REVIEW: Banana Fish (Episode 14)

Episode 14: Tender is the Night | 夜がやさし

If you’re catching onto the bumpy Banana Fish narrative formula of bloody carnage/brief respite/bloody carnage, then you should know after last week’s bloodbath it’s time for a break. But “breaks” in the jam-packed Banana Fish are really a matter of perspective. We wouldn’t want you thinking for even a second that Ash Lynx is going to catch a break.

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Public service announcement

We face-plant into the grisly aftermath of Ash’s latest mass execution. Ash, who caught a bad case of knife to the abdomen, has been arrested, hospitalized, and fortunately unconscious for most of this exposition. During surgery, Ash dreams about killing Shorter and Eiji, and hallucinates about the sweet release of death.

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Scary. Morbid. But also could be the cover art of a dollar romance novel. Nice.

Eiji, who decided to go to jail instead of Japan, mopes in the corner of the holding cell. Cain and Sing are there, too, and so is Sing’s massive crush on Ash. (I’d gripe about this being totally random, but hey, who the fuck can blame him. Get in line, cowboy.) Guess who saunters in with a lot of screen time to make up for after a several episode sabbatical, it’s our boy Yut-Lung. Yut-Lung posts bail for Eiji and Sing, and then casually abducts Eiji right in front of the police station because Yut-Lung is a smooth criminal and anyway, Eiji’s contract obligates a kidnapping every few episodes and we were really getting down to the wire.

As you may recall, after the Dino murder dungeon Battle Royale, Yut-Lung definitely looted the Banana Fish. Maybe Dino has some left still, because he hasn’t yet flipped out about that extremely not minor plot point which would definitely crap up his plans to sell it to the Republicans. But Yut-Lung’s nabbed a case of the stuff from Dino’s evil laboratory, and they couldn’t have had tons because they had only just finalized the recipe. Repeat, Yut-Lung has all the goddamn Banana Fish. Guys, does no one else in this series even care?

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FAMI-LEE DRAMA: I can’t remember if this was the brother that was going to rape Yut-Lung or the brother that was going to strangle him. Either way, I mean, yeah. Fuck him.

Well, I’ll tell you who definitely doesn’t. Hua-Lung, one of Yut-Lung’s big brothers. Because Yut-Lung shot that bastard up with Banana Fish, and now Hua-Lung is his mindless drooling murder puppet.

This kid’s holding all the cards: he’s got the Chinese mafia. This anime’s Best Boy. And all the fucking Banana Fish. Forget Ash – Yut-Lung is the real adolescent monster genius dismantling the status quo and otherwise smashing the patriarchy (and then some).

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Also, he’s mean to Eiji. You asshole, Yut-Lung. I’ve gotten over the whole Shorter thing, but this time you’ve really gone too far.

Ash wakes up in the hospital, where at least detectives Charlie and Jenkins are on his side. They warn Ash that he’s a grown-up now that he’s officially 18 years old, and you aren’t really supposed to massacre humans when you’re a grown-up, even if it’s one of those things you can get away with when you’re 17.

This means we have a whole legal circus to run. They bring in a bloke from public prosecution to run an all-encompassing mental health/intelligence test on him (for some reason the psychiatric diagnostic assessment has a subsection on advanced Calculus, the results of which I’m sure will be useful for the prosecution to muster up a case.) Anyway, Ash not only aces the test, he’s got enough brainpower left to crack a yo mamma wife joke. They slap him with an IQ score of 180 and a sass score of out of this world.

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I think we all need to take a moment to remember that Ash’s real name is Aslan Jade Callenreese. Everyone knows that, but no one, not even the smarmiest assholes, bother to call him anything but his cool street name.

Plot twist! The public prosecution dude actually works for the Republican Banana Fish would-be buyers. They grumble about Ash potentially exposing them to the American public as corrupt child molesting murderers and send a nurse undercover to shoot some poison up Ash’s IV drip. Ash’s inner organs may be hamburger right now, but he uses the aforementioned hyper-intelligence to deduce the nurse is a fake and then forgets his inner organs are hamburger and fights her until she poisons herself. Surrogate father Max decides he’s going to break Ash out of the hospital, because this is getting ridiculous. But first, Max goes to leak a few hot tips about Banana Fish and Golzine’s dark empire to the paper he worked for. By the time he gets back, the “FBI” has snagged Ash. They blindfold him, stuff him in a van, and take him away for “further psychiatric testing”, but it’s pretty clear the Republicans just sold him off for scientific experiments.

Just another day in the life of Ash Lynx, really.

NEW OPENING AND ENDING CREDITS THEME SONGS

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Both new sequences are strong, well-animated, and most importantly, up the ante when it comes to the Ash/Eiji romance.

The second opening theme song is “Freedom” by Blue Encount. It’s a solid jam, but its animation outshines the tune. In addition to incorporating fast-paced visual themes of shattering glass revolving around Ash, as well as quick flashes of other characters (some yet to be introduced), we get some intimate Ash and Eiji sequences featuring the pair trying to reach for each other and nearly getting close enough to kiss. The song has the beat of the last opener, but is semi-crippled by even worse Engrish – a hodgepodge of phrasal themes that have musical, if not lyrical, connection (“You ignite my pale heart!” “Fight for freedom!” “Get away from dark nightmare!”). How hard is it to find a gaijin to spot-check this stuff?

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Survive Said The Prophet is performs the second ending theme song “Red”, which was some next level music. It doesn’t have the same melancholic episode-to-credits transition weight that the old song did, but it’s overall a more emotive and powerful song and animated sequence. The visuals seem to invoke the famous The Catcher in the Rye motif of safeguarding innocence in a field, which might be too obvious, but the somber lyrics hit heavy on Ash’s relation to Eiji as his character looks on stricken as Eiji smiles and laughs. The singer mourns “the madness of falling in love” while ominously soliloquizing about the singer dying and losing the ones he holds dearest.

A CASE AGAINST ASH

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Charlie and Jenkins may be mostly useless, but they really are standup dudes. Ash is constantly doing exactly the things they beg him not to do, and what they want from him (dirt on Golzine) he flat-out refuses to hand over. They go through the trouble of pulling strings to get him out of prison only for Ash to not only violently shake them off his trail and break parole, but go on a killing spree in a highly publicized gang war. It’s amazing that Charlie and Jenkins are still willing to stick their necks out for Ash, and sympathize so strongly with his trials and tribulations.

But in stark fairness, the law isn’t on Ash’s side here. Even if Ash successfully dethrones Golzine and exposes Banana Fish, that won’t exonerate Ash from his own crimes. After all, it’s one thing to kill in immediate self-defense, but Ash has actively pursued and executed his enemies. Since Ash has been publicly televised as a dangerous criminal – and, to be clear, he is a dangerous criminal – it’s hard to think Ash could ever live freely without being on the run.

As Ash says, he has spent his life ignoring the law. He’s not going to ask it to protect him now. The revelation brings an uncomfortable finality to the story even though we are still only about halfway through.

FINAL REMARKS

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More ED visual indulgence. Looks like I’ll have a full schedule this fall of sitting drunk in a corner rocking back and forth and chanting “this anime will have a happy ending” over and over again.

Both Eiji and Ash have been captured again, but this time by opposing entities.

Yut-Lung is looking to make a glorious comeback into the game, if he was ever really playing at all up until this point and not just dicking around until he got the cards he wanted in his hand.  Yut-Lung, who is not entirely void of human decency, might have kidnapped Eiji as a favor – since Eiji’s well-known among the criminal underbelly of America as Ash’s Achilles heel, better Yut-Lung swoop in and grab him before Dino Golzine gets to him first. Or maybe Yut-Lung just thoughtlessly nabbed a card from the discard pile when it presented itself. Either way, I’m not worried about Eiji right now, because Yut-Lung doesn’t seem apt to do much more to him than hurt his feelings.

On the other hand, Ash’s life continues to suck. He can’t even be left alone long enough for his severe stab wound to scab over before someone else tries to murder and/or abduct him. No comment yet on this mysterious doctor with the “special interest” in Ash. Sounds shady and ridiculous and Ash really has got other shit to deal with right now. And with Dino Golzine on his way back, bets are on Episode 15 drenching the story again in action.

WHERE TO WATCH IT (LEGALLY): Amazon Prime

Next: Episode 15
Previous: Episode 13

 

4 thoughts on “REVIEW: Banana Fish (Episode 14)”

  1. Yut Lung is indeed Best Boy, as his character fluctuates between sympathetic and monstrous. His hate-on for Eiji is also strangely compelling to watch.

    Ash having some fun at the psychologist’s expense was another highlight of the episode for me.

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    1. Haha, “hate-on” describes it perfectly. Yut-Lung seems just a little too invested in gaslighting Eiji’s interest in Ash, lol. Ash trolling the psychologist was also my favorite moment. I love that Ash knows he’s a sitting duck for his many, many, many enemies to take a swipe at, and he’s still got sass to spare.

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