Review: Black Lagoon – Roberta’s Blood Trail

The Black Lagoon TV series was a really weird show for several reasons. It took images of some of the most seedy elements of modern society and mashed them together to create perhaps the most lawless and dangerous place on the planet. You could probably film a serious crime movie here. At the same time, Black Lagoon was pretty over the top and wacky setting where you can take down a helicopter in a boat by launching into the air and firing a torpedo at it. And that’s not even forgetting about the killer maid, either.

So imagine my surprise when Roberta’s Blood Trail, the next Black Lagoon release, placed the wacky killer maid in an entirely humorless plot. The best analogy I can think of is Black Lagoon is to Full Metal Panic as Roberta’s Blood Trail is to The Second Raid. Just like in The Second Raid, Roberta’s Blood Trail sacrifices humor for a more coherent and consistent product.

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A review copy was provided by FUNimation Entertainment.

Roberta’s Blood Trail follows the titular Roberta as she tracks down a US intelligence unit responsible for the assassination of her master to the corrupt city of Roanapur. Her master’s son and her colleague wish to bring her back home, while those in power in the city wish her out by any means necessary. The Black Lagoon company is once again called upon to resolve the mess brewing in Roanapur.

While Black Lagoon may have been pretty violent and crude in the past, Roberta’s Blood Trail goes further with a much more brutal and cynical attitude. The story is full of violence and scathing criticism of various organizations. The plot kicks off with US meddling in Colombian politics, and what follows is a whirling rampage of revenge through Roanapur.

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The plot is a little straightforward, but Roberta’s Blood Trail is more important for its character development instead. The OVA is vital for characterizing Roberta more than it was before. We learn about her possible upbringing through her maid colleague Fabiola Iglesias, and meet her comrades from her FARC days. We see how badly a life of violence can haunt one who has sworn that life away.

At the same time, Roberta’s Blood Trail reinforces some of the morals and goodness in Roberta. Though she is a violent person, you can see that she often tries not to be, and she clearly wants to protect her young master, even if her methods are flawed. Roberta is quite an interesting look at someone who tries to do the right thing but is weighed down heavily by their past, and Roberta’s Blood Trail does a great job of characterizing such an individual.

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Rock also gets a significant amount of focus. When Black Lagoon first started, Rock was expectedly unaccustomed to the criminal underworld, but very clearly hardened after the events of the Second Barrage, leading to a more cynical attitude all throughout the OVA, where he tries to manipulate groups of people to produce a more desirable outcome. Rock may not be the star of Roberta’s Blood Trail, but his development (or more accurately his descent) as an anti-hero continues full speed ahead here.

Roberta’s Blood Trail also shows a glimpse into what Revy went through when she was younger, and how she became the person she is today. It’s additionally interesting to see how Revy treats Rock now, and how her feelings toward Rock’s new cynical attitude parallel life in Roanapur. It’s a wonderful reversal to see her perform commentary this time, rather than hearing things from Rock. Unfortunately though, the rest of Black Lagoon don’t appear much.

The action in Roberta’s Blood Trail is what you’d expect for Black Lagoon: violent, bloody, and entertaining. With the change in formats comes an increase in production values, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the fights. Everything is very intense, almost disturbingly so. While the fights are still a bit insane, the outcomes become more and more realistic, as the fights take their toll on Roberta.

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The voice acting is great in both Japanese and English. I’m honestly more partial to the English voice acting, as that’s how I watched the original series, but you can’t go wrong with either of the two. Both are very strong performances, especially for Roberta and Rock. Her voice acting is quite convincing, especially when you contrast her performance in the OVA with her performance in the TV series. The opening theme is just a remix of the series’ opening theme, but using “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” as the ending theme is really fitting.

Overall, Roberta’s Blood Trail is a very exciting continuation of the original series. It’s a lot more serious and intense than Black Lagoon, but it’s very exciting to watch. The intertwining plots, characterizations, developments, and the visceral action create an exciting follow up to an already compelling series. If you want to see a pretty well written and well animated action OVA, this is it.

Pros:

–Characters are very well written and developed for this OVA.

–Animation is top notch with brutally realistic and entertaining fights.

–Voice acting sounds natural in either language.

Cons:

–The plot is pretty straightforward.

–Other important characters didn’t show up much.

Rating: 4.5/5

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