I never read the Banana Fish manga but the sheer prestige surrounding it made its anime adaptation one of the most promising arrivals of Summer 2018. Not only is it it an acclaimed manga from the 80s and 90s, Banana Fish is also credited as a pioneer in the boys’ love genre. The fact that it’s getting an anime adaptation in 2018 is noteworthy and having Noitamina (a name that’s starting to mean something again) and studio MAPPA attached to it boosts the hype even more.
Honestly, watching the premiere got me even more intrigued. In fact, I kind of want just read the manga to see where this story goes (thank you Viz Media for announcing a reprint because some of the volumes have gotten rare in the States).
I’m curious as to how exactly Banana Fish influenced boys’ love as its story is clearly a far cry to what you’d expect from the genre today. I imagine the relationship between the two main characters, Ash and Eiji, will play a big role here and there are hints that some of the supportive characters are gay (one of whom seems to be a sexual predator which I find worrisome). For the most part though, Banana Fish plays things out as a straight up crime drama. Ash is the young leader of a New York gang caught in a mystery surrounding his catatonic brother Griffin, a hit he did not authorize, a mysterious drug, and the phrase “Banana Fish” (apparently a J.D. Salinger reference). The mafia (whom Ash once served) suspects that Ash is investigating and plans to interrogate him. Meanwhile, Eiji arrives in New York to take photos for a Japanese newspaper report on New York gangs, thus becoming a part of Ash’s life.
There’s a lot of things being thrown at you in just one episode and Banana Fish paces through the majority of it at a brisk’s pace. Characters are introduced left and right, scenes rarely linger, and perspectives change constantly. This could be a result of the staff needing to get through 19 volumes of material in just 24 episodes though I don’t want to say it’s a problem just yet. To Banana Fish‘s credit, it doesn’t feel rushed and enough information is laid out to allow the set up to breathe and the characters to make an impression.
Speaking of which, both Ash and Eiji look promising as protagonists. Ash’s charisma is already apparent; able to talk the talk against more prestigious criminals and command authority while still showing a compassionate side to a handful of allies. Eiji, meanwhile, looks horribly out of his element, a simple photographer caught in the middle of a serious conflict. The one scene where the two interact effectively shows how these two personalities may clash but also work in unison. The fact that Ash is younger than Eiiji seems intentional and there’s a smug charm to how he willingly lets the latter check out his gun when he asked.
There are a few areas where Banana Fish could go wrong. The pacing could get botched as time goes on and it’s possible that it may screw the pooch over how it portrays homosexuality. Still, Banana Fish begins on an intriguing note and I currently feel keen to keep watching it until otherwise.
Thanks for reading!