This will hopefully be the last time in a while where I comment on Banana Fish‘s pacing but I’ll say it once again: I am still turned off by it. It’s not as bad as say, Altair: A Record of Battles (coincidentally, another MAPPA anime) where I found it held severely back by how much its breezing through its characterizations and story. Still, there are moments in Banana fish where enthusiasm and investment is kept to a minimum. Pardon me if I’m playing the world’s smallest violin while Ash mourns over Skip’s death, for example. I only knew the kid for two episodes.
Something that’s also starting to throw me off is the time period. Whereas the manga was a contemporary product of the 80s and 90s, the anime has updated the setting to the 2010s. I originally didn’t think much about the characters having smartphones at their disposal but everyone’s fashion sense is pretty anachronistic if you ask me. You seriously can not tell me that Eiji’s outfit at the end of the episode is what’s hip and cool in America right. I’m not just saying that because I am American; those clothes just screams 80s. I’ll probably get used to this more than the pacing but it would’ve been fine if Banana Fish kept its setting intact. There’s not enough period pieces in anime so having another one wouldn’t have hurt.
Onto the episode itself…
The biggest event in this episode is Ash ending up in the same cell as Max Lobo. Max happens to be that friend of Griffin we saw in Episode 1’s opening scene and he’s also apparently the friend Charlie and Ibe have both mentioned about. That’s admittedly way too many coincidences happening all at once but it’s a price worth paying as the confrontation between these two characters was a compelling one. Ash sees Max’s actions as a betrayal against Griffin and wants to kill him. Max becomes wrecked with guilt over what he did and tries to keep his distance from Ash. I think it’d be a huge shame with Ash does kill Max if the opportunity arises. The latter’s investigation into Banana Fish (an apparently clandestine drug trade) would make him a worthy ally. Knowing this anime so far though, I imagine this arc is not going the predictable route.
Later in the episode, Ash entrusts Eiji with the task of warning Shorter and the doctor about Dino’s hunt for the mysterious drug. That really came across as a rather risky strategy considering how green Eiji is in the world of crime. Case in point, the man does a poor job keeping his task a secret from Arthur and his men and now he’s in trouble again. I suppose this was at least one way to get Eiji involved in the plot again. It definitely was one way to get the ship sailing.
Speaking of which, that was a pretty surprising moment, wasn’t it? That whole scene where Ash kisses Eiji, I mean. It is treated with a bit of humor and it was ultimately a scheme for Ash to give a message to Eiji but it was still bold of Banana Fish to outright show male to male kissing. Maybe things were different back then but I guess, after having Yuri on Ice!!! make kissing all subtext, I wasn’t expecting to see something like that here.
Homosexuality in general has been a strange aspect of Banana Fish so far. On one hand, the relationship between the show’s two main characters has been one of trust and care but then on the other, any time the show implies sex, it leans towards rape. I know prison rape is a real thing but it worries me that rape in general is the only kind of sex currently presented in this story. It’d be especially problematic if Ash and Eiji’s relationship is ultimately just subtext in the end. I’m also getting worried about this play into the manga’s influence on boy’s love. What kind of precedent did this story ultimately set?
No matter what though, Banana Fish is clearly a worthwhile anime this season, even this year. I’m liking the crossover appeal it has for shoujo and crime fans and this story has a number of strengths in spite of its flaw. I didn’t make it official yet so I will now, I’ll be sticking with Banana Fish and I will reflect on this show in future posts.
Thanks for reading!