REVIEW: Banana Fish (Episode 15)

Episode 15: Garden of Eden | エデンの園

Rolling into Episode 15, Banana Fish has really developed since episode one. Literally. As usual, Ash once again has the cards stacked against him, but what’s a little impending doom when you have an IQ for days, an ass that won’t quit, and most of all, a fucking vendetta.

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The musical portion of today’s episode is brought to you by SCIENCE.

Ash’s death has been broadcast over the news. Obviously that’s #Fakenews, because we still have like nine episodes left. But none of the cast has any idea if their show is about to be cancelled mid-season, so everyone is freaking out about losing the main character.

Especially Eiji, who, by the way, is getting really tired of being kidnapped. He punches a window, grabs Yut-Lung and jams a shard of glass at his throat until the Chinese mafia surrender him a gun and let him walk out. Yut-Lung presumably could have stopped this but just isn’t motivated enough for the task. He gets mopey again about Ash and Eiji’s relationship and insists he’s the show’s real secondary lead.

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I swear to god, Yut-Lung, you’ve now gotten kidnapped almost half as many times as Eiji, which is embarrassing enough, but when freaking Eiji himself is doing the kidnapping you know you’ve dropped in the social hierarchy.

When kidnap-magnet Eiji is about to be kidnapped on the street again, Sing, who had been following him on his motorcycle, swoops in to rescue him with his deadly pokey-thing-on-a-string. I think we’re far enough along in the series to all agree that Sing is the cutest little violent street gangster in all of New York.

Dino Golzine gets back to America, and is met with reporters hounding him for comments on that shocking recently exposed scandal of murder.. I mean sex trade trafficking.. I mean… tax evasion? Whatever, either way, the disgraced Dino has been knocked off his perch with the Corsican mafia, and so too, it seems, his own Banana Fish project.

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Spoken like a true man who harvests brains.

Fucking finally let’s get to Ash, who is definitely still kicking it. As you’ll remember, he was sold off by the Republicans for scientific experiments last episode. The evil lab, registered officially as the federally-funded “National Mental Health Institute”, is run by a Dr. Mannerheim and ostensibly provides criminal rehabilitation services. Don’t believe the brochures, it’s actually a Banana Fish farm. The lab is trying to adapt the drug to take away the whole murder-zombie side effect thing, even though I thought that was what made the drug useful in the first place. Now it’s just going to make you a walking vegetable who is still compliant to orders but less likely to bite you in the jugular.

Mannerheim expounds upon the details as he takes Ash on a guided tour through his Brains-in-Test-Tubes Room. There’s a brief cameo from Shorter. I mean, some of Shorter. (Too soon?)

Mannerheim’s current research goal is to create drug-puppets who are also intellectual geniuses. Remember Alexis Dawson, the slightly more repentant Dawson brother who invented Banana Fish in the first place? Yeah, they injected his wrinkly ass with Banana Fish 2.0: Chill Edition. But his high-IQ brain got turned to mush, which makes him less fun to mind control, so the next test subject is Ash Lynx. Whose IQ, by the way, is officially upgraded from 180 to 200 after extensive psychiatric testing and stuff.

Dino Golzine is not cool with Ash being chemically crippled of his most charming personality traits, so smashes in to shut the operation down. Unfortunately, the disgraced Dino no longer has authority over the project, so they shoo him out – but not before Dino makes a few goading remarks to a half-sedated Ash.

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“If I can’t murder you, no one can!”

Well, since no one is doing jack to help him, Ash has got to break out on his own. After the stabbing incident, Ash may only have a handful of functioning internal organs at his disposal, but one of them is his level 200 brain, which he uses to devise an absolutely brilliant plan of… erotically singing and writhing in front of the security camera until an armed guard opens the cell door to snag a blowjob.

But Ash would rather blow his mind than his dick, so he does. Ka-boom. And just like that, once again, the lynx is out of its cage.

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“So I know that kid propositioning us in front of the camera just massacred like a hundred people and has a fucking crazy IQ, and incidentally, we also just told him were going to chemically lobotomize him after taunting him with our evil plans. But here’s the thing: what if I enter his cell with two loaded guns and only one of them is my dick.”

A BRIEF ASSESSMENT

Though I assume it fits snugly into the overarching plot that Banana Fish is trying to advance, on an individual basis, Episode 15 was somewhat lethargic.

Yut-Lung is back to the benches. The moment I think this guy is about to do something really wild, he hands the reigns over and sulks. He actually tried to banter with Eiji for his own plot relevance by trying to posit himself Ash’s true other-half, ergo, ultimate arch-nemesis (sorry, Yut-Lung, but Ash really is not in the market for those). The fact is, pretty much everything Yut-Lung has allegedly done has been off-camera, including his own body count. Maybe cracking heads and tossing grenades isn’t his style; fine. But what does he do, then? I am led to assume Yut-Lung is scheming, I just still don’t have any idea what his goals are.

It was neat to see Dino really stumble and face the consequences of Ash’s meddling, which means Dino himself will have to fight for the throne if he wants to maintain his status as the ultimate baddie. But in the power vacuum of his absence, it’s unclear who is currently in control. Dr. Mannerheim and the fake-FBI/actual CIA dudes think it’s Senator Kippard, who is funding the Banana Fish lab. Senator Kippard sure thinks it’s Senator Kippard, but he’s had like four seconds total screen time so I’m sure as shit not convinced. The Corsican mafia’s not convinced, either, and they bring in the suitably titled Baron Isaac Zakharev to replace Dino. At any rate, it all amounts to a lot of talking and not much clarity on how much I should care, when I can’t tell who is a glorified extra and who isn’t.

While I haven’t really minded the more one-dimensional villains of Banana Fish, Dr. Mannerheim is so dull I assume he really is a glorified extra. That he so thoroughly expatiated upon his plans to the certifiably dangerous Ash is presumably for the audience’s benefit. Even Ash admits the show is veering toward science fiction, which may come across as a genre switch.

As a last nitpick, the art in Banana Fish has regularly vacillated between gorgeous and slapdash, but it seems we’ve tipped further toward the latter. This episode in particular had a lot of wonky and unpolished art, and it might have been more noticeable yet because there was so much stagnant exposition.

ASH’S COURTSHIP DANCE

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Once again, Ash must struggle with and assert his sense of humanity against an unforgiving backdrop of enemies who dehumanize him at every turn. He’s called a cat. A devil. And now, a sweet and tasty candy bar. Truly, they’ve gone too far this time. Will the day ever come when Ash can just be Ash?

Ash’s campy gay erotic performance was simultaneously the most uncomfortable and most entertaining part of this episode. It could be chalked down to hammy anime humor, but it gets a little more interesting if you take it seriously on two levels: one as a narrative smack-down of a venerated protagonist, and two, because it’s really Ash Lynx utilizing another weapon in his vast arsenal.

Ash may have had a rough past few episodes, but his reputation has never been more lauded. Everyone is obsessed with how badass and cool he is to the point that Ash Lynx is the topic of most conversations among secondary and tertiary characters. The narrative itself is certainly interested in showing off Ash’s beauty, savvy, and grit. Since dark, cool protagonists are a dime a dozen, stories often clear the path to make sure their dark, cool image is never compromised. It’s therefore kind of neat that Banana Fish is also willing to force Ash into performing humiliating theatrics.

But at the same time, Ash casually electing for humiliation makes him even more badass. Ash is, after all, an intellectual and martial genius who will use any weapon he has at his disposal. The fact that has spent most of his teenage years forced into literal prostitution makes Ash’s weaponized use of seduction pretty chilling, no matter how he plays it. He’s already sacrificed his honor in his war against Dino Golzine and Banana Fish. What’s a little pride?

FUCK YEAH EIJI!

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Eiji takes the initiative! It isn’t for the first time, but Ash’s alleged death elicits a desperate aggression we haven’t seen yet. Eiji may not have a plan, or useful connections, or any skill to speak of, but he at least seems prepared to wander the streets of New York until he finds Ash again.

We are teased once more with Eiji aiming Chekhov’s gun – as the gun has appeared, it must, at some point, be fired. Today is still not that day, despite Yut-Lung’s suicidal provocation. Either Ash will successfully protect innocent Eiji from the gun that must be fired, or Eiji will finally shoot and all the world will change.

FINAL REMARKS

Out of his cell or not, Ash is still trapped in the basement laboratory of the National Mental Health Institute, but lucky for him, it’s public tour day, and Ash is nothing if not resourceful. If Papa Dino is lurking around those corridors, well, so is surrogate daddy Max, and I want to say Max could kick Dino’s ass if given half a chance. Between Max, Shunichi, Eiji, and Ash, I sure am hoping for a family reunion soon.

WHERE TO WATCH IT (LEGALLY): Amazon Prime

Next: Episode 16
Previous: Episode 14

 

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