REVIEW: Banana Fish (Episode 17)

Episode 17: The Killers | 殺し室

Ah, New York. So full of culture. Opportunity. Romance. And people who want to kill Ash Lynx. Check a tourist guidebook, honestly. It’s really mostly those things.

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The non-cliffhanger of Ash pursuing the conspicuously MIA Eiji last episode lands an immediate resolution, and thank fuck, because we’ve waited long enough for Ash and Eiji to get back together without any final cheeky shenanigans. No gunfights or extensive sleuthing involved, Ash just asked the first gangster of narrative importance that he came across off-screen where the hell Eiji was, and boom, achievement unlocked. Eiji’s not only with Sing, he’s with Sing’s gang plus Ash’s own gang, so if anything, it’s probably embarrassing that it took Ash as long as it did.

Eiji has tipped Sing off about the real reason Ash killed Shorter, neatly mitigating the potential for further gang violence. But for whatever reason, Ash pummels into Sing anyway – I guess because he doesn’t want Sing to spill the beans about Banana Fish to everyone, because knowing about Banana Fish is dangerous. Or something. I don’t know, and Eiji doesn’t know either, because he tells Ash to knock it the fuck off, and that the reason he told Sing the truth in the first place is because it sucks to be left out. (That’s an Eiji-style bitch-slap, for the record.) But before this tiff escalates, Eiji waves a white flag and goes in for the gay by embracing Ash and expressing his relief that he’s okay. The camera lingers with delightful voyeurism as Ash tightly embraces him back.

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No, you!

Meanwhile, Yut-Lung is finally, fucking FINALLY ready to actually lay down a few of the cards he’s been hoarding. Under the name of the brother he Banana Fish’d, he catfishes Dino Golzine to the Lee family mansion. Dino takes the bait-and-switch pretty well, which probably means he never figured out that Yut-Lung was the one who released Ash from his murder dungeon and indirectly caused his mansion and most of the goons inside of it to go up in flames.

Anyway, Yut-Lung wants to deal. He knows an awful lot about Banana Fish, and wants the Fami-Lee absolute-Lee dead – from his jackass brothers, to their wives and children. Brutal. As a token of goodwill, he’s murdered a board member of the Corsican Foundation, the group that is riding Dino’s ass about the money Ash stole and probably also about the fact that he murdered Baron, one of their representatives, last episode. Yut-Lung also claims to know a way for Dino to get Ash back.

Deal, says Dino Golzine. No friendship like one built on mass assassination and kidnapping. So Yut-Lung meets privately with the bitchiest of his brothers for a theatrical confrontation before Dino’s dudes storm in and machine gun him to pieces.

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But back to what’s important: Ash and Eiji, who have been separated for way too many episodes, continue celebrating their reunion. Ash promises to stop trying to deport Eiji back to Japan, because whenever Eiji’s out of his sight, he’s worried sick about him. Ergo, it’s probably better if Eiji stays directly in the line of fire with him. Eiji teases him for liking him so much and makes an already gay moment even gayer.

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While the pair do some more sight-seeing around New York, Ash briskly reads about 15 chemistry primers for Banana Fish research. (Yut-Lung also talks about the botanical origins of the drug with Dino. No one cares, but whatever. Chemistry.) The honeymoon is soured when Ash’s kitty-sense starts tingling and he realizes he is being watched. Usually, he’s pretty good about immediately identifying his stalkers, but this one is sneaky.

Ash and Eiji take a ferry for a cute afternoon date, where Ash ruminates on why his mother left him as a baby. Eiji insists that his mother must have loved him very much, since she left him with a name like “Aslan Jade Callenreese”. Personally, I think this proves the opposite. But anyway, Best Boy lifts Ash’s spirits, though the mystery stalker again ruins the vibe.

After meeting up with Max to exchange information, Ash is ready to go after Senator Kippard, who, shocking no one, is a serial child molester and a patron of Dino’s prostitution rings. Ash poses as a teen sex worker and enters Kippard’s apartment, before jabbing a gun at him and demanding he spill who he’s working for. But before Kippard can say the name, his skull explodes in a gush of blood. Ash douses the lights and takes cover, noting that the nearest building is pretty fucking far away, which means the sniper is at least as awesome as Ash himself.

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The mystery stalker/sniper in question is a dude named Blanca whom Dino hired to go after Ash. Through the window of a nearby skyscraper, Blanca proudly notes that Ash remembers what he taught him.

INNER DEMONS: EIJI EDITION

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While Ash laments his inner killer, Eiji has his own insecurities: that he is unable to kill. While safeguarding Eiji’s innocence has been a primary motivation of Ash, to Eiji, his inability to defend himself or Ash means that not only does the brunt of the moral burden of killing fall to Ash, Eiji’s lack of resolve could actively endanger him. Eiji is still bothered by Yut-Lung mocking him over his pacifism last episode, and he doesn’t confide in Ash about the fact that Yut-Lung vowed to keep going after Eiji as a means of getting to Ash.

Not only is it dangerous for Eiji to be around Ash, Eiji is indirectly dangerous to Ash. Eiji is starkly aware, and once again, Chekhov’s gun looms in the literary distance.

IT’S YOUR BOY, YUT-LUNG

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Yut-Lung has bared his fangs and then some, but considering his narrative beats, I’m half expecting him to slide back into the shadows and mope again for the next episode or two. Let’s hope he’s ramping it up for real, because Yut-Lung is magnifying at his most villainous.

However, Yut-Lung’s real goal remains frustratingly unclear. Of course, he has been harboring a bit of a grudge against his brothers for the whole murdering-his-mom thing. It’s a subplot he neatly wraps up this episode after siding with Dino Golzine, who helps him obliterate all, most, or some of the Fami-Lee, depending on the amount of off-screen assassination. If that’s the case, Yut-Lung has already realized his primary motivation, and there are still six episodes left. The real mystery is whether or not Yut-Lung really is invested in positing himself a nemesis against Ash, and if so, why.

While Ash has a few solid reasons to dislike Yut-Lung at this point – namely for kidnapping Eiji (twice) and, oh yeah, the whole Shorter incident – Yut-Lung doesn’t really have any good reason to deliberate on antagonizing Ash. Only several episodes ago, he helped Ash escape Dino’s mansion, and they haven’t interacted since. If anything, it seems to be Eiji’s devotion to Ash that has ruffled Yut-Lung’s feathers. He is annoyed that Eiji has made himself Ash’s counterpart, and if Yut-Lung’s dramatization is to be believed, he thinks of himself as Ash’s foil and kindred spirit. As far as nemeses go, Yut-Lung’s resume is a better match than Arthur’s – whom we knew was a sleaze inferior to Ash during his entire arc. While it still isn’t really clear how extensive his skillset is, he, like Ash, is an overlevelled pawn who resents the status quo.

If that implies Yut-Lung resents Ash as a rival, the reasons seem entirely a clash of personality. Is he really siding with Dino Golzine, the guy that accepted him as a sex offering from his older brothers, as a matter of ego? Or does he simply see Dino as a more useful partner in solidifying his grip over the Chinese syndicate?

DRAWING A BLANCA

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It’s been several episodes (read: two) since we’ve added another antagonist to Ash’s portfolio, so everyone, meet Blanca. Apparently a previous lackey or partner of Dino’s, Blanca has since bowed out of the game, but agreed to pursue Ash on Dino’s behalf out of curiosity. He’s so impressed that Ash senses his malevolent presence that he commits to the job of reeling him in to Dino.

We know pretty much nothing about Blanca so far, but there are three points of note: Dino seems to respect him, his martial prowess might rival Ash, and he implies that he knows Ash personally. The second point can’t be understated: until now, nothing and no one has been a worthy opponent to Ash in any combative capacity. So far, Ash plus a gun has equaled unparalleled mass destruction. If there is someone out there that can do what Ash does, the story takes an interesting turn. That this individual is apparently working under Dino’s orders is threatening, and that he may have some kind of relationship with Ash is intriguing. I get the distinct sense that Blanca is not a glorified extra.

FINAL THOUGHTS

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Keep up, because we now have a slew of players on the board: Dino Golzine, and by extension, the Corsican Foundation. Yut-Lung and the Chinese syndicate, who are working with Dino and may continue to target Eiji. Sing and the Chinese street gang, who claim they aren’t loyal to Yut-Lung but whom Ash has personally antagonized. The government agents who know about Ash, and more importantly, know he knows too much. And finally, the enigmatic Blanca. As one measly olive branch, at least the police are more or less out of the way, since Ash has officially been declared dead (thanks for that, Senator Kippard.)

Overall a great episode, with the perfect balance of gay and gunfire, but it seems pretty likely we’re swinging back into drama after our brief sabbatical into the lighter-hearted.

WHERE TO WATCH IT (LEGALLY): Amazon Prime

Next: Episode 18
Previous: Episode 16

 

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