Black Lagoon and their Moral Relativism
Black Lagoon is a series aptly described by its Hollywood-style action and larger-than-life characters. Matthew Roe takes another look at the show to examine the unique lens, where all things are a matter of perspective.
It’s easy to look at the words and actions of a person, judge them as socially acceptable, ethically correct, or morally sound. Like those abused, allied, or oppressed, we often see bullies, enemies, and oppressors- labels solely define them.
But we forget that our world is not black and white – that everyone slops around in the murkiest shade of gray; no one can be summarized with a single word! What complicates things further to is when humans on the macro-level get involved: entire populations may seem all good, but some bad apples spoil it for others. In contrast, other groups might have bad yet remain silent, so few speak up against injustice.
It is hard to really judge someone else’s intent, and often when one’s true intentions can be hidden. This was shown in a 1948 film noir titled An Act of Murder which showed how difficult it was for people to know what their neighbors were thinking or feeling on the inside.
We all struggle with the question of our “best life,” and often, how we find this varies as much as ourselves. We are conditioned by environmental challenges to respond in specific ways, resulting from affluence or hardship. Whether defined by convenience or adversity, these characteristics build complex webs between contradictions and ideals- each one contributing to who we strive to become.
The vast majority of films and television shows are about the ends justifying the means. But what does that really mean? Is it possible to judge a person based on their actions, or is there always more than one side to every story—no matter how black-and-white things may seem at first glance? To dive deeper into this question (and have some fun), I’m going in with Logan Rawlings: Vigilante Hero!
I’ve seen enough crime dramas over my lifetime that ultimately boil down to whether justice can be served through revenge but never before has an action series so confidently asked if we’re justified for seeking out our own vigilante justice when nobody else will do.
Seriously, I want to see some of this stuff in Matrix 4.
The Lagoon Company is a group of mercenary rejects introduced through the protagonist Rokuro Okajima. We watch them as they fight off corrupt employers hired to destroy evidence.
Okajima finds himself in a life-or-death situation when he is on the phone with his boss, who reveals that blueprints for nuclear weapons were found on him after being called to meet them. He soon forsakes his old office job and becomes Rock of Lagoon Company – donning this new name as an alias to avoid death or imprisonment from those trying to cover up their tracks.
The rest of the series is devoted to Rock and his friends fighting crime in Roanapur, a city full of pirates. It’s like Sin City meets Tortuga!
Now, I will be honest: I have not read the original manga. However, as a standalone series, this anime is one of my favorite experiences ever. It has everything from zany action to sardonic humor and even some surprisingly deep introspection that make it worth watching through all 24 episodes in one sitting if you can manage it!
Rock is a simple man who wants to get his hands dirty. His adventures are less about what happens and more about how it affects the people around him, be they friends or foes. Sometimes he’s fighting for justice, but other times, Rock can’t help himself from showing off with some of the deadliest guns in town!
The rock appears to be the voice of reason in his group, especially when Revy’s bloodlust and greed dictate their antics. He strives to save innocent people who get caught up in Roanapur’s clockwork, even though he can come across as frustratingly naïve at times. However, Rock has a much deeper motivation than saving others. He projects his ideals onto those around him to act how he deems favorable for himself through indirect means such as positioning other people closer during an attack or negotiation event.
As he refuses to decide which life he will embrace (that of a pirate or a typical citizen), the swordsman manipulates his new environment as one would with chess. While it is typically because of preventing impending disaster, it quickly becomes apparent that this deep-set result was from his prior life when they were controlled and beaten down by their superiors for most of adulthood. Similarly bound by social restrictions and demands, now in what seems like freedom – they still must follow the rules enforced through the hierarchy at Roanapur, or simply orders were given by Dutch.
When Rock first arrived in New York City, he was a fresh-faced country boy. He quickly discovered the harsh realities of life and had to adapt some more fitting behaviors for this new environment. To survive here at all costs, he willingly mutated into something unrecognizable from before – an introverted loner who can’t seem to find comfort anywhere but his own company; someone with no moral compass or sense of right and wrong because everything is just survival mode now.
He is not only a catalyst for Revy’s transformation, but he also changes people arbitrarily. He transforms Revy in particular.
Revised: He can be the impetus for change or destruction at random and has an especially profound effect on Revys life.
Though Revy and Rock have their differences in opinion, they often share the same goals. As an unapologetic criminal with a fearsome temper, she prefers to get what she wants by any means necessary, whether through brute force or cunning manipulation. She is very direct about her methods but has come to realize that sometimes there are things you can’t just take from someone else; instead of demanding something that belongs to them (which would inevitably lead to conflict), one must work for it or find another way around – which might mean working together with your enemy!
Revy’s life experiences before coming back home shaped who she became today and how unpredictable and aggressive this woman could become when provoked. Her personality reflects on why there.
She’s fueled by both fear and desire. Fear of death or failure; Desire for the things she can’t have–creature comforts like food on her plate, a roof over her head that doesn’t leak water in when it rains. She approaches every day as if she has nothing to lose. All this world ever did take from her what little pride came naturally to someone who grew up starving with no chance at any education due to discrimination based solely on skin color. This girl is not afraid of anything anymore, so there isn’t much left but desires: Ice cream even though it’ll likely give her diabetes later down the line, designer clothes just out of reach thanks these days only being minimum wage unless you’re lucky enough find.
Black Lagoon is not only a story of violence and crime but also one of ambiguity. The series leaves many unanswered questions for the viewer; who’s telling the truth? Who are we rooting for? And what does it mean to be good or bad in this world anyway? These breadcrumbs provide mystery that captivates its audience as they try to make their own conclusions about each character (and Rock).
The original theatrical cut of Blade Runner is the worst example as to why adding narration where it isn’t needed really doesn’t work. When you have a movie that’s supposed to be pure entertainment and a sociological treatise, but then we’re also told what everyone in the scene was thinking or how they felt about something happening? It just feels overdone and unnecessary.
The most egregious examples are those movies with excessive narration like Blade Runner who had this problem both before its release when Harrison Ford would only speak if he could say his lines without narrating them too much - “I’m Rick Deckard” – and afterward during scenes where people were playing games or eating breakfast cereal because remember kids; life can wait.
Here’s favorite films are all those from the ’90s and Hong Kong action movies. For example, Hiroe was influenced by Robert Rodriguez’s Mexico Trilogy in creating his own Mariachi Arc and Blood Trail OVAs for Black Lagoon. And if you haven’t seen El Mariachi, Desperado, or Once Upon a Time in Mexico, I have some homework for you to do!
Black Lagoon is a romance novel disguised as an action movie. It features some of the best, most humorous action scenes I’ve ever seen in anime and provides more than enough laughs to balance out its dark undertones. The characters are all cast perfectly for what they do onscreen; it’s hard not to love Black Lagoon!
The song is great, but it’s not the best of all time. Some people might consider this a flaw; however, its longevity and popularity speak to just how much we love it!
I’ve listened to “Renegade” more times than any other tune introduced through an anime opening, except for maybe the first Attack on Titan theme from season 2. The ending themes are going to force me to take some steps back in fanboying and make slightly more objective observations
Revy walks down the beach, her thoughts a million miles away. She loves Black Lagoon’s story and all of its mechanics, but it never seems to end on the right note. Too often, an episode ends in mid-scene or at some other weak moment that doesn’t feel like a cliffhanger at all; instead, they’re just left there waiting for more with nothing happening. Revy can only hope that this time will be different–that she’ll finally get something exciting to happen as opposed to yet another long sequence of talking heads trying their best not to have anything whatsoever come out about what we really want: what’s going on between Rock and Benny?
A fierce battle between the American CIA and Roanapur in Quentin Tarantino’s anime movie Battle Royale. The climax of this war has come with Johnny coming marching home to save America from the gangs that have been plaguing it for so long. Except, when he comes back, they are just playing an old school song on his parade route – which is something I could not get behind because what came before was really intense!
Black Lagoon is a series that spends more time on the action than it does on character development. We never see their lives at home; we barely get to know what motivates them or why they do the things they do. But this doesn’t mean Black Lagoon isn’t worth your while! The cast of characters is always interesting and engaging in each episode.
The author is glad that there are such interesting recurring characters but would like to see more. These side stories and appearances could be a way of developing the world without exploring it in-depth and adding some entertainment value for those who enjoy these other aspects of reading pulp fiction.
Black Lagoon manages to hype me up for some reality-defying action while simultaneously breaking me down over the absolute cruelty that subsists on all echelons of human civilization. We cheer for the villains and find redemption in those who others might deem unredeemable; we take solace within us daily of ordinary life even when it may lead us into literal bowels pits.
Because of the clash between individual and social demands, we see peace as destruction, prosperity through exploitation. The ethical implications, though, can be determined by whoever makes up their mind first.
“What’s normal to a spider is chaos for the fly. But what about us? What do we see as ‘normal,’ and how does that create our reality? The answer may surprise you! From where I stand in my kitchen right now, everything seems so natural: light reflects off of shiny surfaces with such beautiful perfection; people walk by outside on their way home from work or school–their conversations audible but not disturbing.”