REVIEW: Banana Fish (Episode 7)

Episode 7: The Rich Boy | リッチ・ボーイ

Welcome to California! Not only has the game board expanded, so have the number of players. The most important introduction is the titular “Rich Boy”, but a few more side characters popping in to say hello make this a relatively chill episode. The cogs are definitely moving in the background, but first thing’s first: detective work and gay jokes.

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Ah, going to California. Rookie mistake.

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The party – for those who can’t keep up, that’s Ash Lynx, Eiji Okumura, Shorter Wong, Max Lobo, and Shunichi Ibe – make a pit stop at the house where Max’s young son Michael and his ex-wife Jessica live. I usually hate these familial tangents in action stories because they feel so lazy, and predictably the wife and kid(s) are going to get kidnapped, threatened, or die brutal deaths at some point down the line for some cheap angst. That’s almost definitely what’s happening here, but Jessica evidently works as a content creator in the gay porn/nude male modeling industry, which basically makes her a fujoshi and I will mourn and salute her passing if/when she dies. Anime children are usually even worse than anime wives, for their forced cuteness fakery, but Michael manages to be sweet and sour without being over the top either way. So basically, Max’s ex-family is all right in my book. Well done, Banana Fish.

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We don’t do much of note at the ex-Max household besides give Michael a birthday present and glaze on Max’s paternal propensity, before we are off again to our original destination of the Dawson mansion to search for Banana Fish clues. (In)conveniently enough, the moment we roll in, a maid screams, and we stumble upon a group of baddies trying to kidnap Dawson’s adolescent son. Ash makes quick work of that, but here’s another twist: the kid of uber-white Abraham Dawson is Chinese.

16-year-old Yau-Si Dawson was evidently adopted into the wealthy Dawson family because he’s so goddamn smart. Yau-si admits his father has been missing for the past six months, and gives the party free reign to poke around the mansion for clues. Ash is as skeptical of him as I am, and tells Shorter – who, reminder (and this is important) is also Chinese – to investigate him. Then Ash proceeds to hack into Abraham’s old computer, as you do.

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Well, you never seriously doubted Ash was also a computer hacker, did you? I guarantee Ash has every possible skill in his arsenal that isn’t pole-vaulting or having faith in the power of love. Thanks to The Computer(TM), Ash and friends learn that Banana Fish is a drug, not a person. Well, us viewers already knew that, so whatever.

Scene change to Shorter’s investigation, where things start to get fun. Shorter, who is technically still a part of the Chinese mafia on account of being Chinese, meets with some local mobsters to uncover information about Yau-si. It doesn’t go well. The city’s head honcho, Hua-Lung Lee, who is the brother of Wang-Lung Lee back in New York City (who last episode agreed to assist Papa Dino), demands Shorter stop dicking around and work for them like he is ethnically obligated to, and charges him with spying on Ash Lynx. Putting the pieces together, Shorter confronts our teenage host and discovers that Yau-si Dawson is actually Yut-Lung Lee, the mysterious seventh son of the Lee family whose name means “moon” in order to destine him to preside over the dark and bloody underbelly of his family’s mafia politics. Fucking fabulous. Anyway, Shorter is Yut-Lung’s bitch or Yut-Lung will have his sister murdered (whom I correctly identified as a Female Human of Potential Significance in an earlier review), so there’s that.

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Shunichi makes visa arrangements for the return to Japan, and he and Max deliberate about how to convince Eiji to go home with him. Ash, in another display of badassery, does the dirty deed for them by telling Eiji outright that he is only going to get in the way. When gentle and perfect Eiji blames himself for causing Ash so much trouble, Ash switches gears and confesses that he considers Eiji the only person who has helped him without ulterior motives – but they live in different worlds, and it needs to stay that way.

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After breaking Eiji’s heart, Ash leaves it to the grown-ups to put the pieces back together. But the real damage can’t be undone – that is, a peeping Yut-Lung witnesses the purity of their gayness. Is he going to use that against Ash? Absolutely. Yut-Lung commands Shorter kidnap Eiji in order to entrap Ash, and though Shorter flips out at him at the prospect of betraying Ash, he’s probably gonna do it.

But first, remember Max’s ex-wife Jessica and son Michael who we met a few minutes ago? They are about to get abducted or murdered by mafia intruders. Called it!

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I OWE SHORTER WONG A (SLIGHT) APOLOGY

I wasn’t very nice to him in last week’s episode review. In all fairness, I was right about pegging him a traitor, he just wasn’t a traitor yet.

I had figured there was something seedy about the guy. He is a connection to Ash’s past with the mafia, and his purpose on this journey is somewhat tenuous, since he is a criminal and a killer and doesn’t share Ash’s vested interest in taking down Dino Golzine. That meant he either existed to verify how badass Ash is, or else represent a threat from the mafia we have been road-tripping away from, or both. But I hadn’t given Shorter the benefit of the doubt and humored the possibility that Banana Fish might actually be taking him seriously as a character.

Especially with his goofy appearance – I riffed that Shorter was the kind of asshole that wears sunglasses at night, but it ended up being a pretty interesting and deliberate aesthetic. Shorter’s sunglasses suggest some ambiguity about what kind of guy he is, which works if he’s playing a game of maybe-bro, maybe-traitor. But on a literal level, they physically obscure his Chinese identity. It isn’t that he’s ever hid it, but it can’t be total coincidence that the first real time we see his eyes is when he’s baring himself on a deeper level in the face of having his identity used against him as a weapon of control.

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If Ash feels no loyalty at all to Dino Golzine, Shorter is pulled between ingratiation toward and independence from his own syndicate. It isn’t that Shorter’s a good guy. He’s already been contrasted to Ash for his quicker willingness to slice throats and drop bodies, whereas Ash doesn’t seem to kill outside of a fight (unless, of course, they really deserve it). But Shorter doesn’t want to compromise his friends, either, and he has people he cares about.

But the better aesthetic contrast is obviously between the punk, unrefined, and unabashedly Americanized Shorter, and the beautifully elegant and traditional Yut-Lung.

YUT-LUNG LEE, PRINCE OF DARKNESS AND PURVEYOR OF DOOM

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Yut-Lung Lee hasn’t really put out his claws yet, even though we are promised he’s one nasty sonuvabitch. He trapezes around the episode, first pretending to be a privileged but sweet-faced teenager before purring a few threats toward Shorter when his identity is unveiled. The demon is certainly lurking behind his blasé and cool demeanor, evidenced by a few sharper visual cues. Of particular vicious charm was Yut-Lung wiping tears from his face, but the tears belonged to Shorter and not himself.

Even so, for all of the flowery speech, it remains to be seen how ferocious Yut-Lung can be. It’s certain that the introductory “kidnapping” attempt was all a show to lure in Ash, but it isn’t completely clear why the production was necessary. Yut-Lung knows Ash suspects him so hesitates to move against him directly, leading to another potential kidnapping drama with Eiji. But the explanation as to why Yut-Lung can’t call all his goons to overwhelm Ash by force or otherwise pop some Ambien in his tea might just be that Ash Lynx is badass and we, the audience, have just got to accept that.

Then again, as mentioned last time, Ash’s fatal flaw is immediately surrendering in any given hostage situation, so why not capitalize on that, I guess?

ANOTHER QUICK NOTE ABOUT DADS

After last episode, it’s pretty clear that paternal relationships – whether by blood or not – are important to the story Banana Fish is trying to tell.

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As before, Shunichi Ibe continues to take paternal responsibility for Eiji’s emotional and physical well-being. By contrast, Max – whose dadness is emphasized this episode through the introduction of his own little son – is jumping in to fill the bloody and infected gap that is Ash’s own turbulent mess of parental issues.

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Max feels responsibility for Ash because Ash is his friend Griffin’s little brother, and also, he shot Griffin in the legs and permanently disabled him, so he kind of owes him one. Mid-episode, Max tells Ash he needs to stop fucking aggravating powerful and murder-happy gangsters or Max will send him to his room and ground him, dammit. End episode, Max has a change of heart, and says if Ash is committed to taking down Dino Golzine and stopping the threat of the Banana Fish drug, then Max is with him to the end. They plan to return to the battlefield of New York.

But remember, Max is an actual dad with an actual kid to watch out for. When the episode ends with said kid about to get killed or abducted by gangsters, it’s easy to guess there could be a major wedge in Max’s own loyalties.

DON’T WORRY, NOW I’M GETTING TO ASH AND EIJI

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Ash and Eiji don’t share too many moments this episode, but the rooftop confrontation is an important and poignant shift in the drama. In the last episode, Ash was teaching Eiji how to shoot a gun and mocking Shunichi for babying him, and this episode, Ash is forced to backtrack: he takes responsibility for the implications of involving an innocent civilian in gang wars by telling Eiji he will only get in the way, and that he envies him for not having to use guns at all to survive.

Ash doesn’t lay it on thick. No pretending to dislike Eiji, no attacks to manipulate Eiji into disliking him, either. He’s remarkably earnest for having “the conversation”, which shows he is only being truthful. Eiji breaks down after Ash tells him their worlds are too different and questions why he ever came along at all.

But the other shift is that Yut-Lung observes the heart-to-heart, which concretes Eiji’s status as a liability. For someone who desperately wants to ascend to a purpose in Ash’s life beyond simply getting in his way, things are looking pretty dire for Eiji. Eiji may be forced to grow up after all – but the jury’s still out on what exactly that means.

WHERE TO WATCH IT (LEGALLY): Amazon Prime

Next: Episode 8
Previous: Episode 6

5 thoughts on “REVIEW: Banana Fish (Episode 7)”

  1. I really liked how Shorter’s character was presented in this episode. Like you I was pretty sure he was up to something and finding out he genuinely was just along to help Ash and now he’s being compromised was actually quite a shock and I also found myself genuinely feeling sorry for the position Shorter has found himself in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I agree! I liked Shorter a lot in this episode. I’m a sucker for morally gray/criminal characters who genuinely care about their friends. Poor dude, with his sister’s life threatened I can’t imagine things are going to go well for him.

      Like

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