I was casually scrolling Netflix the a few nights ago, as I was in no mood to play video games. You know the drill, sometimes we spend more time looking for something to watch than actually watching something. But no. Not on my watch. Not this time. I’m going to choose something, and I’m going to enjoy it.
That’s what I often tell myself, and sometimes I don’t get through the first episode of a show before getting bored and choosing something else. I’ll try push through, and get to the end of at least the first few episodes. I tried this with Mirai Nikki a while back, but it was just a little too shonen for me. It doesn’t always work out, and it’s sometimes best to quit while one is ahead.
This was not the case with Black Lagoon. Sure, it didn’t really look like my thing, but then nothing ever really does. It looked too violent. I don’t like guns. With most of the anime I have enjoyed, I am usually very picky like this at first but once I get into something, be it a book, game or series, I can’t put it down.
Minor Spoilers Ahead
The main character, Okajima Rokuro, (later known simpy as “Rock”) is a typical Japanese salaryman. He attended college, got a job at some corporation, and is busy climbing the ladder. He is entrusted with a disc containing top secret files to be delivered to another company in the South China Sea.
This is where the show begins - within the first 5 minutes, Rock recounts these events while being kidnapped by some pirates. It’s gnarly. He doesn’t even know what’s on the disc, and is taken hostage by the pirates in hopes that they can make some money off of him by ransoming him to his company. Poor guy.
Without venturing into spoiler territory, the contents of this disc, if revealed and made public, would be disastrously scandalous for the corporation. The pirates manage to get hold of the company, and allow Rock to talk to his boss. His boss tells him to die in the South China Sea, and that he will be promoted post-mortem and given a nice funeral.
I found Rock’s predicament to be somewhat relatable. His life had been completely flipped upside down by circumstances and events outside of his control. He was angry and shocked at his fortune after all his efforts to be an upstanding citizen, licking the boots of his superiors in typical Japanese corporate style.
Sure, things aren’t quite as dramatic for me. That said, I can relate directly to that feeling - aviation in the time of COVID is a desolate wasteland of folding companies and layoffs, and while I am still fortunate enough to have a job (that I have not done since this all got serious) I am rather angry about this whole situation. I have, like Rock, busted my ass to get where I am and with the way things are going it’s likely that my career will not be a viable one for years to come should I lose my job by some turn of fate. (knock on wood)
I was hooked. I felt immediately that I could perhaps find some inspiration, or some kind of revelation through this anime that I have overlooked countless times as I scroll the Netflix anime section.
Turns out, I was right.
I know, I know, life isn’t an anime. Things don’t always work out how we want them to, and there isn’t always a way out of a bad situation. In Rock’s case, through a series of events, the pirates take him on and put him to work.
I had expected that this would be a grim sort of character development, where Rock becomes some kind of hardcore villain ruling the criminal underworld - but no. Not yet, anyway.
Rock manages, in some ways, to stay true to himself. The harsh realities of the criminal underworld he finds himself in do change him in some ways, but not what I expected at all. He becomes more assertive, able to stand up to his former captors who episodes ago had him cowering at their feet - they were no less likely or eager to kill him, but this way he earned their respect and lived to fight another day. In his own way, mind.
Rock does not become a gun-toting, cold hearted killer. Far removed from Japan, where order and obedience are generally quite common, he finds himself in the fictional city of Roanapur where, to quote the show, “the balance of power walks a tightrope with it’s hands” as various criminal factions fight amongst themselves for smuggling routes and other illicit operations. It’s in immoral city filled with deviants and lowlifes of all kinds, yet as a symbol of his core values he continues to wear his business attire.
Life in Roanapur is chaotic and messy, with violence and corruption being the norm in direct opposition to the order of Rock’s former life. He reluctantly learns to accept these things - there isn’t always justice, and this is a theme Black Lagoon explores right to it’s end. What even is justice?
While I personally don’t have a clear-cut answer to that, living in a fairly corrupt and relatively lawless country myself, Black Lagoon did give me a few things to think about. What if I embraced these changes in my life and acted decisively, rather than wasting time and energy resenting them? Can I, like Rock, adapt to a new situation that I never thought I would find myself in?
I haven’t got an answer to those questions either, and the more I think about these things, the more questions I have.
Maybe, just maybe, everything will be OK. They might even be better, if I give change a chance.
The scene below isn’t all that relevant to my article, except that I drive an MK1 Golf. Seeing one in an anime brought a huge grin to my face. Before anyone asks, unfortunately, it’s not purple. Thank you for reading.