Review by: Clive Owen
Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Rei Hiroe
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $12.99 US
Rating: M (Mature)
Release Date: Now Available
The ballad of the Walking Dead.
Sometimes it takes going back home to learn who you really are as Rokuro “Rock” Okajima does when he accepted to be Balalaika’s translator in Japanese soil. Instead of feeling nostalgia for the place he once called home, he finds himself realizing that life in his old place of residence was just an illusion and the reality is now someplace darker and more dangerous. In Black Lagoon, Volume 5, Rock learns a lot more about himself as Hotel Moscow and the Washimine-gumi go to war.
Of course, the only one who doesn’t have it in for the Washimine-gumi is Rock who finds it tragic that the High school girl named Yukio has been pulled into the criminal underworld thanks to her own blood ties to the crime family. On top of that, Yukio is betrayed by a low-level member of the same family named Chaka in Volume 4. So, arriving in time to see Yukio missing, Rock and Revy decide to help Yukio’s trusted enforcer, Ginji, to rescue the girl.
Yes, this story arc has been low on thrills and action but the first chapter of Volume 5 does make up for it when Revy and Ginji step into the bowling alley where they’re holding Yukio. It’s an all-out bloodbath as both killers start shooting and slicing their way through Chaka’s cowardly armed thugs. Revy even allows Ginji to take on Chaka … a confrontation that impresses Revy seeing as the big guy slices through a bullet during the fight. It’s painfully obvious that Revy would love nothing more than to face off against Ginji.
Meanwhile, having pulled her away from the fight, Rock manages to rescue Yukio and wait for the shooting to stop. Rock has a rather interesting conversation with the girl and – despite her age – Yukio sees her new life as the head of the Washimine-gumi as a move she herself made and she was certainly not pushed into it. As Rock attempts to convince her that nobody wanted this life for her, it is Yukio that makes a point about Rock’s life that makes him reflect on why he prefers his dangerous life in Roanapur.
“We’re the walking dead,” Revy says to Rock later on in the volume and something about that statement rings true to Rock but the part of him that is still genuinely good compels him to save Yukio. He even crosses Balalaika, who suddenly pulls a gun on her young interpreter. It’s an ugly scene but it says a lot about Balalaika and how she approaches business and just about everything else. It’s be interesting how the relationship between Rock and Balalaika will play out in the future.
On the other side, Yukio prepare what’s left of her organization to direct their efforts in killing Balalaika even if it costs them their own life. We come to truly understand her commitment to her chosen life as boss and her determination to finish what her father started. She doesn’t do it for honor or for herself but rather for the men that decided to stay at loyally by her side through the whole thing. How could she abandon men like Ginji who had turned to her?
Interestingly enough, Balalaika and Rock exchange words again but this time it doesn’t lead to an angry Russian crime boss puling her weapon on Rock. She gives her interpreter a chance to save Yukio and she gives him this opportunity in the most shocking manner. So, once again, Rock and Revy race to find Yukio only to find themselves locked in a final confrontation that ends tragically. Rarely has Black Lagoon moved me in such a way that I was actually glad to find Yukio and Genji again in the lighthearted and comical Black Lagoon extra at the end of each volume.
Volume 5 of Black Lagoon ends a rather deep and slow paced story arc that actually does have a big payoff at the end that makes this such a meaningful story. It does lack all the things we love about this action series despite a good action scene or two in this particular volume but the story does not fail to be interesting and poignant.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
As Rock, Revy and Ginji attempt to save Yukio from the men that had betrayed their own family and Rock learns that this girl has chosen this life for herself. Wanting so desperately to save her, though, Rock even finds himself violently confronting Balalaika only to discover that there is no going back when it comes to their line of profession.
Rei Hiroe knows how to do action scenes and he does it beautifully in the beginning of this volume. Once again, the art in Black Lagoon doesn’t fail to impress.
While the Japan story arc is heavy on the drama and low on action, the finale of this story in Black Lagoon is actually quite tragic in an almost epic sort of way. As Rock and Revy attempt to save a young girl who doesn’t belong in the criminal underworld, the true nature of their ugly profession leads them to come to a startling understanding. That’s really deep, actually.