Manga Review: Black Lagoon Volume One

Black Lagoon Volume One introduces and establishes a team of pirate mercenaries known as the Lagoon Company that smuggles goods in and around the seas of Southeast Asia in the early to mid-1990’s.

Black Lagoon Volume One
Written by: Rei Hiroe
Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: August 12, 2008

Volume One opens with a “Chapter 0,” which introduces the Lagoon Company to the reader, as well as a character named Rokuro “Rock” Okajima. “Chapter 0” is the story of how Rokuro, a Japanese salaryman, first became mixed up with the Lagoon Company and how he ultimately became a member of the group. This is by far the longest chapter in Volume One, but it needed to be since it introduces and lays down the groundwork for the various elements of the series.

Once the volume gets going, Rokuro seems to be a primary focus for most of the remaining chapters. This makes sense, since he’s the new rookie. And by focusing on him and letting the reader see the story primarily through his eyes, this allows the reader to learn about various aspects of the Lagoon Company and their assignments in the same way that the rookie member does.

In addition to Rokuro, the Lagoon Company has a Chinese-American female fighter who is known as Revy, an African-American leader who goes by Dutch, and a university dropout from Florida named Benny who serves as a mechanic, computer specialist, and researcher. This group of characters may come from different backgrounds and may not always see eye-to-eye, but they somehow make everything work out.

After Rokuro joins the company, the group finds themselves being double-crossed by Mr. Chen because he doesn’t like the fact that Dutch is doing work for Balalaika, the boss of Hotel Moscow. The Lagoon Company finds a way to get itself out of the situation. However, let’s just say that Mr. Chen isn’t quite so lucky when it comes to saving his own neck.

The final three chapters are about what happens when the Lagoon Company is contacted by a Colombian cartel to deliver a hostage. It turns out the hostage is a boy named Garcia Lovelace, the heir to one of the wealthiest families in South America. The Lagoon Company finds itself embroiled in quite a situation when someone unexpectedly turns up to try and rescue Garcia.

I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this series before I started reading it. However, now that I’ve read the first volume, I can say that while Black Lagoon is on the violent side, it’s still a captivating read. Hiroe has given just enough dimensions to characters like Rokuro, Revy, and Dutch, that it makes the reader become interested in them and wanting to know what will happen to them.

Black Lagoon has been given a mature rating, but from what I saw in this volume, it wasn’t truly due to anything depicted in the art. While there’s a lot of fighting that includes violence, the violence wasn’t depicted in a way to give it an “M” rating. However, I have to say that there is plenty of swearing in the dialogue, and this is probably how it was given the mature rating.

When it comes to the art, the characters all have very distinct looks to them. Hiroe’s strength with the art is in his depiction of motion with his characters. Considering how action oriented Black Lagoon is, this is a very good strength to have. And much of the art has a crisp look to it, which helps to add to the overall feel of the story being told in the Black Lagoon series.

Black Lagoon Volume One should appeal to manga readers who enjoy action-packed stories with a fair amount of violence and don’t mind reading a lot of profanity in the dialogue. Readers who enjoy films by Quentin Tarantino and John Woo will probably have a strong appreciation for this series.

Additional post about Black Lagoon:

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