It's an interesting thing; this is not normally the type of manga/anime I get into but Black Lagoon manages to be interesting, gritty, bloody, humorous and entertaining all at the same time.
Let me make it really, really clear that this is NOT for children. In fact, I would smack an '18 or older' sticker on it.
Welcome to the city of Roanpur - home of murderers, thieves, mafia, drug addicts and general lowest of the low. Having your baggage stolen and being beaten in the process is a happy walk in the park compared to some of the goings-ons in this pirate port.
The story revolves around 'Rock' - a Japanese office worker who accidently fell into this underground world and decided to stick around while working for the transport company the Black Lagoon. Most of the group manage to walk the murky line of good and evil; the leader Dutch is an ex-vietnam vet who is cool, smart and runs a tight ship. Computer expert Benny manages the tech side of things and while does not carry a gun or kill people he is still on the run from the FBI. He's one of the more decent characters but is still morally grey. Then there is Levy, the brawn and bullets of the operation. Ah - Levy, on one side of the coin she's fiesty, funny, surprisingly loyal (once you get past the homicidal edge of her short temper) and undoubtedly one of the most terrifying women in the universe of Black Lagoon.
Which brings me to one of the reasons why I like this series so much. It's a bit of a surprise but most of the hardcore, sociopathic, vicious, powerful characters of the story are female.
Balalaika - head of the Russian branch of the Mafia. Ex-military, trained in preparation for WW3 with nowhere to go to exercise her expertise but Roanpur. Effing terrifying woman. Likes war games and killing things.
Roberta. Maid of wealthy family, gets her own storyline called 'Robertas blood trail' when head of beloved family is killed in terrorist bombing and promptly goes a little crazy exacting revenge. Also known as 'RoboMaid' for her Terminator fighting style.
Levy (short version of Rebecca) Chinese-American ex-New York street terror who now works for the Black Lagoon. Also likes killing things (people, mostly). Has absolutely no problem putting a bullet through your skull.
Black Lagoon is like a gritty detective novel, Tarantino movie, kung-fu action flick and western all tied into one. There isn't much of a plot, more like a series of events that happens in and around Rock as he lives in this crazy, bloody lawless city. The manga is only 81 chapters in so it seems as though it could still go for a while. I'm curious to see how Rock will change (or will be eventually corrupted?) as he lives there. No one, it seems, has a very long lifespan in such a place. Rock is the only person who hangs onto compassion and it gets him into trouble.
Though he doesn't have a gun he does just fine with wits and intelligence alone; enough to catch the eye of the two top mafia leaders of the city. Interested to find out if he will lose his wings and end up working for, or with, Chang or Balalaika and become a mafia something-or-rather himself.
So! Black Lagoon can be found at Manga Inn and can be watched in original Japanese langauge format over at Hulu.com