Posted by Lenlo on 1 December 2018 with categories: Banana Fish, Finished Series: Slice of Life/Drama

Hello and welcome to Banana Fish! Apologies for missing last week, but the call of Thanksgiving Turkey could not be denied. This time Eiji fires a gun, Max gets groped, and Ash gets captured. Again. Lets jump in!

To start off, I have to mention it, the elephant in the room, the pacing. My god was the pacing fast. Early on in the series, this was a plus. It never felt like nothing was happening. But the pacing has only increased since then, as we burn through more and more volumes. Episode 20 alone we went from Ballroom Infiltration, to Sewer Chase, to Museum Fight, to prepping a new villain. At the least this should have been split into 2 episodes, so the leads could have time to cooldown between these set pieces. For me, this really hurt these two episodes. Banana Fish was jumping from cut to cut, scene to scene, without any artistry put into it. The tone broke down because of this and became a jumbled mess. Fast is good Banana Fish, but only if you stay in control. And in control, it was not.

Take for instance Ash these last two episodes. Banana Fish wants to make us care for him. To fear for his or Eiji’s safety. To make his escape a harrowing thing. Yet in the very same episode Ash not only shoots someone between the eyes while blind, but rips shackles out of a wall after being starved for a month. Banana Fish is ridiculously inconsistent on Ash’s physical state in this episode. We have no idea what he will be able to do in any given scene. You know what other character comes to mind while I write this? Kirito from SAO. I would still say Ash is better, if only because of his emotional and psychological weaknesses and a backstory that somewhat justifies his skill set. But fact is, Ash is an unstoppable force of nature. Even fighting Blanca, a character he was paralyzed in fear of previously.

Speaking of Blanca, I want to side-track for a second and talk about the Museum scene. For me, this was the best part of Banana Fish these two weeks. It was a prepared battlefield, with a stylish visual style and interesting location. The minute we got was great. The worst part of it was how short the whole segment was. Another casualty of Banana Fish’s increasing pacing. So much more could have been done with this segment. More locations in the museum, more of the combat. Just look at the picture above, is that not a beautiful shot? Who wouldn’t want more of that? The other aspect of the Museum that fell flat for me was the ending hostage scene. Ash was supposedly terrified of Blanca a few episodes ago. Yet here we see him forcing hostage deals and throwing knives at him. What changed in a single episode?

Yet, for all of Ash’s prowess and new found ability to stand up against Blanca, the ending is the same. Ash manages to escape and then get captured in a single episode length. Again. I swear, Banana Fish jumps between Ash or Eiji being captured and then set free every 2 episodes. It’s like an instrument with 2 notes, being played over and over again. Learn a new chord Banana Fish! Stop flip-flopping on their status! Is Ash a competent threat to Dino and Yut, someone who could legitimately take them down? Or is he a 17 year old kid up against the combined might of the largest mafia in the world? Combine this with the constant jump in tone as Banana Fish tries to shove as much character development as it can between imprisonment, and you have a recipe for a disappointing few episodes.

Speaking of imprisonment, let’s talk about Foxx. Why? Why Banana Fish? Did we not already have a threatening, military specialist mercenary assassin that could beat Ash in our cast? Introducing another new character, with only 3 episodes left, for no doubt another new arc is idiotic. There is no way Foxx will have any meaningful impact on the story with this little time left. Not when Blanca could have filled the exact same role. What does Foxx add in this, the 11th hour of the story? Had Banana Fish more time, then this maybe could have worked. We could have explored Foxx’s character more. As it is, there is no way he will be around long enough for us to get to know or care about him as a character. He is just another random villain like the Senator or General, whom we will forget next season.

So with all that said, it should be obvious, but this better be the last arc coming up. There is just no room for anything else. Supposedly there are only 2 volumes left in the series, but 2 volumes in 3 episodes is still a fast pace. It has also been reported that the finale is going to be an hour long special, which may be just enough to save the series. Giving Banana Fish a slight more breathing room with this final story. But the question becomes, is it to little to late? To me, Banana Fish clearly should have been split into 2 seasons. End Season 1 on the Arthur confrontation and Ash getting captured. Then pick up the 2nd season from there. Plenty of time, easier pacing, and a break from constantly being captured and set free. A true shame.

Another shame is how little time we got to spend with competent Eiji. We went from him pulling the trigger and shooting at Dino to once again sitting in the back line real fast. I enjoyed seeing Eiji do something. Hesitant about shooting, then doing so the moment Ash was in danger. Talking his way through the ballroom, avoiding Blanca. Being the distraction himself while Ash was weak, ignoring that he recovered 2 minutes later. I loved it, his progress as a character was going great. But because the pacing of the show demanded it, Eiji immediately fell back into the role he has had the other 19 episodes. He isn’t the only character to suffer either. Ash’s mental health fluctuated with his previously mentioned physical as well. One minute he is waxing poetic about always being paranoid and never resting, the next he is screaming about an ambush. Why?

The only thing I can really say about these two episodes of Banana Fish that without a doubt worked, was the comedy. Max’s wife, that whole segment in the gay bar? I chuckled. No doubt part of it was that it was such a sudden tone switch, I had mental whiplash for a moment. But still, I enjoyed seeing Max again and seeing his goofy mug lightening up the episode. I don’t see any point in his wife reappearing this late in the series, but she isn’t a bad character per se. So I will accept it. But the fact that the best I can say about the episodes is that one aspect wasn’t terrible? After all the praise I had for it early on? Well it goes to show how disappointed I am in Banana Fish.

So with all of that, my opinion on the 2 episodes should be rather clear. I wanted more. I expected more, after everything leading up to it. It could close out well, maybe these can be chalked up to unfortunate adaptation issues. But I am not hopeful. What about you though? Those who have read the manga, is the ending strong? Will I be pleasantly surprised? Or should I start preparing a eulogy for what Banana Fish the anime could have been?

Let me know down below, and I will see you next week.

8 Responses

  1. Avatar Chii says:

    I feel like because of the pacing, the anime made Ash seem more OP than he actually was. The anime didn’t have the time to explicitly mention that Ash wasn’t completely blind, that he only had pupils dilated. It tried to compensate with shot that showed the very blurry world through Ash’s eyes but it’s incredibly easy to miss. I still find it ridiculous that he could shoot accurately with that handicap but not to the degree in which the anime leads on. I also found it hard to feel Ash’s desperation in the anime. The only reason he was able to do all the crazy things he did in this episode was because he was so desperate to get Eiji to safety.

    I actually never felt Ash was terrified of Blanca, more that he was terrified at the idea of Blanca killing Eiji. So when Blanca tells Ash that he signed a contract with Yut Lung, Ash makes an educated assumption that Blanca is no longer tasked with killing Eiji and that gives him the strength to oppose his former mentor.

    I really lament the current pacing, we lost more than just a couple good character moments. But at the same time, I’m glad the action sequences were burned through. Around this point, the manga got so action heavy that it dragged in my opinion. Plus, action in Banana Fish is mostly for fun so it’s not really necessary.

    I think you pose interesting questions in relation to the constant captures and escapes. To answer them, I think Ash is both. He is highly competent, but at the same time, the Mafia and the world are not only powerful, but unforgiving and he is a boy that has too many bonds that can be exploited. It would have been easier for Ash to find victory if he didn’t have these connections, but their existence, while constantly exploited, are what makes life worth living.

    No mention of Max burning Ash’s photos? While the pacing did blunt the emotional impact, it was still a powerful moment in my opinion. Ash didn’t see himself as a human with human rights to privacy. But Max acknowledges Ash’s humanity and finally recognizes how much Ash’s past still hurts him (before he was cracking jokes at Ash’s expense). I especially like the ambiguity in the anime. When Ash says “I’m already a dead man,” it can mean either that he feels emotionally dead inside or that he is legally dead. Regardless of which it is (and it can even be both), he feels that he cannot be shamed.

    Your thoughts are exactly how I feel about Foxx’s inclusion in the manga. I feel there was some other way to get to the ending without introducing another character and arc especially since out of all the villains in the series, Foxx is probably the most deplorable of the bunch. I think people’s hatred for his character even eclipses Golzine’s and as a result, I don’t find Foxx a particularly well-written villain. However, he does get the job done and sadly, as much as everyone hoped that Foxx’s arc would get cut (or at least his character), this is the last arc and it brings us to the finish line.

    I know I mentioned in the chat that we had two volumes left but I wasn’t counting the epilogue in that (which makes up most of the last volume) and since Banana Fish got confirmed for a double length final episode yesterday, I’m now fairly certain we’re getting the epilogue adapted. So we actually have about three volumes left and about four episodes. One volume is mostly action and the last volume is shorter than normal so I’m hopeful that the pacing will be better from now on.

    The ending is polarizing to say the least. I won’t say much more because I don’t want to sway expectations before it airs, but I will say this: I personally think it’s unforgettable. I’ll write more about the ending when it actually comes around because oh man is there a lot to think and talk about.

  2. Avatar Lenlo says:

    For the first one, that is a good point. If he wasn’t completely blind it would be more excusable. As is though, the guy couldn’t see anything, and he accurately shot someone between the eyes while blind. Its crazy.

    For Blanca, that is maybe a better way to interpret it. I figured that Blanca never mentioned what the contract was, and knowing Yut’s hatred of Eiji, he would assume it was to kill Eiji. Either way though, there was a clear… assumption Ash had that he couldn’t beat Blanca. And he doesn’t seem to have that anymore.

    In regards to the capture and escape, I think the pacing hurts it here. The idea of making the mafia and underground more powerful than a 17 year old is a good one. It makes sense and needs to happen. But I feel it did that early on with the killing of Shorter. With the introduction of Blanca. It showed there are bigger, badder people out there. The pacing in these recent episodes though makes it seem more like Ash and Co’s mistakes screwing them than the mafia and underground.

    For the photo’s, I knew I forgot something. I had an image and everything, but when doing 2 episodes of catchup, something had to slip. I did like the photo scene. I thought it worked. I like Max continuing to be the Dad Ash never truly had. Its probably my favorite relationship after Ash and Eiji. I didn’t see anything wrong with it, I thought the scene did a good job, and with everythign else that happened I felt I had to get the criticisms out of the way. Especially with how much I praised it early on.

    I dont know whats in the epilogue, but I am hoping for an OVA with Ash meeting Shorter.

    Thanks for the heads up with the ending though! At the very least I am looking forward to that. For me, with story-rich anime like Banana Fish, the ending can Save or Break a series. If the ending is good, I could easily forgive all these pacing issues, just because without them we never would have made it through all the volumes.

    P.S. Glad I am not alone with Foxx.

    • Avatar Chii says:

      In my head, I felt it meant that Blanca got a different task, mainly because I feel there’s no point in Blanca telling Ash that he signed a contract with Yut Lung if it was on the same terms. I think the danger looming over Eiji made Ash very emotionally vulnerable. Probably because in Ash’s mind, if he even tried to fight back, the blame for Eiji’s *probable* death would undoubtedly fall on him acting. Meanwhile, the situation in this episode is slightly different; fighting Blanca is a way to keep Eiji safe as opposed to being the only cause of Eiji’s endangerment.

      I see where you’re coming from. To be fair though, I think Ash’s mentality through the story kinda mimic your thoughts. Ash blames the people in the Mafia for Skip and Griffin’s deaths. Shorter’s death is probably a mixture. On one hand, it was due to the power of the Mafia, mainly the Chinese Mafia, but on the other hand, Ash didn’t catch the warning signs and he probably blames himself for it. Thus, from that event forward, I think Ash begins to see himself to blame for lots of things. I think there’s a lot that can be said on the idea of consequence in this show and specifically how it relates to self-esteem. Ash is a victim of circumstance (or of those who have power) in many cases, however, there are times where I think his choices define what happens to him. It’s a very complicated subject matter and I’m still sorting out my own thoughts on what Banana Fish is trying to say on it, but regardless, we haven’t reached the point where this theme fully takes form so I’ll just leave it as a point to ponder.

      No hard feelings about that. Even if I have my gripes with the anime version, I had to point it out since the photos scene is my favorite scene in these past two episodes (especially so since the anime cut my other favorite scene).

      A drama CD containing the story of Ash and Shorter’s meeting was packaged with the first DVD/BD Banana Fish bundle. We might get an OVA of Ash and Blanca’s meeting, however.

      Well, guess we’ll see how things go in a few weeks! Regardless, I look forward to reading your thoughts on it.

      • Avatar Lenlo says:

        That makes sense for Blanca. Its a loaded scene, so lots of ways to interpret it. I think had it not been as rushed, either way could have worked. But Banana Fish burned through the scene, so it felt awkward.

        For Max, its a great scene. It and our talk about Blanca actually made me wish for some interaction between the two. A sort of loving father figure (Max) and the one who taught him everything he knows (Blanca). It would be an interesting juxtaposition between the two I think, since they both sorta fulfill the same role in Ash’s life in different ways.

        Like Blanca clearly cares about Ash, and wants whats best for him. But his version of “whats best” is to serve Dino and live a cushy life, never having to really go against the grain. Sure its dirty work, but hey, its comfortable. Meanwhile Max wants what is emotionally best for Ash, he just wants Ash to be happy with Eiji. Thats it. No expectations, no nothing, as seen when he just handed over all their hard work like 2 episodes ago.

        • Avatar Chii says:

          Agreed on all fronts. I think Blanca’s approach can be summed up as wanting Ash to survive. While Max wants Ash to live. There is a clear contrast between their ideologies, something akin to pragmatism versus idealism.

  3. I decided to post my thoughts on this weeks episode here, rather than take up space on the chatbox:

    Banana fish’s 22 episode has made up for the mediocre previous two, bring it not only back on form but also returning to the emotional involvement that made the bits with Shorter in the mansion arc so strong.
    The scene with Eiji embracing Ash (which was quite moving), which had no music, along with a later scene feature Jessica were the standout ones for me this week and the prior scene I mentions is complimented well by the episodes ending.
    They changed the dialogue in Jessica’s scene, what Ash says is less explicit.
    I do wish they had lingered more on these moments though.
    Pay close attention to Lao in this episode.
    Hope you enjoy this episode as much as I did.
    I want to see Dino get his comeuppance.

    • Also regarding episode 21, honestly I found the club scenes kind of cringey. I don’t really care about the comedy moments in the show.

    • Avatar Lenlo says:

      I dont want to spoil the writeup, but suffice to say, I did enjoy episode 22 quite a bit. And yeah, the club scenes were meh, though some comedy is nice. Its a bit late into the story for some of it though

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