Black Or White Lagoon?

Having watched Black Lagoon, on loan from a friend, I am not quite sure what to make of it. Meaning, that I am unclear as to the premise of this anime. What is Black Lagoon trying to be? Initially, it would appear that it is an action series set out to romanticize the outlaw life, glorify organized crime, and generally make heroes out of bullet spraying criminals of questionable psychologies.

On the other hand, throwing in a main character who isn't really down with the kill-everybody lifestyle does change that a bit. Rock isn't a criminal, and starts out as a hostage in fact. Through a lack of choice he become the unwitting new member of Lagoon Company, and a dualistic relationship between him and Revy is established that lasts for the entire series. Like Yin and Yang, Rock and Revy are essentially opposites that feed off each other.

The episodes delve into most of the unsavory aspects of violent societies in the world today. From drug and arms trading, torture and racism, to human trafficking and child pornography, Black Lagoon tackles some pretty hot issues that few anime have dared to include in the past. At least not all together. Mix in a gratuitous amount of blood and violence, and you got yourself a show that isn't for the faint of heart. This is why it becomes easy to think that the underlying idea is one of glorifying violence and its perpetuation.

Every once in a while, however, the characters are brought back to reality from their action-thriller rides with the rawness of their actions. The brutal outcomes in some of the episodes and the characters they add serve to offer an alternative interpretation of Black Lagoon. Could it be that this is really an anti-violence anime?

Whether intentionally or no, the series succeeds in proving one simple fact: that violence begets only violence. Character after character, from Revy, to the unnamed twins dubbed "Hansel and Gretel," and particularly Yukio Washimine, demonstrates that they are mere products of violence filled circumstances. While these characters may enjoy momentary heroics and excitement, they all result in being emotionally or physically dead. Or both.

Ultimately, I commend Black Lagoon for tackling issues which American animation wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. That in itself is quite a feat. In retrospect, it doesn't seem as though the original intentions were to either condone or condemn violence, but rather to demonstrate a bit of cultural relativism by doing neither. Yet it appears not to have done so well in remaining neutral, with emotionally pulling the viewer back and forth, and does go a long way to proving that you cannot fight fire with fire. The series begins violently, and ends violently, without any indication of things having changed for the better. That, is the self-perpetuating cycle of violence.

However, one cannot overlook the well hidden message behind Black Lagoon's lessons. Though it appears to be hopeless in light of every episode's death and destruction, the final plot arc reveals the only remedy to this chaos. That remedy, is choice.

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