Cue scene: last year: winter: end of season. My stance was that Banana Fish was awesome. I had just come off the high of having watched this anime for like the past 24 weeks, or like half a year in anime, and thought it was amazing. And I gave it some time back then but still ended up calling it the best anime of 2018. So I gave myself even more time to sit. I forgot about it. I watched other great shows in the meantime, and then I finally decided to watch it all over again and see if it was just as good as I’d thought.
And y’know? It holds up. Maybe not as amazing I’d remembered, but still really good. And I think I still hold it up as my choice. Today, having been refreshed with it and looking at it with a new eye, I’m going to explain why.
So I’ve previously established that the story of Banana Fish is really fucking good. I still think that. HOWEVER, now that I’ve given myself time, I can definitely see that the story, while good, is rushed. ESPECIALLY on the back end half of the show where entire parts of the story are just skipped over. This pacing issue isn’t really that noticeable when you’re watching it week to week, but the moment you start binging it, you can’t help but notice it. Which yes, is honestly slightly off putting when you do notice it, but at the same time, the story is so deep that you tend to get pulled in and lost in it as soon as the pacing gets wonky. Now when exactly is it in the season that the pacing is wonky? Really from episode 13 or so onward until the climax begins. There’s so many things within that, that honestly should’ve gotten a little more air time to really be impactful.
For instance, there is one member of the Chinese mafia who is really only seen a handful of times who honestly should’ve gotten MORE screentime as he becomes super important towards the end. Instead, he flies relatively under the radar (though of course, this could be seen as an advantage as he !SPOILER ALERT! ends up killing one of our fan favorites). So looking at it one way, having him be so removed can be an advantage but on the other hand for shock factor when he comes back out of the woodwork, but it also can be seen as they just didn’t have time to develop him more. The series also extremely rushes the mercenary hired by Golzine storyline in my opinion. Eduardo Foxx is really only there for the end which in the anime equates to about four episodes. Kinda sad for being a villain worthy of the climax (and apparently only the climax).
Though to be honest, it truly makes sense WHY Banana Fish was rushed towards the back half. Let me break it down. Banana Fish had a run of 24 episodes. The manga had 19 volumes and could be easily broken up into 6 parts. That’s already A LOT of ground to cover in a short series so obviously, some sacrifices to the story have to be made for the anime adaption. However, if we refer to the different parts of the manga, it gets so much more interesting. Episode 1-10 of the anime cover only parts one and two, or volumes 1 – 6 of the manga. That means the anime left only 14 episodes to cover the other four parts of the manga AND about 13 volumes worth of material. So with what time they had, I think they at least managed to hit all the important notes to still make the anime’s story work. Because at the end of the day, the motivation of the characters still makes sense.
Rewatching Banana Fish all at once also gives you the pleasurable experience of being able to really see the relationship between Eiji and Ash grow. I know. That probably sounds weird because there’s no way you didn’t notice it when watching it from week to week. But what I mean by that, is that you really get to appreciate it within the story better. If I’m being totally honest, when watching the show originally, it was easy to see that Eiji and Ash had a strong connection but it was also easy to forget or not think about why they did. Watching it all at once, helps you follow that thread and truly see how these two formed their honestly heartwrenching bond. Which makes certain moments near the end of the series even worse to watch the second time (like honestly two scenes in particular. I knew they were coming and still bawled my eyes out more than the first time). But y’know, that’s also why I think Banana Fish was still deserving of number one: because those emotional moments still hit on the second and even third rewatch. There was just something about the chemistry or thoughtfulness put into pivotal scenes that to me is just timeless and flawless and so raw in terms of emotion. And that’s what really makes this anime hold up.
And let’s be real, the story of Banana Fish is always going to draw me in. It’s got gang-wars, drugs, and shounen-ai elements. What more would I want? It floored me the first time watching, but even giving a good time away from it, I stand by my choice for last year’s best anime of the year. Now I know I wasn’t just riding the hype, it just honestly was my favorite from story, characters, music, and artwork. All together it came out to be my best anime of 2018. It makes me really start wondering…what will be my favorite anime of 2019? There are so many good contenders out there right now and we still have one whole season of anime to go.
Well, that’s it for today. What’s your favorite anime of 2019 so far? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
Til next time