It bewilders me to this day how much better Black Lagoon is than every other anime. This is my top 5 anime, and I love Evangelion and I love Cowboy Bebop to death, their density and girth of things to say is unrivalled in anime. But even with their thematic density and overall quality, they don’t even hold a candle to Black Lagoon to me. And you think this is about action you’re a complete fool, because Rock and Revy are the best anime relationship.
I’ve written over 50 000 words about this relationship. I accumulated what I thought were all my thoughts into a 4-part series video series, here on YouTube, two of which are still available to view on this very channel, but here I am in the same year, coming back because there’s more to say. Black Lagoon is the greatest anime of all time, because Rock and Revy’s relationship is best anime relationship, and Rock and Revy is the best anime relationship because of Black Lagoon’s unmatched character writing. The sheer number of layers of subtext there is with these to, is almost to immense to comprehend, because you have to incorporate everything that Revy is and then clash it with everything Rock is and seeing them collide is the magic this series stands on.
But the heart of this relationship, before we get into the thematic writing of the characters, is how they interact. The Dub is essential to the quality of their interactions. You must, and I mean must, watch Black Lagoon Dubbed, because everything I talk about in this video only works because of the quality of the changed, Dub-specific script. Because dialogue to me, is the number 1 thing I look for in media.
My favourite TV Show of all time, Black Lagoon included, is the Sopranos. My favourite film of all time is either the Godfather Part 1 or Part 2, and my favourite video game of all time is The Last of Us. One thing that all of these things excel in is their collective great dialogue. The Sopranos has the best dialogue I’ve ever heard on TV, the Godfather has the best dialogue I ever heard in a Film, and The Last of Us has the best dialogue I’ve ever heard in a Video Game. Black Lagoon’s Dub is the only anime I would even consider putting in the same category, in term of dialogue, as these various things. Cowboy Bebop can try, but Black Lagoon does it better. Baccano can try, but Black Lagoon does it better.
The Black Lagoon Dub is so brutal and raw and blunt. The performances are great, but they are working with what they’re given. The lines they are given feel natural and feel at home in the setting. It makes sense that Roanapur would lead to the most foul-mouthed anime script in existence. Find me another anime that uses the word ‘cunt,’ and as a proud Australian I’ll give you an award. The swearing in this show absolutely makes a difference, because it’s something anime always censors in Dubs, but Black Lagoon fully leans into it, and it definitely makes the dialogue more natural, it makes it funnier and makes it more quotable. I point this out all the time, but the dismissive ‘fuck you,’ Revy throws back at Rock in the Submarine gives me euphoria on each listen. It’s perfect and it perfectly encapsulates the point I’m trying to make here.
And again, the dialogue is what everything we are about to get into stands on, all the deep character related stuff is poultry to me, if they are unnatural in the way they portray it, because if there’s one thing anime certainly isn’t it subtle. Naruto explain exactly how he did what he just did, because anime largely thinks its audience are morons, Black Lagoon does not hold your hand. The dialogue doesn’t tell you what’s going on, but it does portray what’s going on, and that’s what we call subtlety. So, now let’s explain why the layers that make Rock and Revy the best relationship in anime.
Rock and Revy are almost never honest with each other, in fact it’s impossible for them to be honest with each other, because they can’t even be honest with themselves. There are only a few things certain about their relationship, they definitely care about each other, and they definitely tread on each other. That’s almost all that’s certain with the two of them. And this is perfect, because that’s what people do. In fact, they take it a step further because they constantly act in contradiction to what they actually want.
To set-up the entirety of this video all I had to do was explore two questions, what does Revy want, and what does Rock want? These questions are incredibly complex and I’m not even sure the characters could answer the question themselves, but they both definitely think they can answer it about the other person, particularly Revy to Rock.
Revy sees Rock as the epitome of a normal man, with a normal life, and both admires him for this and hates him for this. She takes advantage of this and on the exterior acts like she wants him to change, only for him to change and for her heart to break because of it. By the end of Roberta’s Blood Trail Rock is no longer a normal man, with a normal life and Revy breaks when she is confronted with this through his behaviour in those OVA’s. She even tries to kill him for the first time since Episode 7 and the iconic, ‘Cigarette Kiss’ scene. Even before that with the equally iconic, ‘Submarine’ scene, she wanted to kill him for judging her from his normie perspective.
She couldn’t handle being questioned and couldn’t stand that someone who didn’t know what it was like being born into this thing, would judge her and morally chastise her for earning money. And then we he finally comes over to her side and acts like her, the way she wanted him to back in Episode 7, in Roberta’s Blood Trail, with his manipulation of everybody, including her, she wants to kill him again. He stood opposite of her and she wanted to kill him, he stood parallel to her and she wanted to kill him, because Revy is a hypocrite. She berated him the entire show, calling him a pussy and saying he wasn’t cut out for this thing, but then he showed that he was, and she hated him for it. This happened because Revy doesn’t know what she wants, she gives off different signals and never actually explains what she wants from Rock, because she can’t and even if she could, I don’t think she would tell him, because that’s not how humans work.
Does she, like Fabiola says in Roberta’s Blood Trail, view Rock as her knight in shining armour? Does she want Rock to remain a morally virtuous, normal person in the hopes that he can save her from the only life she’s ever known, in Roanapur, stealing and killing? Is this why she gets so angry and has an existential crisis at the end of Roberta’s Blood Trail when it looks like Rock is losing himself to the city and to the game? Is this why she pleads for him to look at her as Yukio commits suicide, in the most brutal way possible, by impaling herself? I think this is what Revy wants, which funnily enough makes Revy a completely fucked-up damsel in distress, she sees Rock as an out, and representation of a better life, and the more she and the city chip away at that, the more scared she gets.
But what’s even more interesting from Revy’s perspective is she doesn’t notice Rock is changing throughout the show. She blinds herself and only sees what she wants to see in Rock. Even by the time we get to Japan and even in Roberta’s Blood Trail she’s still repeating the stupid talking point that he doesn’t belong in this thing. The twins, going to Japan and everything that happens there, then the events of Roberta’s Blood Trail, have all had a massive effect on him. He has obviously changed since the beginning of the story when he was a simple, morally virtuous Japanese man.
Fabiola in Roberta’s Blood Trail serves as a brutal reality check to Revy in this regard, because she’s the one who finally makes her see Rock for who he truly is. The conceit of the series, the sales-line of the series, would seem to be, what happens when an ordinary, morally virtuous Japanese man is thrust into the underworld and is forced to confront it, with the key dynamic being his relationship with this girl who represents all the underworld has to offer. It’s supposed to be the interesting interactions of these two polar opposites interacting, but what’s truly brilliant about all of this, is that by the time of Roberta’s Blood Trail, we realise that the point of the series was actually to show that the normal Japanese man, this relatable main character, the representation of you in the narrative, is actually exactly the same as this girl, this representation of the underworld. Because everyone is capable of becoming like Revy, as Rock does in Roberta’s Blood Trail. Fabiola serves as the holy messenger for Revy and the audience, she’s the wake-up slap Revy needed.
Fabiola in this scene tells Revy that this person she always talks about, this person that doesn’t belong in this thing, the person who’s not cut out for it, she’s never meant, because the Rock she’s always known in her short experience in Roanapur, absolutely belongs here. He’s indistinguishable to her as the rest of the filth in the city. It’s entirely possible that that person Revy had projected on Rock, never even existed to begin with, because the point is, the filth of Roanapur is in every person, just only some have to bring it out of themselves to survival and Roanapur is a place that brings this side out of people. Fabiola then ends that scene making the analogy that Revy wants Rock to be her knight in shining armour, and because of all this subtext I think she’s absolutely right. Revy literally has an existential breakdown after this conversation that leads her into the mindset of want to kill Rock again. The value she secretly thought Rock had is gone, and she’s extremely angry in that moment, and then she goes to talk to Rock and he’s a zombie, he’s so steadfast in his ploy at this point that even though the person he’s perhaps closest to in the entire world, is sitting there having just been broken and gone into a retroactive depression where she relived getting raped as a child, he stands there emotionless and unsupportive. The person Revy wanted him to be is gone in that moment, and it’s almost all her fault, because she berated him the entire time for being the person, she wanted him to be.
Because that’s another very important layer to all this, Revy never says anything even approaching what she actually means or actually wants from Rock, so it’s hard to blame Rock for not seeing it. And here’s the thing, Revy is a total Tsundare, she’s only mean to him because she likes him, and doesn’t know how to properly communicate with him, because that’s how humans are. By the way, that does also make Revy the best Tsundare in anime, as well, if we’re keeping score, sorry Asuka.
To portray what Revy and Rock’s relationship is like to the people who may still be struggling to understand me here, let me give a totally not personal analogy that put everything into perspective.
Let’s say a young boy likes a young girl and they are in school together. They sit next to each other let’s say. Now the young boy can’t just come out and say that he likes the young girl, because he doesn’t have confidence in the fact that she likes him back or wants the same thing he does, if he asks and she doesn’t then the game is lost forever, so it’s best to try another approach, he decides to talk to her, but how they communicate is almost contradictory to the young boys goal.
They get to talking but the young boy is a little nervous, so he alleviates this with comedy and other chemistry building things. What eventuates from their relationship is young boy constantly and jokingly making fun of the young girl, because it’s funny and it makes both of them laugh, and it’s clearly playful between the two of them. It’s that whole ‘he only picks on you because he likes you’ shtick. That’s what their relationship is built on and its fun and now they always have something to talk about and it’s easy to talk to each other, because they have this built in chemistry, but then a problem arises.
The young boy still likes the young girl, probably even more now that there’s more of a connection there, but because their relationship is built on sarcasm to a degree, and a whole lot of making fun of each other, the young boy might actually find himself further away from his original goal. How is he going to get serious and tell the young girl how he feels, when it’s easier to just make her laugh and put off the serious part? He’s never even hinted at his true motivations, and if he reveals them it could confuse the young girl, because nothing he’s ever said has indicated that he likes her. If he tells her and their relationship is built on him making fun of her constantly, how can he then reveal that she was actually perfect the entire time and he just wanted her attention. He thought getting her attention would get him closer to his goal, at least closer than not talking at all.
Ultimately, even though the young boy started all this in order to express that he liked the young girl, he can now never come out a say it, because it’s impossible to read it from the other side. If he comes out and tells her, then everything they’ve built will either pay off or everything will be ruined, and now there’s even more pressure then there was originally on what her response would be, if he was honest. It’s possible the young girl might be under the assumption the young boy hates her. Does he only talk to her to make fun of her? She’s got to ask herself these questions, and how could she possibly know that he was just nervous the entire time, and this dynamic was just the easiest way to talk to her. It’s a hard situation all round, and if you haven’t caught on, Revy is the young boy in this example.
Instead of Revy liking the young girl, she wants the young girl, or Rock, in the example, to save her from her life-long tragedy, but she can never admit it, because of who she is and how she got into this mess. Could you ever see, Revy admitting this to Rock? It seems antithetical to everything she is, but the evidence is very clear, this is what Revy wants and Fabiola is the only person that’s had the balls to point it out. Revy will likely never admit this, but this is her true motivation even if she acts in a completely contradictory manner, just as the young boy acts in a contradictory manner towards the young girl. And this naturally creates some confusion in Rock. But this is what makes their dynamic so unbearably brilliant. There are so many layers here to analyse, and we haven’t even begun to talk about anything from Rock’s perspective yet.
The conceit of Rock as a character is that he is a normal, morally virtuous man that is thrown into the underworld and has to deal with what he finds there, we briefly went over this already. This leads down many winding roads, from the Nazi’s and the confrontation with Revy in the submarine, to the massive blow-up and cigarette kiss scene in Episode 7, to the terrorist group kidnapping, to everything that happens with the twins, then with Yukio, and by the time we get to Roberta’s Blood Trail, Rock is completely at wits end, and that’s when we see the most change in him, but that change is facilitated in every incremental arc we just went over, that slowly chips away at his humanity.
But here’s the thing, quote, on quote moral Rock, is a lie, he’s truly selfish and prideful, in his own way, and is exactly like Revy. Again, we sort of went over this earlier, but I want to highlight her how selfish and prideful Rock is outside of the fact that it brilliantly makes him the exact same as Revy. This is most on display when he feels the need to reiterate his fucking stupid point to Yukio before she kills herself. He ignores the tragedy of the act and watches as she impales herself with Genji’s Samurai sword. But the most brilliant and frustrating thing about Rock throughout that whole arc, is that he’s being massively hypocritical, because the way he sees Yukio is exactly how Revy sees him, and he hates the way Revy sees him, yet he does the same thing to Yukio.
Yukio and Genji maybe are the most blatant Rock and Revy parallels, though nearly every antagonist and even minor character is a direct parallel to one of the two of them. It’s something that makes Rock and Revy so special. Think about it: Kaguyama is what Rock would have become if he had remained in Japan and lived a normal life. He would have had a nice family, a dog and been thoroughly unfulfilled with his repetitive day-to-day life. Takenaka, the leader of the terrorist organisation, is an example of what Rock could turn into if he went all the way with this thing. Rock’s smart enough and has the guts to have radical men follow him, Takenaka serves as an underrated character in the series, and a mirror to how Rock could have ended up if he applied himself fully to the underworld. Kaguyama is the version of Rock that went all the way this way, and Takenaka is the version of Rock that went all the way this way. And as Rock usually does, he ends up in the twilight, between these two opposites. But, as Black Lagoon likes to point out, the difference between all the people on this graph, is nearly non-existent.
Rock fits in, in Roanapur, anyone can, as long as they have a little luck. Every character we meet in the series is either tempted by the city or is already in its clutches, and the next parallel and maybe the most powerful parallel to Rock, Yukio, presents this dichotomy perfectly. Let’s get back into what I was talking about before and tie Revy back into this, Rock is a hypocrite, because he treats Yukio the same way Revy treats him.
Revy constantly says that Rock isn’t cut out for the type of work they partake in, even if she doesn’t mean it, as we’ve already gone over, but Rock doesn’t know and hates that she constantly says this, especially when she continues to do it, even way after it’s self-evident that he has the potential to be better at this thing, than even she is. Revy is a soldier, not a thinker, she couldn’t lead a crime family in the city, but Rock could, with patience and a little push. He directly challenges Balalaika and Chang throughout the show, so it makes sense for him to hate it every time Revy says something like this, but he does the exact same thing to Yukio and it’s beautifully hypercritical.
Rock babies Yukio, he tries to protect her, when she doesn’t want protecting, maybe she needed it, but she didn’t ask for it, and it’s not Rock’s place to save her, and as Yukio perfectly points out in that absolutely outstanding scene when they are alone in the bowling alley, Rock doesn’t actually want to save her because he likes her, even if the show likes to tease the romantic angle between the two of them; he wants to save her because she represents the last reminisce of normality Rock has, to Rock, and remember this all happens post-twins, so Rock doesn’t have that much normality left.
She’s a representation of normal, peaceful, simple life in Japan. Yukio is presented as maybe the wife Rock could have had if he’d remained in Japan. The show, as I already mentioned, plays the romance angle with them initially. But, the simple Japanese housewife, the innocent girl untouched by the underworld is not who Yukio is, it’s not who she wanted to be, but Rock thinks he understands Yukio better than Yukio does, just like Revy thinks she knows who Rock is better than Rock does.
It’s this massive fucked up triangle of projection and manipulation and self-pity and hypocrisy, and it’s so fucking interesting to watch. And Black Lagoon shines, in what I’ve termed, the ‘explosion of emotions’ scenes. That’s exactly what the cigarette kiss scene is, that’s exactly what the scene with the standoff with Balalaika is and that’s exactly what that scene in the bowling alley with Rock and Yukio is. It’s Yukio calling Rock out on his bullshit hypocrisy and the moment where she tells him that she hates him is so satisfying to me, because in that moment I hate Rock too, and it’s such a human mistake for Rock to make.
How could someone be so laughably unself-aware, to not realise that exactly the way he feels towards Yukio is the way Revy feels toward him. To Rock, Yukio represents a possible love interest in a normal life setting and all the simple draw that has, and to Revy, Rock represents this same idea, but none of them ever admit any of this, and it just sits in the subtext perfectly marinating for you to think about forever. And then that final scene where Rock has to get his hypocritical point out before Yukio kills herself is perfect. The piece of shit can’t resist, he has to try and convince Yukio that he was right all along before she impales herself with a fucking Samurai sword and it’s all for his pride, to be proven right. Yukio dies and Rock thinks it validates everything he told her, she wasn’t cut out for Roanapur, she never even reached Roanapur, and he isn’t forced to confront his hypocrisy.
Then in Roberta’s Blood Trail, we get presented with Fabiola and Garcia, another parallel couple to Rock and Revy. They are a pairing similar on the surface to Rock and Revy, but the arc demonstrates how different the two pairings really are, by making our main characters look like monsters in the face of these children. Rock does ultimately save them both from going down the same path as he and Revy did, but it’s only a by-product of his ongoing personal feud with Chang. He may save everybody at the end of Roberta’s Blood Trail, but his main motivation was saying, ‘fuck you’ to Chang because Chang attacked his pride. Something Chang only did, funnily enough, because Eda, posing as a CIA agent, attacked his pride, because wouldn’t you know Chang is another Rock parallel, there’s a reason they look nearly identical. Rock didn’t save everyone for the moral victory, though he may lie to himself and say that he did, he did it in a foolish attempt to prove Chang wrong.
Rock’s obsession with saving people, that starts with Revy and moves onto Garcia, the first time they meet, and then onto the Twins and then Yukio and back to Garcia and Fabiola, is born because he couldn’t save Revy, which is funnily enough what Revy actually wanted. Rock just didn’t know enough about Revy when he tried originally, and Revy didn’t realise what he was trying to do. Rock tried helping Revy by talking to her and trying to understand her, which naturally lead to him questioning her more morally ambiguous actions, with his standard moral virtue. Revy saw this as someone privileged, judging her from the outside, not understanding her struggle and how she got into this mess, which really pissed her off. See example 101, the Submarine scene. That’s where Rock questioned Revy for graverobbing the Nazi soldiers and she gives that speech I love so much. After that she goes into a Nazi killing trance, and even nearly kills Dutch.
Rock, hated feeling helpless in that situation and after he patches things up with Revy after their massive argument in Episode 7, that leads into the Cigarette Kiss, not the scene the actual kiss, he tries to overcome his guilt of not being able to save Revy, by trying to save Garcia, and the twins and Yukio, and he fails a few times and it breaks him but eventually at the end of Roberta’s Blood Trail he wins, he somehow saved Roberta who murdered tones of American agents, the American agents she was hunting and the kids. But the feeling doesn’t resonate with Rock, it doesn’t fulfil him, and he can’t figure out why, even up until the post-credits scene of the final episode, but he feels unfulfilled because at some point in the city, likely after the twins and in Japan, it stopped being about saving people for Rock, and started to be a pride, dick measuring contest with Balalaika and Chang, for Rock to flex his ability.
As each encounter chipped away at Rock, he lost sight of his originally goal, saving Revy and pursued saving other people as a substitute, only to lose sight of his goal along the way, just like Revy. She was drawn to Rock because he represented someone who could save her, but as the series progressed, he confronted her with her humanity which made her angry and she slowly lost sight of the goal of using Rock to get out, and the only thing left of that original goal, is that line she keeps repeating about him not belonging here, because subconsciously it’s her telling herself that he is still her only hope.
They both progressively lose themselves and lose their original motivations, of saving and wanting to be saved. But that’s where it all perfectly comes full circle with both of these two, THEY ACTUALLY DID WANT THE SAME THING THE ENTIRE TIME. The young girl actually did like the young guy, they didn’t have to do this dance, but tragically just like wit the young girl and the young boy, Rock and Revy may never admit this to each other. And what we are left on at the end of the series, is almost a half-step.
The last scene of the show is a post-credits scene after the final episode of the OVA, where Revy has seemingly calmed down from nearly killing Rock earlier and they have a moment where they both shoot using gun hands into the city, looking out from the ship in the dead of night. Symbolically in this moment they agree that whatever happens next, they’ll do it together, because ultimately, they may not know what the other thinks of them, they both know themselves that they care about each other, and that they’ll both feel comfortable facing whatever comes next, together. (You’re going to carry that weight.)
That’s basically the argument for them being the best relationship in anime, right there. But there is more if you want another entire layer of bullshit to think about, because I didn’t even discuss in the video if the relationship is platonic or romantic, on top of everything else. Does running away together entail a romantic relationship, probably, but not definitely. There’s just so much to think about regarding these two, before you even get to the romantic or platonic discussion. But, most importantly, remember guys, Black Lagoon is just a dumb action show, with nothing to say. God the anime community is disgusting, and I won’t stop until I’ve done with Black Lagoon, what Best Guy Ever did with Gurren Lagaan.
Finally, to conclude, all of this is why this is the best relationship in anime. Better than Spike and Faye, better written than whatever Asuka and Shinji had going on, better than Misato and Kaji, better than Okabe and Kurisu, better than Isaac and Miraa, better than Goku and Chi-Chi, Vegeta and Bulma, Kushina and Minato, better than Thorfinn and Gudrid, better than Guts and Cas— maybe we won’t go that far, but I would consider it; but only in the manga. That’s how much I love this pairing. It’s Guts and Casca levels in my opinion, and I have whole videos talking about that relationship as well.
But ultimately, none of this storytelling matters really, not to me, because the dialogue is so good. I wouldn’t have thought about this show and this pairing as much as I have or written about this show and this pairing as much as I have, without first being hooked by the dialogue. Because as I hope I’ve made abundantly clear, everything in this show, stands on the shoulders of the truly medium defying dialogue. And to me it’s hilariously ironic that anime’s greatest export is only anime greatest export for an element that’s seemingly antithetical to it being anime.
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