Kirin Mini-Review: Black Lagoon

A stylish, violent, action-packed show about the baddest pirates of the modern-day south China sea. It charges straight into John Woo -style gun battles at pretty much every opportunity, but manages to keep from being a simple flashy blood-fest which would get old fast by having characters you actually care about.

The setup involves a Japanese salaryman abandoned by his company for dead during an espionage-laden business deal in the south seas. He falls in with the mercenary company Black Lagoon: a captain, a hacker, a gunslinger girl and their high-powered torpedo boat.

Then there's the secondary characters, who the writers are clearly just having way too much fun with. A nun from the Church of Violence. A psycho killer maid who turns out to be an ex-guerrilla from the narcotics wars of South America. A Chinese lade who's an expert knife thrower and speaks in cheerfully mangled pidgin-Japanese with the vocabulary of a drunk sailor. And I haven't even gotten to the crime bosses who run the kill-or-be-killed city of Roanapur: Balalaika, the ex-Soviet Commando with her own private army of elite Russian troops, and the blatant Chow Yun-Fat homage who runs the Chinese Triad.

The show does occasionally delve into some pretty grim and disturbing stuff. But give it a few episodes and it's back to much more exuberant life-threatening violence. The animation is great for a TV show, and the writing is excellent. There's not a whole lot of over-arching plot (most individual "stories" run from 1-3 episodes and are more or less self-contained), but there is some gradual character growth, and always enough variety to keep things interesting. Thumbs up!