For some reason, I felt pretty disconnected with the latest developments in Banana Fish. Part of that is, as per usual, the pacing. It still saps a lot of emotion out of the story and this episode particularly had a bad case of multitasking going on here. However, I think the issue is also logistics. The way certain scenes are executed doesn’t really let me buy into things very smoothly.
Let’s start with the very first scene where the gang is enjoying the L.A. scenery while carpooling. It’s a nice bit of levity but then it crossed my mind that not too long ago, these characters just witnessed a woman get shot and killed and be forced to ditch an injured man. It starts to feel off tonally to see Shorter hitting on a passerby while Eiji and Ibe admire the scenery with not a care in the world. Like, wow these men sure get over things pretty quickly. Admittedly, time has passed but I’d still argue it’s still an odd scene since it’s still a direct follow-up to the events of last episode sequentially. And even when you can look past that, there’s a later scene where Ash says he wants to see the Banana Fish case to its end for Skip and Griffin’s sake. No mention of Jennifer or even Jim and I find that so strange.
You know, I’m beginning to wonder if any of the good guys in Banana Fish are that good at being incognito. Eiji I at least get but right when I saw Max visiting his family, I thought to myself “Dude, you’re setting them up for a kidnapping”. And lo and behold, that’s exactly what happens at the very end of the episode. Granted, I still empathize with Max’s desire to see his son, Michael, for his birthday and the introduction of his wife, Jessica, was pretty hilarious. But I don’t know, it’s odd to see Max advise Ash to be cautious about Banana Fish when you’re seeing him potentially leaving bread crumbs for Dino’s men to collect.
And speaking of the investigation, it’s getting a little tough to believe that the gang is making much headway here. As the viewer, you’re already privy to the fact that Banana Fish is a drug and its mystery goes beyond just Dino’s mob. While Ash needs to find this out himself, there really hasn’t been a whole lot of new information surrounding Banana Fish lately. As a result, it feels more like he’s playing catch-up with us as opposed to learning the truth along with us. Also, this anime just had to relegate hacking to a magical thumb drive. Come on, really?
Shorter falling into the Lees’ hands and getting forced into serving as a double agent for the new character, Yue-Lung (of course it’s Jun Fukuyama), I bought a little bit more though there is a lot of exposition to tolerate. The triad has only appeared very briefly and none of their scenes have truly shown the purported trust Shorter claims he has with them. Rather, it’s summed up with lines of dialogue spoken by him and Yue-Lung and the whole effort feels cheap, contrived even.
I don’t want to sound too bothered though as the power play displayed between Shorter and Yue-Lung has some potential. You get a strong sense that this new secret agent is enjoying the leash he has on Shorter and while the latter’s hands are tied, he’s still a bit insubordinate. At one point, he even pins his new superior against a bed with a knife and while he doesn’t make the kill to keep his sister safe, his outburst still stuns Yue-Lung and surprisingly gets to him.
Perhaps I’m too used to Banana Fish associating forceful physical contact with sexuality but I have to wonder if there’s some sort of subtext going on between those two characters. If not their confrontation, there was even a shot in the OP where Yue-Lung comes at Shorter from behind that could be interpreted as suggestive in meaning. Regardless, I am finding this developing dynamic to be pretty interesting. If you have read the manga, please be mindful of spoilers (again, I’m approaching this anime blind).
The scene that worked most effectively for me was the one where Ash speaks to Eiji on Ibe’s behalf about returning to Japan. It speaks volumes about this core relationship. On one hand, Ash is inclined to agree with Ibe that Eiji is/would become a burden and that’s why he decides to play the bad guy for him. On the other, it’s pretty obvious that Ash is quite torn. You even see him get drunk to drown out his sorrows immediately after he talks to Eiji. He’s split between keeping a man he genuinely considers a friend safe and wanting to keep that man as a positive part of his life. Whether Eiji will actually go to Japan I’m pretty doubtful over but this scene was still one impressive piece of drama.
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