Episode 20：The Unvanquished | 征服されざる人々
Pictured below: the actual Unvanquished.
It’s party time. Dino Golzine is throwing a wild soiree in a swanky hotel to celebrate the tax evasion investigation getting shut down, and he’s invited all of New York’s upper crust – from the rich and bloodstained corrupt criminals pulling the strings around the country to the, you know, actual mafia dudes.
While politicians and gangsters share champagne, a silent Ash is dragged into the festivities after Dino chemically blinds him (again) and stuffs him in a wheelchair so he won’t cause trouble. None of the guests seem to think this is suspicious, even though presumably a handful of them worked with Ash directly when Dino sold them Banana Fish, and all of them probably recognize him from the media headlines declaring him a mass murderer and also legally dead. Then there’s the whole fact that Dino is announcing that he’s formally adopting him.
But you know, parties, man.
Yut-Lung is in attendance with his new bodyguard Blanca. But so is Eiji, disguised as a waiter along with a few of Team Ash. Team Sing and Team Cain make up the rest of the rescue party and don’t even bother to cosplay, they just swarm in with machine guns and start shooting the place up. Somehow, fucking Eiji of all people is the one who gets his gun to Dino first. Everyone screams at him to fucking shoot Dino’s face off. Eiji does his best, by missing.
The collective groan around the audience (both in the screen and outside of it) is enough of a distraction to snag a still-blinded Ash and reverse-kidnap him out of the hotel and into the sewers, where the street gang trifecta plans to lay low awhile. Ash, who hasn’t eaten food for a month, is anxious and forlorn. Eiji feeds him soup and makes him relax a little, and between a 60 cent can of Campbell’s and a nap in Eiji’s vicinity, there’s almost enough to completely regenerate his HP, heal his status ailments, and buff his stamina. Eiji may be a bullshit gunner, but he’s the best damn white mage you’ll ever meet.
When Ash wakes, he screams at Cain and Sing for keeping everyone in one place when Dino, Yut-Lung, and (mostly) Blanca are on the offense. Sure enough, seconds later, enemies pour in for the attack with gas masks and tear gas. The group scrambles, and when Ash tries to offer to lead them astray, Eiji knocks him back and runs out first – eyes closed and guns blazing. (He gets caught.)
Cain knocks out Ash and brings him to the Black Sabbath hideout, and next time Ash comes to, he’s tied to a bed – which is literally the last thing Ash wants to wake up to, what the fuck, Cain. Cain tries to tell Ash to chill, since he’s currently rocking the BMI of a famine victim and anyway, they’ve all been sucked into a war with the Corsican mafia so they need Ash alive. Well, Ash has a goddamn Eiji to save, so he instantly breaks free and seizes command.
Ash leaves a trail of Chinese syndicate pursuers and breaks into the Natural History Museum to lure the action to him. Yut-Lung wants to take the bait. Blanca says “don’t do it, dipshit.” Yut-Lung does it, anyway. Under the spooky cover of dinosaur shadows, Ash ninjas around slitting throats and takes Yut-Lung hostage.
Blanca comes to him for negotiations, with Eiji and a few other hostages in tow for exchange. The deal is struck, and as a bonus, Ash kicks Yut-Lung’s bitch ass down two flights of stairs and throws a knife into Blanca’s arm for good measure.
All things considered, Ash ended up having a pretty good party after all.
PRINCE OF DARKNESS, PURVEYOR OF DOOM… OR SOMETHING.
Yut-Lung 100% has it coming, but nonetheless, you gotta feel a modicum of sympathy for the kid. At this point, following Yut-Lung is like watching the proverbial car crash. The harder he tries to ascend to supervillain territory, the more he humiliates himself.
He just sucks at what he does. He’s decently wily and book smart, but considering his lofty introduction, his skill set is stunningly bare. He ignores Blanca’s advice, alienates his followers, makes unnecessary enemies, and functions on a petty emotional whim. This episode also hammered to clarity the mystery of whether or not Yut-Lung, who frequently compares himself to Ash, might have combat skills. He sure as fuck does not. In fact, he can’t even navigate a battle field with a cool head, let alone throw punches.
Yut-Lung has zero friends and a lot of enemies. Sing and his street gang just officially flipped him the bird. Blanca is playing at loyalty, but already admitted early in the episode he took Yut-Lung’s contract because it suited his goals with Ash (and what those goals are still eludes me, with the weird implication that he allowed Ash to escape, but seconds later is trying to capture him again). At least Yut-Lung is clever enough to know he can’t trust Dino. As for Dino, it’s pretty obvious why he’s humoring Yut-Lung. Who wouldn’t want an incompetent child sitting in the throne of a rival syndicate? Dino doesn’t need to burn Yut-Lung, when Yut-Lung’s lighting his own match for self-immolation.
Still, I’ve gotta believe that Yut-Lung is going to come back from this, because if he doesn’t, then I don’t know what the fuck the point of his character is. Shake it off, buddy. You’ve got this. I have no idea what you’ve got, but you’ve gotta got this anyway.
HERE’S TO THE LITTLE PEOPLE
Today’s MVP still isn’t Eiji. Ash is a better shot blinded than Eiji is standing three feet away from his target. But it’s not really fair to compare Eiji to Ash, or Sing, or Cain. Compare the Eiji we see now to the Eiji of the early episodes, and the change is startling: Eiji operates now without hesitation or fear, and doesn’t second-guess either himself or his relationship with Ash. The fact that he shoots the gun – multiple times! – is an extraordinary development, even if he doesn’t actually hit much. Eiji is growing up, and is at his most mature when Ash is at his most frightened and vulnerable.
Shout-out to Sing and Cain as well, for pulling their shit together this episode. Sing and his team are especially a delight to watch, mainly because their ruckus is such an amusing contrast to the glassy dysfunction of Yut-Lung’s empire. Both Sing and Cain are throwing their bets on Ash, both in the interest of toppling the Corsican Foundation and in positing Ash to fill the void of leadership on the streets that might otherwise go to another jackass like Arthur.
An action episode is cathartic after last episode’s psychological torment, and even though it wasn’t a total wash for the “good” guys, it was satisfying to see them succeed – and the finale of Ash at his most brutal, pulling a one-man massacre in the Natural History Museum was absolutely savage.
Technically, some of the drama felt a little nonsensical or unnecessary – like the lack of security at the hotel and the museum, or Eiji somehow getting assigned “Shoot Dino” duty when he’s the only dude among them who’s never killed anyone, or the most glaring fact that Ash shouldn’t be able to operate on willpower alone, considering how dangerously malnourished he is. But if we give some leniency to Banana Fish as an action fantasy, the gunfights are that much more exciting.
We now only have four episodes left, and with so many players still on the board, who knows how the dice will fall. Blanca is the biggest wildcard because he’s simply the most overpowered, and the best-positioned to take down Ash. But we’ve spent so much more time in Yut-Lung’s psyche, it’d be a shame if he didn’t get a final chance at being a badass. A few deaths are imminent, but let’s worry about that during the next few Thursdays, because we might not get many more victories to relish.
WHERE TO WATCH IT (LEGALLY): Amazon Prime