Lately I’ve been watching Black Lagoon, and during the second half of Episode 7 there’s a great scene where Rock and Revy argue. What transpires is in my opinion a turning point in Rock and Revy’s relationship that is worth a deeper look.
(Caution! Spoilers Be Ahead! Before going any further I recommend watching up until the end of Black Lagoon Episode 7)
Since a hobby of mine is analyzing scenes (though I rarely transcribe my musings), I thought to myself, heck I have a blog and a great scene. Lets write something down.
The focus of this short piece will be on my major observations of the imagery employed by the creators of this scene. Why imagery over dialogue? Simple. Because I’ve found gleaning meaning from the imagery of this scene more enjoyable (a big props to the English dub by Brad Swaile & Maryke Hendrikse, their amazing work makes this one of the best anime scenes that I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing).
Lets begin with the setting. If you’re familiar with Black Lagoon you may know that some recurring themes are dark and light, how Rock stands in the twilight between worlds, Revy and darkness, and perhaps an implication that Rock is a source of light to Revy. In this scene I believe these concepts are made literal.
Many ‘frames‘ of the scene position the suns light in such a way that’s suggestive of Rock as a source of light, or display him in the boundary between dark and light.
Revy on the other hand is often positioned facing Rock, the suggested source of light, and is often displayed from a position of darkness.
This imagery, along with how the scene changes from bustling to deserted of life, perhaps has deeper connotations to the nature of their relationship. How he can face her darkness and illuminate it.
At one point in the scene Revy declares that there is no Robin Hood to which Rock retorts.
If there is no Robin Hood why don’t you become Robin Hood!
Looking at the sub-scenes surrounding this dialogue I find it interesting how the creators of Black Lagoon subtly convey Rocks shifting morality.
While Revy explains how there is no Robin Hood, we are treated to a sub-scene of police cars driving past an old man sitting on a boat, likely indifferent to his suffering. Lets take a small detour here.
If we recall from Episode 3, Rock bought some food from a vendor. Shortly after Dutch and Revy try what Rock purchased, both loudly exclaim how bad it was. Revy goes on to say how Rock was ripped off, which he resignedly accepts. Perhaps we can chalk it up to Rocks unfamiliarity with Roanapur?
Though perhaps we can stretch a little, and ask why it is we never saw him try it? We know his previous job was working in the procurement department. Now we see him fail to procure something as simple as food. Perhaps he bought it full well knowing it wasn’t worth it? Why?
In Episode 4 Rock meets Mr Lun (the old man from our primary scene!), and almost knowingly pays an exorbitant price, saying ‘its not like anyone here has cash to spare’. Why does he then?
The events of Episode 3 & 4 I believe are acts of charity (where the latter was stopped because of Rocks fear of Revys judgement) that directly contradict what Revy said about there being no Robin Hood. Through work of an ill nature, Rocks employment at the Lagoon Company, he essentially gives away money to the poor (we see this again in the OVA Robertas Blood Trail).
I believe the creators of Black Lagoon invoke the image of Mr. Lun in our primary scene to bring home Rocks reply.
Rock is becoming Robin Hood, and he is not afraid of telling Revy to do the same.
Another interesting element of this scene is the physicality between Rock and Revy. We know full well that Revy is easily capable of dispatching opponents of far greater battle prowess than our current impression of Rock. Yet how is he able to overpower her?
I propose conviction.
Throughout the scene we can clearly see who carries it. Conveyed to us primarily through facial expressions, and tone. We can observe that despite Revys aggressive behavior we need only see glimpses of face to know that she does not have conviction. Rock has it and she does not, she even looks afraid at times.
Moving on, the concept of Roanapur as the City of the Dead makes an appearance. When Rock begins to describe his past life, and how it’s changed since Revy invited him to join the Lagoon Company, we are treated to a sub-scene of the sea.
As Rock narrates, two elements from the sea sub-scene strike me. The first is how numerous and uniform the fish look and behave. The other is how the fish live in a world away from the light, and their disinterest of it. This imagery compliments well a conceivable commentary on main stream existence.
This is underscored in the next set of sub-scenes where Rocks hometown of Tokyo looks arguably more like the City of The Dead than Roanapur, the so-called Land the Dead which is displayed bathed in brilliant light. It leaves one considering.
Who is really dead?
The scene is concluded in the back of a police car. Rocks cigarette is lit by a police officer and Revy asks for a light. Some call what happens next a cigarette kiss, I agree for two reasons. The first is the way Rock and Revy’s heads move towards each other. When in the final positioning of the sub-scene, if you removed the cigarettes and brought them closer, they might as well be kissing.
From the above frame, observe the yellow and red lines of vision. One can make a case for Rock seeming to be more fixated on the cigarettes, though one cannot be sure. It would be hard though to convincingly claim that Revy is looking at the cigarettes (due to the angle of her yellow line). Instead Revy is looking at Rock, and this becomes more pronounced as Rock and Revy get closer.
Lastly I see the transfer of the cigarette light as a physical display of how Rocks light is being passed to Revy, which we see manifestations of later in her changing behavior throughout the series.
And so we conclude our little analytical adventure. Now go watch Black Lagoon!