Posted by Lenlo on 23 September 2018 with categories: Banana Fish, Finished Series: Slice of Life/Drama

Welcome to the halfway point for Banana Fish. This week Ash prepares for his final showdown with Arthur, he has some moral quandaries, and gets terrified by pumpkin pie. Lets dive in!

So, general stuff first, Banana Fish’s pacing this week felt a bit fast to me. Banana Fish covered a lot of ground, from introducing new gang members, to explaining Dino’s grand plan and conveying Ash’s moral position. I have said it before, but the fast pacing only really works in the actiony parts. When bullets are flying and lives are at stake. In times like that, the fast pacing helps emphasize how hectic things are. In the slower moments like this however, the fast pacing just feels like Banana Fish is rushing everything. For example, I would have liked more time with the new gang leader Cain, assuming he is going to be a semi-important character later on. It doesn’t hurt Banana Fish much, because the actual content being rushed through is still good. I just think it could have been better.

Now, onto the meat. One of the big things I noticed this week was all of the differences between Ash and Arthur. The two have been built up as rivals this whole series, with lots of jabs towards Arthur’s leadership abilities so far. Now we get actual evidence of this, seeing Arthur in action. It’s clear that, for all of his bluster, Arthur is nowhere near as confident or strong as Ash. He hangs and relies on his people to much, rarely actually going out into the field unlike Ash. Take a look at the two meetings with Cain. Ash came alone, held is own, and stood up to Cain. Arthur though brought bodyguards, clearly afraid of Cain. Ash told Cain what would happen, while Arthur asked. I like that Banana Fish is displaying these differences, because Arthur has taken a back seat up until now.

The other big difference between the two, one I enjoy seeing, is that Ash hates what he’s doing. Throughout this episode we see that Ash doesn’t enjoy killing people, he calls himself a murderer when talking to Eiji. I believe that Ash thinks this is the only way. That this is his world and this is the best, only, method to get what he needs done. It’s interesting to me because it seems that Ash has become much more rash, more… ruthless, since the death of Shorter. And it makes sense, Ash is probably still grieving, and this is his way of getting revenge. It reminds me of the Requiem scene from HunterxHunter, from the Phantom Troupe. Grief through extreme violence. I have always loved the tragedy of these kinds of things in anime. It makes my black heart feel for the characters still alive.

Speaking of survivors, Eiji! And his relationship with Ash! It’s a bit rushed this week, as I mentioned earlier, but there are still some nice scenes. I am glad Eiji has begun to be useful, even if only in minor ways, with his photography. He clearly wants to be involved and help Ash, but Ash also clearly can’t make up his mind on Eiji. Throughout the episode Ash is only seemingly happy when interacting with Eiji. Laughing, talking, smiling. We can see him struggling with pushing Eiji away this entire episode. Putting off actually telling him about the flight. Ash knows what he needs to do but doesn’t want to. This is one of the relationships I think Banana Fish really nails, which as the central relationship, is very important.

One of the things Banana Fish has flagged on lately though, is the side characters. Yut and Max work because we learned their history. We have something to base them on, a personality, we are able to judge whether or not an action makes sense for them. However for some revent side characters, this is lacking. Now I want to preface this all with the fact that, we have known these characters for a very short time. Assuming Banana Fish explores them more, and it has time to do this, then this complaint will be resolved. As is though, I want more time with Cain. I want to know what makes him tick , who he is. Since he is going to be the Witness for Ash and Arthur’s fight, it appears he will continue to be important. Here’s hoping he gets more screen time.

The last bit, the most worrying bit, of Banana Fish this week is Dino’s plan. Back when Banana Fish was first written, the 80’s, this sort of Deep State plan would have fit perfectly. It was nearing the end of the Cold War so it was a valid plot. Now a days though, this sort of thing just doesn’t fit the current political climate. That said, I do wish to pat Banana Fish on the back for attempting to update the plot for the modern day. Changing it from Vietnam and South Africa to the Middle East. Heroine and the black markets. I think it is a valiant attempt by Banana Fish. They did what they could with a plot almost 40 years old. Without having read the series I can’t say how much the plot could be changed while keeping the story together. So far though, I’ll accept this.

So overall, Banana Fish did alright. If this is the worst episode of the series, because it went for an info dump, then it will still be great. It broke up the info dumps and plot contrivances with sweet or humourous scenes between Ash and Eiji. I was never bored this episode. Though I was sometimes lost as we jumped from scene to scene. There is one thing I need to mention by the way, that I have mostly left alone until now. Every single episode title is also the title of a book/novel/short story that relates to that episode in particular. Someone put in a lot of effort for this, and I love it.

But what did you think of Banana Fish this week? Ready for a break, as we switch gears between cours? Let me know below!

13 Responses

  1. Avatar qwerty says:

    As a show on its own, Banana Fish is pretty enjoyable, but as an adaptation, there are all sorts of unsatisfying bits. The manga just blows it away because of added character nuance, a more extensive worldview, and it’s plausibility as a post-Vietnam story versus now. The anime is still enjoyable, so I’m not dragging it…but I see heaps of lost potential. Because the manga really is that good.

    • Avatar Chii says:

      I really dislike trying to compare this anime to the manga. It’s just an unfortunate fact that this anime didn’t get more than 24 episodes to work with. And because of that, MAPPA is doing their best to tell a complete story that really did deserve more episodes. Granted, they shouldn’t have changed the time period in which the story takes place but it is overall not detracting too much in my opinion. And I say this mainly because the banana fish drug plotline is really not as important as Ash’s struggle. It is merely a vehicle to get the plot running and continue going. I do miss some of the character nuances though…

      The manga is indeed amazing but the anime has its strong points as well. For example, it is actually a feast for those that study cinematography. It has very interesting shot compositions, color palettes that both highlight the mood and foreshadow events, and overall, it just oozes style. The voice actors, Ash’s voice actor in particular, add a lot nuance to their characters. The soundtrack is also masterclass and really accentuates any emotions attached to scenes. For example, I definitely felt the impact of Shorter’s death may more in the anime than the manga.

      So overall I think it’s an unfair comparison. They both have their strengths and that’s why I would just like to recommend the manga to everyone who finishes the anime to get the full experience and decide for themselves which version they prefer.

      • Avatar qwerty says:

        I think the anime deserves to be analyzed on its own merits, but it’s undeniable there are huge pacing issues. Even viewers who are unfamiliar with the manga are uncomfortable with it, so it isn’t just an adaptational byproduct. There is a lot of characterization and breathing space that has been removed, which makes the story less satisfying on the whole.

        Certain episodes have done a pretty good job streamlining content, but there are plenty of others where the transitions feel jumpy and forced, like this one. The change in time period has also caused logical issues: for instance, the U.S. government using drugs to establish a puppet state was pretty plausible in the 80s (see MK Ultra), but there are other means to achieve the same
        purpose that would be much more plausible today. Likewise, the 80s crime-ridden NYC no longer exists today. Even having smartphones now makes logical suspension of disbelief much harder.

        The cinematography and OST do deserve high marks, though there are scenes where the music choices have been kind of bizarre, IMO. MAPPA is doing their best, but there’z nothing wrong with calling out lost potential for what it is.

        • Avatar Chii says:

          In terms of breathing space, I don’t feel like the manga had it either. It’s just because since we’re reading it, we naturally have the chance to take a step back and let emotional moments sink in. I feel like the transitions between scenes in the manga are just as jarring as in the anime. The anime does make it seem worse because the color palettes sometimes change substantially between scenes while the manga is always in black and white.

          The characterization is a shame, but it’s kind of a trade-off because the voice actors can convey a lot in just their performances. For example, I don’t think people really needed the extra dialogue in the manga when Sing fought against Ash in episode 10 (like the “Flying Dragon Fang”). Sing’s voice actor is doing a great job showing how childish and arrogant Sing can be just with his voice.

          But yeah, I agree there are large pacing issues. However, I don’t think everyone takes issue with the pace. Some people feel it, others don’t (and in different episodes, like I don’t think I saw anywhere else but here that episode 11 felt fast). And there is at least one saving grace with this current pacing: there’s never nothing happening. Banana Fish is a very dialogue heavy manga so I can see people falling off if it were to get too deep in its own musings.

          I also think MAPPA has a good idea of which episodes are really important to slow down and which ones are kind of a throwaway in terms of pacing. Episode 9, 10, and 11 were paced very well in my opinion while episode 7 was god awful. This is because episode 9, 10, and 11 contain more emotional content that needs time to sink in while episode 7 was largely buildup.

          This episode is the same case as episode 7. It’s mostly buildup. And that’s why they actually cut out an extremely vital scene in this episode to use it in the episode 13; episode 13 is important so they’ll pull their punches there. It’s not perfect, but they’re doing their best to remedy that they have too few episodes to work with.

          Like I said, I don’t like that they updated the setting either. Yes, the logical issues are there, but I also would be lying if I were to say that manga did not contain other kinds of logical issues and several moments that I needed to suspend my disbelief for anyway. The anime doesn’t really improve on them most of the time so it just has double the problems in that regard. But in the end, Banana Fish’s world was never supposed to hyper realistic and I think that’s fine. It’s as realistic as an foreigner viewing vast amounts of Western media can make it.

          The soundtrack has been mostly good, but yeah, there were a few distracting music choices every few episodes. I definitely see your point. It could have been a lot more, but I think we should just be happy MAPPA is spreading the love for Banana Fish because this story really deserves more people experiencing it.

          • Avatar Lenlo says:

            Some good points on both sides. Personally, I typically don’t like to do straight manga vs anime comparisons, as they are two different mediums. I agree that pacing while reading manga is very different from watching a 24 minute anime episode.

            I will say that, pacing wise, I think its a personal thing. I prefer emotional segments to be slower, to really let it sink in, while the action bits faster to really push how hectic they can be.

            I do want to point out though that, even when it feels “fast” Banana Fish is still great. I have not had a “bad” episode of it yet. I think I have mentioned it in atleast one of these posts, but if the worst thing I end up criticizing Banana Fish for is feeling rushed when adapting 19 volumes into 24 episodes, then MAPPA will have done a good job.

            As far as there being potential, I don’t think any anime can ever be “perfect”. There’s to many pieces to a production. So many hands on deck. I also don’t think a series has to be “perfect” to be a Masterpiece. Especially since personal tastes will always differ on what that “perfect” is.

            I guess what I am trying to say with that bit is, MAPPA is doing a good job and I am glad they are adapting this. Banana Fish deserves, regardless of small issues due to personal taste, it is a good series.

          • Avatar qwerty says:

            Accidentally forgot to hit reply – see my comment below.

  2. Avatar qwerty says:

    Oh, I’m as happy as anyone that Banana Fish received an adaptation. For all the flaws, it’s an ambitious project, and it’s clear that the staff is trying to do as much as they can with the episode count. Some of the production choices, however, have been questionable at best, and done a disservice to the material.

    While Banana Fish is over the top in many ways, Yoshida Akimi clearly did her research when thinking about the story and the background elements that she wanted to use. That doesn’t feel like the case with the anime: the modern setting largely feels superfluous, and the story elements take a hit for it. It may not hinder your enjoyment of the show, but it does objectively detract from the storytelling. If they wanted to update the setting, they should have taken other liberties to reflect the world we currently live in. Slavishly keeping everything the same (aside from cursory replacements like Vietnam -> Iraq) doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

    I disagree that the manga has pacing issues. If they exist – to my mind, only the last story arc flags a bit – they have been multiplied in the show. I’ve never heard anyone complain about the manga being choppy, but there have been numerous people who feel that the anime speeds by too quickly to feel the impact of what is happening. There’s a balance between too fast-paced and filler; to my mind, the show doesn’t get the balance right a lot of the time.

    Again, I am cognizant of the challenges MAPPA has to work with. If they had more episodes to work with, that would be wonderful. But they don’t. And regardless of the production challenges they face, the show has to be taken at face value.

    • Avatar Chii says:

      No, I agree. MAPPA only updated things on the surface which ends up taking away a level of realism that is present in the manga. The storytelling does lamentably suffer a bit but I think most people who know the nuances behind why it does also know that it is a byproduct of a single controversial adaptation decision. In the end, the amount the updated setting bothers viewers will depend on personal tastes. And while it does not hinder my enjoyment much, I definitely do wish that the anime kept the 80s setting, if only so that no criticisms or grievances could even be made on that front.

      I wouldn’t call them pacing issues, though I do agree that the last two arcs dragged a bit, it’s more the shifts between scenes were sudden in the manga as well. And that’s where anime only viewers might have issues with the tone being all over the place in a given episode.

      I will have to disagree on the anime not allowing its audience to feel the impact of what’s happening. Most people definitely felt the hit of episode 9. And those that didn’t probably had more issues with the logic of scene than the length of it. I do think that episode 10 could have done better in regards to its emotional impact when Ash found Shorter’s body though. But I also believe this could just be a byproduct of watching the series weekly since I’m sure for most manga readers, it was largely a binge read.

      @Lenlo
      Thanks for your perspective as an anime only viewer. I agree; I would never use the would “perfect” to describe any anime/manga and Banana Fish is definitely far from it. However, it is probably the most memorable work of media I have had the chance to experience and for that, it is nothing short of amazing. I hope the anime continues to do it justice.

      • Avatar qwerty says:

        These are all good points you’ve brought up, and in the end, I think we share similar opinions on a lot of things. I think Banana Fish is an amazing, memorable story, and I’m very happy that more people are discovering it through the anime.

        With regards to transitions, it works on the page in a literary sense. The anime goes for a cinematic style that is well-suited to the series, but I wish they had a little more discretion when it comes to choosing what dialogue and scenes to keep. For example, let’s talk about episode 9. The scene with Shorter at the end of the episode was brilliantly done, from the animation to the voice acting to the choice of music. However, the banquet scene with Dino was not: the humorous asides with Max and Ibe work when reading the series, but in an incredibly serious scene and episode, those asides are incredibly dissonant. That isn’t the only time I’ve felt the staff could have used better judgment, though it is a major example.

        I’m giving the anime credit for scenes that are brilliantly done too: Eiji’s jump, Shorter’s death, and Ash grieving over Griffin. The anime is good on its own. I just want a little more consistency in their handling of the material, because when they do a good job of it, the show sings.

        • Avatar Chii says:

          Yeah, for all the anime’s faults, I am glad that it introduced so many new people to this amazing story. Additionally, I’m sure plenty people who have started watching this anime will pick up the manga when it is all over.

          I agree with the banquet scene. I did not like that they kept the Max and Ibe cut-ins because the tension ramped up the moment Ash stepped into the room. It’s true that they have definitely chosen to keep a few suspect scenes. But at the same time, they have made the right call cutting other ones. For example, while some people might not have liked that they cut the buildup to Cain’s introduction in this episode, I actually really disliked that scene so I’m glad it was removed. I can only hope that they will make the right call for the rest of the material because there are definitely more lines/scenes coming up that I would hate to see again.

          Yeah, I think we can both agree that the show is hitting some really good points but can do better. It’s just such a shame the anime didn’t get more episodes. As much as I wish they would make better decisions with the material, I am really just praying that anime does not end in a train wreck. The second cour is going to be rough considering at the end of this episode, we’re halfway through volume 8 of the manga and at this rate, they almost need to adapt an entire volume per episode. And just when all my favorite arcs are here, they might have to rush through everything…

          • Avatar Lenlo says:

            Seriously, were only 8 volumes in? My goodness, that does not bode well. One of my favorites series out there, Monster, had 18 volumes and got a 74 episode adaption.

            As for being anime only, Banana Fish has definitely made me want to read the manga. The only reason I have put it off is so I can finish the series as I started it and not spoil myself. Can’t wait to read it.

            As far as modernization, I do agree its starting to become a detractor. At first they used it well. People had phones, they used their mobile phone either as a map or to look up newspaper articles. It worked. But not its starting to feel outdated in places. Like I find it hard to envision a sort of “Honor among thieves” that Cain seems to have in a New York Race Gang. And the whole Puppet State with the Middle East, as I said in the post, just doesn’t fit the modern political climate.

            I recognize the challenges MAPPA had when adapting these segments, but I am starting to wish they had made Banana Fish a 1980’s Period Piece instead of a modern rendition.

          • Avatar qwerty says:

            I really hope they do pick up the manga. It’s a classic for a reason.

            You know, I really disliked the scene in Harlem before Cain’s introduction too. It was incredibly uncomfortable to read. I can’t recall any other scenes I’d like to see removed in the next few volumes – which ones are you thinking of?

            I felt that Cain’s introduction was a little too sudden, though (again with the transitions). They could show Ash arriving in Harlem without all of the preamble with the guys on the street, and that would have felt like a more satisfying lead-in.

            When I heard that Banana Fish was getting 24 episodes, I was a little shocked. Even 36 episodes would leave a lot of things on the cutting room floor. I know a lot of people don’t care too much about side characters like Nadia and Jenkins (they’re not personal favorites, either), but I think they add to the sense of depth the series has, so I wish there was more room to include them. Even Charlie gets a little development going forward in the manga.

            @Lenlo
            I think part of the setting change rationale was to make the series more accessible to modern viewers. But I think a lot of the topics that BF hits on, like abuse and political maneuvering, are still relevant in an 80s time capsule.

            With 24 episodes, I’d prefer that they omit parts of the story rather than attempt to rush through everything. Let’s see how the second cour turns out.

  3. Avatar Chii says:

    @Lenlo
    Yeah, considering we have 19 volumes to go through total, it’s really not a good sign. But I will have faith in MAPPA, they seem to love the material very much so I want to believe they won’t make it end in a rushed catastrophe.

    I hope you enjoy the manga when you do get to it! I don’t blame you for waiting until the anime ends to pick it up.

    I think we all lament that it’s not still set in the 80s… At this point, I’m just trying to ignore all the logical problems it poses because it really isn’t Banana Fish’s fault. It’s all on MAPPA as a problem with the adaptation.

    @qwerty
    Definitely. I usually don’t read manga since I tend to lose interest very quickly but Banana Fish gripped me from the beginning to the end. The only parts that got a bit tiring was the action in the last two arcs. It definitely has a lot of problems related to the time period in which it was published in though, some of which the anime cleaned up and some of which haven’t been.

    There was a scene with Ash and Eiji, which for the life of me, I will never know why it was translated in the way that it was, but Ash used a homophobic slur. The scene itself is fine, but that line really needs to be taken out. Also, Ash can get really graphic when describing his sexual assault sometimes… episode 11 cleaned it up nicely, I hope they continue to do so for the other times he talks about it. There are a few other instances which I hope are just cleaned up. Overall, I can’t recall scenes that need to be completely removed.

    That would have been nice. But I still think the transition will end up abrupt either way because the color palette will probably end up switching around 3 times in the span of around 5 seconds if they did that.

    Agreed. This material really deserves more time to breath. But considering the state of the anime industry now, it is hard to create such long productions that might be unprofitable. It’s a miracle Banana Fish even got an adaptation in the first place. Nadia and Jenkins have definitely been completely sidelined while I believe Steve has been completely cut (I think he was supposed to show up this episode but maybe they’ll introduce him later). But to be honest, Jenkins is boring and Nadia… well she can still get some screen time later and if that part is kept, I think that’ll be good enough. I’m kind of hoping they don’t cut out Charlie’s development but if they do, I don’t blame them.

    I agree that I would rather them cut out the fat than try to stuff everything in. But with the way MAPPA is going about it so far, I think they’re doing a mixture of both. Episode 11 omitted a lot of scenes while episode 12 stuffed almost everything in.

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