Woohoo, road trip episode!
So Ash and the gang has traveled to his home town of Cape Cod to find some clues Griffin may have left surrounding Banana Fish. While there, everyone meets Ash’s father, Jim, and his partner, Jennifer, and as you can imagine, the family reunion has a lot of rough moments.
Oddly enough, I found this to be one of the better paced episodes in Banana Fish so far. The climax still would’ve benefited from a longer run time (more on that later) but other than that, I thought the story got to a lot of its character-driven drama smoothly. Part of that may owe to the fact that you now have all the major characters in one place. There’s less perspective jumping and event multitasking compared to other episodes. Maybe it’s also just the change of scenery. Cape Cod is by no means, a bustling environment such as NYC and that necessitates a more relaxed atmosphere, even if temporarily.
Anyway, the character development this episode is quite good. At this point, I’d say that this is the one area Banana Fish hasn’t generally struggled in. The complicated relationship between Ash and his father works for the most part. Neither will admit it but with how closed off the latter is, it’s hard not to think that the apple didn’t far from the tree. Readily more likable though is Jennifer and I’m with Ash, she seems too good of a person for his old man. It’s unfortunate she gets the axe at the end (again with quickly killing off your characters, Banana Fish!) but I still liked how she welcomes Ash like they’re family.
There’s a pretty good subplot where Ibe and Max discusses their roles as the “elders” in the group. Evidently, Banana Fish is keen on making good use of having its major characters together in a team. The more I think about it, the more Ibe and Max seem like an unlikely dynamic like Ash and Eiji. Whereas Ibe is still intent on going back to Japan and has, as Ash puts it, “babied” Eiji, Max has not been afraid of knocking some sense into Ash (even literally) and is willing to play a part of the whole ordeal. Max might’ve been even more on the money when he points out that Ibe, deep down, wants to be more like Eiji. In the most surprising moments, the latter does muster a lot of courage and that is something you’ve yet to see from the former.
Is it just me or is Banana Fish a bit too keen with involving rape in Ash’s life, be it past or present? Being a part of Dino’s human trafficking network and getting harassed in prison I at least get but even growing up in his hometown, Ash was preyed upon? It’s less that I find it unrealistic (pedophilia is undeniably real) but more that adding this to the list of misfortunes is feeling excessive at this point. More troubling is how it apparently got addressed. The police accused Ash of seducing the pedophile, let alone conduct an examination, and Jim’s best advice was “Just shut up and let him”. To say this is all odd is to put it mildly. And I know Jim followed his advice with “but make him pay up for it” but does that really make it any better? No, not really. At least Banana Fish negatively paints the scene as traumatic but the writing could indeed be better.
I do wish the trip to Cape Cod was longer if only so that the climax could may have more time to breath. There is still some redeeming qualities to it. It’s a nice reminder that pain will keep following Ash until Dino is stopped and how out of his element Eiji is (you just had to call out Ash’s name…). I do find Jennifer’s death horribly skimmed over though. Just summed up with “all the good ones die first” before moving all the concern over to Jim. And as for Jim, I didn’t fully buy him covering up for Ash before the police arrived. I was half-expecting him to tell Ash to go away. Maybe if we had another scene where he opens up to his son, I’d feel that this small redemption was earned. I do love that you’re left to wonder if the dad even survives at all. If Banana Fish wants to play it even smarter, it should keep his fate as ambiguous as possible.
Still, kind of like how you don’t see anyone mourning for Jennifer for too long, you don’t really seen anyone, not even Ash, worrying for Jim. Everyone is just focused on traveling by map to get to LA. I’m sure the truck is as uncomfortable as everyone says it is but surely they have bigger things weighing in their minds…
Oh well. ANOTHER ROAD TRIP EPISODE! Can’t wait to see them deal with the triad!
Thanks for reading!