Banana Fish – Anime Preview
Synopsis: Ash Lynx, a 17-year-old boy, is the boss of a street-kids gang in New York. One day, a man who was murdered before his eyes entrusts him with something. And the last words uttered by that dying man was the phrase, “”BANANA FISH””. That is the word his brother, Griffin, often mutters. Ash has a destined encounter with Eiji, a kind Japanese boy who comes to New York as a cameraman assistant. (Official Amazon Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Banana Fish stands out amongst the other anime to air this Summer, boasting a solid art style with diverse character designs and a unique attitude that helps to suck you right in. Based off an old 1990s manga, Banana Fish feels decidedly different from the rest of the season, telling a more gritty, real word set story compared to the inundation of Isekai type anime filling up Summer’s start.
Linny: The first episode of Banana Fish rattles off its content at almost breakneck speed, jumping between locations, characters and time period at a pace that doesn’t really explain all the details and expects you to gleam them yourself based off conversations between the characters. It gives you enough to follow along for the most part but don’t be surprised if you miss a few details here and there and find yourself left with a question or two. Thankfully, it doesn’t do a giant disservice to your potential enjoyment of the story but it could be a minor frustration. Once we’re past the opening minutes which seem to take place in some war ridden country, we’re then immediately plopped into what is apparently America and the seedy, nitty gritty workings of the underground/gang world. The connection between people and events aren’t always immediately explained but it seems like with a little patience, Banana Fish will address and reveal all.
Tom: We spend much of the first episode focused on Ash Lynx, our 17-year old bad ass and his efforts to learn just what his crime boss, Dino, is truly up to and how it connects to his mentally broken older brother. While we do get a sense as to who Ash is, a, usually, cool and collected bad ass, this first episode is more so aimed at laying all the ground work for the plot. It’s because of that more story-oriented focus that our second protagonist, kindly Japanese Boy Eiji, is so shafted. Eiji’s introduction is largely shoe-horned in, fitted between stretches of plot oriented sequences that never give Eiji a chance to breath as a character. This all speaks to Banana Fish’s decidedly rushed feel as Linny mentioned above, with blink and you’ll miss it developments that could leave you slightly confused by episode’s end if you’re not giving Banana Fish 100% of your attention.
Linny: It’s necessary to mention that Banana Fish seems to have an underlying current of homophobia and a violent sexual tinge in its first episode, likely due to Banana Fish’s 1990s origins. Shorter, one of Ash’s underlings, bring up the homosexual proclivities of another character in a negative tone, with a tinge of repulsion and insult towards said character’s homosexual nature. Then there’s the fact that Marvin, the homosexual character, seems clearly hellbent on forcing himself upon Ash… making the homosexual character a out and out ‘bad’ guy. It’s not the main focus of the episode but is present to a degree that certain audiences might find troublesome and off-putting, especially in the more accepting and liberal air of modern audiences.
Tom: Banana Fish’s pacing aside, it’s easily one of the season’s most intriguing series, and a definite try for anyone seeking more than the Isekai and Slice of Life almost every anime season contains. The one thing Banana Fish could really do to improve itself and solidify its chances as an AOTY contender is to slow down and allow its story and characters to breath with a less rushed pacing. That said, the pacing isn’t likely to let up. Based on a 1990s manga, that concluded at 19 volumes in total, likely means they’re going to try and go the whole way in the 22-24 episodes Banana Fish is scheduled to run. Even if the pacing remains frantic and rushed, assuming the story never becomes impossible to follow, it’s still one of the more interesting summer offerings yet, and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Linny: Besides the pacing and the potentially upsetting content I mentioned above, Banana Fish does indeed seem to have the potential to be an engaging show thanks to great art and a complex plot. For a story from the 90’s, it doesn’t feel completely outdated, which is impressive and might help to garner it a new anime audience, one that may have never heard of its original manga. If the sound of a plucky, jaded yet still somewhat noble 17 year old gang leader working to seek out the answers to, not only a mystery in his life, but also a larger conspiracy involving tainted drugs, all set in the 90’s sounds appealing, you should definitely go ahead and give Banana Fish a try.
Banana Fish is available for streaming via Amazon Prime Video.