We continue the adventures of the Black Lagoon company. A team of four individuals who run a courier service out of the fictional Thai city Roanapur. They are Dutch, an African-American Vietnam Vet who is the Boss. Benny, a white American who is their tech geek. Revy "Two Hand" an explosively tempered Chinese-American woman who is expert in all types of guns. And finally Rock, their newest recruit, a former Japanese salaryman who has a knack for coming up with crazy plans to get the Black Lagooners out of the trouble they are in. The are both written and drawn by Rei Hiroe and orginal published in the noughties, but are set in the mid-nineties. We begin this volume with the conclusion of the story "Goat, Jihad and Rock and Roll". Which saw Rock kidnapped by middle-eastern terrorists aided by a revolutionary Japanese man who are planning an poison gas attack on Manhattan Island and wanted the valuable intelligence info the Black Lagoon company was delivering elsewhere. We finished the previous volume on a cliff hanger with Revy and Rock with their contacts, a knife wielding woman and a drug addled man driving them away from the chaos caused by Revy's rescue. We continue with"Fujiyama Gangsta Paradise" in which Rock and Revy accompany Hotel Moscow, the Russian Mafia gang lead by the fearsome woman Balalaika in their quest to increase their presence on Japanese soil.
[Note: This manga is "unflipped" so must be read from right to left]
GOAT, JIHAD, ROCK N'ROLL: We begin with the Roanapur Triad leader Chang informing the CIA that the intelligence is on its way to them and to make sure he gets payment for it. After he gets off the phone he declares that everything depends on a successful delivery, "godspeed the transporter".
Which is Revy and Rock in a jeep being driven by the coked up Leigharch as Revy shoots and Shennua throws deadly knives at their pursuers. Revy tells Shennua that at this range her blades won't reach and to leave this to her. Revy then climbs up on the vehicle's roof and gets to blasting away. This impresses Shennua, "you walk like you talk".
|Revy in her element.|
Ibraha: "Our work... is not some job, is it Takenaka? It's our life! That means there are times when we must stand our ground. And this is one of them!"
Back with Rock and Revy, the clearly now stoned Rock is mumbling about how he keeps running away from things, all his life since he was a kid. As he rambles on, suddenly Leigharch shouts "Holy shit!! Look at this!!" And he sees a gang of Playboy Playmates.
They finally have reached the US base, not actually manned by Playboy Playmates and the soldiers hold their fire after being told they are friendly. Takenaka tells Ibraha to let this one go, "we've lost this one." He gently tells the enraged Ibraha that making a doomed assault will not bring his son back.
Ibraha says that they are too close to being able to get revenge on the "filthy dogs... in Jerusalem and the bastards that protect them". He wants to make them understand what it was like to be in a Red Cross camp on Beirut in 1987, that is why he is here. He orders a storming of the camp. Takenaka immediately tries to rescind the order and begs Ibraha not to betray their cause over this mission.
They argue and finally Takenaka takes out his pistol and coldly shoots Ibraha dead. He orders the units to not return to camp but to regroup at a secondary rally point. He says to Ibraha's body that "neither of us can take our eyes off the past." He supposes they won't get far until they stop doing that, but also that they couldn't stand their ground if they did.
|Enter the CIA.|
Rock then thanks Revy for what she did, she tells him not to get too hung up on it, because she won't put her ass on the line for him like that again. The next time he fucks up the only help he'll get is "from the Almighty". Then she shrugs and just goes, "jeez..."
We finish with Takenaka waiting at the airport he bumped into the Japanese family beforehand. He says he had a wonderful holiday while Takenaka tells him that his couldn't have gone worse. A deal fell through, he hurt his back, he fell out with a close friend over having young kids do the things they couldn't, but "as long as you're alive, there's always a next time." The man asks Takenaka what his occupation is and Takenaka walks away saying "my job description is... public enemy". End of storyline.
FUJIYAMA GANGSTA PARADISE: We begin in Japan. Rock is on the phone to Benny saying he never thought he'd return to Japan like this. Revy's been complaining a lot since they arrived, but Benny says she only went along because she's worried about him. Rock brings the call to an end and goes to find Revy. It's winter in Japan and snowing, Revy says it's been a while since she saw snow, then she grumbles about all the men who have hit on her only to back off saying "gajin" [outsider] when she speaks English to them.
Then we join Rock doing his work as a translator for Balalaika in a club. They are meeting with a local Yakuza clan lead by Tsgumi Bando. Rock passes on Balalaika's eagerness to set up a Japanese base and they appreciate the assisstance. There has already been a Russian presence there run by a man called "Laptev" who has been pushed out by the expansion of the Chinese and the machinations of the Kanto Mediation Council. So they, the "Washimine Gumi" thought they could help.
Balalaika asks if they are a member of the council, Bando says that they take an oath of loyalty but that only goes so far. They have to pay hefty tribute to their parent group the "Kosa Kai" and they have been leaving the Washimine out in the cold. Balalaika says their goals are compatible, the Washimine Gumi will expand their reach and the Russians will "add another light to the city".
|Hotel Moscow announce their presence.|
Balalaika: "Intimidation with handguns amounts to nothing. We make our strength very clear with our first strike. This is how Hotel Moscow makes a show of force."
She goes on to say they are going to "decimate anything that stands in our way." That's why she is her isn't she? Bando is impressed saying it sounds fine to him, some fireworks to kick off their all out brawl.
We return to Rock and Revy who see the explosion reported on a rolling news ticker in the taxi they are riding in. Revy is gleeful, Rock sighs and wonders if it was too much to ask not for her to turn Japan into a warzone? Revy says Roanapur has been quiet lately and Balalaika was in need of some action. All-out warfare is her idea of a good time, "fucking would only make her bored." Afghanistan turned her into a war-a-holic.
Then Revy spots a "Ennichi" [a sort of carnival] and decides she wants to take a look, so she and Rock disembark their ride. She finds a stall where she can shoot at targets to win a prize. As she easily guns them down she grumbles about not being able to have her own "cutlasses" with her. Japan has very strict gun laws and the police aren't as easy to bribe as those in Roanapur.
|Rock and Revy hang out at the ennichi.|
He goes on to say he doesn't really get on with his family, his older brother got himself a government job, while Rock needed two tries to get into college and only worked a regular job. Revy says he should at least drop his folks a note before he won't be able to contact them anymore.
Revy: "They brought you up all legit. No stealing, no killing along the way. As far as I can see, that's a damn good ordinary family. Don't get me wrong. I'm just sayin' go have a visit that's all."
Rock smiles and says his family is plenty screwed up, the fact he chose to join up with the Black Lagoon Courier Company should tell her something. And Revy smiles back at him.
She then fires and hits another target but it is weighted down and doesn't fall. She taps it saying it's loaded with a weight. Then she says she got the high score so she wants the videogame prize. The stall owner says touching the target with the gun is cheating, so no prize. Revy flies into a rage and Rock tries to translate back and forth while also trying to cool Revy down.
Before it can escalate further, a huge Japanese man with a girl in her late teens accompanying him steps up and says it's the first day of the New Year so "let's make nice and enjoy ourselves. Please... kindly still your rage." Revy squares up to him, but he continues asking her to be reasonable and drop her grudge. "No way" she responds and grins while Rock pleads with her to let it go. Then the teenage girl pipes up offering to take them for sweet sake and to sit and talk. Rock puts his hand up saying he very would like that.
|Ginji and Yukio.|
Because he is so big he soon became Takamachi's peacemaker. She was on her way home from school to see if she could close up shop and the disturbance broke out. Rock says she must excuse Revy because she has a very short temper. He explains that he's been hired by some Russian "folk" to be their interpreter and Revy is his co-worker. The girl says it sounds like a wonderful international sounding jobs. Rock says it's not that glamorous, it's back-breaking and dangerous.
Meanwhile Revy is watching Rock saying he's getting all "dopey". Ginji smirks and Revy asks what he is laughing at? Ginji says to her that something about her is bothering him:
Ginji: "You... ain't a civilian are ya? Those eyes... that look in your eyes says somethin' mean. Them eyes belong to a badass dog."
Revy retorts that she has no fucking idea what he just said to her, but she can tell he is just like her, "you reek of the stench of blood and guts. I know that stench well."
Ginji then gets up and says to the girl that it is getting very cold and the low temperatures aren't good for her. As they part, Rock asks to know the girls name. She tells him it is "Yukio. Yuki like in 'snow' and 'o' as in the straps for a geta sandle" She wished him a pleasant evening and then she and Ginji are gone.
Next day Balalaika is discussing how things are going with her sergeant. He tells them last night they shifted targets to Kosa Kai's underground casinos. They took out two and suffered no casualties, they sterilised the scenes and left no evidence. The independant strike team hit the offices of the Kosa Kai and got twelve confirmed kills, they suffered no casualties or damaged equipment.
The police in the early hours of the morning started sealing off the areas they were operating in. They are getting members of the Washimine Gumi to make transcripts of all the police radio dispatches. They are awaiting Rock's translation but he is away on minor business. Balalaika tells him to expidite the translation process.
Balalaika: "Oh I'm so sorry. My memory is weak when it comes to those who bought their way into their postion. Perhaps I should jot your name down on a dollar bill. Bark all you want.. you worthless bitch of a soldier."
He makes a lunge for her but she downs him easily holding a gun to his stomach. She says she'll warn him once, there are two things in the world she can't stand. One is blini gone cold, the other is "cowardly KGB shits" as neither do any good. She tells him to keep his head down lest he get hit by a stray bullet.
We then cut to Ginji. He is greeted by Bando, who calls him "Little Gin" and Ginji calls Bando "Kashira" [Yakuza underboss]. Bando asks Ginji how much longer is he planning on being "small time". He says the money Ginji is turning over to the Kumi is "almost rock bottom." Ginji says it's a "better racket than pushin' smack and pimpin' girls." Bando says he doesn't do that for kicks, their Kumi has been hurting for a long time, ever since the Boss died, maybe even further back than that.
Kosa Kai has left them alone so far for only one reason. Their old man and their former Boss swore an oath of brotherhood. With that gone, there is nothing stopping them from wiping them out. They've been without an "Oyabun" [Top boss of a Yakuza family] for three years, the Kosa Kai won't let any of them step into the position. They push one of their own instead and Bando thinks he can't hold it off for much longer.
He tells Ginji he is working with the Russians to strike back at the higher ups. But also that Russians are always going to be Russian, "they got no code of honour or any of that shit." For that reason he wants Ginji to carry the "Shirasaya" ["white scabbard", a Japanese sword with a plain wooden handle and scabbard] again, because "any Yakuza with half a brain remembers the wake of terror left by Manslayer Ginji."
Before he goes, Ginji asks him if the Russians brought their own interpreter and what is he like? Bando says Rock is pretty clueless but was with a tough girl who has a pretty face. "Straight as a ruler, you could see it in his face" continues Bando, "if he ever went near a clip joint... it'd be like he was beggin'... to get taken for every yen he had."
The next chapter starts with Yukio at the library. A younger and excitable girl called Maki rund up to find her, calling her "Senpai" [an official mentor]. Yukio is reading a philosophy book by Martin Heidegger which kicks off a lengthy conversation between them about what books they like. Most of the authors are Japanese and it seems Yukio prefers more serious fare while Maki prefers both lighter stuff and western horror. Yukio says she doesn't like horror, it makes her think of the night and the dark, "It leaves me feeling trapped... in the blackness and the lonesomeness" She can't stand nighttime especially when it snows, she feels like it will suck her in, "others might find it romantic. Not me."
Then we cut to Revy in a local park, she is a bit bored as she waits for Rock to get back from where he's gone off to. She has a brief flashback to herself as a kid in the US, pointing a gun at someone. Then she is interrupted from her reverie by some kids who have been using BB guns to try and shoot tin cans and a pellet hits her.
She snatches the gun and from sitting down shoots all the cans without missing a shot. The kids all crowd round her saying that was amazing. As Rock starts to walk back to meet her, she is playing some more with the kids. She and one of them draw pistols against each other. She hits the kid and he throws himself down in a Hollywood version of someone being hit by gunfire. Revy decides to correct this misconception and explains what happens when you get shot, stumbling forwards and face-planting on the ground. The kids tell her it doesn't look as cool.
|Revy teaching some kids an odd lesson.|
They take the subway for another meeting with the Washimine, Revy doesn't enjoy the journey saying it reminds her of her time "in the gutter." Balalaika is meeting Bando inside a pole dancing club, which doesn't faze her of course. Balalaika says it is time to move on to the next phase of their war against the Kosa Kai, so they can resolve the issue quickly. They will clamp down on their legal means of income, just to rattle their cage.
Balalaika: "We employ a tactic that works in any situation in every nation. Depending on the circumstances, it can dramatically resolve any and all concerns. A kidnapping. And abduction Mr. Bando. We target the family members of Masami Kosa, the head of Kosa Kai. We know their location and everything. We could execute this effortlessly."
Bando is shocked and tells her that is one thing they can't do. He just wants them to scuffle with the Kosa kai until they loosen their grip on the Washimine, after which they can lure them in to talk. She mustn't go overboard and make things complicated for them.
Balalaika just laughs, and tells Rock to translate what she is going to say next very carefully. Hotel Moscow will decimate anything that stands in their way. They will employ "any and all means necessary to secure the maximum profits possible. That is what a mafia does." They are taking the risks here and so the decision making "is up to us, not you."
Suddenlt the tension is broken by a phone ringing, which is answered by one of Bando's men, a creep called Chaka who cheerfully threatens the girlfriend who called him with losing teeth then insinserely apologises for the interruption. Bando's right hand man Yoshida yells at him to get the hell out, "shit for brains". Then Bando asks Balalaika to let him and his men time to mull what she has said earlier. She says fine as long as it doesn't interfere with their operational plans and she and her people leave.
|Chaka tries to provoke Revy.|
Then Chaka punches him hard in the stomach, dropping Rock to his knees. Then he lays about Rock some more, "yo babe. Your boy is a pussy. His girl is watching but he won't fight." He goes on to say that Rock no way satisfies her in bed, Revy watches, scowling, but does not make a move. Chaka punches Rock some more, but then Bando and Yoshida appear and yell at him.
They apologise to Rock as Balalaika witnesses what happened, in Russian she says to her sergeant, "incompetant officers and insubordinate soldiers. This is getting better and better sergeant." Revy helps the bleeding Rock up, asking if he is OK. She starts to apologise for not being able to help, but Rock says he understands, Chaka had his hand on his gun the whole time he was beating Rock up. He wasn't interested in Rock, he wanted Revy to pull her gun.
Revy says he was paying attention, his soul is getting hard like diamonds. But if she had pulled her gun things would have got "real complicated real fast for all of us." She tells Rock she is going to need her "cutlasses", she is sure Chaka will want to point his gun at her sooner or later.
Revy: "Don't worry Rock. I'll kill him. I will kill him."
We then cut to Bando and Ginji in a kitchen making some food together. Bando tells Ginji that the Russians are "fuckin' monsters." Ginji asks why he joined up with them then? Bando says they needed a strong arm to muzzle the Kosa Kai. They would have shook things up then used money to smooth things over with the council. Ginji says you can't trust outsiders, but Bando says they should sit tight and ride out the storm while the Kosa Kai grabs all their rackets and turf?
He attended a succession ceremony for the new head of the Kosa Kai and it was made clear they "don't give a shit about the old oath". Things don't look good, if they could crush the Kosa Kai, there is the Kanto Mediation Council above them and then the syndicate of all the families in the Kanto reason. But the Russians don't give a fuck and it's now become all too much for him.
Elsewhere Rock is on the phone to Benny. He tells him he's picked up the stuff Benny wanted, Benny thanks him saying he didn't fancy having to go to Bangkok for it all. He also passes on the message to Benny that Revy wants her "sword and cutlass." Benny asks if a storm is brewing. Rock says he hopes not. Benny says he'll make arrangements and they end the call.
Unfortunately the metro he was going to catch has been cancelled due to a failure down the line. He decides to try for a cab despite the snow and bumps into Yukio. They exchange pleasantries and then Yukio invites him to come for a drink in a nearby cafe after Rock suggests they have more of a chat. They sit and talk, Rock formally introduces himself to her and she asks if he has got around to seeing his parents yet? He says he hasn't and "to tell you the truth.. I'm not eager to..."
|Yukio and Rock chat.|
She speaks to Ginji telling him she is with Rock. He tells her that Bando dropped by so the sooner she returns home the better. She says she will hurry back and ends the call. She apologises to Rock saying she needs to go. He asks her what her surname is and she tells him, to his surprise, that it is "Washimine".
Back in her home she overhears Bando saying to Ginji that he has to break things off with the Russians, because otherwise the way things are going they'd be banished from Kanto completely, hand over their nameplate to the Kosa Kai and close shop. Yukio walks into the room and asks Bando to tell her more about the conversation they were just having.
Balalaika is getting impatient waiting to hear from the Washimine Gumi. She asks if there have been any other developments and is told the police have barricaded the homes of the top Kosa Kai to ward off attacks and have started questioning members of the Washihime Gumi. Balalaika says it is only a matter of time before their cover is blown so they will redploy the main body somewhere safe. Laptev needn't be informed, he needs to die a useful death.
Rock tentatively asks her what would happen if the Washimine Gumi dropped out. Balalaika says it has nothing to do with him and he best be mindful of where he stands. Revy says she shouldn't cut him off like that, it's no big secret. So Balalaika tells Rock they'd simply add another target to the list, "it wouldn't change our job. Wouldn't change anything. Life goes on. That's all there is to it dear."
Yukio is sitting in the library with Maki who is bemoaning a low test score, an argument with her mother and having to give up her job. But Yukio is miles away remembering her talk with Bando and Ginji the night before. That fateful night she decided it was time for her to step up and lead the Washimine Gumi as the only direct heir of her father. Ginji is very against it but she says she was born and raised in this household and can't ignore the difficulties they face.
|Yukio, Bando and Ginji discuss the family's future.|
Bando meanwhile has armed himself with a sword. Yoshida asks what he is doing and Bando says he is just going for a walk. Yoshida calls him "Aniki" [elder brother, a term of respect for senior Yakuza] and Bando says he hasn't heard Yoshida call him that in a long time. He tosses Yoshida his watch and tells him to ask Ginji about what to do next, "you may not like him, but... he's a hell of a man in his own right". He is to consider his words Bando's own and serve him well. Bando begins to weep as he turns and leaves saying "well... so long... or somethin'".
We then cut to the next day. Yoshida reports to Ginji that Bando has been murdered. Ginji says that a funeral will have to wait a little while, they can't let word get out yet. It was the Russians who did it, they stuffed a note in his mouth when they left his body in a suitcase in front of their office which said, "Yellow is the colour of cowards." Ginji says that the problem with Bando was that he was "too smart". Now what is to become of them asks Yoshida as Yukio listens to them.
|Bando confronts Balalaika.|
She elbows him in the face, dodging the blade and grips his neck in a chokehold. She tells Rock to translate what she is about to say, and that tonight she is going to tell the truth. Working side-by-side is for office workers, she has no need of such arrangements. She is here to bring "destruction and domination" She is interested in nothing less, no compromises. She is just here to see how long she can "dance on the bottom of hell's cauldron." Then she breaks his neck saying "...till we meet again".
Then Rock wakes from a nightmare and Revy asks if he is OK? She tells him to be careful how he drinks especially as things are going to be getting busy, Balalaika wants them to tag along as she greets her reinforcements and replacements. Laptev is being set up as an unwitting decoy, Rock muses that there seems to be no way to avert a conflict. Revy says "hell no. Hotel Moscow wants to raise all hell."
Back with Ginji and Yukio, she asks him if Kosa Kai will accept them as equals if she was the successor. He tries to talk her out of it but she says there is no other way. She cannot bear to think of herself leading a safe life at the expense of those who died protecting the family. Ginji says his one hope for her was that she enjoy "the kind of happiness that real folk do."
Ginji: "I... rage is boiling over inside me... against those rotten Kosa bastards. Against the dirty lowlife Russians. every single one of 'em... is hard at work, tryin' to wreck our lives, and tear everything apart!!"
Yukio looks out of the window, and says to him that the snow falling at night is so beautiful and this is the first time she ever realised it. She turns to him and says, "Ginji-san... will you protect me?"
He kneels before her and swears with every fiber of his being to protect her in this life and beyond. Then we see her with Maki in the library where they have finished filing the library cards. Then they go outside and Yukio cups Maki's face and tells her gently to "get along with your mother. You're a good girl and you know it." Maki says she sounds like she's about to die. Then the Washihime Gumi pull up and collect her. Yukio turns and smiles at Maki, telling her to take good care of herself and then walks away to join her men, leaving Maki crying in the snow.
|Yukio leaves her old life behind.|
She has respect because she is sticking her neck out to get revenge for Bando's murder and she isn't doing this for power or glory. Ginji then disembarks the car saying it's time to get things rolling and he'll see her later at home. She tells him to be careful and he pulls out his sword saying "just leave it to me."
Inside the building is Laptev, his men trying and failing to get through to Balalaika. When he is told she and the rest of her people have cleared out of the hotel and left without a trace he stabs the bearer of bad news through the hand. Realising he's been abandoned by his own boss he tells his underling it's because she hates not just the KGB but all the "Nomenklatura". Afghanistan is her devil and she can't let go of it.
Then suddenly gunfire breaks out blowing the place to smithereens but leaving Laptev unscathed. Then in walks Ginji asking "where might I find bearded Ikyu?" The Russians try to shoot Ginji but he slices and dices his way through them in an orgy of destruction until only Laptev is left alive. Ginji holds his sword to his throat and asks where he is going?
|Ginji takes out Leptev's men.|
She tells him to put his thinking cap on, they are their hated enemy. But Rock passionately pleads with her saying that if she has something to do with the Washimine Gumi the storm will hit her too. They can't trust Balalaika not to do something awful to her. Revy says he must stay out of it for his own good. Rock replies that she's a regular schoolgirl and this isn't Roanapur. Revy shrugs saying what makes this place so different? The gal's crossed the line and the madam'll take care of business. She says they are right on the dividing line and if he crosses over, he can never come back. Rock backs down but Revy stops and thinks and then says to him:
Revy: "I forgot something real important. While I'm here with you... I'm your gun. My job's to protect your life... not tell you how to live it. So, no problem. Lead the way my master."
And the taxi changes direction. We then cut to Balalaika holed up in another hotel, the men give her reports saying that the offices of the Kosa Kai have been sealed tight. The country's police are excellent says the sergeant. Balalaika sits and asks him if he heard the news? He says yes, "Comrade Laptev performed his duties... exceptionally well."
This leads to a flashback to a short while ago. Ginji is holding his blade in front of Laptev's face. He demands to know how to contact "that lady boss of yours". Laptev speaks untranslated Russian and Ginji realises he is no use to him and lops Laptev's head right off. Balalaika says he was useful for a providing them with actionable intelligence. His replacement is proficient in scams, schemes and savagery, "but violence is our speciality. Let's begin our mission sergeant".
Yoshida and Yukio return to her home only to find supreme arsehole Chaka waiting there. Yoshida chews him out but Chaka says he thought having more troops around would "put your mind at ease." And in the main room are a bunch of Chaka's men. Chaka then suddenly shoots Yoshida in the stomach and he falls to the floor. He says that he sees the way things are now and they don't want to be on the losing side. They aren't teaming up with either the Russians or the Kosa Kai, but they figure as long as they have a bargaining chip things will work out and Yukio is that chip.
|Chaka executes Yoshida.|
Revy and Rock approach the house. Revy says right now the place smells "real familiar to me!" And she barges in guns drawn. They find Yoshida's dead body and no sign of Yukio or Chaka and his men. Revy says there are no casings on the floor because the gun used was a revolver. Also the size of the exit wound comes from a large calibur gun, "the kind of gun a total moron who wants to show off carries around". And one such moron comes to mind for her and Rock. Rock is confused though, why would he betray his own? Then suddenly Ginji comes running in holding his sword and Revy turns her guns on him as Rock yells, "No, wait!!" And on that cliffhanger this volume ends.
|Revy vs. Ginji.|