Roberta's Blood Trail and The End of the World – God, I Love Violence

Black Lagoon is one of the few shows I marathoned in 2008 that I can still remember quite, well in spite of only rewatching half of it (and reading the first volume of the manga a couple times). I remember it because Black Lagoon was a turning point in the kind of stories that interested me, as well as in the kind of stories that I wanted to create.

The show had been recommended to me a number of times in the year before I watched it, but I was always scared to because it sounded ‘dark and gritty’. Back then, I couldn’t handle stories that featured extremely dark or violent situations and wanted to be taken seriously. Now mind you, I’ve always loved violence; but at the time, I was scared to get emotionally involved in it. In early ’08, two of my favorite anime were Mnemosyne and Baccano; both shows are ridiculously turbo-violent, but handle it in a lighthearted and fun way. (Not to mention half the cast of either show is immortal anyway.)

THIS PARTY'S GETTIN' CRAZY!

But Black Lagoon bridged the gap. On the one hand, it’s a fun, over-the-top action romp; but on the other hand, it’s got a lot of very human characters and real messages, and when characters die (often gruesomely), it can be heartbreaking or disturbing. (I will never forget the twins. That arc ruined me for an entire day. I loved every second of it, but I wanted to cry and puke afterwards.) Another show that showed me this type of thing was Texhnolyze, which is in no way fun, but tells a dark and very interesting tale with a horribly depressing ending that I couldn’t figure out why I liked so much at first.

I didn’t immediately feel that my stance on getting emotionally affected by violence had changed after watching those series. Shortly after watching, I did a post called ‘Violence Fetish,’ explaining my love of over-the-top violence, but also claiming that it was the only kind of violence that I saw in Black Lagoon. In that post, I also mentioned a script I was working on for a “two-part movie with influence from Gunslinger Girl, Texhnolyze, Black Lagoon, and Baccano.” That script (which never existed) was the original version of “Tales From the End of the World” – the novel series that I’m writing right now.

My feelings about violence only began to change in the time after watching those shows, because I started immersing myself in the subject. To quote the FAQ on my story’s yet-unopened site:

“In early 2008, I started to enamor myself with stories about big, dark cities, and the crazy people living in them. I’ve long been fascinated by human psychology, especially the minds of the abnormal. Not your typical suburban psychopaths, but the beastly terrors lurking only in the darkest corners of an alien city. Beings that are beyond human comprehension; whose existence is denied by our common sense. I want to see how these beasts are created, as well as what happens when they’re set loose.

Perhaps my biggest fascination is with the psychology of children. The experiences from a person’s childhood are what shapes their personality. Anyone can tell you that a ‘fucked up childhood’ will produce a ‘fucked up person;’ but what happens when you turn the gears even further, and produce a child who’s never encountered anything normal in their life? I want to see how drastically different the outcome can be from your garden-variety mentally imbalanced person.”

Through my research on snuff films and childhood sex abuse (both aspects of the backstories in Gunslinger Girl and Black Lagoon), I learned a lot of things that simultaneously interested and disgusted me, such as one article on the development of Multiple Personality and Disassociate Identity Disorder in children who suffer sexual abuse that literally left me unable to sleep that night. Through all of this, I managed to get used to those sosrt of disturbing stories, and got over my fear of them. (Incidentally, now whenever someone remarks about a news report on missing children or sex offenders like it’s a total shock, I’m just like ‘man where’ve you been? This shit is child’s play!’)

Obv, ghostlightning belongs to their executive unit.

All this has little to do with Roberta’s Blood Trail, about which I have no comments except ‘it was awesome’, but I wanted to give context as to why this episode came at a perfect time for me. As I mentioned above, I’m currently writing the first book of my “Tales From the End of the World” series (Book 1 of the Scarlet City Saga, “Scarlet Zero-Nine” – Coming soon to a blog near you!) which was influenced by the four aforementioned shows, as well as light novels, such as Boogiepop and Kara no Kyoukai, as well as movies like Dark City, Snatch, The Dark Knight, and the collective works of Quentin Tarantino. You can probably tell that my story’s a very over-the-top, violent affair, and a jolly good time; but what I want to do with it most is to be like Black Lagoon. I want to write a fun and crazy story that still features interesting characters with real depth, and I hope to strike the perfect balance between serious and zany.

This was a great time to watch this OVA, as it rekindled some of Black Lagoon’s influence on me. Here we have an episode with serious discussions bookended by a loli maid dual-weilding automatic shotguns and firing them in mid-air, and I couldn’t possibly ask for something better when I’m writing a story that features a 12 year-old who runs the second-largest gang in the city, and characters running around wrecking shit up with reality-bending powers. Look forward to it.

Related Posts:

Ghostlightning enjoys a fun spot of violence as well.

24 thoughts on “Roberta's Blood Trail and The End of the World – God, I Love Violence

  1. Gratuitous violence is as empty as a form of fanservice as say, gratuitous titillation. Sometimes, they come together in the form of Roberta and Fabiola with their maid costumes, or in the form of the Strike Witches, or Ikkitousen, or Sengoku Basara (can’t wait).

  2. “but what happens when you turn the gears even further, and produce a child who’s never encountered anything normal in their life? ”

    I actually have recently been reading a book series about a character who has come closest to the criteria for me. He’s a clone of the main character of the series, Miles. In this world a clone, depending on the age of the progenitor of the clone, is essentially your brother or your child. In this case he is sort of Miles half brother. He is constantly tortured and trained to be like Miles in every way so that he might replace Miles and gain revenge for a decades old conflict. Miles, who has brittle bones that he constantly breaks and has replaced with synthetics, is wild and reckless and living a bit of a double life himself. So every time the Miles breaks a bone and it’s replaced, the clone a.k.a Mark has to get his bones painfully broken and replaced. Mark’s only father figure, Galen, is also his torturer and trainer. The man who would legally be his father, Miles father, is also one of the men he is trained kill. Galen sees in Mark both an opportunity for revenge and a focus for any anger he feels towards Mile’s father. At one point Galen becomes so upset with Mark that he has him *ahem* anally raped with the equivalent of an electrified nightstick. Safe to say the kid is pretty fucked up. He eventually ends up killing Galen and finds himself wondering what to do with his life now that he no longer has the sole purpose of replacing and killing Miles.

    Mark later attempts to rescue Miles (from a situation Mark caused) and is captured by Miles enemies, mistaken for Miles, and tortured again in more gruesome ways. He was given an aphrodisiac and sodomized by slaves of his torturer, had his flesh chemically flayed from his body, and had tube shoved down his throat and was force-fed. With various embellishments to each torture. This was a routine for several days. From the events of that torture, compounded with his already dubious lack of concrete identity, he ends up fracturing into 3 separate aspects to cope while shoving his own lightly rooted humanity into darkness. They are Grunt who takes pleasure from the forced sodomy, Howl who takes pleasure from the flayings, and Gorge who takes pleasure from the force-feeding. A 4th aspect, usually unnamed until he has to use it, is known as killer and comes from his background and training as his progenitors would be assassin and usurper. He calls this group his “Black Gang” that guard his real identity he calls Lord Mark.

    He ends up okay in the end. Stable if not all in one piece. The things endured in that particular book are a marked difference in tone from most of the other books of the series. So it makes sense he ends up…happy-ish in the end. Just thought I’d throw it out their as an example of a fucked up character.

    • See… that almost comes off as too forced to me. Like the author just wanted to do every fucked-up thing he could possibly imagine to a character and make his life utter hell. Although I’m curious about the happy-ish ending – when a story goes overboard with the gruesome torture, it usually ends when the kid kills everyone and then dies somehow, but it’s a lot more interesting if he actually gains some happiness.

      I’m a big fan of happy endings. But at the same time, if I’m going to kill a character, I will usually to it gruesomely. But I can’t kill characters I get attached to, because I always want to be able to keep writing them into the future.

      The two original main characters of my story were both sold into sex slavery at four and five years old. The elder one somehow always manages to remain somewhat stable, having an incredible belief that she will make it out, and becomes like an older sister to the other girls, whom are all mentally wrecked. The younger girl develops multiple personalities to protect her, and she becomes devoted to the older girl. The girls are all kept in a studio, where they’re used to film child porn. Once they get to be about seven years old, they’re made to star in a stuff film, wherein one of the other girls is forced to kill the other. Both of the main characters were supposed to die together on the same night. The elder girl was supposed to kill the younger one, but she wouldn’t do it, so the men get one of the other girls to do it, and then get ready to kill her.

      At the moment when the elder girl is about to be killed, having her right eye and left arm cut out/off, a gangster who will also be a main character bursts in and kills all of the men in the place, having been sent to recollect the money the syndicate loaned to the studio. However, he’s actually about to leave the syndicate with some friends of his who’re going to form their own gang, and has come here to steal the money for himself. He goes around the place killing all the men, and then finds the other four girls who were there. He asks each of them if they want to die, and all four do, so he kills them all. When he’s heading out of the place, he notices that the armless girl is still alive. He walks over, and the girl asks if the younger girl is still alive – he tells her she’s dead, seeing as she’s been disemboweled. The older girl says that she’s happy for her, but when the man asks her if she wants to die, she tells him that she has no intention of dying here. Impressed by her courage, the man wraps up her arm and takes her with him.

      The younger girl, as it turns out, didn’t die, which is a complicated story involving gods and magic powers, but yeah, those are about my most harsh backstories.

      • Wow, the snuff film bit is where I raised an eyebrow. Like Kite Runner fucked up there. The psychology of lets say people with “fucked up” lives fascinates me as it always comes around to that fundamental question of nature vs nurture. Though I think it’s been established it’s a little of both it seems like a pretty intangible thing to balance the personality of a person on. Feels like a pinhead. People with such childhoods can turn out messed up with all sorts of abnormal psychosis’ or perhaps something within them can stay strong and last through it all. It’s clear that you have strong feeling about those who maintain that strength despite terrible occurrences in life. Though I don’t know the background of the former-mafioso they sound like an interesting pair of main characters.

        As for for the too forced aspect of my anecdote. Those are really only the bare bones of two different novels. I left out the part about Mark actually getting Miles sort-of killed. (he has to be cryonically frozen and have most of his internal organs regrown) Then ends up going to Miles home planet and meeting his would-be family. That happens in the interim of the 2 paragraphs I talked about. He has to meet his & Miles mother and his father aka the guy he spent his whole life training to kill. Also most of the people hate him for not being Miles and sort of being the cause of Miles “death”. After he eventually rescues Miles and gets tortured in the process he’s fairly unstable by the end of that novel. He ends up making some progress about 2 novels later. So he doesn’t die, but he’s not all together there. He has a fiance. a generous amount of capital to throw around, and is becoming educated off-planet but still has his fractured “black gang” that gets in the way of how he enjoys life. Anyway, you should check out the books, the main character actually grows in each of the novels. Despite each novel standalone they start when Miles is 17 and are still ongoing now that he’s past 30. Brothers in Arms and Mirror Dance are the 2 novels that introduce Mark and deal with his problems, the latter of which actually ended up winning the Hugo Award for best novel.

        Going back to the original statement. Another reason you might like these novels is it has that same sort of never give up attitude throughout them. There is a definite thread in the authors writing that whether you are a basically a vegetable, a cripple, or have the appearance of a mutant you are just as human and can live life just as well as the next person. Miles would identify well with your character and her courage and strength to persevere.

        • Do you realize that you have not once mentioned the title of this book series?

          Anyway, I became interested in snuff films because they were part of Triela’s backstory in Gunslinger Girl. The original version of the girl who lives (her name is Dark Holy, by the way) was practically a direct rip-off of Triela in the beginning, but has changed a lot over the years. I think there were snuff films in Black Lagoon too, wasn’t that the twins’ backstory? Anyway, you don’t actually learn her backstory until the 4th novel (“The Rise of Dark Holy”), but you know her as the 12 year-old leader of the second biggest gang in the city, The Ryugane, from the first book. The story of how she managed to take over the gang is a spoiler for now, though.

          The other girl is Scarlet Dream, who we also learn about in the fourth book, but before that we know her as an MPD-suffering gothloli who has been given the powers of a God (the ability to create ‘fabricated beings’), and she slowly manages to get back with Dark Holy, whom she still loves.

          Yeah, I definitely have a very never-say-die attitude. If a character is fucked farther than they can help, then I try to team them up with someone who can help them (for instance, Scarlet Dream has Shamus, an old Irish former priest who took her in).

          EDIT: Looked it up using one of the books you did mention. I don’t think I could handle this series. It seems very massive and sci-fi, and I can’t do massive and sci-fi lol. Plus there are a lot of books.

          This is where I come clean. I don’t read books. >.>

          • Ha, I read a ton of books when I was young, then put them aside for videogames and TV. Now that I’ve pretty much quit video games I’m back to devouring novels. I used to only read when I was on vacation or in waiting rooms. After I finished The Song of Ice and Fire series I mentioned before I thought…so what next. My parents had been recommending the Miles Vorkosigan books to me for awhile. So I picked them up say…mid March and I just finished the most recent novel at the beginning of the week. So twelve 300-500pg novels 3 or 4 in four or five months not too bad. They just get really hard to put down toward the end of the novel so I would end up reading 200pgs in one sitting. They’re more cerebral semi-detective stories than sci-fi. Actually people have accused the books on not being very sci-fi. Not enough futuristic technology and such for peoples taste. Still if the whim ever comes over you pick one up. It doesn’t matter where you start the series. I started at the beginning but I feel like it would be just as enjoyable to start from a later book. Mostly because it alludes back to the previous books and makes you want to read them too :-P

            I can’t really speak on having a knowledge about snuff-films. Including, but not limited to having not seen Gunslinger Girl. However I do find it interesting how ambitious you are with regards to your novel and how organized you appear to be. George R.R. Martin, the writer of the Song of Ice and Fire books, originally started out just writing a single novel. Then he realized the scope and decided trilogy, then he realized the scope yet again and figured it would take around 7 books. I find the same parallel in your layout when you have planned out back story being revealed in a 4th novel. (not to mention a name for that novel) I also can see in your characters and scenario how you want to bring that light-novel feel to your writing. Definitely wouldn’t see an MPD-suffering gothloli in american literature for sure.

            Lastly; this is just a sort of gut-feeling statement so take it with a grain of salt, I think that being someone who reads a lot of novels can make you a better novel writer. Just like how reading so many anime blogs has improved your own blogging style. Having started reading again…I’m remembering joys and recalling powers of imagination and immersion that I haven’t remembered since I was a kid. So get reading. :-P

            • Yeah, I’ve put out a call for recommendations on twitter. So far I’ve been told to read Good Omens, but maybe I’ll give this series a shot too after all.

              The reading more novels = better writer thing is exactly why I feel bad about not reading novels. I am, however, obsessed with *light* novels, and I actually think I know how to ape that style very well, but it’s always true that experience can only help.

              Also, the novel series I’m doing is pretty methodically planned. A lot of these characters have just been waiting to be given an excuse to be written about, and the nature of their stories kind of naturally flowed from their personalities. The story is done ensemble-style, wherein each book is divided into ‘parts’, and each part usually centers on one or two characters, either with the character themselves narrating, or with myself narrating. I plan to use a *lot* of tricky narrative styles, which is going to be the most dangerous part.

              Currently, I more or less have the plans for 11 books, and I want the series to exceed at least 20 books total, though I’m also totally willing to never end it if I don’t have to, hehe. The first five books make up the ‘Scarlet City Saga’ which is pretty extensively planned, and the other 6 books are vaguely planned, but a lot is undecided.

                • A… list? Of titles? Okay

                  Scarlet City Saga
                  1. Scarlet Zero-Nine
                  2. The Shotgun Dance
                  3. Godsend Conspiracy* Part One: World War City
                  4. The Rise of Dark Holy
                  5. Godsend Conspiracy* Part Two: Death God Disco
                  Immaterial Pressure Saga
                  6. Welcome Home*
                  7. Black Rose Immortal* Part One: The Suffering*
                  8. Black Rose Immortal* Part Two: A Desolation Song*
                  9. Wavering Radiant*
                  Moonlit Reflections Saga
                  10. Memory Past* Part One: Child Killers*
                  11. Memory Past* Part Two: United Blood*

                  All the *ed titles are named after songs.

                  • Okay… Now what the hell are they about? Give us an outline.

                    But really, you should read some more novels. To be a (Capable) writer, you should expand your perspective a bit more. It helps you to construct more realistic and interesting characters who react in ways normal people would. You’ve got the talent – I’m sure. But for something as complicated a topic as rape, snuff films, and child abuse – You’re gonna need some background to make it convincing. The Ali Hirisi Ayaan autobio. is great for such a topic. I’d recommend it. Alice Sebold novels are pretty convincing, too.If you want something more highbrow, go for “The Kite Runner” and it’s semi-sequel, “A Thousand Splendid Suns.” I don’t know about any novels concerning Snuff Films, but “A Child Called ‘It'” provides a very vivid account of Child Abuse, and the psychological repercussions it has. .

                    • If you want I can link you to my giant google doc summary of all teh books, but it will spoil you entirely >.>

                      Also, for what it’s worth ‘realism’ is sort of lost on my characters. They don’t need to react the way that ‘real people’ do they need to react the way that my character would. Almost no one in my books should be treated like normal people.

                    • Normal people, no. But real people, yes. you shouldn’t make their actions seem too absurd or unrealistic – it gets in the way of drama and development, especially if you’re trying to set a serious tone.

                      Although it did work out for Tarantino, I guess.

                    • Yah, Tarantino’s style of characterization is exactly what I’m going for. I write my characters the same way that he does, which is to come up with every single tiny fact about the character until I know them as if they were an actual person, and then I try to express that person in the work. What matters isn’t so much that I make the characters believable, but that I make them understandable. So long as the reader knows my character and knows what to expect from them, then their actions will make sense in the context of the story.

                    • Yes, but Tarantino doesn’t *quite* make movies about raping armless children.

                    • He did write a story about a girl who watches her parents get killed and then, at under 6 years old or so, lets herself get raped by a mob boss so that she can gut him, and manages to make an escape by killing all of the men who come after her, and then goes on to become an assassin.

                      And that’s basically what my shit is like.

                    • It happened in Kill Bill Vol. 1 bro. Part 3: The History of Oren Ishii – animated segment done by, I think either Production I.G. or Studio 4c. Ya can’t tell me you’ve seen the movie and don’t remember.

  3. Oddly enough, I can’t think of anything to say. Which is odd, since usually I’ve got a Shitloadton of things to say.

    Odd. Quite odd.

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