Anime Review

Anime Hajime Review: Banana Fish

Original Run: July 5, 2018 - December 20, 2018
Number of Episodes: 24
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Based on the Series Created By: Akimi Yoshida

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Banana Fish. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

The underworld gangs of New York are constantly vying for control and influence. At their worst, open war will break out on the streets of Manhattan. Among the most dangerous of this lot is the brilliant Ash Lynx (voiced by Yuuma Uchida).

For years, Ash has sworn loyalty to one of the city’s most powerful organizations. That suddenly changes when someone close to Ash falls victim to his group’s most recent drug – Banana Fish. This new narcotic is rumored to break a user’s mind, and Ash wants no part of this enterprise.

At the same time, a journalist pair from Japan has arrived to document organized crime in the United States. The younger of the duo, Eiji Okumura (voiced by Kenji Nojima), is bright-eyed and innocent. He has no idea he has just entered a deadly world. One of his first contacts is none other than Ash Lynx.

Ash and Eiji immediately form a friendship, and the two could not have made a costlier mistake. All of Ash’s enemies now see Eiji as a potential target. Along with discovering the truth behind Banana Fish, Ash must maintain constant vigilance if he wishes to protect Eiji.

Still, given Ash’s past, there are plenty of other places where people can hurt the young crime boss.

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Series Positives

As always, I knew nothing about the Banana Fish story, nor was I aware of its long history until after the fact. Incidentally – and to the best of my understanding – ever since the first volume of the manga released over thirty years ago, this series has been regarded as an influential work for both the shoujo (female-oriented demographic) and Boys Love (a focus on male, homosexual relationships) genres.

Now that I know Banana Fish has such a past, it makes sense why this series received so much attention across Japan during the anime’s original run.

It didn’t take long for me to conclude, “Well I guess I should give this one a shot.”

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I may say that matter-of-factly, but the honest truth is, I was looking forward to Banana Fish quite a bit. Therefore, my heart sank when after a few episodes I realized I simply wasn’t getting into this series.

Would I call this a bad show? No, and I suspect much of my disappointment came from my own self-induced hype. However, after we account for that, we are still left with a series which was unsatisfying. Nevertheless, there was positivity to Banana Fish.

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For starters, this story was substantial enough to justify why it had twenty-four episodes. Could this series have worked if it were standard length (twelve or thirteen episodes)? Although I can certainly think of a few places where this show could have trimmed some of its fat, overall, it filled its allotted time adequately.

On top of that, the story progression was smooth. Banana Fish wasn’t a convoluted mess, and it was usually clear as to what was going on. In fact, let’s take a moment to acknowledge how impressive a feat that was. Given how many times things shifted around in this series, things could have gotten out of hand quickly.

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Helping to keep everything together were this series’ actions scenes. The numerous gunfights, street battles, and one-on-one duels accounted for the second best feature of Banana Fish. This show had a talent for making every skirmish – no matter the size – feel dire. No character was safe. At any moment, someone could have been taken out. When someone died, there were real implications.

Perhaps one of the best compliments I can give Banana Fish is, the events depicted were never fantastical. There was a notable grit to this series, and it would be wrong to not give the proper credit. Although there were a handful of highly skilled fighters who were borderline superhuman in this story, there was no one who could take on twenty heavily-armed, well-trained opponents by themselves. This show tended to lean more towards the practical, and that worked wonders for it.

Plus, having never experienced either, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume getting shot or stabbed hurts like hell. This show suggested as much. While you may think that should go without saying, you would be amazed by how much life (the irony is not lost on me) this can add to a series.

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As I’m sure you noticed, I credited the action as the second best feature of Banana Fish. I want to finish this section off by talking about Ash Lynx. Here was a great character.

Serving as our main protagonist, we had someone who had both brains and brawn. Ash was a natural leader who could inspire his subordinates through respect and, when necessary, brutality. If you were his friend, he would look out for you. If you were to cross him, though, Ash would not have hesitated to put a bullet in your head.

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Ash was such a formidable force, his greatest enemy, Dino “Papa” Golzine (voiced by Unshou Ishizuka) was simultaneously his loudest promoter. Where most everyone else saw Ash as a non-factor kid, only Papa appreciated the true scope of what Ash could do.

And now I can’t avoid the matter any longer. Banana Fish and Ash were not light. Both this story and this character built themselves on top of several dark topics; among them were forced prostitution, rape, and child sex trafficking. This show did not tiptoe around these subjects; it was very explicit in saying precisely what they were.

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Concerning Ash, specifically, these issues were a major part of his backstory. They helped turn him into the most defined character of the entire series. It was never a mystery why Ash did the things he did. So while he was being the biggest badass of badasses, Ash was also someone who was constantly fighting the nightmares of his past.

Banana Fish had something going on when it came to Ash. Sadly, the mistake which permeated this series was everything that was not its main character.

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Series Negatives

First, I want to get a few things off my chest:

  • There was too much anime-style comedy in this series.
  • Many of the main characters looked and acted as though they were in their twenties but were actually teenagers. I’m calling BS.
  • The final villain of the show was nothing more than one giant muscle.
  • There were a few details about America which were grossly inaccurate. Believe it or not Japan, there aren’t many dirt roads on the outskirts of Los Angeles, and there are even fewer LA hillbillies to point lost travelers in the right direction.

Moving on.

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I said Banana Fish was justified in being twenty-four episodes long, and I also mentioned how this story adequately filled its full run time. In terms of a core narrative, this series didn’t waste a lot of energy. The problem was, that core narrative wasn’t particularly engaging.

Banana Fish had two significant phases. The first was a decent crime drama with plenty of underworld politics and power plays. Here was where the titular Banana Fish was at its most prominent.

Rather abruptly, this story then jumped from gangsters to a large-scale government conspiracy. However, Banana Fish never let go of that criminal side, and that was where the trouble really began.

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The tension of bad-blood, revenge, and mistrust between the different street gangs of New York existed while these groups were forming a semi-guerilla military operation to undermine corruption within the US government. To put it as bluntly as I can: This series was never too far away from setting up an insurgency within the biggest city in America.

Yes, Banana Fish’s story was easy to follow. This series never took massive leaps of faith. That notwithstanding, things got so big so quickly, the events which happened in the beginning of the show felt meaningless by the end.

I want you to try something if you do decide to watch this series. When you get to episode twenty-four, ask yourself, “Who was Skip?”

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When you get right down to it, the only character worth caring about was Ash. He was the constant which kept everything heading down the same path. Whenever this plot started to veer off into some random direction, Ash was there to refocus it. And you know what, that was fine. Ash was the anchor this series needed, and Banana Fish seemed to recognize this. That is why this show didn’t bother too much with anyone else.

Except for Eiji Okumura.

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Eiji was the reason why I couldn’t get into this series. Whereas Ash’s character was deep, filled with detail, and uniquely his own, Eiji had a dime-a-dozen personality I have seen countless times.

To sum him up in a few words, Eiji had an irritating degree of naivety. He was loved arbitrarily, he was hated arbitrarily, and he only served to be a person Ash saved. Eiji was the classic damsel in distress, and he brought with him all the problems associated with that role.

What really got to me, Eiji was the reason why Ash tried so hard to control his more violent urges. Since Eiji was crucial to Ash’s entire outlook, it would have been great if Eiji had been even a little bit more interesting. At the very least, he shouldn’t have been the thing which brought the entirety of Banana Fish down.

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Final Thoughts

Was this a bad series? Like I said in the beginning, no, it wasn’t. There were some really great aspects to this show.

The story was well-paced, except it was also needlessly involved. The action was fun and exciting. Too bad, it was sometimes paired with cringy humor and pointless anime BS. The main protagonist was fantastic, and he did more than his fair share of the work. Unfortunately, he was paired with a forgettable little nobody.

Basically, for every good point there was to this series, there was something which tarnished it.

I won’t blame anyone for checking out this show. This wasn’t the worst sit I have had from 2018. However, I don’t believe I can give Banana Fish my recommendation.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning Banana Fish? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

And if you liked what you read, be sure to follow me here and on all my social media sites so that you never miss a post or update. Also, please share this review across the internet to help add to the discussion.

I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.

Post Edited By: Onions

6 comments

  1. I really enjoyed Banana Fish and quite liked Ash and Eiji together. The story definitely had some issues and not developing any other character was a big part of that, but I had fun following this one and discussing it as it aired.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve heard nothing but goof things about Banana Fish. But I haven’t watched it yet and to be honest I’m not sure if I will. Though my interest it still peaked. This review was funny and I like that you we’re curt when you felt like you needed to be. Nice job

    Liked by 1 person

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