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Black Lagoon, vol. 1-4 (Rei Hiroe)

The Black Lagoon is a World War II–era PT boat — small, sturdy, fast, and maneuverable. Her crew, mercenaries and couriers of illegal goods, are stoic, tough African-American Vietnam vet Dutch; quirky blond Jewish-American tech/mechanic Benny; and psycho curvaceous Chinese-American gunwoman Revy (short for Rebecca), also known a Two-Hand for her ability to use a gun in either hand or both. During the first volume, their number increases by one when they obtain Japanese salaryman Rokuro - now known as Rock.

Rock is the reader's POV as the story follows the adventures of the Black Lagoon crew all around the teeming criminal underworld of Southeast Asia, with the fictional port city of Roanapur, Thailand, as their base. Kidnapping, arms smuggling, recovery of treasure from wrecks, murder, terrorism, exotic and disgusting porn, mayhem of all sorts, drugs — it's all part of Rock's world now. And although he's still often repulsed by what he's helping to accomplished, he proves surprisingly adept at coming up with outlandish but effective schemes to wreak havoc on the Lagoon squad's enemies.

Volume 4 takes a different turn as Rock and Revy accompany the elegant, way-beyond-ruthless Russian mob boss Balalaika on her mission to the yakuza in Japan. I miss Dutch and Benny and hope that the group will eventually be reunited.

In many ways, this should be only a guilty pleasure. It's violent as all get-out (rather like Blade of the Immortal with modern weapons), and scantily-clad buxom women are all over the place. One reviewer noted that most of the female characters are stereotypes in one way or another. But somehow the vibe is, in its way, bizarrely liberating. The women aren't any more exaggerated than the men, IMO, and they're often the more interesting characters.

 

Black Lagoon, vols. 1-4 (review)

Revy is typically dressed in a halter and cutoffs so short that they qualify as lingerie, but in fact, it's a plausible action outfit for someone aboard a ship in tropical waters: this model is the best view of her get-up I've been able to find. You'll notice she's in no danger of popping out of her top, despite her curvy figure, and get a load of the footwear: no high heels for this lady. Balalaika is as scary and sociopathic as any mob king, and with her sharp suits, disfiguring scars (her criminal rivals callously call her "Fry-Face"), and almost-plausible background in the Russian military in Afghanistan, she makes an inspiring anti-heroic leader. (I also like her disgusted world-weariness in the scene where she's having to review porn tapes for business purposes.)

I wasn't going to go into more of my favorite characters above the spoiler line ... Eda!! She so makes me think of a female Gojyo in the scene in the bar when she's ogling Rock. Shenhua! And her knives! I wonder if we're ever going to see either of them again?

I'm not sure what I think about the new story arc that's starting up. Yukio and Ginji have a bit of a Rin-Manji feel to them, but without the humor. (Revy is actually much more like Manji than anyone else in Black Lagoon is.) And because Dutch and Bennie are back in Roanapur, there isn't nearly as much of the team dynamic that I like so much.

Warning: the "Hansel and Gretel" plotline in vols. 2-3 involves child pornography. The subject is definitely not glorified, but it's very disturbing. It's also easily arguable that the Muslim terrorist Ibraha (vols. 3-4) is an unfortunate stereotype, although I don't know that he's any worse than anyone else in the story. You have been warned.

ETA: This post has turned into a hu-u-u-uge spam magnet for some reason, so I am turning off the ability to comment.

Comments

( 30 comments )
artillie
Feb. 21st, 2009 07:50 pm (UTC)
I'm still sniffling from the end of Fujiyama Gangsta Paradise, for the record. And the end of the Hansel and Gretel arc. As for the terrorists, they bored me more than anything. I think Hiroe was trying to do "ripped from the headlines" drama there, but it fell a little flat for me. The only good part of that arc was:

SHENHUAAAAAAA (She makes her return in the arc after the one in Japan, sans the crack-smoking driver, but with a host of new and interesting mercenaries.)

Balalaika is ridiculously cool. *continues to fangirl*


Edited at 2009-02-21 07:53 pm (UTC)
chomiji
Feb. 22nd, 2009 06:09 am (UTC)

I'll be glad to see Shenhua again! No Eda, though, huh? She's such a skank, but funny.

Yes, the situation in the current arc looks pretty serious. Even Revy is less wise-crackin' - that bit where she calls Rock "my master" was both disturbing and touching. And yes, the whole Hansel and Gretel arc was sick and sickly funny and very, very sad.

BTW, do you happen to know how the manga compares with the anime? Another commenter was wondering.

artillie
Feb. 22nd, 2009 08:22 am (UTC)
Oh, Eda shows up, too--and she gets a Reveal that's then expanded upon a little bit in the arc after that, in which Roberta returns as well. I love Roberta.

[pile of fangirly goo here]

Hmmm. I've only seen the first few episodes--I have no patience for streaming shows unless they're Western shows--but it seems pretty faithful. As in, faithful to the very word. The only divergence I saw was that in the first episode, I WTFed a little because they were somehow on a river and there was no danger of the Black Lagoon dying a slow and painful death on a reef. But there was still jumping a boat in the air and shooting a torpedo at a helicopter, so I'm not inclined to think too hard about it.
chomiji
Feb. 24th, 2009 03:29 am (UTC)

Oooh, nice stuff to anticipate!

Hiroe does some of the crackiest extras I've seen so far - it's like he's really conscious of the sort of thing people like to get up to in fanfic.

artillie
Feb. 24th, 2009 03:40 am (UTC)
Ahahaha, Balalaika taking care of Hansel and Gretel. "Children don't normally know how to build pipe bombs while they're still in second grade." Magical Girl Revy-chan and her machine guns and the genderswapping one were pretty funny.

...but the extra with Yukio and Ginji is really not funny, considering. When I was binging on Black Lagoon, it was sort of a kick to the head.
chomiji
Mar. 10th, 2009 02:56 am (UTC)
(Black Lagoon extras ... a kick in the head)

Garggh, I meant to answer this ages ago.

Anyway, I haven't got very far into the Yukio & Ginji arc, but I can see it's shaping up to be tragic, and I imagine a joke wouldn't be received well. It's funny that the author wouldn't realize ... .

artillie
Mar. 10th, 2009 03:25 am (UTC)
Re: (Black Lagoon extras ... a kick in the head)
I'm pretty sure Hiroe was actively trying to be tasteless with the Yukio and Ginji extra.
smillaraaq
Feb. 24th, 2009 10:26 pm (UTC)
Have you seen Samurai Champloo? I was just reading some random TV Tropes commentary that compared Revy to a slightly-less-nihilistic female version of Mugen, and if that's an even halfway fair call I suspect I am going to be ABSOLUTELY IN LOVE with this series...
artillie
Feb. 25th, 2009 01:35 am (UTC)
Pffffft. Revy respects people whom she sees as her superiors--Dutch, and especially Balalaika--but everyone else may as well be fish feed unless she's getting paid. She's a lot more ruthless and delightful to watch than Mugen.
smillaraaq
Feb. 21st, 2009 10:16 pm (UTC)
Revy is typically dressed in a halter and cutoffs so short that they qualify as lingerie, but in fact, it's a plausible action outfit for someone aboard a ship in tropical waters

Halter, or tank top? The straps don't seem to be angling in towards the neck on that model like I'd expect from a halter, and in the manga scans you linked, the back seems to be coming up much higher on the torso (the upper edge is hidden under the shoulder holster) than the usual low-backed halter...

(But hee, yeah, just swap those kickin' combat boots for a pair of kamaboko zori, and nobody would blink twice at that outfit in Hawai'i -- shorts and a t/tank are a pretty decent uniform for a warm, humid climate!)

And is it just me, or does something about that first pic you linked of a world-weary Balalaika smoking put you a little bit in mind of a gender-swapped Sanzo?
chomiji
Feb. 22nd, 2009 06:21 am (UTC)

Actually, what she's wearing on top is kind of interesting, now that I look closer. It's like an exercise bra-top or the top of one of those two-piece swimsuits that fall between a bikini and a tankini in coverage. It seems to give her reasonable support, and it has a racer back.

In the current arc, in Japan in the winter, she goes for a modified schoolgirl look, with a shearling coat over a short pleated skirt, black turtleneck and black tights, and tall winter boots with cowboy-ish detailing (not black, oddly enough).

My brain fries at the thought of a meeting between Balalaika and Sanzo! Yes, he could get that way, eventually ... but Balalaika has seen much more, and worse, things than Sanzo has. I also guess that she has about 10 years on him. But there is a bit of a resemblance, yes.



Edited at 2009-02-22 06:33 am (UTC)
smillaraaq
Feb. 22nd, 2009 07:42 am (UTC)
*nods* I was thinking it might be a racer-back tank myself, from the way you don't see any of the edges of the shoulder straps sticking out around the armholes. For real-world cosplay on someone with a similar figure, one of those tank tops with a built-in stretch bra would probably be the most workable equivalent...but of course manga girls don't really have problems with gravity! ;)
chomiji
Feb. 24th, 2009 03:15 am (UTC)

Hee, no, they don't - but Revy's outifts are plausible enough that the mangaka might have actually thought through the support issue. He leaves the sillier getups to the incidental characters, like Shenhua, who takes out crowds of mercenary soldiers with knives while wearing what seems to be a cheongsam. (At least she actually gets blood on it.)

smillaraaq
Feb. 24th, 2009 03:59 am (UTC)
Heh, yeah, I think the basic practicality of that stretch tank/denim cutoffs/combat boots outfit is a big part of why that doesn't set off any fanservice/fetish-fuel "what is she barely wearing?" alarms in my head -- it's all stuff that is pretty sturdy and comfortable and non-constrictive, good for being physically active in a muggy climate. While it obviously has the side-effect of showing off her figure, none of it looks like it was chosen primarily for that purpose -- compare that to someone like Faye in Cowboy Bebop who is actually technically showing a lot less bare skin, but between the sheer thigh-highs, high-heeled boots, plunging neckline and bare midriff over those low-waisted shorts, is clearly dressing for titillation value. Faye looks like her clothes might slip off or pop open or ride up at any moment (and she's the vampy sort who clearly counts on the distraction value of hooker-wear to give her an occasional split-second advantage); Revy may not be wearing an awful lot, but it's clear the stuff she has on is not going to be prone to lots of random wardrobe malfunctions...
seven_trees
Feb. 22nd, 2009 01:00 am (UTC)
Does the manga diverge from the anime? Because I was a HUGE fan of the anime.
chomiji
Feb. 22nd, 2009 06:27 am (UTC)

Oooh, not a question I can answer on my own - I don't tend to watch video media much at all. Some reviews/comments out there (scroll down for comments) say that the anime is better, but the comments may be coming from folks who prefer anime to manga anyway.

chomiji
Feb. 24th, 2009 03:17 am (UTC)
(Black Lagoon)

OK - one of my other commenters says: "it seems pretty faithful. As in, faithful to the very word. The only divergence I saw was that in the first episode, I WTFed a little because they were somehow on a river and there was no danger of the Black Lagoon dying a slow and painful death on a reef. But there was still jumping a boat in the air and shooting a torpedo at a helicopter, so I'm not inclined to think too hard about it."

seven_trees
Feb. 24th, 2009 03:20 am (UTC)
Re: (Black Lagoon)
That sucks. I was hoping it was a little different. That third season that was supposed to come out has STILL NOT COME OUT and I was hoping for a little Black Lagoon entertainment to keep me satisfied in the meantime.
chomiji
Feb. 24th, 2009 03:23 am (UTC)
Re: (Black Lagoon)

Ah. Sorry about that!

lady_ganesh
Feb. 22nd, 2009 05:04 am (UTC)
This looks like crack.
chomiji
Feb. 22nd, 2009 06:31 am (UTC)

Oh, it is, it is! I'm trying to remember who first recommended it to me ... and failing. It had been on my "to try" list for a while, but it only started coming out in English this past year.

lady_ganesh
Feb. 22nd, 2009 06:14 pm (UTC)
I put the anime in my Netflix queue!
chomiji
Feb. 24th, 2009 03:32 am (UTC)

XD

Enjoy!

lady_ganesh
Mar. 10th, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC)
We watched three episodes last night. This shit is bananas. I am in love.
smillaraaq
Feb. 26th, 2009 10:02 am (UTC)
Bwa-ha-ha...I just watched a few episodes online myself, and was quite charmed to hear a VERY familiar seiyuu providing Benny's voice! XD
lady_ganesh
Mar. 10th, 2009 08:03 pm (UTC)
Oh, dude, I have to listen to the Japanese track, I'd almost forgotten.
smillaraaq
Mar. 30th, 2009 06:36 am (UTC)
Isn't it a scream to hear what Gojyo might have sounded like if he was a Nice Jewish Boy with a decent education? ;)
smillaraaq
Feb. 26th, 2009 10:39 pm (UTC)
I know we talked about it briefly about a year or so ago, but that wasn't even really a rec since I hadn't read/seen it yet myself yet either; it was on my own "check this out when available" list as I'd been seeing it cited in a lot of places as an all-too-rare example of a series with appealing, non-stereotyped black and Jewish characters.

(And after watching a few eps of the anime, I think I can see why it might be clicking with you despite the ultra-violent seinen exploitation aspects; there's a marvelous bantering camaraderie between the Lagoon's crew, and even newcomer Rock is rapidly getting included in the buddy vibe. And as you've noted, the girls may be drawn and dressed like curvaceous pinups, but they're very obviously not the disposable eye candy token-chick sorts you'd find in a lot of seinen titles! Revy in particular is absolutely one of the guys, and while Balalaika's perfectly-tailored suits and voice work all come across as very ladylike and refined, her utter self-confidence, and the ghastly scarring, are already hinting quite strongly that she's achieved her position because she's a brainy stone-cold badass, rather than just batting her eyelashes at some more powerful guy...)
chomiji
Feb. 28th, 2009 02:57 am (UTC)

Yeah, it's surprisingly cho-friendly!

I'm terrified that Balaika is going to go over what TVtropes now calls the Moral Event Horizon and do something awful, though.

redbrunja
Apr. 17th, 2009 10:55 am (UTC)
I'm current to chapter 37...
Let's talk more about this! Because I think I might agree.
( 30 comments )

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