Did I read the manga: no
- Plot: 6.5/10
- Characters: 8/10
- Art & Music: 8.5/10
Recommended for: lovers of crime, conspiracy, character focused drama, fast-paced, action, lgbt inclusion that is not necessarily the focus of the plot.
Let's keep it short and sweet, BANANA FISH was a highly enjoyable ride. It has elements of your typical crime/conspiracy drama coupled with exhilarating action sequences. This anime has a pulp fiction-y vibe to it. The streets of New York come to life as we are introduced to the world of gangs, a prostitution ring involving underage boys, the Chinese mafia, and a Japanese photographer who is unluckily caught in the middle of everything. Also, what the h*ll is a Banana Fish anyways?
Banana Fish is a modern adaptation of the manga and it does so very well. The modern setting sets the anime apart from the manga, while sticking close to the original story. There is a cast of colorful characters and the interesting dialogue gives them depth, simultaneously driving the plot forward.
A point of criticism is that at some point the conspiracy evolves into something rather extravagant. How much this bothers you depends on your willingness to suspend your disbelief. Banana Fish's focus is not on presenting a realistic portrayal of crime, but it's a tale of characters and their choices.
The plot grows more hectic, the action sequences become crazier, and I wondered: how is Ash still alive? He truly pulls some deus ex machina moves at some point, has unbelievable stamina, and the plot just won't give him a rest. Mentally, he's not better off. There's some emotional torture porn going on here, bad things keep happening to him and just when you think it can't get worse, it does.
I enjoyed how Banana Fish gave us a scenario where, through a series of events, two people from opposite worlds clash, and learn to know and understand each other. All in all, I feel the story could have benefited from a less convoluted plot.
Ash and Eiji are the center of the series. Ash is a morally gray character. We often see him through the eyes of Eiji, who cares for him deeply. Eiji recklessly throws himself in the face of danger, and stays by his side even though any sound person would flee the situation. He does not shy away from Ash, and Ash appreciates that Eiji doesn't tip-toe around him like everyone else does.
Ash is a beautiful character with a sophisticated mind. Despite his lack of formal education, he enjoys reading, and abides by his own moral code. He is painfully human and beneath that cold exterior he is wounded. We see Ash deal with the repercussions of his (childhood) trauma, he is reluctant towards affection and goes through great lengths to make sure his comrades don't suffer from his mistakes. And as he is hurt again and again, Eiji is always there: patient, undemanding.
Eiji, in my opinion, deserved more development. His arc revolves around transforming Ash's life. But we see little of his own motivations. Why does he feel the need to stick to his side? Does he view Ash as the courage and determination that he doesn't believe he have? What moves him to go against better judgment? Does Eiji look up to Ash? I wonder.
I feel that Ash and Eiji in many ways resemble the dynamic between Achilles and Patroclus. Even though from the outside it may appear that Ash is the one protecting Eiji, they see each other as equals. Eiji has a boldness to him and Ash acknowledges that. Despite knowing each other for such a short time, through mutual trust and support, they developed a bond that is transcendent.
Art & Music
The art & music is superb. New York is painted with a grungy undertone. The action scenes are gripping. The soundtrack hypes you up and tears at your heartstrings. The title card and poster design deserve some love as well.
「I definitely recommend this anime, it's a delightful experience that portrays America through the lens of a Japanese artist, has great characters, and keeps you at the edge of your seat with its fast-paced action.」
Thanks for reading this review, sayonara!