Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Black Lagoon: Roberta's Blood Trail - Episode 4

If it wasn't already entirely obvious, episode three of Roberta's Blood Trail proved absolutely that this Black Lagoon OVA's titular character had completely lost the plot - not that this fact has dulled her combat skills one iota.

However, her insanity does mean that she loses sight of Garcia as this fourth episode opens, with the American forces saving him from Roberta's clutches and taking him to safety without realising his true identity.  In the meantime, Revy's ragtag forces catch up with Roberta but prove completely ineffectual against her wrath, with even the appearance of Fabiola unable to snap Roberta back to something approaching normality.

As the US forces realise the identity of the child they've rescued and with other machinations involving Balalaika's own forces swirling around the town, it appears that all of this is playing perfectly into Rock's hands and his own plans - plans that he shifts forward further by applying his knowledge and assumptions against Mr. Chang, and in turn hiring out his own Lagoon company crew mates as the transport vessel of choice for the US forces.  Cue the convergence of Balalaika's forces, those US troops and Roberta in what appears to be her last stand in a hail of missile and gunfire - except, of course, this rabid killer is made of sterner stuff, and the Lagoon Company's subsequent sailing trip looks set to be anything but a simple task.

If episode three was the final culmination of all that build up from the first two instalments into an orgy of gun-fuelled action, then episode four took a little of that violent magic but largely used it to punctuate the more intricate levels of the story - namely Rock's plans as he twists and manipulates the forces scattered around him in a surprisingly accurate and shockingly manipulative manner.  While this is fascinating in its own right, it also allows us to delve in more detail into some of the show's characters, with Balalaika in particular given some focus as parts of her history float to the surface while Revy's relationship with Rock gets a pretty thorough (and interesting) psychological examination by Fabiola.

Having applauded the previous instalment of Roberta's Blood Trail for doing what the Black Lagoon franchise does best in purely visceral terms, this episode is perhaps better served as evidence that the series is about far more than just blood and guns - its characters have a tangible, measurable depth to them, and when those depths are plumbed and explored it can create just as enjoyable and entertaining an outing as when it defers to just blowing stuff up.  I'm happy to admit that I primarily watch this series for the guns and explosions (and it does it all so well), but it would be unfair to assume that its story is dumb and vacuous on account of that, and this particular episode is an ample reminder that Black Lagoon knows how to mix the two approaches to maximum effect.

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