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September 15, 2010

Bento Bako Lite: Black Lagoon vol. 9

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: Black Lagoon
Author: Rei Hiroe
Publisher: Viz Media (Viz Signature)
Volume: Volume 9 (ongoing), $12.99
Vintage: 2009 by Shogakukan in Japan, July 2010 by Viz Media
Genre: Action, black comedy, adventure

Foul mouthed, gun slinging women, big explosions, shoot outs, gang wars.  What more could you ask for?  While on an important business trip, Japanese salaryman Rokuro Okajima was kidnapped by the crew of the Black Lagoon (along with a valuable disc).  Abandoned by his company, Rokuro changed his name to Rock and joined the crew, becoming a member of Lagoon Company with Dutch (the boss), Benny (the techie), and Revy (the gunslinger).  Rock became the voice of the company, using his skills as a businessman in negotiations, and assisting Russian gang boss Balalaika as a sometimes messenger and translator.  Rock struggles to keep his humanity in a world of easy death, while Revy immerses herself in the underworld.  One of their jobs (in earlier volumes) involved the transporting of a kidnapped child named Garcia Lovelace.  Garcia’s kidnapping brought the wrath of the Lovelace family’s head maid, Roberta, down on the city of Roanapur, and the Lagoon Company barely survived her rampage.  Now she is back in town to get revenge for the death of Garcia’s father, Diego, and “The Bloodhound of Florencia” is in an unstoppable frenzy.  The entire city could be destroyed if she is not taken out or calmed down, and everyone is at their wits’ end trying to find a way to stop her killing spree.

Rock has been discreetly organizing a plan with Chang and the Hong Kong Triad, the American forces, Balalaika’s Russian forces, and Lagoon Company, trying to save everyone he can (as usual).  While he’s running around trying to save everyone, he’s getting dragged deeper into Roanapur’s world of death (also as usual).  Revy and her group of assassin buddies get kicked out of the chase with a threat from Balalaika, as the major forces do their best to balance the chaos and lead Roberta out of the city before she destroys everything they have worked to build.  Rock’s plan relies much on chance and the strength of young Garcia’s convictions and desire to save Roberta.  If all goes well, no one will have to die, but Roberta’s sanity may be broken beyond repair.  Will Rock’s plan work?  Can Roberta’s young master really get through to her shaken mind?  The effects of Roberta’s rampage will certainly be felt in Roanapur’s criminal underworld.  This volume brings to an end the Roberta’s Revenge story arc, El Baile de la Muerte.

Oh, Black Lagoon.  Why must you be so fantastic?  People who know me are usually baffled by the great enjoyment I get out of Black Lagoon, though I have only been familiar with the anime up to this point.  Now I’m going to have to see if I can budget in future volumes of the manga.  The series is full of great character exploration, intense action, wonderfully dark humor, fantastic art, ass kicking women, and more explosions than a Michael Bay movie.  Revy and Rock are typically at the center of everything (though Revy takes a back seat in this volume), and one of the most important elements of the story is how each of them interacts inside their world – Revy with crazed relish and a short fuse, and Rock with reserved uncertainty and naivety.  Basically, Rock prefers to talk things out, while Revy prefers to shoot first and talk later (or not at all).  Revy thrives in this world, and is often at odds with Rock’s desire to remain neither fully within nor fully outside of it.  His self-righteous attitude, and insistence that he is both different from those around him but still belongs with them, drives her to frustration.  And Revy’s frustration usually ends at the barrel of a gun.  It’s a precarious balance that is a real treat to watch play out.  In volume 9, Rock is again forced to reexamine his values when he is called out by Garcia’s second maid, Fabiola.  Rock gambled with her master’s life, but insists that he “saved” everyone; he’s nothing but a phony in her eyes.  This isn’t the first time he’s been called out in this manner, and it likely won’t be the last.  There’s quite a bit of examination in this volume about an individual’s sense of right and wrong, where the line between good and evil, justice and revenge, is drawn.  Good and evil blur quite a bit in Black Lagoon, and the exploration of this gray area is one of the things that makes the title so interesting.

Not having read the previous volume (and the anime doesn’t go this far, although a recent OVA follows this very story arc), I was a bit confused about the formation of Rock’s initial plan, and why the American forces were in Roanapur to begin with.  However, my knowledge of the series as a whole was helpful in picking things up.  The manga is well written, which helps, and well translated. Black Lagoon is filled with characters of different ethnicities, and their speech is written out well within the pages.  There’s also a character roundup at the beginning of the volume, highlighting all currently relevant characters.  The series deserves its following, but its outrageous violence and foul language means you need to keep it away from your kids.  The anime is available from FUNimation, for anyone interested.


Review copy provided by Viz Media.



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  3. Jade

    The ending of this arc really surprised me. Everything managed to tie up logically somehow and it was pretty impressive except for the…disagreement between the Americans, which was logical within their own story but still felt goofy within the confines of the broader story.

    I’m not sure I like Rock’s manipulative gambler revelation though. The series needs at least one regular who isn’t a complete sociopath and Benny just doesn’t show up enough.

  4. I agree with you about the Americans. That was a little strange within the over all, them turning on each other like that.

    I kind of like Rock’s progression. Sure, it’s nice to have someone on the outside, but eventually he’s got to choose one or the other. He can’t stay in the middle zone forever. He’s going to have to own up to what it is he’s really doing. That little yakuza girl from an earlier arc said as much to him. And goodness knows Revy has made her opinion on the matter known. Though I think that as much as Revy bitches at him, she actually likes that he’s not so corrupt and unstable as everyone else is. What she doesn’t like is the occasional self-righteous attitude he gets about it.

  5. Jade

    Yeah, you’re completely right about Rock and Revy. I think Revy uses Rock as an excuse to be a hero, so the self-righteousness really grates on her because it’s him making excuses for himself when she really wants the world to be a better place. The very worst of her lashing out is when she loses faith in him and his optimism.

    Now that Rock’s true colours have totally been revealed though, I worry where the conscience will come from now. Between Rock being outed, Revy going stupid on the girl and Dutch being revealed as a liar, The Lagoon crew ended up the least sympathetic charters in this volume. That’s just not the best position for the main characters of a series to be in. Since she can no longer deceive herself about Rock being a decent guy, I can foresee Revy becoming relentlessly obnoxious from here on out.

    Overall, this was a really entertaining volume and an entertaining arc. For as long as it dragged out, it was actually satisfying throughout. The ending of this volume just really sets the crew up for a major, major trainwreck, so I’m worried about the future.

  6. Kristin

    Oh, crap! I totally forgot about Dutch! Yeah, I wonder how that will play out. Although, at the moment, only Benny knows about it. Maybe he’ll keep it to himself.

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