BANANA FISH is a mafia crime series that follows Ash Lynx, a teenage gang leader in New York City, and Eiji Okumura, a Japanese photographer’s assistant. It is perfect for thriller fans and is known for its nonstop style. The manga was one of the all time shojo bestsellers in Japan and was originally released in the 80s. The anime, adapted by MAPPA, aired in 2018.
The show is fast-paced with pleasing visual aesthetics and an electric soundtrack that create a very inviting world that showcases the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the kind and the wicked. The story handles topics such as PTSD, rape, pedophilia, drugs, corruption, war, and much more. This is what intrigued me, as I write about such things frequently, especially in my bestselling series The Infidel Books.
“Do you remember telling me about the leopard in the Hemingway book? He died at the top of the mountain, and you said he knew he will never go back down. But I said you are not a leopard, and that you can change your future. It’s true, Ash. You can change your fate.” – Eiji
Ash Lynx is a character that portrays a small raw piece of each of us. His backstory is full of hardships: raped as a child, he ran away only to be “adopted” by a mafia lord and groomed into a sex toy and heir. As a teenager, he becomes a gang boss and is determined to end the corruption any way he can. (Yes, this is similar to characters featured in my novels, thus my immediate interest in the story!)
In a sense, each of us must face what Ash faces. We watch the world around us. We fight against the darkness. We struggle with fears. I watched this show and my fears were bright and bold within the episodes, too. Why do we keep going? Why fight when all can be so easily taken away? And the most painstaking question of all… why love if letting go is so often the choice we all face eventually?
Like Ash, I don’t truly want to let go of what I love. Ever. Like Ash, I wonder what comes after. Like Ash, I want to protect and love those I hold dear, but it never feels like it is enough. Like Ash, I fear losing control. But as Ash learns, we must learn when it’s time to release what we cherish. It is better to love and to live than never at all, as that saying goes, even when it hurts like hell. Because the pain is human, and in a twisted sense, beautiful, too.
BANANA FISH quite possibly has the most intriguing and heartfelt cast I’ve seen in a while. Ash has close alliances with his fellow gangsters and their bond is no small thing. Ash finds a friend in Eiji, someone who is naïve in the face of Ash’s world, but sees Ash as a person and not a beast. Ash also finds a father in Max, and the father-son trope is a fantastic addition to the story, as well. As Ash’s bonds with his new family grow, he learns that he is capable of emotions, of love, of being human. At one point in the story, Ash confides in Eiji how he is numb and practically inhuman, only Eiji reminds him that he is far from numb. He felt things. He was still human. He was still worthy of being loved and cared for even after all he had done and all he had faced. Despite Ash’s life, he could still change his future, because he was human, and that was enough. He learned this lesson through his friends.
BANANA FISH weaves a frightening tale of what wicked humanity is capable of… and what beauty we are capable of, too. The human spirit can be broken. But it can be woven together again into something better than before. That is the theme this story held… though I admit that the ending was a weak conclusion. It is a popular conclusion, where a character finds redemption and chooses to let go instead. Because we can heal. We can choose life. Death may be peaceful, but after all we face, the good fight is worth living for. Love is worth living for.
While BANANA FISH is very close to a masterpiece in my eyes, I have mixed emotions towards the conclusion, as many fans do. Do I understand the bittersweet message the ending offered? Yes, I do. And I respect the theme of grief and sorrow as life continues around us, as seen in GARDEN OF LIFE in the final manga volume. It was a beautiful contribute to those of us who understand such a feeling. But I also think the story would have been just as strong had the lynx survived, too. What a beautiful message that would have been: a beast surviving and choosing something worth living for, too.
Overall, BANANA FISH has a fresh, bold plot that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. The characters are vivid, the antagonists are sickeningly realistic, and the vibes are absolutely stellar. The story helped me face some demons and continues to leave me in awe over certain questions that I am sure I will blog about shortly, such as the topic of grief, the topic of battling darkness when all seems lost, what bravery can look like, and more. One sign of a good story is the ability to leave a consumer in introspection. I know I have had my own readers tell me that they’ve been left thinking about my novels for days after finishing (even reading the books again!) so I am honored to hear those words while experiencing a similar thing. BANANA FISH also inspires me to weave stories where fate is changed… and the leopard finds what it is looking for without the snow winning.
Stay tuned for more posts that dig into some topics relating to those listed above. And subscribe to my newsletter if you like this kind of content.