BANANA FISH – Episode 2 – “In Another Country”

Those of you who know me a bit more personally know that I’m more into anime series that branch off the beaten path, in a way. You can keep your isekai shows and your big battle shonen series, but give me a show where it’s a bunch of badasses going to town and having a drink afterward and I’ll be all about that. And maybe, some other time, I’ll give Black Lagoon a more proper review, but for now, we’ve got some more BANANA FISH to talk about.

(WARNING: The following will contain discussion of graphic and disturbing content. Read at your own discretion.)

See this guy? This is Arthur, one of Ash’s gang boys… or, at the very least, was, as he’s playing the role of saboteur by siding with the mob boss, both for loyalty and for payback over what Ash did to his fingers some time ago. Oh, and along with siding with the assailants that took Eiji and Skip hostage, he gives the one of his goons to take off his belt and whip Ash with it, hard across the arm. As if that’ll be enough to get him to talk, though, but it does lead to him being thrown to where Eiji and Skip are located.

And you see this guy right here? Yeah, this is the mob boss’ #2, Marvin. He decides to alter the deal and take Arthur out of the scene to try and get some more information out of Ash, which leads to Skip telling Eiji that… he’s gay and has the hots for Ash. Quite the leap, I know, but just wait, it’ll make much more sense later. Uncomfortably more sense. But it doesn’t work here in this moment, as Ash both plays seductive and plays possum, and beats the crap out of the skeevy second in command. He’s quite the clever one, he is, a fine little bit of character coming out of this momentary fight scene.

And we get a bit more unraveled from Eiji, learning that he used to be a pole vaulter in Japan, knowledge that comes in handy as the trio runs to their escape just to find a dead end. Now, a rusty pipe isn’t my first choice for leaping off a wall, mostly because of infections and tetanus, but for Eiji? It worked out fairly well for him, giving him a chance to bring some backup to get Ash and Skip out of enemy clutches. And on that note, walking through the streets of New York City with your arm sliced open because of a large chunk of glass after falling 12 feet from said makeshift pole vault wouldn’t normally lead to some concerned looks by pedestrians, but in here? There be some folks scared.

And since this is a crime drama, there’s bound to be some bad news all over this series.

First, the good news: even though Eiji passes out from blood loss, he is able to get some backup sent to Marvin’s hideout, in the form of NYPD squad cars coming to the scene, along with some of Ash’s allies, lead by Shorter, who is also a gang leader in the form of the Chinese mafia of NYC. The bad news? Skip does a sacrifice play to protect Ash from getting shot dead by Marvin, who in turn gets shot dead – yes, literally taking a bullet for his friend – but the squad cars don’t arrive in time before Marvin escapes in a getaway car. It doesn’t take long for Ash to hop in and chase after him, though, but once he catches up and searches an apartment building for Marvin, there’s a surprise waiting for him: Marvin’s dead. And the NYPD are here.

Like I said, bad news all over this series. We already have a body count of 2 and it’s only halfway through the second episode.

Now, this guy here? This is Evanstine, a crooked-ass cop working for the mob boss, and he’s the one leading the charge to incarcerate Ash on murder charges, even going so far as to instigate Ash into a confession by showing some belongings of Marvin: child pornography. Both in magazine form and in video form, with footage of a much younger Ash being raped by Marvin, and even though this infuriates Ash to an extreme degree – why wouldn’t it? – he doesn’t say anything. He’s just pissed off and doesn’t want to be talked down to or touched, by anyone.

It’ll be talked again, later on in the series’ run, but I’d like to mention that this is one of the biggest elements BANANA FISH has going for it, and what separates this from other similar shounen-ai series; a large number of series use elements of bad-touch sexual content between characters as a hooking point, meant to be romanticized to a certain degree, but with this series, it actually knows and understands the seriousness of sexual assault and rape and not only doesn’t romanticize it, but shows it off only in bits and pieces to visibly showcase and describe how unfathomably awful such an act is, even going to this much of an extreme to do so. Trust me, there is a LOT of cringy rape acts in BL manga, but in here, it’s meant to make you cringe and be unnerved by how traumatic and disturbing such a visual is.

And on that note, I’d like to say the following: THIS is how you show rape as a negative, Sword Art Online. Take some damn notes.

So let’s shift gears and talk about these guys, Charlie and Jenkins. They’re our resident “good cops” of the show, the dapper red-haired Charlie looking to help Ash out with this craziness going on, and as for Jenkins… well, he looks a bit like Dennis Franz from NYPD Blue (great show, too). They’re gonna be the ones serving as the legal backup, you can say, for all of the stuff Ash will be getting himself into, such as trying to get out of a trumped-up murder charge while recovering in the hospital. And moreso for Jenkins, he’s going to end up growing more curious about this whole “banana fish” thing later on, trust me. Toward the end of the episode, they both find Eiji and tell him about their leads, how the mob boss is going after Ash for whatever he may be hiding, and to keep it short, the reason why they’re telling Eiji to go to Ash is because Ash saved him.

“I guess such nasty things don’t happen in Japan.”

Alas, since such a show is filled with bad news, even though Eiji finds Ash in the hospital and the two talk, Charlie gets a call to inform him that Ash is being transferred to the state prison, per the order of the district judge, but not knowing this, a defeated Eiji tells himself that Ash has already made up his mind on what to do, knowing that he, alone, can’t beat a mob boss with lots of money to bribe with. But Jenkins may have a plan, telling Charlie on the phone to go find one Max Lobo, thinking he might be the one to guard Ash while locked up. And as Charlie brings Ibe and Eiji along with him, the episode closes out with Ash being detained in the state prison, set to some rather excellent lo-fi trap beats, while a higher-up tells some inmates that there’s some new meat coming in.

Well now. If you thought the first episode was lacking, this one is sure to make up for that with a HARD jab in the face with plenty of “NO GOD WHY” stuff. There’s a lot of realism at play with this show, diving into some rather objectionable material, and all I can say about that is welcome to BANANA FISH – it’s not gonna be a fun ride, but it’s gonna be a powerful one at that. It’s only just begun, folks, we’ve got plenty more to get through with this series.

I certainly picked quite the heavy show to come back to, though, didn’t I?

BANANA FISH airs in Japan on Fuji TV’s noitaminA block every Thursday night at 12:55am JST (10:55am EDT), after which it can usually be seen on Amazon Prime Video within a few hours of broadcast.

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