Genre: Drama, action, adventure, shoujo
Available on: Amazon Prime
Ash Lynx is a 17-year old boy troubled by his past. Many of his younger years have been spent in the peverted hands of the infamous mafia godfather Dino Golzine and Ash has grown up into a life of drugs, rape and gangs. Ash now runs his own gang within the confines of New York City and comes into contact with a frightening drug known as “Banana Fish”. The name of the drug is something his older brother uttered after coming home from the Iraq war. Ash decides to get to the bottom of this mysterious drug but he is interrupted by Dino and his men who want the drug themselves. Ash soon meets a young Japanese man named Eiji Okumura and their paths crossover as they become intertwined in a tangled mess of opposing gangs, drugs and fights to the death.
Banana Fish is a series that really sticks out in my mind when thinking back on the anime released in 2018. It is a very gang and drug heavy series which was executed well. Its original source material dates all the way back to the 1980s and the 2018 anime adaption seemed to strike the right chord in many otaku’s watching as the series aired.
Banana Fish had a habit of dealing with not only heavy topics in terms of gang wars and the use of drugs and its various effects but it dealt with other serious issues including rape, male prostitution and how innocent people can be dragged into extremely messy and violent situations beyond their control. The fact that Ash has had such an awful childhood being raised through a mafia bosses perverted ways bleeds through into real life problems and situations people and children do face. The series didn’t shy away from the nitty gritty of these topics and gave a sense of realism and authenticity for the series. It wasn’t over the top with these themes as other anime can get, especially when concerned with mature themes such as gore and violence. Instead, it felt more believable in terms of story. The anime had a habit of focusing heavily on these darker topics and viewers often have little chance to come up for air in terms of drama, action and often sad and depressing plot lines. The occasional sprinkling of comedy and lighthearted moments can often be a breath of fresh air for the viewer as those moments are few and far between. I only wish the series had more of those sillier moments to balance things out a little better.
Whilst the series was airing, Ash and Eiji’s relationship was a hot topic within the anime community. The phrases of yaoi and boys love were being heavily used to describe the series when in actual fact there was zero yaoi and little boys love for fujoshi to feed off of. A connection between the two was an obvious and beautiful thing and as a viewer I could see how their relationship could have blossomed into something lovely within the series but romance was more of an afterthought than a focus. I think giving Banana Fish the tag of being a “yaoi” can be confusing as I myself was expecting something in terms of romance which the series did not deliver and this could turn people off watching the series because of a label which doesn’t really belong there.
The series was often clear and crisp in terms of its animation style and I think MAPPA did a solid job with animating the series. The animation was a very modern style whilst still paying an homage to the original manga and its art-style. The music within Banana Fish was also very impressive and memorable. The anime had a beautiful balance of heavy hitting rock music from the likes of Survive Said the Prophet and BLUE ENCOUNT then softer more sober tones by groups such as King Gnu. The soundtrack really helped to set the overall tone of the series and it accompanied with the animation made for a very enjoyable series.
The series is a grungy drama series with plenty of action and pulled off the seedy underworld of New York City well as it followed Ash and Eiji. A perfect watch for those who want something darker and more mature.