There are certain pairs of characters that it’s just a blast to watch together. I’ve written about Elias and Chise from The Ancient Magus’ Bride several times, and Lupin and Fujiko, and Kyon and Haruhi, and Kobayashi and Tohru. I even popped out something about Satsuki and Sendo from Short Sunzen, if you’ve ever heard of them or it.
There are other pairs that are interesting as well…Nadie and Ellis from El Cazador de la Bruja might be worth a second look, and Rin and Mimi from Rin-Daughters of Mnemosyne strike me as someone worth looking at again.
And hey, if they aren’t, well, at least Rin is an anime with a hard R rating *wink*wink*nudge*nudge*
Most couples who are the leading players in a series are what we in the (communication) biz call complementary couples; their strengths and weaknesses are different, but they match together in such a way that where one is weak the other is strong, and vice versa. This is clearest between Elias and Chise, who are simultaneously Master/Slave, Father/Daughter, Groom/Bride, Teacher/Pupil, and Strong/Weak.
I hope I don’t have to explain how those are complementary roles.
Which brings us to Black Lagoon, and Rokuro Okajima and Rebecca Lee. Rock and Revy to you and me.
I love Black Lagoon. It’s a down and dirty story about people who are down and dirty, just trying to make a living in this crazy old world, and if The Man doesn’t like it, it’s just The Man trying to put them down. The Black Lagoon Trading Company is a gang of, well, smugglers doesn’t quite encompass all the services they provide, but it’ll do for now. There’s the boss, Dutch, a Vietnam vet (or maybe not), the electronics whiz, Benny, and the gunslinger girl, Revy.
As the show opens, they’re hijacking some information from a Japanese company, represented there by Rock. Revy decides she wants to take Rock as well as the information, and a great anime couple is formed.
A complementary couple they certainly are. Revy nearly blows Rock’s head off in the first five minutes; I don’t recall him carrying a firearm throughout the 24 episodes of the series or the five more in the OVA (Roberta’s Blood Trail). She is strong, impetuous, profane; he is weak, measured, polite. She is motivated by instinct; he is motivated by intellect.
She understands violence. He understands business.
Two people, one gun: Rock (left) and Revy
This makes them a good team, of course, in the underworld of Roanapur, the fictional Thai city that Black Lagoon Trading Company operates out of. It’s a gangster city run by Balalaika, the scarred but yet beautiful Russian veteran paratrooper, according to rules that she enforces under penalty of death. Rock gets the deal done; Revy keeps him alive doing it.
So in one sense they need each other. This need keeps their relationship from flying apart. In fact, it’s just as Revy is on the verge of eliminating Rock permanently that he does the deal with the Ripoff Church that keeps the company in business.
Structurally, they need each other. By the end of the series, they know they need each other.
What’s particularly interesting is that in two ways they form a non-standard complementary couple. One is that they are gender-role reversed. Revy is strong and violent; Rock is quiet and passive. Revy is the soldier and Rock is the secretary. (There are even scenes of him doing the paperwork. Like smugglers bother with paperwork.) It’s Revy who uses her hand gun as a surrogate penis (getting a little Freudian here); Rock doesn’t carry a pistol – he actually refuses when Balalaika offers him one – and what that says about what he has in his pants we will not speculate upon.
Of course, there is no romance between them. This emphasizes their nature as business associates, instead of the “Boy Meets Girl” glamor of the movies. Not only is there no romance, but they show no particular interest in romantic relations although Rock’s a good looking guy, and Revy… well, it’s hard to take your eyes off her. Rock sees Revy in a variety of potentially sexually charged ways – in her underwear, changing her clothes, in the shower – and does not appear to respond. And as for Revy, well, if she wanted something from Rock, she’d take it.
The other, and narratively more interesting, way they are a non-standard couple is that their development as a pair of characters is one-sided. Revy’s feelings toward Rock change across the series, but it’s Rock whose character develops. In fact, that’s the meta-plot of Black Lagoon: through the course of the series Rock changes from Japanese salaryman into stateless gangster. It’s a Rebirth story, Rock’s Rebirth story.
That’s an interesting trick in that the power in their relationship shifts as well. As Rock changes, Revy is forced to change in response. See it? Despite her ability to kill him as he stands, in this element he has the power!
Between the two of them, he becomes more like her, but she also is forced to become more like him: she becomes less impulsive (just as violent, but less impulsive), she defers to his leadership at times. She’s never submissive, but when he’s right she does as he says. She comes to trust him to do the thinking for the both of them.
I’m pretty sure this is deliberate. In the open of the first episode, when he is just another office worker, she tries to kill him. In the close of the last, when he has finally realized he is a gangster, she tries to protect him. That suggests the change in her that’s been forced by the change in him.
It’s an interesting dance between them, and it’s fun to watch
I look forward to the next manga omnibus volume. Wikipedia says it’s been released in Japan; a typical lag before translation and US sales is eight to twelve months. It’s going to complete another story arc, and I want to see what happens between Rock and Revy (even though the focus is actually on an outside character).
We shall see.
I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.