A Hardcore Gangster Love Story
- Episodes : 24
- Genre : Action, Adventure, Drama, Shoujo
- Airing Date : July 2018 – December 2018
- Studios : MAPPA
Banana Fish Introduction
Based on the 1985 manga of the same name by Akimi Yoshida, Banana Fish tells the serious, dramatic tale of teenage gang leader Ash Lynx and his dirty dealings in New York City’s seedy underworld. A naïve Japanese reporter named Eiji falls into Ash’s life and the two grow closer and learn a lot from each other, all while rival gangs and the mafia are on Ash’s trail for his involvement with the mysterious Banana Fish. Can these two boys survive in a world that threatens to swallow them whole?
1. An Intense, Multilayered Plot
Rather than just committing petty crimes and engaging in turf scuffles, Ash finds himself in a much larger conflict between the mafia, the government, and secretive Chinese crime families (among others). Everything centers on the LSD-like drug Banana Fish and Ash’s past as a mafia sex slave. It definitely takes some effort to follow along with, but the payoff is worth it.
2. A Subtle and Beautiful Romance
The romance between Ash and Eiji is so downplayed that it’s never even referred to as such, but they share a real connection nonetheless. It’s heartwarming to see these two people from vastly different backgrounds understand each other on a deep, personal level. Eiji really is the only one in Ash’s life who truly accepts him with no ulterior motives.
3. Compelling Action and Suspense
It’s a gangster anime, so you bet there are some amazing fights in this show. It’s got standoffs with knives on top of a train track, stealth kills with nigh-impossible sniper shots, hand-to-hand desperate conflict, and much more. And since the main characters are almost always running for their lives from the mafia, the constant threat of being caught and killed keeps suspense high throughout the series.
4. Captures the Essence of New York
It’s rare for an anime to be set in the United States, and even more rare for it to be as accurate to American life as Banana Fish is. The Japanese creators have clearly done their research on New York landmarks like the public library, but they’ve also managed to capture the calm stillness of rural Cape Cod and the bustle of California.
5. A Faithful Adaptation of the Legendary Source Material
This 2018 anime adaptation updates the manga’s setting from the mid-80s to the modern day, but otherwise stays true to the original’s storytelling. Banana Fish was one of the most successful shoujo manga in history and is still highly regarded today, so it’s a relief that the long-awaited anime version kept its priorities straight.
1. Much Darker Than Other Shoujo
The “shoujo” label for this anime is pretty misleading, at least in terms of what you would expect from the genre. Ash and Eiji’s romance is clearly aimed at women, but the amount of gun violence, rape, and dark subplots could be too much for a classic shoujo fan.
2. Not as Gay as Yaoi Fans Might Want
Other than a sudden kiss in episode 3 (which was actually a ruse to smuggle something into prison), Ash and Eiji don’t share much physical affection because Ash’s entire experience with sex has been traumatizing. It’s still an engaging love story, but you do have to read between the lines a little bit.
3. The Plot Can Get Confusing
Banana Fish valiantly attempts to combine mafia intrigue, gang warfare, corrupt scientific research, and a touching romance into one 24-episode story, but the shifting alliances between the large cast of characters and the frequent plot twists can be difficult to keep up with. Condensing a 19-volume manga into two cours may have been too ambitious.
4. Falls Back on Some Old Tropes
The original manga is over 30 years old, and even though Yoshida was progressive for the time, some tired clichés make their way into the 2018 version. Eiji’s role as the pure-hearted damsel-in-distress whose love is the only thing that can save Ash’s troubled soul is the most blatant example, but other tropes pop up later that we wish we could’ve left in the past as well.
5. The Setting Update Doesn’t Really Impact Anything
Recent anime like Devilman: Crybaby and Megalo Box take a broad stokes approach to their decades-old source material, updating the setting to the modern day and using current culture to tell a new version of a classic tale. Not every adaptation of retro manga needs to be this pragmatic, but Banana Fish suffers somewhat from just adding a few smartphones and tablets instead of thinking about how the plot would work differently in today’s world.
Banana Fish is old-school, but in a classy kind of way. Its art style, mafia intrigue plot, and rough New York sensibility give it a unique edge that’s unlike any other anime that came out in 2018. If you’re a fan of dark, down-to-earth dramas with strong character relationships, check out this modern classic as soon as you can!
What did you think of our review? What’s your opinion on Banana Fish? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!