The hardcore gangster anime Banana Fish has been going strong ever since its debut in Summer 2018. It gets slapped with labels like shoujo and boys love, but there’s a lot more going on than just the growing relationship between a troubled teen gang leader and a naïve Japanese journalist. In other words, it gets dark. Really dark.
Today, we’ll be taking a glance at five of the scariest moments in the first cour of Banana Fish. But they’re not scary in the horror movie kind of way—these scenes are tense, dangerous, and full of raw emotion that delivers a swift punch right to the gut. The life of a gangster is nowhere near safe, and this anime isn’t about to let you forget it.
5. Eiji Witnesses His First Gunfight
As a wide-eyed young journalist on his first big assignment in America, Eiji is immediately enamored with New York City’s hidden underworld of gangs and violence. The seemingly stone-cold gang leader Ash takes a liking to Eiji and even lets him hold his prized gun, much to everyone’s surprise in the bar where they meet. But before too long, in episode 2, a rival leader shows up and things get out of hand.
In the ensuing brawl, Eiji and Ash’s young friend Skip get kidnapped and Skip dies trying to protect Ash from gunfire. Eiji’s romantic notions of gangs are swept away in that very moment, and from then on, he knows that involving himself in Ash’s world means risking his life at every moment.
4. Yau Si Reveals His Motives
Yau Si doesn’t look like the kind of person who could do anyone any harm. He’s an effeminate rich kid dressed in a sweater and socks, and seems constantly worried about his adoptive father who he hasn’t seen in months. But in episode 7, Shorter finds out the hard way that dropping his guard around the meek boy was a horrible mistake.
Away from everyone else, Yau Si reveals that he’s actually Yut Lung, a highly trained and dangerous spy for the Chinese mafia. He orders Shorter to kidnap Eiji and sell out Ash to his worst enemy, Golzine. The scene is suspenseful and terrifying, with Yut Lung expertly backing Shorter into a corner with the confidence that his opponent has no choice but to do what he says.
3. Golzine’s Men Find Ash’s House
In episode 6, Ash’s group takes refuge at his childhood home on the rural outskirts of Cape Cod, where his father still lives with his girlfriend. The relationship between the family is strained, but all seems calm and peaceful for once.
Then, in episode 6, Golzine’s men manage to find the house and surround it, forcing Ash to surrender for the safety of his only remaining family. And then Golzine’s mobsters just gun them down anyway. Two innocent people who had Ash’s best interests at heart were killed for no other reason than to hurt him. Is there anywhere that our protagonist can feel safe?
2. Ash and Arthur’s Final Fight
Episode 13, the mid-season finale, features Ash’s final fight with his bitter rival Arthur. A former member of Ash’s gang, Arthur resents him for slicing up his fingers and disrespecting him in a previous duel. He allied himself with Golzine just to get back at Ash and this arranged one-on-one knife battle on an unoccupied subway platform is his last chance at revenge.
Of course, he refuses to play fairly and brings in a train filled with his heavily armed subordinates, forcing Ash to mow them down all by himself on his way to Arthur. The knife fight continues on top of the tracks above the street, where Ash brutally stabs and kills Arthur to settle the score. Eiji sees him, and Ash breaks down from letting his beloved friend see him like this.
1. Shorter Attacks Ash in Dino’s Mansion
After Yut Lung’s conniving schemes land Ash and Eiji captive in Golzine’s mansion, Golzine has one last bit of cruel fun with his former slave in episodes 9 and 10. Shorter, who has been forcefully injected with the same rage-inducing Banana Fish drug that destroyed Ash’s brother’s brain, is let loose on a chained up Ash and told to kill him.
Ash tries his best to bring his friend back to his senses, but is ultimately forced to kill him in self-defense. When he breaks free, he goes to Golzine’s scientist’s lab to collect Shorter’s body but finds that the scientist has cut out the brain to study it. Horrified, Ash kills the scientist and burns his friend’s corpse to save him from further indignity. Ash had lost so much to Golzine already, but Shorter’s death was what truly broke him.
Banana Fish is a gripping and very well written gangster anime with a hint of boys love, but its true strength lies in these moments of tragedy. When the second cour comes out, we hope things will get better for Ash and Eiji, but somehow we think they still have a lot to go through on their way to any kind of happy ending.
What did you think of our list? What are your favorite scary or tense moments in Banana Fish? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!