Black Lagoon 23-24 (END)

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Impressions (SPOILERS)

And so the most intelligent and exciting action anime to come along in a while closes its most extensive arc yet, with plenty of room for more seasons to come. (Though my hopes that Yukio, the schoolgirl Yakuza boss, might become a recurring character were, alas, not to be.) The reflective dialogue in this and the previous episodes lifts Black Lagoon into the ranks of the more intelligent action genre films like Michael Mann’s Heat or Collateral. This is also a show that isn’t afraid to develop characters very well, only to kill them off –arguably, Yukio is better sketched than mainstays Rock and Revy, though here we get to see a very, very vulnerable (for her) side of Revy. She’s back in character by the very last scene but we get the impression that when she says “If it were anyone but you, I’d have put two or three holes in you” it is as close to a love confession as she will ever come to.

Some of the broader issues Black Lagoon brings up are very interesting. Rock throughout the show, though more at the beginning, represents “civilian” values or perhaps more precisely the point of view of someone accustomed to comfort and unused to the brutally utilitarian underworld. The show, usually through the voices of Revy and Balalaika, works hard to undermine that viewpoint as being naive and arbitrary (though I wonder: Revy, ostensibly a nonbeliever, blurts out in episode 23 that the only thing that saved Rock’s skin was “God’s grace” and Balalaika’s surprising mercy). Eventually Rock adopts many of the values of the underworld, though never without completely losing any sense of compassion. It’s as if he has come to some sort of balance, of a sort, able to act decisively and coldly when necessary, but without becoming a war addict like Balalaika.

If one wants to push it a bit one can see a little of the realization that the pacifistic attitude among many modern Japanese is based less on principle and more on denial. I certainly agree, if the naive pacifism of many an anime is any indicator of general attitudes in Japan. Now I’m not sure the violent cynicism that passes for cool in this show–a very American attitude, I might add, and one which will make this show very easy to swallow for fans of films like Pulp Fiction and The Boondock Saints–is any better, but it certainly has a better claim on reality, I think. (The characters, Yakuza schoolgirl and Revy included, are also self-aware enough to admit that part of them longs for the flabby tranquility that Rock’s Japan stands for.) I also find it interesting that the prevailing attitude of most of the characters in the show is that they are beyond help, beyond any point where they can change their paths. This fatalistic attitude, laden with notions of “destiny,” is what seems more “Japanese” about it; Americans are more inclined to think that “it’s never too late to start again!” But everyone in this show already considers themselves as living in the twilight, as living dead. The Sartre quotations are oddly appropriate; the existentialist despair that pervades this show demands nothing less. There’s nothing left except to make one’s own meaning and go all the way, guns blazing.

More excellent analysis of this final episode is here.

So: Black Lagoon ends fittingly, with a gun shot, with the characters returning to their posts and ready for more adventures. May they go on many more than we otaku fanboys can see. Preferably with her:

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Summary
These two episodes close the Washimine yakuza war arc. Hotel Moscow continues their ruthlessly efficient liquidation of the Washimine Group, while Gin and Yukio plot their next move. Meanwhile, Rock and Revy dine together, and Rock confesses his uncertainty and his misgivings about their alliance with Balalaika.

After a brief council meeting, Yukio decides to go down fighting, and by outsmarting Hotel Moscow to boot. She manages to salvage footage of the vans Hotel Moscow are using to transport their commandos, and sends the police after one of them by acquiring a similar van with the same logo and robbing a bank with Gin. (She gets a Bonnie and Clyde kind of exhiliration from the experience.) The police are now alerted to the presence of Hotel Moscow’s vans.

Meanwhile, Rock, fed up with his job, confronts Balalaika. She does not take his suggestions kindly and pulls a gun on him, which forces Revy’s two hands, resulting in a John Woo-style Mexican standoff from multiple sides. Rock proves how cynical he has become when he quips that this is all just a “hobby” for him, prompting an amused Balalaika to spare his life–much to Revy’s violent relief. They end the day in the park with the same kids who were impressed with Revy’s shooting skills–only for her to scare them with a real gun this time.

While all this is happening, Yukio arms herself with a semi-automatic pistol, and together with Gin they head toward a final confrontation.

Balalaika, with Rock acting as translator, decides to meet with the Kousa Group, ostensibly to make arrangements for after Hotel Moscow departs Japan. Instead she double crosses them and shoots them dead. The police, who are waiting just outside, try to stop them from leaving, but they are intimidated by Balalaika’s apparent diplomatic immunity with the Russian Embassy, and fail to catch her in time. Rock and Revy barely have time to escape as well, though Revy manages to get Rock on her motorbike to speed off…

…only to literally run into Yukio and Gin’s van. As soon as Rock appears in the smoke, Yukio shoots at him with her semi-automatic, but (unused to handling the recoil), misses badly. She does manage to make Revy’s motorbike explode, though. Yukio kidnaps Rock in order to take her to where Balalaika’s ship is docked, while Revy commanders a truck to follow them. At the docks, Gin and Revy have their long awaited confrontation, while Rock and Yukio have a melancholy discussion about their places in the world. The duel ends with Gin’s death, and Revy only wounded in the knee. Upon seeing Gin’s dead body, Yukio decides to kill herself with his sword. Rock and Revy then return to Roanapur, their jobs finished.

6 thoughts on “Black Lagoon 23-24 (END)”

  1. Revy, Dutch, Benny, and Eda were all born and raised in America, so it’s not that odd for them to have that violent, care-free attitude. And even the most optimistic of people can be wore down by constant violence, much like the type that goes on in Roanpur daily.

  2. After reading ur review, im glad to see that u appreciate such a great anime, even comparing it to Miachael Mann’s Heat which is arguably the greatest action movie ever. Im so glad to see a blog that didnt fall prey to thr ridiculously overrated haruhi. i am officially a fan of ur blog.

  3. Well, I still do like Haruhi Suzumiya, a lot…I gave it an originality award in my year-end rundown. (But along with Higurashi, which it shares a lot of similarities to in intent and the way they play with otaku genres.) It’s not the GREATEST show ever, to be sure, and I’ve noted my reservations in my post about the disturbingness of Haruhi Suzumiya. Actually I think 2006 was an unusually strong year, giving us gems like Higurashi, Haruhi, Mushishi, Honey and Clover II, Welcome to the NHK–and of course, Black Lagoon! I couldn’t have picked a better year to get back into the anime scene.

  4. Ah,Noein? I think it just got buried under so many other anime out. I read great reviews for it on one of the Taiwanese anime mags but I haven’t got a chance to see it. Now I’ve got a reason to give it a try myself. Thanks!

  5. Have you seen Jormungand? I’m a huge Black Lagoon fan and someone recommended Jormungand to me saying it’s similar, and it really is. There are strong female characters, guns, set in the real world, fantastic action sequences – it’s a great series all round and it’s definitely worth watching if you haven’t already seen it!

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