Welcome, one and all, to my latest OWLS post! If you don’t remember, OWLS stands for Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-Respect. We are a group of content creators who promote acceptance of all individuals regardless of race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and disability. We emphasize the importance of respect, kindness, and tolerance to every human being. Every month we discuss real-world topics through online tours, sharing personal experiences and analyzing pop culture, literature, and other forms of media.
This month, we’re looking at the theme of devotion. In this respect, we’re defining the topic as follows:
“When we talked about fandoms, we show our appreciation and support by buying merchandise, cosplaying, writing fanfiction and etc. In fact, our appreciation can end up looking like a sign of religious worship. For this month, we will be talking about how certain characters express devotion to others, objects, and values. We will also be discussing how devotion can turn into an unhealthy form of passion and obsession and the implications of that.
Examples: Pokemon, Jojo, Deathnote, Sailor Moon”
So, when I saw this topic, there was one character that I felt like I absolutely had to write about: The cigarette smoking, gun-toting, foul-mouthed badass that is Revy.
I absolutely love Black Lagoon. Both Rei Hiroe’s ongoing manga and the excellently faithful anime adaption are excellent examples of a seinen thriller. Best of all, it always felt like a series you could take multiple ways. If you want some high octane action and a crime-driven world, it has that, and you can certainly drift off and follow along without paying too much attention. Looking for fan service? Well, it’s entirely in your face with it, but it’d be a lie to say that it isn’t there at all. I once saw a reviewer say that Revy’s arse was an important part of the action in the series, and it does feel like you could take it that way, for example.
The thing that I’m most interested in here though is that the series actually contains some philosophy. The existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre is directly quoted in the text, and you can pick up little bits of Nietzsche and Camus in there too. As a result of this, and how each character’s personal philosophy presents itself, the core cast does feel very fleshed out if you look past the flash.
Today, I want to look at one character in particular: The Lagoon Company’s primary fighter, Rebecca ‘Revy’ Lee. Most specifically, I want to talk a little about the beliefs and people that she is most devoted to.
A Devotion To Money
On the surface level, this should be no surprise. The Lagoon Company is a crew of modern-day pirates, and as such, mercenary is in their job description. For Revy though, this goes a little deeper. This is perhaps best demonstrated by an exchange between Revy and Rock during a raid on a Nazi submarine. Rock expresses some discomfort with them taking items from bodies and Revy tries to prove a point to him. She asks him what he sees when she holds up a handful of items. He gives her a literal answer, and this conversation follows:
Revy: That’s where you’re wrong. Both of these are just things. As soon as you strip away their meanings, then that’s all they really are. Just things and nothing more. And if you’re gonna give these things any kind of meaning again, they won’t get any other value because of someone’s precious memory. Their value will be determined by the one thing everyone agrees on. (tinkles the Iron Cross) And that’s money. The rest of it is just a bunch of sentimental bullshit.
Rock: Hm. Is money… your God?
Revy: It’s power. Something a lot more useful than God. And Rock, if you think about it, other than this, what do we really value in life? God? Love? Don’t make me laugh. Back when I was just a brat, crawling around that shit-hole city, it seemed God and Love were always sold out when I went looking. Before I knew better, I clung to God and prayed to Him every single night — yeah, I believed in God right up until that night the cops beat the hell out of me for no reason at all. All they saw when they looked at me was another little ghetto rat. With no power and no God, what’s left for a poor little Chinese bitch to rely on? It’s money, of course, and guns. Fuckin’ A. With these two things, the world’s a great place.
Albert Camus once said this on money: “What I’m sure of is that you can’t be happy without money. That’s all. I don’t like superficiality and I don’t like romanticism. I like to be conscious. And what I’ve noticed is that there’s a kind of spiritual snobbism in certain ‘superior beings’ who think that money isn’t necessary for happiness. Which is stupid, which is false, and to a certain degree cowardly…” This is echoed to a point in the above exchange. Revy is outright telling Rock that, in the world they inhabit, money is everything. She hated that he applied sentimentality to what are, in her eyes, simply items, tools to earn what is important.
It’s worth applying this to the two character’s backstories too. For Revy, she came from a poor background. She’s a Chinese-American who suffered not only police brutality but also had an abusive father. For her, she had no choice but to crawl, even after she learned to walk. And what did she see when she looked around her? That those who held power had money. Now, she seeks it out. He understands what it means to be without it, and what it can provide.
Rock, on the other hand, comes from a more balanced background. He hated his job as a salaryman in Japan, but he was comfortable. Bored, perhaps, but comfortable. He had enough money to live with. As such, he was in a position where he could afford sentimentality. At this point in the story, he is still new to the world he now lives in, and his application of his old values to the current situation succeeds in pissing Revy off. And who could blame her? When you have nothing, what is there to get sentimental about? Rock, for all intents and purposes, is a physical manifestation of the life she escaped.
The sad thing is, her devotion to money isn’t necessarily an entirely negative thing. When you spend too long focussed on money, you miss out on a lot of life. But for Revy, it’s a way to keep living. She will never be one of the rich, powerful people that mistreated her. Somehow, I doubt she’d want to ever reach that level. But her desire to earn is actually a necessity. She needs money for food, and she needs money for guns and ammo because those are the tools that allow her to earn more money. No, this devotion is not in itself wrong. Her life up until now is far more at fault than her desire to rise above her past by the only way she knows.
A Devotion To Life And Death
Despite her tough start, Revy is not without a love of life. In fact, she is quoted as saying, “You’ve got to enjoy life, or else you’ll end up wasting it.” And boy does she enjoy herself. Revy often has the biggest smile when she’s doing something she enjoys. Such as sticking some White Zombie on and shooting a bunch of people. In that respect, Revy’s job is killing, and she loves her work. But something else is at play here.
Take the most recent volume of the manga, Black Lagoon 11. Revy is at her happiest when facing down an overly powerful opponent who seems to be capable of shrugging off bullets like a kaiju. Maybe she just likes a challenge, or enjoys proving herself to be the best? Maybe. But I think she’s more complicated than that. Below is another quote from Revy.
“Whether we live or die isn’t a big issue. If you focus on being alive, you develop fear. Your eyes get clouded. But if you have no such feelings…you are capable of fighting right to the end of the world.”
This is almost contradictory, isn’t it? On the one hand, she has already said that you have to enjoy life. Yet here, she says she places no focus on living. But her goal in doing so is to keep fighting to the end of the world. Revy is trying to live the only way she knows how, but I feel like there’s a part of her that is trying to die too. When you look at it, she takes risks on a regular basis. She willingly throws herself into battle against foes that are either far stronger than her or far greater in numbers. Revy seems to love putting herself at a disadvantage.
Now, maybe it’s like I said, and she likes a challenge or proving herself. But think about these two quotes from Friedrich Nietzsche: “To die proudly when it is no longer possible to live proudly,” and, “Death. The certain prospect of death could sweeten every life with a precious fragrant drop of levity – and now you strange apothecary souls have turned it into an ill-tasting drop of poison that makes the whole of life repulsive.”
For Revy, to die in battle to a superior opponent would be fitting with the first quote. She is well known as one of the best at what she does, but to find someone better would dent the pride she has in that. Given how much stock she puts in the concept of power, would finding an enemy that can best her mean she could no longer be proud of herself? It’s possible. That would mean going out on her own terms though, which would mean that she truly could die proudly.
The second quote too fits here, I think. Revy’s life is one big kickback against her past. For most, death holds some fear. It’s something we try to avoid. But Revy faces it head-on. She seems to enjoy how close Death come to touching her. For Revy, death is not a poison, but something that sweetens her existence.
One thing is absolutely certain though: Revy understands how intertwined her life is with death, and that it will come for her one day. During the El Baille De La Muerte arc, she has this exchange:
Fabiola: Your laugh is like…the skeletons on El Dia de los Muertos.
Revy: …Hah! Hahahahahahaha! That’s right. I’m surprised you noticed, little girl. I came all the way from the land of the dead…from the dark depths of the tomb, gun in hand. We all did. Me, your head matron, those soldiers, the people in this town, every last one of us…So, little girl. Offer up some marigolds and some cuervo. Then…to the poor little girl who’s about to die far away in Asia…I’ll offer her some chocolate. Aha ha ha ha!
It would be easy to say that Revy’s risk-taking is a dangerous piece of devotion. In a way though, you can see the positives for her personally. She is living her life the best way she knows how, and entirely free of anyone preventing her from doing as she wishes. In a law-abiding society, she would be in the wrong. In a supportive environment, she would be a concern. But in the dark world that she was born into, what else can she do? As Nietzsche said, “The living is a species of the dead; and not a very attractive one.”
A Dedication To Rock
Now, this is something that isn’t 100% confirmed in the series. When they first start working together, Rock and Revy have a clash of viewpoints. This culminates in the excellent Calm Down, Two Men. This single episode arc sees there differing viewpoints clash head-on and, after a tense discussion and stand-off, they are able to find mutual respect. It’s my favourite arc so far because it plays into the philosophical side more than anything.
As the story moves on from here though, there are several hints that there may be something going on between Rock and Revy. With how Eda teases her, and indeed her response to it, Revy clearly has an attraction to Rock. She has flashes of jealousy and goes out of her way to protect him in various ways, whether it be standing up to Balalaika, or preventing him from unknowingly joining an orgy. In a way, I like them as a couple. I always wondered whether Rock would lift Revy out of her darker habits, or if she would drag him down into him, and looking for signs of one path or the other coming into view was fun.
The problem is though, it’s not an entirely healthy relationship, whether you see them as romantically entangled or not. Revy was the one to invite Rock to join the crew, and she did so after he came up with a crazy plan to get them out of trouble in the first story. That should have been a hint that Rock has something darker inside him than we knew. In fact, he even describes himself with the words, “I’m no saint. A sense of duty, a sense of righteousness – they’re just nuisances in life.”
The thing is, Revy doesn’t always put herself in danger to keep Rock safe. Sometimes, she does so because he places her in the line of fire. Take the Japan arc, where she essentially goes along to make sure he’s safe. By the end of the story though, it is Rock’s actions that see her facing a duel to the death with a warrior who can literally slice bullets in half as they fly through the air. Here, Revy almost dies. The same applies to the action in the Wired Red Wild Card arc,
There is a scene in the El Baille De La Muerte where Revy describes Rock as the bullet, and her as the gun. She goes as far as to say that he is a silver bullet, an invincible monster-killing item, but one that only works under specific circumstances. In a roundabout way, she’s saying that he needs her. At the same time though, I feel like Revy needs him too.
Rock gives Revy plenty of opportunities to embrace her darker traits. He places her in danger, one hundred percent confident that she will always prevail. He has also embraced the idea of enjoying life that Revy spoke of, and for him, that manifests in a need to gamble with people’s lives in the name of his own brand of justice. As Benny says though, he is less Clark Kent, and more Lex Luthor.
Rock is a point of focus for Revy, but he also enables her to continue pursuing the dangerous things she loves. I really do like them as a pairing, and in some respects, they are actually well suited. At the same time though, this is a potentially destructive form of devotion for both of them. Without each other, Revy would perhaps face a few less confrontations with Death, and Rock would not take the risks he does. Perhaps Jean-Paul Sartre was correct when he described love as a “hazardous, painful struggle”, at least for Rock and Revy.
Devotion To Freedom
“Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.”
This too is a quote from Jean-Paul Sartre. I think that, really, it sums up how Revy lives her life. With the struggles she has had in the past, she started off on the backfoot. But she didn’t give in. She fought back. She kept moving forward in any way she could.
Revy risks self-destruction on a daily basis, but she can hold her head high and laugh in the face of those that wronged her. In the eyes of many, she would be a villain. To others, she would be a warrior, or even potentially a tool. In the end though, there is one thing that she is, undeniably and without a doubt.
Revy is free.
Well, I hope you all enjoyed that! Tomorrow, melinanimeland is taking the next stop on the tour, so don’t forget to check her post out! Meanwhile, if you want to go back to through the older posts, you can see the full tour schedule here.
Thanks for reading everyone. Don’t forget to leave a like and let me know what you thought about the post in the comments below!