathetic because of their honourable warrior-code and a strong sense of comradery and friendship.
The animation is very physical and kinetic; when combat kicks off, there is a real bite to every bullet, every punch and every torpedo. It’s consistently exciting because the presentation maintains a palpable sense of danger where anything and everything is a possible weapon.


Tokko – 2 – Guns forever

In many ways, TOKKO is the worst anime series I’ve seen for a while now; the animation (if we can call it that) is cheap and tacky and the characters are about as cookie cutter as they come, but it’s violent, has demons and pulls no punches when the time is nigh to combine the slicing quality of samurai swords with human limbs.
This is a show for the anime fans who grew up with the ultra violent OVAs of the 1980s and early 90s; we’re talking Genocyber, AD Police and Angel Cop here. The story is basically “kid’s parents are killed by monsters, so kid wants revenge”- you don’t need any more information than that, throw in some fleeting sexual innuendo and that’s about got TOKKO covered.
This episode was simply more of the same; a police officer can’t take down a bunch of zombies with his pistol so comes back at them with a military issue anti-tank machine gun. You’ll either love that idea or not and it pretty much sums up why I’m watching TOKKO. This is cheap, so-bad-it’s-funny horror.


Tokko – 1 – Horror, gore and siscon (in that order, repeat)

I’m a horror fan, have been all my life and aside from the claret soaked GANTZ, I’ve seen nothing lately that’s been up to quenching my thirst for such sheer bloody antics. That is until I saw the first episode of TOKKO.
Before launching into horror fan hyperbole, I’ll state right now that TOKKO isn’t and won’t become a masterpiece. It’s trashy, ugly, has poor production values and does nothing new with it’s characters, that said- if you’re in touch with the “goretastic” side of your personality, you should check this out.
So let’s run through my horror fan check list: severed heads, messy piles of dismembered body parts, weird parasites (connected to humans) with disturbingly high and distorted voices, zombies, samurai swords and monsters (from hell). The story is basically about a rookie (Ranmaru Shindou) who has just joined his city’s anti-terrorist police force to hunt down the violent butcher of his family. Lucky for him, Ranmaru ‘s first job just happens to involve a wall splattered with body parts and a walking army of the undead.
If you’ve read this far, you should know whether or not TOKKO is for you. It’s violent, jokes about incest and involves hot young men and women jumping around with swords, slashing at puny monsters. The story is moving at a good pace and leaves little to the imagination; there’s enough blunt sexual innuendo and cheesy jokes to fill the time between all blood letting.
TOKKO won’t be for everyone, but it’s gory horror just the way I like it.