I don’t know whether this will be seen as a positive or negative review; I did enjoy the show for what it was, but I can’t help but feel there was critical issues with the plot.
To be clear: I thought all the characters, the general dialogue, and most of the plot developments were either solid or very good, but the general theme of Black Lagoon felt unrealistically nihilistic. Reading comments and views discussing this story, it seems as if most Black Lagoon fans actually think that the story holds a sense of realism that I’m sorry to say that it doesn’t.
Each of the stories and background center around particular circumstances that can be realistic for people who followed a violent, revolutionary path in life . . . but the stories ignore one key counterpoint that ultimately undermines the theme and narrative. Black Lagoon’s writing acts as if the only choices are suffering oppression by the hands of corrupt oligarchs or becoming an insane terrorist like Balalika or the Japanese socialist terrorist that Rock briefly spoke to. Yet, the entire story runs afoul of ignoring a very good counterpoint: peaceful protests. It’s not always going to be angry police attacking armed civilians. The fact the show blithely ignores the significance and successes of peaceful protests when they’ve challenged imperialist authority and brought forth racial equality among various nation-states says a lot about the one-sided messaging of Black Lagoon’s overall story.
This failure towards addressing the issue does negatively impact the narrative too. The final arc and lead-up to Yukio’s tragic death . . . I’m sorry to say was one of the most terribly written story arcs I’ve ever seen. Please keep in mind, I was really enjoying this story arc and I was loving the plot development of Yukio slowly being forced into a life of crime to support her family’s Yakuza due to the convenience of their rules. I loved how the story shifted between her and Rock’s perspective whereby she tried to present it as choice, Rock tried to explain that she was a victim, and Yukio went point-by-point explaining how awful of a human being Rock was for doing that and how selfish he really was. Whereas Yukio had no choice because she needed to protect her family and friends, Rock could walk in and out of the life of crime for no reason at all. Whereas Yukio needed to believe she was making her own choices to force herself to keep moving forward, Rock could just drift in and out of the underworld like a ghost and never have to face the repercussions of his actions because he had yet to have a criminal record on him. I was loving this story arc and I was so ready to make Black Lagoon among my favorites . . . and then the end of the story arc was among the stupidest pieces of bad writing ever. Rock suddenly goes on a random monologue explaining Yukio’s only motivation is romance when absolutely nothing at all was shown to lead-up to that perspective. The author literally reduced their most complex and interesting character (Yukio, not Rock or Revy) into a one-note love interest before having her commit a bad reenactment of the finale of Romeo and Juliet. Even worse than all of that was the stupidity of how Balalika got away with everything. In any “realistic” setting, the Japanese government would have been all over those ships being used to commit terrorist acts and even if not? Even if Balaliaka got to get away by pretending to have diplomatic immunity, that would have so many grievous implications between Japan and Russia that both would probably raise their approval for the US to step in and hunt down Balaliaka in Roanapur, Thailand and I think even Thailand would give their approval. Why? Because at that point, Balaliaka has declared herself an international terrorist no different from Bin Laden and Russia, Thailand, and Japan would have absolutely nothing of value to gain from allowing Balaliaka to walk away unscathed from her attacks all over civilian areas in Japan. The US would have stepped in, hunted her down, and killed her entire mercenary group. In any realistic world, her actions would have made world news and approximately 80 percent of the US would have been on Japan’s side and seen Japan as the blameless victim. Which brings me to the worst failing of this story: Balaliaka is essentially a villain sue; the story bends over backwards to give her everything and act as if she’s just so intelligent and fearsome, but it is actually treating her from a fantasy logic of supervillainy whereas Yukio’s actions are treated realistically. The fact the story tries to portray Yukio as naïve and Balaliaka as brilliant just makes the whole arc so much more stupid than it should have been. Balalaika can evidently get away unscathed with international terrorism on a scale comparable to ISIS attacks on Britain and France, but Yukio is in deep shit after one robbery on a local store. I hate to say it, but it is just piss poor writing. The best I can say is that Black Lagoon seemed to be made for nihilists who seem to be the opposite extreme of good vs evil story arcs, whereby nihilistic bullshit is force-fed into the story and the viewership can pretend the shitty writing is “realistic” because they enjoy nihilistic stories.
I really did enjoy the diverse perspectives of the cast, most of the attempts at showing various failed revolutions and their aftermath, and so on. Unfortunately, Black Lagoon cannot seem to decide if it wants its action sequences to be glorified supervillainy or have a sense of realism. I enjoy it for what it is, but it certainly isn’t realistic like it pretends to be. The author clearly did their homework and gave an informed view, the cast is riveting and well-written, and the plot developments are solid. However, it definitely isn’t a favorite of mine because the shortcomings outweigh the positives for me.