Posted by Lenlo on 2 September 2018 with categories: Banana Fish, Finished Series: Slice of Life/Drama

Ladies and gentleman, for the first time writing these posts, I legitimately do not know where to being. This week Banana Fish proved itself, unequivocally, the best drama of the season. I am willing to admit, I started crying a bit this week. So let’s just jump in.

So, right off the bat, I was not expecting what happened this week. This felt like a finale for another anime, which since we are nearing the end of the cour sorta makes sense. But the fact that Banana Fish was willing to kill off one of its central characters in the 9th episode? And in such a brutal way. I am impressed. Banana Fish does a great job of making sure none of the characters feel safe. Sure, Ash and Eiji may survive, but at this point there’s no guarantee they will get through in one piece. That 4 characters have died in 9 episodes only enhances that feeling of unease. Its this kind of buildup that makes every confrontation with the villains tense. Because, unlike say a Shounen like Fairy Tail or Naruto, Banana Fish has proven that actions have consequences in its story. Consequences like say, Shorter.

Ah Shorter. Where to start here. Shorter’s facial expressions throughout this entire episode were phenomenal. His despair in regards to Eiji, his fear at being drugged, horror/anger when seeing Eiji again and the pleading when speaking to Ash. His VA, Makoto Furukawa, also did an amazing job pushing each of these scenes above and beyond. Every scene is just oozing with emotion. Take for example the beginning, where Eiji first wakes up. He still, in front of Dino and the Lung’s, fights back to try and protect Eiji, because he gave his word to protect him. For as long as he can, Shorter is yelling and telling Eiji he will protect him. I love his loyalty here. Apparently there is a side story about how Shorter and Eiji met, which explains their friendship and the angel scene near this episodes end. I can’t wait to read it, personally.

Next up, since it’s easier to just go scene by scene, Shorter, Ash and Eiji in the “Execution Room”. The high, or low point depending on your perspective, of the episode. There is an argument to be made for torture porn, of Banana Fish going so melodramatic so quickly. That it went to quickly, leaving us with no time to process Shorters betrayal or what Dino plans to do with Banana Fish. I can understand, even if I don’t agree with those arguments. My counter argument is simple: Those would be false flags, artificial stories that would go nowhere. Ash already knows/realizes/trusts Shorter’s betrayal wasn’t real, that it was forced on him. If Banana Fish had dragged this out, it wouldn’t have worked as well. A slow burn of torture on Shorter’s demise, in my opinion, wouldn’t have been near as low a point as this sudden ending.

And make no mistake, this is most likely Ash’s lowpoint for the show. This is the moment that he has to build everything back up from. It had to be shocking so that, next episode, Ash can be in despair, the rescue attempt can go off and we can have a big ol end of cour finale. This was also the episode that really sets up Abraham’s character. It’s the first time we really get to interact with him, for more than a few seconds at least. And boy did he jump up on my list of terrible people for this anime. It’s a weird day in the fandom when a torturous git like Arthur is the least hard E Evil of the villain roster. But the good thing is, we have 13 episodes to take down all 4 of these villainous leads.

Now, onto someone else. This week I noticed some interesting parallels between Max and Ash, something I hope will push their relationship forward. Because now, just like Max, Ash has also killed his best friend after they were drugged with Banana Fish. Hopefully Ash will be more understanding towards Max now. He knows just what this drug does to someone, both in the moment with Shorter, and the after effects with Griffin. It also means that Max will be able to comfort Ash some, though I doubt Ash will be so willing to accept it. I am also curious how this will effect Eiji, considering how close he was when Shorter died. I suspect Eiji will feel responsible in some manner, that’s just his character. But I also suspect he has lost some of that naivete that Ash so loved about him. I can’t wait to see the after effects.

 

Effects such as, what’s going to happen between Shorter and Ash’s gangs now? I like this whole prison break style 2nd story Banana Fish has going on now. It’s a nice callback to the fact that Ash and Shorter were both gang leaders, they have people behind them. Sure, not all stayed, but we have this loyal core, and it looks like Sing will be taking Shorters place in the story. I suspect it won’t be that easy though. Sing’s group is loyal to Shorter and Shorter alone, but who will they blame for his death? Of course they will end up blaming Dino and Abraham for drugging Shorter, but Ash is the one who shot him. I suspect this conflict, between Sing and Ash during/after the inevitable rescue, will be the main character conflict for at least one episode. Hopefully Sing is as interesting a character as Shorter.

Next up we had Eiji and Yut Lung. Their scenes were short, but interesting. The reversal of relationships, compared to Ash and Eiji, is something I hope gets explored more. Ash wants to protect, loves, Eiji’s innocence while Yut seems to be jealous of it and wants to tear Eiji down. Either that or Yut is trying to toughen him up some, to help him fit into this world he has been sucked into. Yut strikes me as the sort of “enemy of my enemy is my friend” sort of character as well. So I suspect he will escape with Ash and Eiji, going with them when Ash’s gang comes. After all his primary motivation is revenge on his older brothers, and Ash would no doubt love to help with that. I hope this happens, if only so that Eiji and Yut can interact more. It’s an interesting dynamic.

Finally, the bad guys. Oh boy. Every week they show up, Banana Fish makes them more and more deplorable. But what I found interesting about them is the cracks starting to form in their little group. For example when Dino was talking to Arthur, Dino clearly has no respect for him. They were discussing Ash and the entire time Dino is talking Ash up, his prized son, saying Arthur “wouldn’t understand”. Plus look at how Ash was dressed up compared to Arthur at the dinner, though Arthur with styled hair looked fabulous. Dino either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about Arthur’s inferiority complex with Ash, even outright stating that the gangs respect Ash but not Arthur for good reason. With this constantly hammering home into Arthur, I expect him to turn against Dino at some point, just to get a shot at Ash. God I love Banana Fish.

So closing out, what did I think of this episode of Banana Fish… It was fantastic. The pacing wasn’t perfect, but I would rather have a fast paced, competently written series than some a slow burn that never gets a sequel and never finishes. Banana Fish is checking all of my boxes, and they may not be perfect, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts in this case. Everything blends so well that, come the end, I was tearing up. Shorter begging for death because he doesn’t want to hurt Ash/Eiji, but also because he is in so much pain. It’s a beautiful, if admittedly a little overdone, scene. And it never reaches ridiculous melodrama levels like the Clannad series, with the drama being over the stupidest of things. Banana Fish’s drama is real drama, exaggerated for effect, instead of fake manufactured drama. And it works.

What about you? Am I hyping this up for no reason? Is watching it weekly, with some space between episodes, blinding me to some pacing issues? Let me know below and I will see you next week!

 

4 Responses

  1. Avatar Animosh says:

    Despite all the raving reviews for this episode, I actually … didn’t like it that much. I didn’t hate it, and Shorter’s death certainly hurt, but I felt like it was trying a bit too hard. It reminded me a bit of that episode of Sherlock where they have to play those Saw-like games. It felt forced and melodramatic. To be fair, it’s totally in-character for the bad guys to orchestrate something like this. But the torture chamber setting and the whole “you only have one bullet” spiel, it was all a bit too over the top for my taste. “Torture porn” is a good way to put it. Going for shock value like this is something I really dislike.

    And I feel like that’s a flaw of the show in general. The first time the show mentions rape you’re disgusted, but after a dozen more times you start to desensitize to it. There’s just so much suffering. Ash didn’t just lose his brother, and a child he took care off, and the kind woman who kept his father company. No, he was also sexually abused as a child, and then became a sex slave. And now he has to shoot his best friend. It’s almost fetishistic how the show pictures Ash as the suffering hero. I agree it’s impressive how the show has the balls to kill off its main characters, and how no one feels safe. But I also feel like the show is repeating the same trick too much, thus reducing its impact.

    Anyhow, despite my complaints, I’m also enjoying the show the lot! I like its fast pace, and the main characters are all strong (though the villains can be a bit over the top evil – the mind control drug is a bit silly too). And of course, the visual direction and the soundtrack are both excellent. So I think the hype is definitely justified. It’s a great drama, but there are still a few things keeping it from being an excellent one imo.

    By the way, I’ve been lurking around here for a while, and your reviews are always a lot of fun to read. So keep up the good work. :)

    • Avatar Lenlo says:

      I think the one bullet aspect was so that Ash wouldnt try to shoot Arthur or Dino, who were in the same room. After all its been established Ash is a crack shot, so that atleast had narrative sense to it.

      And yeah, the rape is… overdone. I swear, every single male character introduced has a 50/50 shot of being abused in their past, or being an abuser. Its… offputting. I try to take it with a grain of salt though, because from what I understand, Banana Fish was written as a sort of counterpoint to the Boy-Love genre of the time, which glorified the rape. Like “This is how much I love you so its ok” kind of trope. So I think the hamfisted approach of “See how bad this is?!” loses some of its effect in 2018.

      And thank you! I love hearing from people. Sometimes it feels like writing out into an endless void, so hearing that people like them really help keep me going.

      • SuperMario SuperMario says:

        The whole deal with the one-bullet is that…if Eiji can defense himself (if he has the gut to shoot Shorter, even to his leg to calm Shorter down), Ash could use his gun to shoot Arthur or even papa Dino instead. It’s a big stretch for me as well

        I’m kinda in the same opinions with Animosh regarding this episode. I like the idea behind “Ash has to kill his best friend because it saves him in the way”, but the whole presentation is hammy to me.

        • Avatar Lenlo says:

          Eh, maybe. But its not in Eiji’s character to kill someone, which he would have to do to allow Ash to use the bullet on anyone else.

          I dunno. Arthur and Dino seems sadistic enough to me that it works.

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