First of all I would like to start off by mentioning that this is my first anime review and I am writing it in the spirit of the 2019 Secret Santa game so that the person who recommended this anime to me might read this and see what I thought of one of their recommendations.
The story revolves around a hot-tempered gang boss named Ash Lynx. His lust for revenge against his adopted father, sexual abuser and captor coincides with his fated meeting with Eiji Okumura, a 19-year-old assistant photographer with an innocent mind and pure heart. Over the course of events that take place, Ash and Eiji maintain a close-knit brotherly love for one another, neither wanting anything from the other except friendship and a brief respite from the chaotic world of gang warfare and hidden powers that seek to seize power over America.
I initially decided to watch this anime because it is not something that I would have chosen to watch under my own volition in that I don't normally like anime that are set in the USA or have gangs in them. Perhaps as a consequence to this, I felt the anime was lacklustre and somewhat slow to begin with up until around episode 8. However, I am happy to admit that after this point in the story; I became increasingly more engrossed and interested in the plot and potential fate that awaited the thugs and bosses of New York City.
It is somewhat difficult to talk about the plot without giving away any spoilers but the primary driving force behind the plot is Ash Lynx's desire to free himself from the oppressive grip of his sexual abuser Papa Dino and seek the answer to why and how his brother lost his mind in the events that unfolded in Iraq prior to the time that the story takes place. After episode 8 I think the pacing of the story became a lot better. Things start to happen at a much greater pace and the viewer is constantly encouraged to think about each characters motive and how this has been affected by their often tragic past. There are no filler or recap episodes but sometimes I didn’t think there were too many shootouts, however, this did not detract from the fact that it always felt like the plot was building up and progressing.
Banana Fish is an anime created by Mappa. Coincidentally, I only just finished watching Dororo a few weeks ago so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that both series are made by the same studio. The animation is nothing ground-breaking, yet it doesn't seem that it wants to be. The action scenes are adequately detailed whilst the camera/scene positioning makes the viewer feel up close within both fast-paced action scenes, softer dialogue and intimate scenes.
I was quite impressed with the soundtrack of Banana Fish. The instrumental tracks used were very fitting and stylised for the nitty gritty urban warfare and psychological rollercoaster that engulfs the series. In particular my favourite two soundtracks are:
There is certainly a plethora of characters, even secondary characters sometimes act as main characters. While it never felt overwhelming, I do think that the reason for so many characters was just an easy way to drive the plot more easily. Nevertheless, this is at the cost of significantly reducing the importance and screen time of some former pivotal characters. One good example is in the case of Max Lobo. Max and Ash meet relatively early in the series and as the course of event unfold, Max is crucial in furthering the plot as he aids in helping Ash uncover what really happened in Iraq and the people that are responsible. However, in the latter stages of the series, Max helps out less and less as his character is predominantly left out of the action and confined to an office doing research. Aside from this, I really liked the differing personalities and psyches of the characters, they all felt unique and distinguishable.
Once you have settled into the story and things start to happen you are almost sure to enjoy this series. The ever-evolving circumstances that Ash finds himself in ensure that there will be little chance for boredom to strike while watching.