To say I have a couple friends in the military is an understatement. I have a friend in every single branch of military and even some in special forces. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, MARSOC and Rangers. I almost have a full set. Now I’ve never served and only thought about it once before going to college. However, something I’ve always felt when hanging out with them, was that of an outsider. It’s hard to not feel slightly ostracized when they talk about the missions they’ve been on and the guns they’ve shot. All I can remember is when my water polo team almost drowned in an outdoor pool in Oregon during a storm. It just seems like we are on different thought plains entirely when they bring up their experiences. I just thought to myself, these guys are something else, and me? I’m just a normal lad who went to school.
Eventually this thought process was set to change when I sat down with one of my Marine buddies and asked him about anime (hoping to find some common ground). He gave a smirk as his eyes glazed over “I’ve been really into Black Lagoon…It’s got all the action you’d need and even more bad-ass characters than you can imagine”. After that conversation, I took it upon myself to use this show to understand all my military buddies as best I could from a civilian standpoint.
Little did I know that his simplistic description would carry so much meaning. Black Lagoon IS bad ass. Everything about it is so raw and tough.
I was able to live vicariously through Rokuro: a Japanese salesman who was taken hostage during a raid of his transport cargo ship. He comes face to face with his captors Revy, Dutch, and Benny; a couple of mercenaries that ride together on their speed boat, the Black Lagoon. After a series of unfortunate events, Rokuro becomes the fourth member of Black Lagoon—thus began my chance to take a peek at what kind of world those “living by the gun” live.
At first glance, there is a stark contrast between Rokuro and his captures. In the same way I’d feel a little different from my military buddies. Rokuro is amazed and astounded by Black Lagoons’ aggressive behavior and precision in battle. The mercenaries can’t seem to put a label on Rokuro either, finding his quick wit and childish morality laughable.
The most memorable trait of Black Lagoon comes from its strong female lead character—Revy. She stands for everything that is—bad-assery and confidence. Known for her dual wielding pistols and overly zealous lust for battle; Revy acts as the main muscle of the crew. She was easily the most enjoyable part of the show. I can imagine the writers of the show beaming with pride at her very creation. What a fun character to write and what a nice way to indoctrinate me into the violent world of gun slinging gangs and crime–through the eyes of a beautiful and yet terrifyingly cynical woman. It’s no wonder that she placed in the list of most hardcore female anime characters.
I enjoyed the paced character development between Rokuro and the rest of the Black Lagoon crew. I got a pretty good idea of the pros and cons that came with each character’s lifestyle and choices. What really surprised me the most was that while Revy and her companion Dutch were extremely bravado and highly skilled, they were also quite vulnerable and showed clear emotions. During dangerous missions Dutch and Benny (Black Lagoons computer wizz) would talk about the possibility of Revy and Rokuro dying and how it saddened them deeply. I began to understand the type of bond you form with another individual you’ve been in combat with. This strange but awe-inspiring intimacy that is formed.
I greatly admired the characters bravery when it came time for conflict. Revy especially had a very distinctive look in her eye when faced with impossible scenarios that made me question everything I’d ever known about honor and protection. She put her life on the line multiple times for her team and the mission. It was then that I realized that although the crew of Black Lagoon never mentioned it. They loved each other beyond words. Even in their broken and misunderstood ways, they were all the family they had in the world, and no one was going to take that from them—no mission, no money, nothing. It was live by the gun and die for your friend. These subtle emotions were expressed in the heat of combat, almost as if that slices through all the BS and cuts to the heart of the real issues. It’s a coping mechanism.
Rokuro’s indoctrination into that of a killer mercenary allowed for my own descent into the mindset. In the same way, I saw that his different outlook on life and his quick business wit shaped the lives of the crew as well. Most of them began to lighten up and show a little more humanity than before. No longer appearing as cold and heartless killers. It made me realize that everyone has a certain skill and everyone has something to contribute. Though he’d never shot a gun, he could still think well under pressure and strategize with the speed of a four-star general–and they recognized his potential. It made me feel less strange about having a four year degree and never having aimed an M-16 downrange.
Of course some obvious flaws to the show could be that there is a little too much plot armor on some of the main characters. It’s hard not to chuckle when Revy can stand no more than 20 ft away from 30 armed men and not take a single wound. I call it the “stormtrooper” effect. Needless to say, if it didn’t bother my Marine friend, I could overlook it (and did). Once you get past that, just enjoy the ride.
I think I might understand just a little bit more about my military friends and the kind of struggles they’ve had to go through—combat or not. I recognize that there are things some people know and there are things others don’t. That is just the way it is. We all have different perceptions of life. But that is the same for everyone. Everyone has their own story to tell and every person is capable of showing vulnerability. Even the most bad-ass person, can shed tears. Even Revy. Whether or not you are looking to understand the life of the military or someone involved with guns. I’d recommend Black Lagoon as a show that you can simply just experience and then ponder later.