Three years. That’s how long it’s been since Roberta’s Blood Trail came out in Japan. That’s a long time to wait just for a new audio track! But was it worth it? Let’s find out.
Yes, Roberta’s Blood Trail, the continuation of one of my favourite animes of all time, Black Lagoon (you can read my previous rant on why you should be watching Black Lagoon right here). And what a continuation it is!
Psychotic Terminator maid Roberta’s employer, Diego Lovelace, is killed by American soldiers during a political assassination. Of course, Roberta being Roberta – and this storyline being 5 episodes long – things quickly spiral out of control as Roberta launches into a violent revenge mission, cutting a bloody swath through everything and everyone in her path.
The Lagoon Company, meanwhile, find themselves contracted by Garcia Lovelace (and a great new character, Fabiola, another maid) to find Roberta and bring her home, and the plot progresses from there, with all our favourite characters joining the fun – the Russians, the Triads, and even the survivors of the Greenback Jane storyline all return to raise hell and look good doing it.
All the voice actors from the original English dub of Black Lagoon return to reprise their characters (a difficult task to pull off, so I hear) and outdo even themselves – they slip right back into character and seem to have ironed out all the imperfections they may have had the first time around. I’d like to draw special attention to Tabitha St Germain (Roberta), Shannon Chan-Kent (Fabiola), and Cathy Weseluck, who all act well outside their usual roles.
Now, I said “fun” earlier. The thing is, while Roberta’s Blood Trail does contain the over-the-top action and grindhouse characteristics of the preceding episodes of Black Lagoon, there is a marked shift in tone throughout. Black Lagoon has always tackled its violence in a sombre way, musing on the effects of a violent past and how broken individuals stay broken, but in Blood Trail, the tale becomes very clear. Violence solves nothing, and Roanapur corrupts. It’s dirty, it’s loud, and its depressing.
Perhaps reflecting the change of tone, almost all of Blood Trail takes place at night. The gorgeous vistas and beautiful blue oceans are forcibly muted to fit with the increasingly horrendous violence. Black Lagoon was always a violent show, but this plotline, fuelled by pure hatred and vengeance, talks things to another level. Digits are amputated, limbs severed, and heads graphically pulverized in almost sickening detail. We even get the briefest of flashes to Revy’s past, and believe me, that brief glimpse is more than enough.
More than that, everyone just looks so sad and tired all the time.
It’s easy to see, even if it is something we must keep reminding ourselves of – despite their acerbic wit and roughish charm, the denizens of Roanapur are vile people, bottom dwellers of a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Even Rock, the one person you could rely on to tether what little goodness was left in the crew, is slowly but surely drifting into the darkness, becoming a master manipulator and gambling with peoples’ lives as a matter of course.
Roberta herself? Far beyond even simple insanity. She’s a mad hound with a bullet in her side and a bad case of rabies. Psychotic though she may be, she does say it best herself:
“I won’t dignify this by calling it revenge. This is about dogs tearing at each other.”
So, we’ve established the bottom line that this is a series about pretty awful people doing pretty awful things to other pretty awful people. So why should you watch it? Yes, that’s right – this is a recommendation.
To best sum it up, I point to Black Lagoon’s theme song, Mell’s Red Fraction (which you can listen to at the top of this article, though it is a remixed version). Though it’s often criticized for being full of nonsensical poorly translated lyrics, one section has always stuck out in my mind as summarizing the show beautifully. While the rest of the song is fairly heavy distorted heavy metal, this part comes out of nowhere – with crystal clear lyrics and synthy backing music:
“Get down on your knees
Get a good head on your shoulders
It’s for you guys
Go to the end of the earth
Do what you think
Give it with dedication
I’ll put out your misery
You made a mess
For christ sake, this rotten world
Shit out of luck
Go with my vision
Light up the fire
Right on the power
Weapon, I have it all”
You’re goddamn right. Bang.
A violent typhoon of guns and girls, Black Lagoon manages to maintain everything that made the series great in the first place and then turn it up to eleven. Even at only 5 episodes in length, Roberta’s Blood Trail takes the series to a darker place than ever before, and works spectacularly because of it due to its harsher emotional core.