Banana Fish Ep. 2: Chipping away

As I’m watching this episode, I’m reminded of a quote from Hemingway that I’ll never forget: 

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”

Judging by this week’s episode, Banana Fish wastes no time in putting its hero through the physical and emotional wringer. With Skipper and Eiji taken hostage, Ash has no choice but to surrender to the vengeful Arthur and the depraved Marvin. After suffering quite a beating from the latter, our hero still manages to get the upper hand and slip away with Skipper and Eiji in tow. Unfortunately, they quickly run into a dead end. Undeterred, Eiji breaks off a rusty metal pipe from a nearby wall and assures Ash that he can jump over the high wall. And once he’s free, he’ll definitely call for help. I highly doubt that a metal pipe would be flexible enough to pole-vault with, but we can suspend our disbelief. What’s important is that the fish-out-of-water Eiji has managed to impress Ash. Not only is the Japanese college student fearless and brash under pressure, he flies over that wall like a free bird escaping the concrete jungle. Unlike Ash who finds himself mired in the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles thanks to his less-than-fortunate upbringing, Eiji is pure and untainted. He’s something to be protected. But therein lies the problem: if Ash opens up to Eiji, he’ll unwittingly pull the Japanese college student into his dark world. But who knows? Maybe Eiji is strong enough to steer Ash away from his seemingly self-destructive destiny. I doubt it — I kinda get the feeling that this is all going to end in tragedy — but anything’s possible. Kevin Garnett said so.

Midway through the episode, Marvin’s plans go awry. Not only has Shorter arrived at the wharf with Ash’s gang, the police are on their way as well. In the heat of the moment, Marvin turns around and fires two shots into Skipper’s chest. Obviously, no kid can survive that. More importantly, Skipper’s fate is just a prelude of things to come. A kid like him never belonged in this world. Maybe Skipper had nowhere else to go — I can’t really say, because he barely has any backstory after just two episodes — but hanging out with Ash and his gang wasn’t exactly the right place for for a kid like him to be either. Whether or not you hold Ash somewhat responsible for Skipper’s death, our hero will feel immensely guilty over the kid’s death. Truth be told, Ash is too soft to protect himself. If he could only close his heart to both Skipper and Eiji, Skipper’s death wouldn’t hurt him so much. If he hadn’t tried to rescue them, then he’d probably spare himself the immense amount of emotional anguish that he’s feeling right now. At the same time, however, if he loses his compassion for others, then he might become another heartless mob boss just like Golzine wanted. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. This will also affect how his friendship with Eiji plays out over the course of this series. Eiji is older and thus tougher than Skipper — more durable to life’s harsh lessons — but all this means is that it’ll take longer for the world to break him. Either that or Ash breaks first in his attempt to shield Eiji from the darkness and depravity around them (if the OP is anything to go by).

Ash goes after Marvin to get his revenge, but he soon discover that someone else has already gotten to the bastard. The police arrive just in time to take our hero into custody. Of course, he would’ve killed the bastard anyways, but that’s besides the point. Charlie knows that Ash has something on Golzine. Unfortunately, our hero has no reason to trust the cops. The detective thus turns to Eiji for help. Ash practically threw himself into harm’s way in order to try and save both Skipper and Eiji. Charlie reasons, therefore, that there must be a certain emotional connection between the Japanese college student and the young gang leader. It should surprise nobody, however, that Ash sniffs out the scheme pretty quick. Nevertheless, our blond hero does not put any barriers up with Eiji; he trusts the guy immediately. He even offers to open up about his past. In last week’s episode, Ash thought that Eiji was a kid. In truth, however, the Japanese guy is actually older than him by two whole years. Still, maybe there’s something to this idea. Maybe Eiji reminds Ash of Skipper. Despite being older, the Japanese college student still possesses a certain boyish innocence — a quality that has obviously been stolen from Ash. He can’t go back in time and protect himself from his abuse, so he seems almost desperate to shield others from it.

Misc. notes & observations:

— The OP is whatever. I don’t care for the drumming.

Welp.

— Still, it’s worth noting that there are no positive representations of sex right now in Banana Fish. Every example thus far comes with a streak of deadly violence. One man takes, and the other man surrenders. Power and control. No love or support.

— Eiji blushing like a schoolgirl takes me completely out of this moment.

— Even so, the animation in this week’s episode continues to look good. MAPPA hasn’t dropped the ball… yet.

— I was kinda surprised when Shorter and the guys arrived without any guns. C’mon, does this take place in LA or not?

— There’s something to be said about Marvin and Golzine’s physical portrayals. Banana Fish still plays to the idea that sexual predators and creeps are essentially fat and ugly middle-aged dudes. On the other hand, Ash and Eiji are young and have bishie good looks, so they are righteous.

— Hearing about Ash’s refusal to cooperate, Golzine mutters to himself, “I see you can’t tame a lynx.” Well, maybe if you didn’t rape the poor lynx over and over, it would love you.

— Working in tech, I’m so sick of hearing the name “Jenkins.”

— The dirty cop pulls out a stack of Marvin’s child porn, and judging by Ash’s reaction, he’s obviously featured in them. This suggests that Ash would have a strong motive to murder the bastard. Even so, you should never answer any questions without a lawyer present. You shouldn’t say anything at all. Ash is doing his best to stay silent. Considering how traumatized he must be, I’m amazed he could remain as composed as he is.

— Well, well, well, this cop is actually working for Golzine. He must have been Marvin’s murderer, too.

— It also sounds like Golzine has some of the judges under his thumb. He appears to be practically untouchable in this world. Money rules the world.

— Apparently, the small amount of the drug in Ash’s possession is the only perfect sample that they had, and this is why they need it back so badly. Really? And they somehow can’t create more without it? That seems a bit hard for me to believe.

— Fucking called it. Bird metaphor, man.

— At the moment, Eiji does strike me as someone who is very vulnerable. Luckily, he has positive male role model in his life. I bet Ash has never known one.

— Ash will be transferred to a state prison where he’ll likely die to Golzine’s men. But apparently, there’s a Max Lobo who can protect him. As a result, Charlie rushes off with Eiji and Shunichi to reach out to this Max.

— Ah, just more predators lurking around the corner.

— ED’s alright. I like better than the OP.

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3 Replies to “Banana Fish Ep. 2: Chipping away”

  1. “One man takes, and the other man surrenders. Power and control. No love or support.”

    Yeah, one of the pitfalls/fetishes of a lot of yaoi/yuri stories. It seems at least Ash/Eiji relationship is going to avoid it, but who know.

    “Banana Fish still plays to the idea that sexual predators and creeps are essentially fat and ugly middle-aged dudes.”

    I don’t know whether it’s because this anime is an adaptation of an old manga or because in Japan, its people still believe in a lot of old stereotypes. I personally lean more on the latter based on the stuff that I read and watched.

    “Fucking called it. Bird metaphor, man.”

    I might have laughed at this one a little too hard. Lol

  2. Isn’t the setting quite clearly New York? At least that’s what they seem to show in the op and was the impression I got.

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