Life in the streets is really hard. Whether you are homeless, or so poor that your only choices are either prostitution or becoming part of a gang, there’s no question that you need to toughen up and prove that you can hold your own in a fight if you plan to survive for long.
This is the reason why every single character that we meet in Banana Fish is a really good fighter, from the young Skipper to the older Dino Golzine. They all have different strengths, and most of them are intimidating in their own way.
However, with a cast so diverse, there are some characters that are bigger badasses than everyone else: the ones who are not only good fighters but also never know when or how to quit, the ones who chase their enemies to the end of the day and will not stop until they avenge their fallen friends. And today, we’re counting down the ten most intimidating and impressive badasses in the series.
10. Eiji Okumura
It’s very easy to think Eiji Okumura is not a badass. After all, the gentle Japanese student is the one with the most privileged background as he had the chance to grow up in a loving family in a peaceful country. Still, he was an Olympic-level high jumper so he is really fit even after an injury stopped his sports career and Ibe took him to America as his assistant photographer to get him out of the depression that followed. Ash and his gang make fun of him due to his innocence and the fact that he has never touched a gun before, and most of them think of him as a load at first.
Once the gang war starts and bullets begin flying, they change their mind quickly. Because even when Eiji doesn't have their experience or hardened attitude, he never once considers quitting or abandoning Ash. Even when he gets the chance to leave for Japan, he doesn’t take it and instead, tries his best to help. No matter what, he is always there to help, and even when he tries to talk Ash into leaving for Japan with him, it’s always with the intention of waiting until they find out exactly what Banana Fish is and Ash can get revenge against those who used Banana Fish to destroy his life. That is why Eiji opens our list on the tenth spot.
9. Shunichi Ibe
The only other Japanese national in the story, Shunichi Ibe blames himself for what happens to Eiji. After all, it was his idea to bring the teen with him to America, his article about gangs and violence made Eiji meet Ash, and while the gang war would have happened with or without him, he still feels that much of his research and friendship with Max made things worse. Which is why it’s impressive that he never grabbed Eiji against his will and just went back to Japan washing his hands clean of the whole mess.
Despite not being blood-related to either Eiji or Ash, Ibe still thinks of them as his children, who he needs to protect. Sure, Ash may not really need his protection and can probably also protect Ibe better than Ibe can protect himself, but Ibe doesn’t care. He just sees a teen that was forced to grow up far too fast and how much Eiji cares for Ash, so he will do his best to keep them both safe and sound. And despite not being able to do much when they keep running away from Ibe to keep him safe, the fact that the reporter keeps trying is what gives him the ninth place on our list.
8. Max Lobo
Max Lobo is another reporter and a good friend of Shunichi and Griffin, Ash’s older brother. Max was with Griffin in the same unit during the war and was witness to Griffin’s breakdown when he killed almost everyone in the unit while only saying “Banana Fish”, so Max has dedicated his life to figuring out what that meant and why Griffin went berserk when there was no apparent reason for him to do so.
Just like Ibe, most of Max’s badassery comes from the fact that he won’t quit. Even when Ash tells him more than once to get out and mind his own business, Max will always come to the young man’s help. This is mostly because he feels responsible, as he was Griffin’s friend and what happened made Ash become Griffin’s caretaker, but also because Max has a great sense of honor. Together with his army training, this is why Max takes the eight place on our list.
7. Lao Yuen-Tai
Being the third in command in the Chinatown gang is not easy. It’s even harder than it would seem when your superior is your younger brother, so it’s no surprise that Lao Yuen-Tai has a very short temper for those who threaten the gang. When we first meet him, he’s fiercely loyal to Shorter Wong, the leader of their turf, and would do anything to follow his orders even when he is not quite sure of what’s going on at first. At times, Lao questions why Shorter would leave the gang alone to help Ash who, after all, is the leader of a rival turf.
Once Shorter dies, and Sing becomes the new leader of the Chinatown turf, that alliance gets broken and Lao swears revenge. And because he’s more of a man of action than his younger brother, he never stops to wonder how Shorter died: he only cares that Ash did the deed and thus, Ash has to die. Unfortunately for him, he needs to follow Sing’s lead, and more importantly, the Lee clan interests. The fact that he doesn't always cower when the clan—the actual power behind his gang—gives him orders is one of the main reasons he earns the seventh place on our list.
6. Yau Si/Yut-Lung
Have you heard the saying “never judge a book by its cover”? Well, it applies perfectly to Yau Si. He’s originally introduced to the characters as the son of Professor Dawson, mostly because he wanted to know exactly how much they knew about Banana Fish, and later as Yut Lung, one of the Chinese Mafia’s lieutenants. However, the truth is that he’s part of the Lee family, as half-brother of the current leaders, and he has been using Banana Fish for his own gain to take control of the clan. This makes him extremely dangerous, and yet, he’s one of the youngest people on this list at only sixteen years old.
Despite not being very strong or a skilled fighter, he is one of the show’s most dangerous people due to his knowledge of acupuncture and poison. That, together with his delicate looks and traditional clothing which can make him look like a girl and so make everyone around him underestimate him, is what makes him such an intimidating force. That and the fact that he’s the one character who ends up having everything he wanted in the show thanks to his determination, makes him the perfect choice for the sixth place on our list.
5. Jessica Randy
Jessica doesn’t have a big role in the story. As Max Lobo’s former wife, she tries to stay away from the madness that sometimes comes with his investigations. And yet, when he comes asking for her help to hide Ash and Eiji, she doesn’t hesitate. She points a gun at him and reminds him why they got divorced, but still decides to help; and when Dino’s men come looking for Max and company, she doesn’t shy away from fighting them right then and there, even if she’s hopelessly outnumbered.
Jessica has no training like her ex-husband, nor any authority over gangs. But she never gives up the information she has, even when she’s being beaten. They never manage to break her, and she ends up being quite useful to the investigation and to Ash’s last stand against Dino Golzine. Because of that, and how she manages to do it with nothing more than her stubbornness and a shotgun, she deserves the fifth place on our list.
4. Frederick Arthur
Frederick used to be the leader of his own turf until Dino Golzine decided to make Ash the leader of the gangs that were under his family’s protection. This made him Ash’s second in command, but he never liked that position, resenting Ash even if he knew the other young man had no choice. From that moment on, Arthur did everything he could to make Ash’s life difficult which, in turn, made Ash betray Golzine.
Once Ash is on the run, Frederick becomes Golzine’s second in command and realizes that it is not the best position to be in, as he never has the authority Ash had with the gang. Still, he never stops fighting either and he becomes one of the biggest obstacles for Ash, both in the investigation and in his quest for revenge. Arthur hates Ash and will never shy away from showing it, even if it costs him some respect from his men. Because of this, he stands in the fourth place on our list.
3. Sing Su-Rin
Sing used to be Shorter Wong’s second in command until Shorter’s untimely death. Then, being just fourteen, he was promoted to leader of all the gangs in Chinatown, answering only to the Lee clan. This meant that even if he had no idea what was going on at first, he was directly working for those who had been responsible for Shorter’s murder and couldn’t get revenge as he wanted. Unlike his older brother, who just wanted to kill Ash for the part he played in the killing, Sing wanted to understand what had happened and so remained silent while he followed Yau Si’s orders.
Being so young, he sometimes is over his head. But that doesn’t stop him from keeping most of his gang under control and also being able to tell Yau Si, who is literally his boss, when he’s going too far in his search for revenge. This also allows him to bridge his differences with Eiji, Max, and Ibe at the end. The fact that, unlike other people on the list, he learned how to de-escalate situations instead of letting them evolve into more violence is what makes him a bigger badass than them, and the rightful winner of the third place.
2. Shorter Wong
When one first meets Shorter, it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking he’s just a wannabe punk. Not many people can rock a purple Mohawk and still look menacing, but that suits Shorter’s goals. The more people underestimate him, the easier it is to get information out of them without much fuss. He was also one of the few people that Ash trusted without question, even when they were leaders of rival gangs. This was because, like Ash, Shorter understood that following the rules and expectations society puts on young people could end up being deadly for them.
Shorter’s loyalty and fierceness become sort of legendary. He is the only character we see fighting against the Banana Fish’s effects long enough to be stopped by someone else. He promised to protect Eiji from all harm, and in the end, he fulfilled that promise even as his brain was shouting at him that all his problems and pain would end if Eiji died. And once he died, we found out exactly how much authority he had and how he had kept the Chinatown gangs from acting up just because he had such a strong personality. This is why he deserves the second place on our list.
1. Ash Lynx
Aslan Jade Callenreese, better known to everyone as Ash Lynx, hasn’t had an easy life. When he was eight years old, he was raped by his stepfather. His half brother went to war and returned as a vegetable, capable only of saying two words without any real meaning: Banana Fish, the girl he had a crush on when he was 14 was killed because people thought she was his girlfriend, and he has been groomed by Dino Golzine to be his successor, and his lover, from the moment he ran away from home. It’s a testament to his willpower that all those experiences didn’t break him completely, leaving him unable to trust and love others.
Until Shorter’s death, Ash always tried to use reason over violence to solve conflicts. This made some people, such as Frederick Arthur, make the mistake of thinking he was just in charge due to Dino’s whims. But Ash quickly showed everyone that he was also a great fighter, had very good skills as a shooter, and that no one could beat him in a knife fight. When he was considered one of the most dangerous gang leaders by the cops at age 17, it’s hard not to understand that yes, he is the biggest badass in the whole series.
Banana Fish has taken the world by surprise twice. First, back in the eighties in the original manga, and this year with the updated story for the anime. The story remains the same, Ash searches for answers about the drug that destroyed his brother’s brain while his relationship with Eiji grows and changes. Although this time, it happens in the present rather than in the eighties like in the original story. But the main reason for its popularity is still the charisma and the strength of every character.
This was a very difficult list to write because, as we mentioned at the beginning, every character has some degree of badassery and picking just ten was a challenging task. So we have to ask, did we miss your favorite? Do you agree with the order of our list? Please, let us know in the comments below.