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Danielle Leigh’s Reading Diary — Black Lagoon vol 5

I have previously reviewed volume 1 of Black Lagoon on this site and thought it was a wild, pulpy, and ultimately enjoyable, ride.  Now that Viz is about to release volume 5, how has the series held up?

Volume 5 picks up in the middle of an imminent war between “Hotel Moscow” (the folks the main characters work for, run by the scariest Russian broad you have ever seen) and a Japanese yakuza group known as the Washimine-Gumi.  Basically, the Russians want a piece of the Japanese underworld and they want to go through this particular yakuza group to do so.  All of this, though, is mere back story to the human relationships, and not just guns, blood and swords, that drive the story.  At the center of this mess is the very thing that drew me to this title in the first place — its portrait of a former Japanese businessman turned mercenary, now nicknamed Rock (from Rokuro), and the very odd relationship he develops with his nihilistic, & possibly crazy partner, Revy.  Apparently, Rock has returned to his homeland to act as a translator for his employers, but his return is problematic since it isn’t entirely clear who exactly is returning to Japan.  Is he really Rock, a mercenary with a conscience, or is he just a Japanese business man still playing at “crime” the way a little boy plays at cops and robbers?

This volume takes place a year after Rock has been thrown away by his former company and joined up with the Black Lagoon crew.  However, he still holds on, perhaps very selfishly, to his innocence.  When pretty, teenager Yukio is charged with becoming the head of the Washimine-Gumi group thanks to blood-ties, Rock wants nothing more to than to save her from a life of violence and pain.  Yukio, though, isn’t some damsel in distress that wants a hero to save her from the duties she has inherited, nor someone who shies her gaze from the ugliness in the world of organized crime.  Rock wants to save some version of himself by saving Yukio and usually this isn’t the kind of thing that works out very well….

While in early volumes there was a sense of fun and adventure to the violence (as creator Rei Hiroe lovingly depicts Revy’s “two-hand” gun-stylings), here a sense of futility and tragedy have crept in.  Revy seems a sadder figure because violence is not only her art but her life, and perhaps her only real method of communication.  I’m fascinated by the relationship between her and Rock, because in spite of herself she tries to shield him from going through some of the terrible things that turned her into her current self.  Revy may be a lost soul but she still has someone like Rock pulling her out of the darkness, even if for only a moment or two here and there.

Both the writing and art were incredibly strong in this volume and I look forward to seeing how Rock continues to develop as a character and how his influence may pull Revy along in new directions in the future.

Review Copy provided by Viz Media.

8 Comments

Now who’s the prolific one? Jeez! :)

I must say, elements of sadness and tragedy creeping in tempt me more than anything else I’ve heard about this series.

It is extraordinary how much depth has developed in a title that is marketed as “pulp”….I’m really quite impressed by the fact the “senseless” violence is actually interrogated in some respects instead of just used to “sex” up a character like Revy. There are shallow elements but this still is a book about capers and stealing shit. Most of the time.

Black Lagoon is one of my favorite action manga. I think it properly balances extreme out-of-control action (it is manga) with enough serious aspects that it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Wait, is that Rock the same character from Osamu Tezuka’s “star system”?

I mean this guy:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_(manga_character)

It does sound the kind of role Tezuka would give the character…

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

[…] vol. 26 of Berserk (ANN) Park Cooper on vols. 3 and 4 of Black Jack (Manga Life) Danielle Leigh on vol. 5 of Black Lagoon (Comics Should Be Good) Martin on Death Note: Another Note (Mono no aware) Chris Mautner on A […]

Danielle Leigh

April 1, 2009 at 5:28 am

Great link, Pedro! No, this Rock is really just a normal Japanese businessman who is thrust into the underground world of kidnappings, thievery, espionage, violence, etc.

I’ve stuck to the anime for this series — after reading vol. 1, I think the action works better that way (and I don’t really like following both anime and manga for a series). But yes, this is a particularly good arc for Rock and Revy characterisation.

The anime version of this arc has the odd feature of the actors speaking in English whenever the point that Revy et al. can’t actually speak Japanese needs to be underlined, and dropping back into Japanese when that’s done — this clip demonstrates the somewhat results (Warning: violence and swearing, but then it is Black Lagoon): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9F5p1_hR2Ws

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