For once, a moment in Banana Fish that genuinely feels gripping and anguishing.
Mind you, I wouldn’t call this episode perfect. It merits some concern if the first death in Banana Fish that stings involves the one character who actually had screentime to feel like an actual character. Also, I know this is based on an 80s manga marketed towards teenagers but the heartbreak was getting pretty melodramatic by the end. Mileage might vary with all the yelling expressed here.
What bothered me more though are the villains. Abraham is just a cartoonish mad scientist and Arthur is just a cartoonish sadist. There just isn’t much substance to these characters, at least not like Dino who walks an interesting balance between sophisticated and cruel. Believe me, it’ll be incredibly satisfying to see their butts kicked but aside from that, their shticks has already gotten stale and that makes it harder to feel intimidated by them.
Still, this was largely a well-crafted low point for our heroes. It’s even paced considerably well too. Essentially, Dino is killing two birds with stone: showing the dangerous potential of Banana Fish to his political and federal benefactors and punishing Ash for defying him. Whereas Ash expected the torture to be physical and sexual, Dino instead forces him to watch a drugged Shorter coerced into killing Eiji. It’s a wound that will cut much deeper and over the course of a single episode, we see Ash in the most emotionally vulnerable state he’s ever been in. Nothing works in his favor here and it’s a series of escalating events that’ll be hard to forget.
I’m not sure if Arthur letting Ash fire his gun to stop Shorter was planned or anything (honestly, I think it’s just Arthur being a dick) but that was a distressing moment to sit through. It was most certainly an emotionally driven and impulsive decision but with Eiji’s life on the line, it wasn’t like Ash had much time to think things through. The sad thing is that killing Shorter is probably the best thing he could’ve done anyway. With no cure, death is currently the only way to free someone from Banana Fish and at the very least, Ash spares Shorter the pain of killing Eiji. It still stings as I would’ve liked to see the redemption Shorter wished he could achieved. Instead, his life ends as a reluctant traitor and test subject.
While the pain of Shorter’s death is quite evident on Ash’s face, I wonder what kind of effects this will have on Eiji. This man has been told that he’s out of his element and being unable to defend himself against a drugged Shorter must’ve made this painfully obvious. Come to think about it, Eiji has been somewhat blessed with a couple of “Get out of Jail free cards”, narrowly dodging death a number of times and even avoided getting raped by Dino through convenient timing. He’s been pretty lucky but luck can only get him this far. I’m kind of with Yue Lung, Eiji either needs to get used to crime or he needs to get out while he can and one way or another, Shorter’s death may serve as a catalyst for a permanent decision.
While all this torment is going on, you find out that there are some members of the Chinese gangs that aren’t pleased with Lees’ recent dealings with Dino and Shorter’s banishment. The new boss, Sing Soo-Ling (Shouya Chiba) particularly wants to start a war so he’s offered an alliance with whoever still remains loyal to Ash. Presumably, this upcoming assault on Dino is Ash’s ticket out of Dino’s mansion. How steady this alliance will go though may depend on Sing’s reaction to Shorter’s death. I can see him either going against Ash for murdering his best friend but I can also see him remain allies to seek revenge on the real culprits. Still, I’m really liking all the different factions at play here. It’s an aspect of the crime genre that I always enjoy seeing.
Overall, this was a solid episode of Banana Fish. It’s episodes like this that make me want to keep watching the whole anime. Maybe it’s still executed better in the manga (I really should start reading it) but considering the anime’s track record, it’s worth noting the times it mostly get things right.
Thanks for reading!