The Black Lagoon is a torpedo-boat, owned by Dutch, the 'director' of the Lagoon Company. Dutch is a veteran of the Vietnam war, who lives in a Thai harbor town. He has assembleed a crew consiting of Californian college student Benny (who does electronics and systems maintenance) and Levi 'Two-Hand', a Chinese American (who is a crack shot with her two pistols). Technically, the Lagoon Company is a transport company -- which is a nice way of saying "pirates".
In the first episode, their prey is a disc that Okajima Rokuro, a low-ranking salariman, is carrying. The disc contains sensitive data about the routes his shipping company takes, and Miss Balalaika, of the Russian maffia (operating as 'Hotel Moscow') is very interested in the data on that disc. On a whim, Levi decides to take Rokuro along as a hostage -- but soon it becomes clear that the higher-ups value his life less than the data on that disc! Rokuro is forced to cooperate with the pirates to survive, and in the end he decides to stick with them. His nickname becomes 'Rock'.
Rock is a pure-bred white-collar worker. While the rest of the crew wears whatever they like and find convenient, Rock keeps wearing his white shirts and ties. This straight-faced exterior makes it easier to conduct various types of transactions -- after all, even if you're buying weapons, it's still a commercial transaction.
Of course, Rock does get mixed up in the less savoury aspects of his work -- and the fact that there are less savoury aspects than buying automatic weapons from smuggling nuns should tell you something about the job.
Rock's colleagues are an easy-going bunch who can dish it out if the need arises. But Rock's working relationship with Levi is... problematic. For some reason those two rub each other the wrong way, but there seems to be something else going on, just below the surface. The series is a mix of Rock trying to fit in with his colleages (and sometimes getting in trouble because of his straightness), and gang-land violence (often perpetrated by Levi, who does not know how to back down).
Animation-wise, the series is pretty good. The character designs are executed in a realistic style, and there is quite a bit of detail. The stories themselves are interesting, though sometimes a tad bizarre. Obviously, there is a lot of violence, all quite matter-of-factly portrayed. The voice acting is superb, with Toyoguchi Megumi (Sato Sei from MariMite) doing a real number on Levi's voice.
- Original (at least in the realm of anime);
- Doesn't pull any punches;
- Surprisingly character-driven for an action-series;
- Great voice-acting.
- Quite violent (if that's not your thing).
All in all, a good time. An 8.