Posted in First impressions

First Impressions of Banana Fish – Yaoi, yaoi everywhere!

banana fish

Let’s get this out of the way first. Summer season for anime this year was pretty dry. Scouring the various seasonal charts out there only had my pulsing heart sink when I reached summer. Barely anything had caught my attention. Attack on Titan’s 3rd season? Didn’t even like season one, so I didn’t bother. Grand Blue? Promising comedy but animated by a studio that has done nothing but mediocrities. Cells at Work? While it’s nice that the director for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is doing something different for a change, the constant whiplash between the childish, charming allusions to the edutainment genre and the bloody r-rated violence got me weirded out. So basically, I wasn’t excited at all this season. Apart from one show…

Despite its reputation for being one of the original shounen ai manga, I was kinda stoked for the adaptation of Banana Fish even if I absolutely loathe yaoi (even more so if it’s yaoibait). An adaptation of an 80s manga set in a crime ridden version of New York City? Count me in! Come to think of it, there have been many remakes, adaptations and reimaginings of 70s and 80s properties this year. From the disappointing Cutey Honey Universe, to the ambitious remake of the Legend of the Galactic Heroes, to the overly depraved Devilman Crybaby, to the hot-blooded Megalo Box, to even childhood favourites like Captain Tsubasa, this year seems to be harkening to the olden days where things were a lot less, cuter.  Retro adaptations seem to be taking the anime industry by storm, and I wonder if this’ll be a continuous trend for many years to come.

bananafish 2
Hopefully it lives up to its reputation.

Banana Fish starts off with a bang. The first few minutes set the tone perfectly for future events and establish the central plot. What is this Banana Fish thingy that’s making people like Ash’s brother go haywire and who’s been administering it? We then cut to New York City where Ash Lynx, our main protagonist, proves himself to the audience how much of a total badass he is. This guy is proficient in hand to hand combat, he knows his way around the gang business, and he doesn’t take shit from no one. His looks and bad boy personality shapes him up to be the perfect fujoshi hero for fans of the genre to swoon over. To be honest, I quite like Ash. In fact, I quite like the main cast. Ash has proven himself to be a capable protagonist, with his badass nature but not to the point where he’s an obvious gary stu. Eiji is timid at times but doesn’t fall into the traps that most shy characters genuinely stumble into. And Dino has this very solemn and straight-faced demeanour to him, almost like another Vito Corleone. So, I’m kinda interested to see where this story takes them.

banana fish 1
Every fujoshi’s wet dream

If anything, I often feel like I’ll be comparing this title to 91 Days, another gangster venture where a main character is recruited as part of a mob. The friendship between Ash and Eiji does seem familiar to that of Avilio and Nero, and a revenge story does take up most of its runtime as it seems so far. Plus, the Vanetti Family and the Corsican Mafia share certain similarities between the two, especially seeing as both are headed by grumpy, decrepit, no nonsense crime bosses, and are both spawned from the Italian Mob archetypes. Despite this, Banana Fish feels more “anime” than 91 Days, particularly with its humour and presentation.

However, I’m having a huge problem with Banana Fish that hasn’t been present in most other crime dramas I’ve watched. The show does have a heavy, and at times uncomfortable, reliance on sexual content, namely rape. In the first four episodes alone, there have been a total of 2 implied rape scenes and 2 cases of attempted sexual assaults. To add insult to injury, all these scenes were highly trivialized and glossed over. I’m not joking; one minute a male character is stripped naked and assaulted in a depraved manner, and the next minute he just walks it off as if he merely poked his finger with a pen. It kind of bothers me, seeing as rape is such a taboo and sensitive subject matter, and its being handled in a very inconsequential manner. Ash could get buttfucked at any time during an episode and it would barely have any impact on him as a character.

banan fish punch
Falcon punch!

The villains are also horribly written. They feel like moustache twirling scumbags who bask in the depravity of their actions for no reason other than its fun. In other words, they just seem like complete dicks for the sake of it. They’re one-dimensional in the sense that they’re fully defined by simply their depraved actions. Apart from Dino, every other baddie comes off like this. I’m not saying every malicious act of theirs must be justified, but jeez just at least add some more character traits to them other than just “scummy douchebag.”

Also, isn’t it weird that we are seeing instances of this, sex slaves, and child killing as prominent features in what is essentially a shoujo manga? Girls in middle school were probably reading this! Wow, the 80s much have been really metal.

banana fish shoujo
Yup, definitely a shoujo…

If anything, I adore the character designs and the animation. Mappa really owe it to themselves for creating such ambitious sequences featuring amazingly fluid and jaw-dropping animation, only rivalled by this season’s Shingeki no Kyojin. There is so much life poured into the expressions and mannerisms of each subsequent character, and you can genuinely feel their emotions leap off the screen. The characters have this very 80s look and feel to them; they almost remind me of characters from the universally acclaimed Akira. Dino especially resembles an older and grittier Colonel Shikishima, while Eiji feels like a shyer rendition of Kaneda. There’s even one crime boss in the opening that sort of bears resemblance to Tetsuo in a way. And if you haven’t seen Akira, then what are you doing? Go watch it immediately, its an absolute classic that every anime fan should experience at least once!

banana fish 2
T-t-t-Tetsuo???

Overall, I’m enjoying what I’m seeing, but on the other hand I’m not entirely that impressed. While its story leaves a lot of room for promise, its tone, villains and handling of some taboo subject matters leave me rather disappointed. Its like something that was cobbled together by some 13-year-old fujoshi fan after watching a collection of her dad’s favourite crime dramas. So far, its mature in terms of concepts, but juvenile in its execution. I guess I should be expecting such from a manga adaptation with the tags “shoujo” and “shounen ai” labelled on to it. We’ll just see how it goes from here on out; this is a first impressions post after all.

But hey, for all you yaoi fangirls out there, there is some actual male on male kissing in this show. And its shown in all its arousing glory.

banana fish csi
Don’t get too excited…

P.S: The intro song sang by Survive said the Prophet is like a gift from the heavens above. Opening gets a perfect 10/10 for that alone.

2 thoughts on “First Impressions of Banana Fish – Yaoi, yaoi everywhere!

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