This is one of the richest and most detailed interviews from this summer! We interviewed the president of Madhouse Studio, Masao Maruyama, together with writer/director Sunao Katabuchi, who is perhaps best known as the director of Black Lagoon and Mai Mai Miracle. We get into real depth about who they liked to work with, what their process is for deciding on a project, and especially what it’s like working on foreign co-productions vs working on a Japanese production. (Madhouse has collaborated several times with Marvel in recent years with anime versions of Iron Man and Wolverine, among others.)
This interview also represents something of a first for us, as it was conducted without any translator or mediator—it was done 100% in Japanese, which allowed us the time to get detailed replies. Transcript follows the break.
Rei Hiroe, the original manga artist of “Black Lagoon,” talked to us at this year’s Anime Expo press junket. Here his explanation of “bitch moe,” the origins of Black Lagoon, and how he comes up with his gun designs!
Disclaimer: I never liked making a top 10 list because I watch shows from a varieties of genres and I believe that comparing them on the same level playing field is vastly unjustified. But as a tradition, I made mine. Merits? What merits?
Without any fancy blogwork or word wizardry, here’s my top ten for the last decade.
It’s 2010. A new year. A new decade. Amazing how time flies, doesn’t it? In celebration of this historical event we, your anime-loving couch potatoes here at Anime Diet, have painstakingly compiled a list of what we feel are the cream of the crop, the very best anime of the past ten years. Continue reading AD Top 10 List #1: Top TV Anime of the 2000s→
In our roundtable discussion on whether or not anime is art, Ray brought up an excellent point about that infamous scifi-fantasy-loli-pantsu fanservice vehicle, Strike Witches. To wit, though the show has actual fodder for intellectual discussion, the mere fact that it shows school girls in a permanent pantyshot state renders this moot for the vast majority of viewers. You cannot rehabilitate such a thing, the argument goes. No amount of light will overpower this darkness.
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:
When I first watched the show I was only impressed with the fact that there’s a main girl with two large guns IN HER HANDS, a probable high body count, and just about everyone in the Lagoon Co. is bad ass of some sort, except Roc, who’s sort of a wuz.
As time went on, I realized that I was wrong about a few things.
1. The body count in Black Lagoon isn’t as high as I thought it would be. Noir had a high body count.
2. Black Lagoon had great character developments. I mean, I thought bad ass villains are usually just that, bad ass villains. And even if there any reasons, they are usually pretty lame.
Not so with Revy. It wasn’t like her story was a weepy story that made anyone sympathize with her. Her story simply showed what could happen when bad/evil things happen to normal slum people.
3. There may be some touching redeeming points in the show. Again, not so. The world that Roc, the real protagonist is in, is evil without any redeeming possibilities, and we really see that at the end of eps 24. Of course, people smarter than I probably already guessed that, but I never did guess it.
Roc is probably the only person in this show that shed some good light to everyone around him. But his light is dim and weak.
Anyway, for an overall package of great action, plot, character without any cheesy touching emotional moments, give this one a shot.
Oh yeah, and Revy has a deep side that isn’t cheesy or crappily made up at all. A real pleasant surprise.