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Anime Review: Banana Fish

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A revenge story like no other is the only way to describe 2018’s anime Banana Fish.  Banana Fish was originally a manga published in 1985 and ran up until 1994.  The manga had a run of 19 volumes and was written as a Shojo manga.  For those that don’t know Shojo is an anime/ manga genre that is written to appeal to young women, which is what Shojo actually means; young woman.  Most Shojo’s feature a cast of pretty boys and are laced with drama that mainly focuses on romantic or emotional relationships.

My initial thought when I saw the title of the anime is that it was going to be an anime with a running trope of gags and funny characters.  My silly grin turned into intrigue upon reading the description; Ash Lynx, a 17-year-old boy, is the boss of a street-kid gang in New York.  My first thought was oh snaps, this shit about to be gangsta as fuck.  But like most Japanese anime the description is only the surface.  The story is very deep and even though it’s about revenge, it isn’t your typical anime revenge.  It felt more like an old fashion Kung Fu flick where a character is getting revenge for their whole family being murdered.  That’s how heavy the story is.  Even though Banana Fish is a Shojo it didn’t feel like it at first glance.

Banana Fish follows Ash the leader of a kid gang, Shorter his left-tenant, Eiji a Japanese photographer’s apprentice, Max Lobo a War Vet, ex-cop, turned freelance journalist, and Ibe a photojournalist from Japan.  Max feels responsible for Ash’s well being because he served with Ash’s older brother Griffin in the war.  Ibe and Eiji wishes to see the story though to the end.  Every character has a reason for being around Ash as he seeks revenge against a Mob Boss known as Papa Dino Golzine and his henchmen.

The story begins by introducing the problem with a war going on in Afghanistan where a group of American soldiers winding down in the ruins of a half blown up building, sitting around a camp fire and relaxing.  One of the characters began to look around for one of the missing soldiers who showed up shortly after being called.  The missing soldier grabbed an AR-15 and opened fire on his platoon.  He was taken down by 2 shots, one to each leg, and only muttered the words Banana Fish.  After this the story introduces Ash as he witnesses a man with a chest wound in an alley.  The man gave him a vial and uttered the words Banana Fish, which peeks Ash’s interest.  The anime then introduces members of Ash’s gang, members of the Mob Boss’s syndicate, a pair of Japanese photojournalists, and the local detectives.

The overarching theme of the anime seems to deal with the criminal world.  The author depicts the dynamic symmetry between mafias and gangs, showing how they interact with each other.  In doing so the author gives us a glimpse at drugs, crooked cops, prison life, as well as how the judicial system works when it’s under the thumb of a regime other than Lady Justice.  One of the strong points in Banana Fish is the friendship between Ash and Eiji.  It shows how people from two different worlds can band together for a common goal or have a genuine care for each other without feeling indebted.  Banana Fish also does an excellent job of showing us the interpersonal relationships of the characters as the stories are being told and unfold.

By the time episode 2 rolled around I sat with my mouth agape, because of all of the craziness that was going on.  This anime is definitely not for the faint of heart or those that are squeamish to things dealing with every facet of the criminal underworld.  I cannot express the unease I felt at times while watching this anime.   All I can say without spoiling too much is that Ash is a very smart and capable kid.  The side characters all contribute something special to bring this anime together.  It also makes me look at police sideways even more than what I already have been.  I’ll never involve myself in the dealings of the criminal underworld and lastly I want Ash to kill them all.  I want him to kill every single person that is on his hit list, because his childhood was so fucked up.  My heart dropped and I felt a looming nausea while watching his back story unfold.

Banana Fish is set to produce 24 episodes before it ends.  Currently there are 10 episodes available on Amazon Prime.  If you’re into the whole crime scenario or enjoy common Shojo tropes or even just want to watch a great story without all of the flash that normally comes with a Shonen then Banana Fish is the anime for you.

If you have watched Banana Fish or plan on watching leave a comment below and let’s discuss your thoughts and feelings about it.

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