Black Lagoon was a 24-episode anime series shown on Japanese television in the year 2006. The first season ran from April 8th to June 24th, while the second season (a.k.a. "The Second Barrage") ran from October 2nd to December 18th. It is based on the manga series of the same name, created by Rei Hiroe, which currently numbers 6 volumes. I find the show is notable for its lack of major Japanese characters (except for the main character—Rock), as well as the large number of Americans (and other foreigners), most of who are portrayed as "regular" people, and not the stereotypes one sometimes sees in many anime. There's also a surprising amount of American pop-culture references in the series, and Rei Hiroe even goes so far as to credit several people for assistance with the foreign dialogue, which is apparently pretty much spot on throughout the manga (the anime less so). Black Lagoon the anime is also notable for its pacing. Many stories form multi-episode arcs and almost none of them are resolved in a mere 25 minutes, instead taking (on average) three episodes to play out.
Due to the level of violence in Black Lagoon, I can only presume it, like many similar series, was shown very late at night on Japanese television. Curiously, Cowboy Bebop was yanked for being too violent a series, which makes me wonder how Black Lagoon was received. If Black Lagoon was a Hollywood movie, it would receive an "R" rating for sure. That said, one shouldn't dismiss the series as just a string of chases, gunfights, and explosions—there's a plot under it all, as well as some rather interesting characterization and character development.
Finally, Black Lagoon makes for some excellent Dark Champions source material,with plot ideas, NPCs, organizations, and even an entire city (Roanapura) just waiting to be added to your campaign. Of course, anyone watching the series needs to accept the scene in the second episode where a PT Boat brings down a helicopter with a torpedo (launching the boat off of a semi-submerged wreck helps, but...). Of course, since a certain American action film features someone dropping a submachine gun down a stairwell and having the weapon fire at—and hit—everyone on the way down... I figure we're even.
The anime never actually says when the series takes place. It seems to be set in the present day, and might actually be occurring in the same time period as when it was broadcast (i.e. 2006), or a little before. However, a distinct lack of references to specific current events (such as the 9/11 attacks) makes it hard to tell. On the other hand, it certainly takes place after the break up of the Soviet Union. The manga, meeanwhile, looks to be set in the late 1990s. Revy listens to the song Electric Head Part 1 (from the album Astro Creep 2000) which was released in 1995. In addition, Benny's computers show what is quite obviously either Apple Macintosh Operating System 8 (or 9), which was released in July of 1997. Eda also makes mention of Greenbay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, who started his career in 1991. Wikipedia claims the action starts in 1995. If this is the case, then the anime occurs from (roughly)December of 1995 to January of 1997 (based on certain events and the weather).
For all intents and purposes the history of the Black Lagoon universe is the same as our own (i.e. the "real world"). Dutch, for example, mentions the Vietnam Battle of Khe Sanh (which happened in 1968), while Hotel Moscow boss Balalaika is a veteran of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (1979-1989). Dutch also states that the Roanapura bar "Yellow Flag" was founded by the "losers of the Vietnam War," taking in deserters, hookers, junkies, mercenaries, and killers. This would seem to indicate that Roanapura itself didn't become a notorious haven for crime and criminals until the late 1960s.
A Rough Black Lagoon Timeline
This timeline is based on comments made in the course of the series' 24 episodes. I am going to presume the start date for Black Lagoon is 1995, at least for this timeline.
1945—March 25, U-1234 is sunk off of the Nicobar Islands.
1968—The Battle of Khe Sanh.
1975—The Fall of Saigon. Dutch goes AWOL and leaves Vietnam.
1976—A young Balalaika is told to try for the Olympics to regain her family's honor.
1987—Balalaika serves as a First Lieutenant in Afghanistan.
1991—Roberta leaves the FARC and joins the Loveless family.
1992—Balalaika has been stripped of her military rank, doesn't yet have a facial scar.
1993—Benny joins Lagoon Couriers/Company
1995—Black Lagoon Episodes 1-18
1996—Black Lagoon Episodes 19-24
For the most part, Black Lagoon takes place in one location—the city of Roanapura (or Roanapur, the former spelling is used in the anime credits).
Roanapura: The most important location in Black Lagoon is the fictional Thai city of Roanapura. It is located on the coast of an unnamed island, with a semicircular bay. Near the mouth of the bay is an island upon which stands a huge statue of the Buddha. The face of the Buddha has been shattered from gunfire, rendering it effectively "blind." There is apparently only one major highway into the city, that reaches Roanapura via a bridge over a river. There is always a noose (or two) hanging from the crossbars of the bridge—a silent reminder of what awaits the unwary in this most dangerous of cities.
Places In Roanapura
Yellow Flag: This bar features heavily in the series, and is the scene of a number of major action sequences, including the attack by Extra Order in Episode 2, Mangrove Heaven, and Roberta's gunfight with the Manzarella Cartel in Episode 9, Maid To Kill. It is also where all the bounty hunters gather to chase down Janet Bhai in Episode 16, Greenback Jane. According to Dutch, the bar was founded by remnants of the South Vietnamese army, who hid deserters from Vietnam. It is currently owned and run by a man named Bao, who despite having a bar capable of stopping a round from a .50 machine gun, blames Revy for getting his bar blown up at least three times (and this is before the show starts!). Technically, the Yellow Flag is neutral territory.
Cafe Hoang Yen
Caribbean Bar: On Bran Street. Under the protection of Hotel Moscow. It is shot up by Hansel and Gretel, the vampire twins.
Club Heart: A strip club.
Goof Fest: A strip club/whore house owned and operated by Roan "Jackpot" Pigeon. Goof Fest is located on Rachiada Street (or Lachada Street). Based on comments by Roan, Revy used to work there as a dancer, but she refuses his invitation to come back, stating "not even if it involves whipping." Roan is also the only person to ever refer to Revy by her real name, "Rebecca."
King: A strip club.
Ramsap Inn: Located past the Charkwan Market, it advertises air conditioning and color TV. Eda knows the owner and has used the place as a safe house before (with mixed results).
Tao Han: A restaurant.
U-BOAT 1324 Found In Deep Sea: Lagoon Company to undertake salvage operations.
Virtually everything seen in Black Lagoon can be found in the real world, with only a few exceptions (such as Claude Torchweaver's Bic-sized flamethrower). For the most part, anyone wishing to use Black Lagoon in their campaign just needs to get a copy of Dark Champions (for the gun lists) and you're all set (although the HERO System Vehicle Sourcebook wouldn't hurt either). I also recommend The Ultimate Skill for its notes on Computer Programming and Systems Operation (among other pertinent skills used in the course of the Black Lagoon anime).
Asahi Heavy Industries: This Tokyo-based company has over 50,000 employees (including one Rokuro Okajima).
Church of Violence: A Catholic Church run by Sister "PW" Deegan (a.k.a. Sister Yolanda). Other members include Sister Eda (see below) and Ricardo, an apprentice priest. The Church of Violence may be a CIA front and true to its name, is very well-armed. Revy refers to them as the "Rip-off Church" at one point.
Extra Order Company: A mercenary unit. It seems to be a parody of/based on the real-world organization Executive Outcomes.
Hotel Moscow: Another of the major crime factions in Roanapura, Hotel Moscow is a branch of the Russian mafia. The Roanapura arm is run by Balalaika and is made up of veterans of the Soviet war in Afghanistan.
Lagoon Couriers/Company: This small group of pirates and smugglers operate as a ship-for-hire, and will haul most anything in and around the islands of Indonesia. Lagoon Couriers has only four members: Dutch the Boss, Revy the Two Hands, Benny the Mechanic, and Rock the Salariman.
Manisarera Cartel: This Colombian drug cartel operated for a time in Roanapura, until Roberta showed up to reclaim Garcia Loveless.
Neveral Cartel: A drug cartel based out of Florida. They were the ones who hired Janet Bhai to make counterfeit American 100s.
Washimine Group: A Tokyo-based Yakuza gang, they end up getting wiped out by Hotel Moscow.
As with any other 24-26 episode anime series, Black Lagoon has a variety of one-shot and recurring characters. The following list gives most of the major characters as well as many who are mentioned only by name. As with my character sheets for Cowboy Bebop, I used the "Competent Normal" on page 224 of the HERO System 5th Edition Rulebook as a starting-point. I've made most of the characters 100-point base, and have purchased their primary weaponry for them (even though you technically don't need to do that at the Heroic level. I also built many of the characters around the Package Deals given in Dark Champions.
Author's Note: Much of the background information for these characters was taken from the Wikipedia entry for Black Lagoon, which itself seems to have been taken from material presented in the manga, as it is far more in-depth than what is shown in the anime series.
Abrego: Boss of the Manisarera Cartel, his power base was destroyed by Roberta. He survived, but has little respect from the other factions in Roanapura afterwards.
Balalaika: The Roanapura head of Hotel Moscow, Balalaika is a veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan. See her character sheet for more information.
Bao: Owner and operator of the Yellow Flag. He is apparently an ex-ARVN soldier who saw action in Vietnam. According to him, Lagoon Couriers (or maybe Revy specifically) has wrecked his bar at least three times. While Lagoon Couriers has never paid for the damage, Balalaika has.
Benny: Lagoon Courier's mechanic, Benny runs the ship's electronics suite.
Boris: Balalaika's second-in-command, Boris, like the rest of Hotel Moscow, is a veteran of the Afghan War.
Chief Watsup: Chief of Police for Roanapura. He takes bribes from anyone and everyone and tends to stay out of the way of the crime cartels. His attitude is summed up in this quote: "As long as there is no trouble, I don't have to change my golfing schedule." Balalaika has this to say about him: "What an unamusing man. He makes me sick."
Chin: Minor Chinese crime boss who made the mistake of trying to eliminate both Lagoon Couriers and Hotel Moscow. Balalaika executed him via high explosives.
Claude "Torch" Weaver: A pyromaniac who is part of the group that tries to capture Janet Bhai. He ends up dead when Revy puts a bullet through his flamethrower's fuel tank.
Dutch: A former United States Marine, he fought in Vietnam and then left following the fall of Saigon in 1975. Eventually he ended up in Roanapura, where he set up Lagoon Couriers. See his character sheet for more information.
Eda: Is she or isn't she? A member of the Church of Violence, Eda may or may not be a CIA agent. See her character sheet for more information.
Garcia Loveless: The only son of Diego Jose San Fernando Loveless, the Loveless family is the "lowest" of 13 noble families of South America. Garcia was kidnapped in an effort to make Diego sell his land. Diego, in turn, send Roberta after the kidnappers. Few of them survived the encounter. Garcia has a pet dog, a white Volpino Italiana named "Lazlo," and due to events in volume 6 of the manga, is now the head of the Loveless family, following the assassination of his father. Following this, he returns to Roanapura to find Roberta, accompanied by the maid Fabiola. As a side note, the family name might be "Lovelace" not "Loveless."
Ginji Matsuzaki: Better known to some as "Man-Slayer Ginji," his sword skills are more than equal to Revy's gun skills. See his character sheet for more information.
"Groovy Guy" Russell the Trouble Buster: A member of the Neveral Carter, Russell is sent by Neveral boss Mr. Elvis to hire people to bring back Janet Bhai. He does so, but his attitude and mode of dress don't endear him to everyone else. However, he's the last survivor of the hunt, but is killed by Eda when he recognizes her from time spent in Washington DC.
Hansel and Gretel: Identical twins from Romania, these so-called "Vampire Twins" are utterly and unredemingly evil. See their character sheet for more information.
Janet Bhai: An expert counterfeiter, "Greenback Jane" makes the mistake of coming to Roanapura. See her character sheet for more information.
Leigharch: Irish driver who worked with Shenhua on one mission. He smokes marijuana to excess.
Luak: A pirate captain who worked the waters around Thailand. He was hired by Chin to eliminate Lagoon Couriers, but was in turn eliminated by Revy.
Masahiro Takenaka: A former Red Army soldier who now works with Islamic terrorists. He's patient and sociable, and seems to view violence only as a measure of last resort.
Mr. Chan: Mr. Chan is the boss of the 14k Triad. He is obviously meant to be a homage to Chow Yun-Fat, specifically the character he played in the film A Better Tomorrow, since he dresses in an identical outfit. Naturally this means he's a two-gun fighter and apparently is the one who taught Revy her skills (and thus, is the only man she refers to as "sir"). Mr. Chan (or Chang) is cool under fire, capable, intelligent, and often tries to work with the other criminal factions (especially Hotel Moscow) instead of against them.
Revy: Revy (real name, Rebecca) is a Chinese-American from New York. She's Lagoon Courier's "muscle" and is a gunfighter of almost unparalleled skill (in this or most any other anime). See her character sheet for more information.
Rico: An apprentice priest with the Church of Violence. He uses an M60 machine gun in combat.
Roberta: A maid in the employee of the Lovelace family, Roberta is no mere housekeeper, but a frightening destructive force of nature (if needed). See her character sheet for more information.
Rock: Born Rokuro Okajima, he got his nickname from Dutch. A former employee of Asahi Heavy Industries, he was kidnapped by Lagoon Couriers and eventually joined them after Asahi had him declared dead in his native Japan. See his character sheet for more information.
Rotton the Wizard: A mercenary of some sort, Rotton drinks only milk (he says strong drink makes him vomit), has gray hair, a long coat, glasses, and a soft voice. He might be a parody of numerous bishonen heroes seen in many anime. In any extent, he tries to make a fancy and impressive entrance during the fight to capture Janet Bhai and gets shot by Revy. He survives, due to his armored vest, and ends up taking a wounded Shenhua and Sawyer to the local hospital.
Sawyer the Cleaner: Sawyer disposes of bodies for the various criminal factions of Roanapura. See her character sheet for more information.
Shenhua: An operative for Mr. Chan, Shenhua is "real Taiwanese." She is to blades what Revy is to guns. See her character sheet for more information.
Verrocchio: Boss of the Roanapura branch of the Italian mafia. He was the guy who brought in Hansel and Gretel, who in turn ended up killing him along with most of the rest of his men.
Yolanda: Leader of the Church of Violence. She looks to be in her 60s, has an eyepatch, and a gold-plated Desert Eagle hidden under her habit.
Yukio Washimine: The daughter of Ryuzo Washimine, Yukio takes up the mantle of leadership of the Washimine Group in order to prevent their destruction at the hands of rival Yakuza gangs.