Review by: Clive Owen
Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Rei Hiroe
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $12.99 US
Rating: M (Mature)
Release Date: Now available
Between a Rock and a hard place.
So far there has hardly been a dull moment in Black Lagoon as the series followed a hapless Japanese salary man who became an asset to the Lagoon Traders after having been kidnapped by gunpoint by these people. Rock has been in the middle of some mean battles and has even confronted his fellow Lagoon Trader during one mission but his new life has finally come home with him in Japan as Rock returns to his homeland in Volume 4 of Black Lagoon.
In the last volume, an extreme militant group with ties to Hezbollah has turned their attention of the Lagoon Traders thanks to a briefcase filled with documents linking the group to attacks on Israel as well as America. With no choice but to rush the documents to the CIA, Rock and Revy find themselves in a race to head to an American base nearby. Unfortunately, Rock is captured and suddenly rescued by Revy and an assassin named Shenhua and a driver who is on one bad trip.
Volume 4 picks up directly after the rescue as Revy and Shenhua take turns slaughtering their pursuers that includes the group’s leader, Ibraha and his Japanese associate, Takenaka. It’s a short chapter that doesn’t feel very complete in this volume. In fact, it feels like the chapter should have been wrapped up in Volume 3. Two interesting things does happen in this chapter that includes a shocking exchange between Takenaka and Ibraha as well as an interesting revelation about Revy once they do meet up with the CIA operatives who recognize her right away.
In a change of pace, the next chapter finds Rock back in Japan but he’s not in town visiting relatives. He’s been invited by Balalaika and the rest of Hotel Moscow to be an interpreter for her while she conducts business with members of a Yakuza clan known as the Washimine-gumi. Even with Revy by his side, Rock feels a bit uneasy about the situation and even more so when Balalaika demonstrates Hotel Moscow’s military power by destroying a business front of the Kosa Kai clan. It is clear to the Washimine-gumi that playing with the Russians is like playing with a wild fire that will swallow up everything in its path.
Meanwhile, Rock and Revy decide to check out one of Tokyo’s Ennichi, a sort of festival much like our carnivals, only to find Revy going nuts over a fixed shooting gallery game. It is here that they meet a cute school girl and her tall bodyguard named Ginji who Revy identifies as a man who has shed his share of blood. A friendship is struck between Rock and the school girl who turns out to be Yukio Washimine … the only direct descendant of the Washimine-gumi that is currently without a boss seeing as Yukio’s father passed away.
As Hotel Moscow begins its destructive mission in Japan, Rock gets a better understanding of how dangerous the situation is in his home turf when a flashy gangster named Chaka who tries hitting on Revy and ends up beating up Rock. It’s clear to them both that Chaka is an out of control maniac that wanted to get into a gunfight with Revy. On top of the rising tensions in Japan, Revy even asks Benny to ship her guns to Tokyo just in case.
In another chance encounter with Yukio, Rock suddenly comes to the realization that he is talking to a member of the Washimine-gumi. Ginji, it seems, has tried hard to shield the girl from the organized crime underworld but it seems that her family’s honor is at stake and this causes Yukio to make a very rash decision that puts her in a direct confrontation with Hotel Moscow. She swiftly takes action against the Russian’s Japanese connections as Balalaika turns her attention on the girl. As Rock rushes to warn Yukio, traitors among her own ranks do the unspeakable.
Black Lagoon, Volume 4, does a great job of setting up what will definitely become an interesting and action-packed chapter. Sure, I was slightly disappointed by the flimsy ending to the last chapter but there’s a lot more going on in the Japan story arc that looks to be leading into a chapter that will place Rock and Revy in a dangerous yet exciting situation.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
The ending of Volume 3’s exciting story ends hastily as Revy rescues Rock from the militant group to rendezvous with the CIA. In the other half of the volume, Rock (accompanied by Revy) heads back to Japan with Balalaika who asked him to be her translator as Hotel Moscow aims to destroy Yakuza factions getting in the way of her Russian partners. Rock and Revy find themselves meeting a girl destined to take the main seat of her family crime syndicate.
Hiroe-sensei’s art is always a treat to look at and his action sequences are wonderfully detailed and over-the-top gruesome.
Volume 4 of Black Lagoon isn’t as flashy or as fun as the last three volumes in the series but it does a good job of setting up a story that will soon erupt in a bloodbath between the Japanese Yakuza and Balalaika’s Russian forces with Rock and Revy caught in the middle. Unlike the last story, this one will most definitely have a bigger and better ending.