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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Delightful Dystopia: Black Lagoon

READER DISCRETION ADVISED: I DID NOT censor myself so there is some cursing and touching on Adult rated concepts.

 Question for you think it would be an awesome life to live as an outlaw? To go anywhere you want, do whatever you please, and stare down anyone in your way with a fierce sense of independence?

 That's the kind of thinking that is glorified in one of my favorite anime's. Perhaps you've heard of it. It's called Black Lagoon!

Revy wields two of my current favorite gun! As if I needed other reasons to love her!

 This particular series really challenges me even to this day. I'm talking on a philosophical level here. I've always been a spiritually and morally oriented person I must admit. I believe in God, and anime's like Naruto and Bleach and Amagami SS reinforce my penchant for lovey dovey stand by my friends mindsets. I'm a bit of a cheesy sucker in all honesty and not too keen on recognizing the gritty harsh realities of life. I usually spend my life trying to have a lot of fun and pretty much just ignoring the fact that maybe it's not going to be so easy to make all the bad things go away.

 Black Lagoon is like an old war veteran who's been around the block and knows how life really works. It's sick of your childish bullshit and is always ready to put you in your place with harsh lessons of experience and sharp tongued lectures about the pain and suffering we have to go through in life.

When I grow up I'll win the Olympics! 

I don't think mafia hits are an Olympic event...

 Black Lagoon makes me think about how a person is supposed to live when everything really goes straight to hell, especially if your life went to hell at a very early age like Revy's did. She's has an interesting conversation with Rock in the Nazi U-Boat early on in the series about respect, honor, and morality. Rock starts it by telling Revy to respect the dead soldiers and leave the medals and other prized possessions that they lived and died with. This rationale was a child of common sense from my perspective...but then Revy went off on some pretty dark but hard to fight stuff. She asserts that a skull in one hand and a military medal in the other are merely "things" nothing more and nothing less. "When you strip away their meanings both of these are just things." She goes on to talk about her tragic life and explains where she gets her hope and satisfaction. She says that she once believed in God until the cops beat the shit out of her for no reason, she explains that love and God always seemed to be sold out when she went shopping for them...

 This was really rough stuff for me to swallow I must's uncomfortable to have your comforting beliefs of the universe to be challenged so harshly, even if it's only by a cartoon character...

 She goes on to assert that she does have much more useful things than love and God. She has power in the form of money and guns. The meanings people ascribe to things are nothing but a bunch of sentimental bullshit and the only thing you can rely is the stuff everyone can agree on...namely money.

 She even goes so far as to say that with the power of her money and weapons the world is a Great Place.
Imagine that, in a terrible world of blood and guts she perceives greatness by virtue of the cash in her pocket and the guns in her holsters.

Fuckin' A!

 Rock just kind of rolls over and accepts it but I was left with a bad feeling and some disturbing thoughts in my head. My problem was that I could easily imagine real people like Revy who can truly justify their terrible lifestyles on the basis of the terrible world that they live in. Every fiber of my being wants to viciously fight and resist this idea that some people could actually be trapped in a sinful world and that there is simply no escaping it. It defies the value of morality and the concept of free will as well. What's worse is that it takes it a few steps further by prescribing a strong dose of insanity as a coping mechanism for the cruelty of the world as a whole. 

 Got a shitty life with people all around trying to screw you? No problem! Just live your life constantly suspicious of human beings and counteract them by screwing them right back. Hypocrisy doesn't meant shit, this is just how people survive. "Sometimes we'll break the rules to put food on the table." (Dutch, Black Lagoon) We all have our own needs and priorities and sometimes we can't afford to worry about anything but doing what needs to be done, however underhanded and hostile it is. This was really hard for me to deal with and I desperately tried to find some kind of rationalization that would put my mind at ease. Interestingly, Balalaika helped me out with that.

Even with the nasty scars I still find her attractive...

 Balalaika once said in a conversation with Mr. Chang that there isn't any need for justice and morality...all we need is profit and trust. It was strange to hear that statement because that's kind of what I thought justice and morality know people trusting each other and making profit, otherwise known as making an honest living. Balalaika's philosophy is still a bit troubling but helps put the whole theme of Black Lagoon in a better perspective. We live in a universe where the normal state of affairs is chaos. We survive through this chaos by establishing our own order of things. We all set goals and agendas and establish rules that we follow as well as forge contracts with each other to gain the cooperation of others. 

 This is really what the story of Black Lagoon is about. It's about people dealing with chaos and pain by latching on to whatever gives them a psychological high on life and they negotiate with and make use of the forces of life like rival gangs, economic situations, financial power, social influence, and of course physical force. 

"Masked Thunder Kick!"

 The setting of Black Lagoon is a bit depressing and no matter how much I love the anime I still feel saddened when I think about that basic fact. None the less I also take comfort in how the show addresses that issue which is why I love this anime so much despite the fact that it directly contradicts many of my ideals and by extension much of what makes up my identity as a human. 

 Life requires us to take action and work out our own arrangements. There are no hard and fast rules for how human beings have to live. I'm not sure why God would design a world like this, but this is the world we are in and it's the only one we've got. This in a way gives a serious and realistic interpretation to the anime craziness that I have been pushing as a legitimately wise and happy way to live life. I've written a lot now about how we need to cut loose and embrace the wisdom we can glean from our favorite anime and manga. Black Lagoon gives true intellectually serious consideration to that ideal by applying it to the chaos that is not so fun and happy and instead causes pain, misery, and blood spilling.

 Towards the end of Black Lagoon season two, Rock confronts Balalaika in order to stop her from killing off  the Washimine clan in Japan in the interest of saving the young girl Yukio because he wants her to have her chance at a "normal" life. Balalaika holds Rock at gunpoint and tells him straight out that life in the big picture is insignificant and that justice is a meaningless concept. Long story short it's clear that the only things that matter in the world of Black Lagoon are those of the pragmatic and hedonistic varieties. What really made me laugh madly with ecstasy was how Rock played off of that pessimistic and selfish way of doing things in order to achieve the goal of protecting "justice" and help others. He stopped Balalaika from killing him by amusing her, one of the two options she gave him by telling her that though he had no obligation to protect Yukio and was not concerned with justice he merely wanted to do it as a part of his own sick "hobby". 

Guns and Rum: Two hobbies I share with Revy! ;)

 Everyone in Black Lagoon does what they do ultimately to satisfy the need to survive and the need to live an entertaining life based off of whatever the hell gets you off. Rock uses the path of the villain to serve what we might consider a path of the hero and this really gave me a grand ray of hope.

 The world doesn't seem to make sense and apparently people are free to pursue their own selfish senseless agendas ranging from drug addiction and pleasure derived from murder to the lovey dovey hero business that  "normal" people enjoy. 

 So the answer in my opinion is this: We can do whatever the hell we want in life. We can murder, cheat, and steal, or we can love, have sex, and help each other out. We can have fun and let go of past offenses or we can have a big pity party where we brood and bemoan. But with this great power we can choose to enforce a useful definition of "justice" and "morality". It doesn't matter that we can't actually "prove" the truth of morality or love or goodness or anime crazy fun. We can simply define these things as our "hobbies" just things we do to survive and live amusing lives before the last one of us kicks the bucket.   

 So let's take these lessons to heart in order to manage the stress and pain of life. Life has miserable issues for us to deal with. Death, illness, disability, loneliness, poverty, torture, murder, rape, theft, and more and more...but let's not despair, let's counter the random evil with random good. Can I prove my God exists and that Jesus knew what he was talking about? No I can't, but so what? Pursuing love and my benevolent God's will is something that keeps me fighting for survival and my love of Anime and Manga is something that keeps my life entertaining and interesting and they're a hell of a lot better than getting off on going to war aren't they?

 Now we can forge positive hobbies in life and consciously recognize that they are all we have and all we need. We can get through this chaotic senseless adventure of life just by embracing life and doing whatever we can to enjoy it before it slips away!

 I hope I haven't lost you with the grittiness of this post but it is Black Lagoon we're talking about here so don't judge me too harshly!

 Have a good week mina-san!

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