Banana Fish

May 5, 2019

Oh no. With a name like that, Banana Fish really sounds very fishy and the kind of anime that I think I would clearly stay away from. Because the promotional poster and its synopsis seem to hint of some possible gay yaoi BL thingy. Banana Fish. BF. Boyfriend. Uh huh. Handsome American boy meets handsome Japanese boy in America. Uh oh. I can see where this is going. And even more so when I read that the main character is a sex toy to some old powerful guy. Yikes. However my guts were ringing like hell and telling me it wasn’t going to fall into that bias stereotypic of mine. It was going to be different. A lot different. Homosexuality, child trafficking, child pornography, paedophilia, drugs, street gangs. Wow. Welcome to America, people.

Episode 1
Nearing the end of the Iraq war, a group of Americans are resting and hoping they will go home when one of them, Griffin Callenreese fires and kills many of his own men. He is taken down but still alive. The only thing that comes out of his mouth is “Banana Fish”. In current time, Ash Lynx meets a dying man who hands him some pill and address. Noticing a few punks chasing this dead guy, Ash learns they were sent by Dino Golzine. He goes to see him and is upset about not keeping his promise not to kill anyone. Dino says he was a rat and it was necessary to take him out. Ash returns to his home as Skip informs him that a couple of Japanese guys are coming to interview him for their article on street gangs. Meanwhile the scientist informs the worst to Dino that something precious has gone missing. Want to bet it’s that pill? We see Griffin in Ash’s care. Although he is a vegetable and can say nothing but Banana Fish. This intrigues Ash because that dead guy also said the same thing. Ash sees Dr Meredith to analyse the contents of the powder in this pill. Dino of course suspects Ash has gotten something that belongs to him and summons him for questioning. Ash plays dumb but Dino isn’t convinced. So when Ash returns home, he knew Dino has sent his men to search his place. With the men finding nothing, Dino believes Ash is being careful and assigns Marvin to take care of it all. Hence Marvin makes a deal with Ash’s rival, Frederick Arthur. The Japanese photographers, Shunichi Ibe and Eiji Okumura meet the NYPD guys, Antonio Jenkins and Charlie Dickenson. Meredith can’t make head or tail of this drug. As for Banana Fish, it is from a short story of JD Salinger. In the story, if you see a Banana Fish at sea, you feel like dying. Ibe and Eiji set foot in Ash’s turf. I guess young Japanese guy isn’t sure of the American custom and still trying to be the polite Japanese, he asks Ash for permission to look at his gun! Surprisingly Ash does so. Skip believes Ash takes a liking for him since he never lets anyone touch his gun. Ash receives a distress call from Shorter Wong to get out of here now because Arthur has rounded up some guys to get him. Yeah, he should have called earlier because they’re now busting the place. However Ash soon realizes he isn’t the target and that they’re after Skip. They also kidnap Eiji too since he is with the boy. Ash borrows Shorter’s bike to give chase.

Episode 2
Ash confronts Arthur and Marvin. He is forced to throw down his gun to save the duo but Arthur now punches him as payback (for damaging his fingers). They are then imprisoned but because Marvin is such a gay pig, he wants to f*ck Ash in exchange of putting a good word to Dino. Ash pretends to allow him but once the fatty lets his guard down, Ash beats him up and they all escape. Too bad they hit a dead end. Eiji isn’t breaking the steel pipe to fight back. In fact, he is going to use it to jump over the barbwire brick wall! Yeah, he was once a pole vaulter. Eiji is successful and Ash is amazed of this beautiful ‘flight’. Of course Eiji lands hard. Wooden crates break his fall? Thank goodness it didn’t pierce him. Bleeding Eiji manages to call NYPD before losing conscious. Eiji might feel bad he left Ash and Skip behind but with the details, Charlie can move in and act now. Before Marvin could take Ash away, Shorter and his gang arrive for some gang fight. Marvin points his gun at Ash but then shoots Skip. Charlie arrives too late. Ash is mad as he chases Marvin. By the time he arrives at his place, he sees Marvin’s dead body. A gun on the floor. Oh no. Too late. The police are here. You’ve been setup. Evanstine interrogates Ash and this bad cop tries to provoke Ash into talking by taking out all the child porn material that they found in Marvin’s room. You see, Ash was one of his porn child actors. Evanstine plays a cruel video of that porn scene of Marvin doing in a young Ash. Hence there is motive for Ash to kill this bastard. Luckily Ash holds in his rage but is taken away. Evanstine is on Dino’s payroll as he reports to the big boss who in turn makes a call to a judge under his payroll too. Charlie tries to talk to Ash but Ash already knows what kind of fate is in store for him. Especially Dino owning a team of big shot lawyers. Charlie hopes Eiji could talk to Ash seeing he trusts him but Eiji being a lousy liar, Ash somewhat envies Eiji for being able to ‘fly’. Eiji is so touched that he comes out crying?! Yeah, he can’t force this guy to talk. More bad news as the judge has sentenced Ash to state prison. Their only hope is Max Lobo who is imprisoned there. Ash is ushered in and all the prisoners are making wolf calls at this pretty boy. Ash the target? More like his ass would be the first target!

Episode 3
Charlie makes a plea to Max to protect Ash. Luckily they are cellmates as Max tries to be friendly with him but Ash knows the pitiful columns he writes for a certain newspaper. As Max shows him around, Garvey tries to make a move on him. Ash loses his temper and beats the sh*t out of this guy. He is thrown into solitary confinement but that didn’t rough him up or make him repent the slightest. Ash remembers ever since Dino took him in when he was young, he has been waiting for a chance to be free. But to do that he must go up against him. Knowing the drug is the cause and key to it all, he needs to get word to Meredith and Griffin to stay away from it. But how? He is being closely watched. The phones tapped and the letters will be scrutinized. It looks odd that Ash allows Garvey to f*ck him up in the library. In the infirmary, he requests for a pill for his headache. Ash learns that Max also knows about Banana Fish. Somewhat. He believes Banana Fish is a person. There was some guy who wrote an article on the Iraq war. It is unclear if Banana Fish is an individual or an organization but it is connected to drug trafficking. Oddly, the rumours died out after 2007. Max supposedly knows this guy but Ash points out he is already dead. Max is also after Banana Fish as he had a friend who was seriously messed up by a bad drug. When Ash learns his friend is Griffin, he knows Max is the one who shot Griffin, his brother and put him in this vegetative state. Ash isn’t his real name but Aslan Callenreese. Ash blames him for leaving Griffin there to die although Max has done everything in his power to help him. Griffin can’t even recognize his own brother, will he even recognize Max? When Ash gets out, he will kill him. When Eiji comes to visit Ash, it seems Ash flirts with him and before they go, kisses him!!! This gay moment is only because Ash slipped a pill into Eiji’s mouth. Eiji knows something is up as he takes a look at the message inside the pill. He wants him to go to a shop in Chinatown and meet Shorter. Just say Ash sent him and tell him what he gave to Meredith to hide it somewhere. Max is affected so much that he sees Griffin in Ash and almost tries to kill him! Eiji enters the shop but is told that person is not around. Eiji isn’t careful as he isn’t aware Dino has sent spies to tail him. And since he said the doctor’s name… Before he knows it, he is confronted by Arthur.

Episode 4
Arthur threatens to kill the doctor if Eiji doesn’t talk. He spills everything and yet Arthur is going to kill. He is going to make Ash pay by taking away everything precious to him. Luckily Shorter is here before anyone dies. After getting the drug, Griffin miraculously got up. But Abraham Dawson panics to see him alive and shoots him. In the commotion, Arthur and his men escape. Meredith treats Griffin personally and can’t bring him to the hospital or the mafia will track him. Max changes cell? Yeah, some bull guy is now Ash’s cellmate and he wants to get gay with this guy. Ash isn’t a pushover and beats him up and would have killed him had not worried Max returned to stop the fight. When Eiji is finally reunited with worried Ibe, he mentions about Griffin saying Banana Fish when he saw Abraham. Meredith kept some of the substance and believes it is something like LSD but it symptoms last longer. Even way past 24 hours. The lab rats went aggressive and killed each other. It might have something to do with the recent strange suicide cases. Ibe wants Eiji to return to Japan now as it is getting dangerous. Eiji will not do it despite Ibe is only concern for his safety. What will Ibe say to his parents if he really gets killed? Worst scenario happens as Griffin dies. It is suggested they don’t tell Ash for now so he won’t do anything stupid like breaking out of prison. Charlie then calls Max to tell him this. Meanwhile Ash is being beaten up by Garvey as per Dino’s orders. Of course he fights back and when Max comes to break them up, accidentally mentions about Griffin. I’m sure Garvey won’t bother Ash for a while after sticking a fork in his crotch! Ouch! Ash pesters Max about Griffin and uses that betrayal psychology to talk. Max says Griffin is dead. Ash is in shock and beats up Max if he tries to get near him. Max has had it playing Mr Nice Guy and fights back. I guess this got nowhere so the duo go back to their cell to talk (Max transferred back?). Max tells how Griffin was his buddy. But the Iraq war totally did him in. Friend or foe were alike and he couldn’t take it and relied on drugs to get through. Ash in turn tells him all he knows when he was first handed the pill and address. Ash was fortunate to be brought up by Griffin and without him, would have starved to death. After the war, he was so weak he couldn’t even take a piss himself. But that is all over now. Griffin isn’t around anymore.

Episode 5
With Jenkins pulling strings, Ash is able to get out on bail. So as Charlie picks him up, Ash puts up an act of wanting to see Griffin so Charlie tells him the truth. More crocodile tears to let Charlie’s guard down. Then Ash steals his gun and kicks him out of the car. Charlie and Ibe struggle to contain him but Eiji decides to side with Ash and drives the car away. Meanwhile Arthur bugs Dino about this Banana Fish. Dino says that it is not a human but a drug. A drug that will change the world. Ash reunites with Shorter who wants to help Eiji with his fight against Dino. Ash was reluctant at first but since Shorter has a reason to go up against Dino and Ash can’t do it alone, Ash allows it. Even Eiji too. He was forced to retire from pole vaulting due to injury. Ibe saw him depressed and decided to bring him to America. Because he feels responsible for all this, he wants to see this one till the end. Ash gives Eiji a gun and teaches him how to sue it because when the fight starts, he won’t be able to protect him. Then Ash goes to see some Chinese corporate guy, Lee Wang Lung who seems to be on bad terms with Dino. He will help those who goes up against Dino and is more than willing to lend Ash a truck as per his request. Ash then explains about Club Cod. It’s not a seafood restaurant. It serves humans. In this secret club, Dino is the head and runs the operations of selling young boys to other prominent figures. That way, he makes a profit and has control over them. The club catches young runaway boys and sell them. They are drugged so they can’t run and only have a few years to live. Dino is always here in the middle of every month. Max just got out of prison and he goes to see Ibe and knows Ash will be at Club Cod. When Dino arrives at Club Cod, Ash begins his move. Shorter drives the truck to ram into the area. WTF Ash standing atop the truck and shooting?! Yeah, he got Dino’s shoulder. If not for Arthur’s men sniping Ash (on his shoulder), it could’ve been bad. A gunfight ensues in the chaos. Max and Ibe arrive and tell their friends to escape via jumping into the sea. Even after escaping, Ash still wants to continue picking a fight so Max punches him out and they all take refuge at his place. Dino orders his men to capture Ash alive. He doesn’t care what they do as long as they bring him back to him because Ash is his.

Episode 6
Ash and co return to his father’s home in Boston. Although stepmom Jennifer is happy to see him, Jim isn’t. Ash only wants the keys to the house Griffin used to stay and they’ll leave once the truck is fixed. Jim continues to dislike his son and considers his friends as manwhores. Ash relates that he and Griffin were born to different mothers. In the house, they find an old album. There is a photo that has Abraham’s picture in it. It must have been Griffin’s old platoon. Locating this dude, they find out his address similar to the one Ash was given. He lives in LA. As Jim continues to have bad blood with Ash, Eiji gets mad. I guess it’s time for dad to reveal how things turned out. When Ash was young, there was a military veteran who lived up the hills. The kids loved him and he coached a baseball team that Ash was in. One day, Ash came home messed up and he knew what happened. He was taken to the police but since everyone loved that army dude, they blamed Ash for seducing him. Hence Jim had no choice but to tell Ash that if anybody tried to same thing on him, just allow it but make him pay for it. A year later, Ash shot that guy with Jim’s gun. When cops searched his house, they found bones of children in his basement. Although Ash wasn’t found guilty of anything, Jim sent him to his sister’s place but subsequently he ran away. That night, a couple of guys enter the store just when Jim and Jennifer are about to close. Turns out they are Dino’s men and they take them hostage to lure Ash out. Ash has no choice but to give in. Lucky the fast thinking of his friends distract them for a while. Ash is able to fight back but unfortunately Jennifer was shot and killed. Jim was shot too but only in his shoulder. After killing Dino’s men, Jim tells his son to leave now as he has a friend to call the ambulance and cops over. Jim puts his fingerprints over the murder weapons so as to clear their name. After learning Ash is up against a big mafiaso who killed Griffin, Jim gives his blessings. No time for father-son reconciliation as they have to get running. Meanwhile Dino sees Wang Lung and informs how his Banana Fish will have no impact on his business. In fact, he is willing to relinquish some European territories to him next year. All he needs is his cooperation to catch Ash. He wants that kid because he has 2 journalists with him and will stop at nothing to stop to leak. Since they are heading to LA which is under Wang Lung’s territory, Wang Lung will send his men Yut Lung for the job. A week later, Ash and co arrive at the city of angels.

Episode 7
The gang stops by at Max’s home. Max is happy to greet his son, Michael but his ex-wife, Jessica is still mad at him. Because she is acquaintance with Ibe, she lets all of them in. So apparently this short detour is because Max wanted to leave a birthday present for Michael. After doing so, they head to the address but see Yau Si assaulted by some thugs. They manage to chase them off as they learn Yau Si is Abraham’s nephew. Of course, Yau Si himself is adopted. You didn’t think Caucasian parents could suddenly give birth to an Asian kid, do you? Currently, his father is missing. They check his room and find it messy. Ash hacks the computer to find more info about Banana Fish and they all realized it is a drug. Meanwhile Shorter who was sent to find out more on Yau Si because Ash finds him suspicious is now in a conflict. He was told by Lee Hua Lung (Lee’s younger brother) to be the traitor and report Ash and his buddies or his sister, Nadia dies. When he returns, he gets rough with Yau Si and demands to know the truth. Then he sees his dragon tattoo, a seal of the Lee clan and realizes that he is Yut Lung. Yut Lung drops his soft spoken demeanour and reminds Shorter that he will now take orders from him. Ibe remembers their visa has expired so Ash plays the bad guy to go tell Eiji he needs to go home because from now on it’ll get dangerous and he’ll just be in the way. Eiji accepts his fate but can’t help feel sad about it. Max knows Ash is going back to New York, the reason why he also wanted Eiji to leave. It might be Dino’s turf but it is also his home. Yut Lung orders Shorter to kidnap Eiji as bait to lure Ash. Shorter is so mad he wants to kill him. But he can’t. He still feels grateful for the Lee clan for helping his family survive in a foreign land. But not anymore. They are the same like Dino. Meanwhile thugs barge into Jessica’s home.

Episode 8
The thugs call Max to bring Ash over if he knows what’s good for his wife and son. Ash has Shorter stay behind to guard the Japanese as he feels something is off because if they wanted to lure them out, they would move the hostages and set a trap. When Ash and Max arrive, the police are already here. Jessica and Michael are fine. The cops came because earlier on Jessica was on the phone with a friend and he alerted the police. Yut Lung begins his move as he poisons Ibe and uses his acupuncture needles to knock out Eiji. While Eiji is out cold, Ibe can still see and hear. Yut Lung wants Ibe to witness all this so he could tell Ash what happened. By the time Ash realizes Yut Lung is the traitor and rushes back, they’re already gone. Another stranger pops in. But he is Alexis and this is supposed to be his home. Meanwhile Shorter regrets his actions but vows to protect Eiji. While waiting for the transit to New York, Arthur shows up to bring them back. Shorter threatens to take Eiji’s life and then himself if he does funny stuffs. Dino sees Senator William Kippard and Colonel Thomas Holstock to assure them about the perfection of the drug for their next experiment. After Alexis injects a serum to cure Ibe’s poison, he shows them a secret science room. The PC was dummy and he was staying in some condo after noticing strange men were tailing him. He came back because the sensor went off after being hacked. When the brothers were still in college, they thought of making drugs to make money. They accidentally created this drug. It wasn’t just some hallucination drug but induced all your emotions and nightmares to a maximum point. Russians once made a hypnosis drug but it was unreliable. Banana Fish makes it 100% reliable. So if you tell a person to kill immigrants, he’ll start doing it. Alexis got scared of its potential as a friend they tested on died but Abraham continued testing it out on soldiers serving in Iraq. So now that he has joined up with Dino and make a deal with the US government, Dino will become to top dog in the underworld. Alexis as a scientist couldn’t bring himself to destroy the drug. I guess the price to pay for that is everybody punching him. As Yut Lung reports to Wang Lung but failed to obtain the drug’s data, Wang Lung is displeased he didn’t do so as he thinks this makes him inferior to Ash. Yut Lung is all dolled up to become Dino’s plaything but Yut Lung as an ulterior agenda. He will never forgive his brothers for killing his mom and now it’s time to destroy them. Thugs enter Alexis’ home and apprehend the guys before burning down the entire place.

Episode 9
Yut Lung is dressed up as a woman and given to Dino as a token of friendship from Chinatown. He wakes up Eiji and the latter couldn’t believe Shorter had betrayed them. Shorter is then turned into a lab rat and injected Banana Fish. He is brainwashed by Abraham to fear Eiji and the only way out from this nightmare is to kill him. But Dino will save this show for Ash. Not sure if Dino had his fun with Yut Lung and Eiji because Ash has arrived. First they have a wonderful dinner as Dino praises the wonderful merchandise Ash was when he was under him. Meanwhile, Sing Soo Ling is now the leader of Chinatown after the elders banished Shorter. He and his gang are trying to make a deal with Ash’s gang led by Alex to fight against Dino. Once dinner is over, all the guests are taken to the execution room where the show is about to begin. Dino watches it from above with Kippard and Holstock. Shorter and Eiji are brought in. With Arthur’s command, Shorter soon picks up a knife to kill Eiji. No amount of yelling could snap him out. He must kill Eiji to get out from this nightmare. After that he will kill himself or live forever being haunted. Eiji is reduced to running and just when you think Ash’s screaming got through to Shorter for once, could it be coincidence? In this short lapse of Shorter getting his conscious back, he pleads to Ash to end it all because he can’t bear the suffering anymore. Shorter returns to his killing machine mode. But just before he is going to kill Eiji, Arthur releases Ash’s chains to hand him a gun. To save Eiji, Ash quickly shoots Shorter in the heart. Abraham is glad the brain is still intact as he could analyse the effects on the brain cells. Ash and co feel awful and only Arthur is laughing like a madman seeing Ash suffering.

Episode 10
Dino and Arthur leave that night for an important event. Yut Lung then relays an important info to Hua Lung. After that he goes to talk to Ash who isn’t in any mood. He leaves a key as a chance for him to escape. He accepts his fate if the next time they meet, Ash will kill him. Sing and Alex attack Dino’s residence. With that racket, Ash makes his move to escape. At the armoury, he tells Max and Ibe to escape while he goes to rescue Eiji. Yeah, Ash is going to gun down those henchmen mercilessly. It seems the next presidential candidate got killed by his secretary before taking her own life. So this is the event that Dino and the rest of the American bigwigs are waiting for? But when Dino hears Ash has escaped, looks like this has become the bigger issue. Sing interrogates a guy about Shorter and can’t believe Ash killed Shorter. In that case he will pay. Yut Lung confronts Abraham and paralyzes him, telling him that Ash is going to come for him like the devil. Ash finds Eiji and busts him out. He promises to protect him. After gunning more men, Ash stumbles into his gang. He gives the orders to destroy all the cars and take Eiji with him. Ash is going to retrieve Shorter’s body. For once Eiji listens and wants him to come back safely. Ash enters the lab and sees Shorter’s body being experimented. Horrified, he becomes mad and pumps all the lead into Abraham until there are no more. Ash then burns the lab and the body. Sing comes in and has the wrong idea. Ash is still in a bad mood and tells him to get out. Stubborn Sing fights him and loses but is let off by Ash. Sing returns to his men. Yut Lung picks them up and will let him off the hook by telling his brothers that he saved him. Sing hates to admit that Ash is much better than him but when they fought, he didn’t even see him as the enemy. He is still trying to know why Ash killed Shorter but Yut Lung will tell the reason one day.

Episode 11
Dino’s mansion is razed to the ground and he now has reporters tailing him. You bet he isn’t in the mood and even more so his favourite pet has escaped. Ash returns to his gang’s base. He orders them to find more info about the gangs who have aligned with Arthur. Eiji observes how Ash’s words are their law and they obey without question. But this isn’t the side of Ash he knows. Making it weirder as he spends more time with him, he learns Ash is afraid pumpkins due to a Halloween prank gone wrong. Is there some sort of bromance brewing between them? They laugh, chat and tease each other like nobody’s business. Oh right. We should expect this. More bromance drama when Ash wakes up at night after a nightmare. He relates he killed for the first time when he was 8 when a man tried to rape him. It still haunts him. With so many blood on his hands, he is still scared especially with Shorter’s death. Eiji comforts him and promises he will always stay by your side. Ash breaks down and cries on his lap. Next day, Ash meets Max. His first plan is to buy an expensive condo. He needs Max help to sign the contract as he is a minor. Where does Ash get all that money? It seems he has used Dino’s accounts to sell stocks and plummet its value. He also knows his secret fake accounts overseas and has wired it to somewhere else. Dino just got all this news and is looking real shocked how someone could hack all his details and use it in his name. Well, when he was f*cking Ash, Ash had a different idea. He planted a spyware in his computer and got all the access and passwords. Now that this has caused a huge damage to the foundation, Dino will have to answer to the dons and won’t be on Ash’s tail for a while. Ash wants Max to find out more about the secretary who used Banana Fish to kill the presidential candidate. Ash buys a condo right next to a building that is owned by Dino. Although Eiji will be cooped up inside this condo for his own good, Max believes Eiji will be his Achilles heel. Dino prepares to leave the country as he gives Arthur his last chance to capture Ash alive. When he comes back, he will strangle him with his own hands.

Episode 12
Arthur is mad. Looks like Ash’s men has been going around killing his. Ash then dares confront Dino at the airport just before his flight to declare war. He thought getting rid of him was the answer but now he will stop whatever he intends to do. Later Ash goes to see another gang head, Bloody Cain. He wants him to stay out of the war between him and Arthur. Cain isn’t obligated to do as he says but as long as he doesn’t hurt his men, they’re cool. Ash and co continue to mercilessly kill rival street gangs even if they surrender. So much so the news’ headlines are hogged with the increased number of gang killings. This has Eiji worried about him because it is not the Ash he knew. Ash insists that power is everything. This tension causes a rift between them but it won’t last long because you know, Japanese are quick to apologize, right? Besides, their bromance is blooming so it can’t break just because of this minor tiff. Cain sees Ash and tells him Arthur met with him to make a deal to become an observer between them. Ash accepts it even though it is a trap because eventually he has to settle things with Arthur. Ash lets Max see a few photos of the bigshots coming in and out of Dino’s building. In addition to Kippard, there is Arthur Smiles who is the White House’s chief of staff. With Holstock, Ash deduces America’s plan to turn Arab into their puppet state. Because America’s official stance is against terrorism there, they will use local terrorists to plot a coup detat. The new government will then ask America for military support. This sounds ridiculous but with Banana Fish, it will be easy. The mafia comes in with the money by investing in heroine distribution in Kafghanistan (WTF type error on purpose?!) that is responsible for 90% of the world’s distribution. Dino will control the underworld with this. When Ash returns to Eiji, he has set up a Halloween party! Pumpkin theme! After the party, you wonder why the guys are asking each other if they have a girlfriend. Does it really matter? Eiji doesn’t but Ash admits there was a girl he liked when he was 14. Too bad she died as someone got jealous thinking she was Ash’s boyfriend. Boy, that escalated quickly. The world won’t let him mingle with normal people anymore.

Episode 13
Flashback shows Ash and Arthur clashed over territorial disputes. Although Ash won, Arthur played dirty and tried to shoot him. Luckily he was such a bad shot that Ash could quickly severed his fingers. Ash and Arthur meet at an abandoned railway line to settle. Cain is joined by Sing as observers. As the fight start, Ash hears the sound of a train coming. He realizes this is a trap as Arthur’s men have hijacked the train and try to gun everyone down mafia style! With Sing throwing Ash’s gun to him, he makes every headshot count. Arthur has his men retreat but Ash manages to sneak on board. Does Arthur have unlimited goons at his disposal? Seems Ash is killing a train load of them. Does Ash have unlimited bullets? He doesn’t seem to need to reload. Meanwhile Eiji wakes up and realizes Ash is gone. Ash’s men are here to take him to the airport and Eiji knows Ash is up to something but decides to obey. Too bad the men can’t keep this a secret and tell him what’s going on. Yeah, now Eiji wants to go to Ash’s side. What’s this about thinking back when Ash told him about death? The times Eiji heard Ash cried numerous times in his sleep calling for his mama? Was it something to do with his tormented childhood and the killing of Shorter? Was his tough leadership a way to cover up his fragile soul? Wow. So many questions. Don’t think they’ll be answered by the time he reaches there. Anyway, Ash just gunned everyone down! Only Arthur is left. He didn’t kill him because he wants to give him a chance to fight? Okay. So on the railway lines, it is a free show of 2 men trying to kill each other with a knife. When Eiji arrives, he calls out to Ash. That distraction gave Arthur a chance to slash across his guts. See what you do, Eiji boy???!!! But Ash is strong and fights back enough to slit his throat. And to finish and make his death permanent, Arthur falls down to the asphalt below. Ash rules! I guess everyone so engrossed with the fight that they didn’t even hear the police coming. Looks like everyone’s getting arrested.

Episode 14
Ibe has doubts if he should separate Eiji from Ash. He brought him here to escape the stiffness of Japan. He thought separating them would protect Eiji but now he feels it would do them more harm. Looks like Ibe will miss his flight too when he sees the gang fight on the news. Ash undergoes surgery and miraculously survives despite the doctor only put the rate of success at 50%. Sing and Eiji are bailed out thanks to Yut Lung. He updates Eiji about Ash’s surgery but the bad news is that Dino is coming back soon. Must have heard the news. Yut Lung tries to tell Eiji off that Ash needs no friends and people like him are just in his way. Eiji admits it and this surprises Yut Lung feel like he wants to crush him. But for now Eiji will be his prisoner. Man, Ash has got 4 hot nurses wanting to look after him and he hates it?! WTF?! Oh, right… Anyway, Ash is soon tasked to take some psychiatric test but he shows us why his IQ is 180 by stumping the psychiatrist with some advanced maths formula. Kippard views Ash a threat and wants him taken out. That night a nurse comes into his room and Ash can tell she is not one of the usual nurses. He can ‘smell’ she is not a real nurse due to the lack of antiseptic smell from her. True enough, she tries to kill him but he fights back. He threatens for answers but she kills herself. Kippard won’t give up but will leave Ash in the hands of Dr Mannerheim who runs a mental health institution. This means having the CIA taking over this case from Jenkins and Charlie. Max visits Ash to tell him he plans to expose the story of Ash stealing from Dino’s accounts upon his return. He has the connections to do so. Ash is soon taken by the CIA and blindfolded. But he can tell where they are headed from the direction the vehicle turns as well as the surrounding noises. Next day, the shocking report all over the news that Ash has died after being transported to the mental health institute.

Episode 15
Yut Lung goes to see Eiji if he is okay but Eiji is smart enough to hide and then hold him as hostage to gain his freedom. Outside, they believe that Ash isn’t dead and if so, Yut Lung will continue to be Ash’s enemy. This means coming after Eiji. With Dino returning and hounded by the media, Max masquerades as one of them and tells him he was the one who leaked the story. Dino hides his surprise when hears news of Ash’s death and orders his men to check. Max and Ibe see the live autopsy of Ash. Looks like the real deal but Max knows better. It is just a kid that looks very much like Ash. True enough, he is being tested by Mannerheim. He is then introduced to a docile patient named Adam. Friendly, right? He actually raped and killed 3 nuns! Thanks to Banana Fish, he is now docile. Mannerheim brings Ash to his lab where there are lots of brain and spine samples for testing. But Ash gets riled up upon learning one of them belongs to Shorter! I thought he burnt it clean? Did he not? Mannerheim concludes by showing him a retarded Alexis. The goal is to control scientist but maintain their intelligence. That is why Ash is heaven sent for this experiment. Ash is then drugged out. Meanwhile Eiji almost gets attacked by a couple of guys (do these people like kawaii Japanese boys?!) but is luckily saved by Sing. He is taken to his place as Eiji explains the truth of Shorter’s death. Before Mannerheim could begin his operation, Dino barges in and wants this to stop. However the CIA guys tell him his place that Kippard is in charge now. Dino has fallen from power as the Corsican Foundation that funds this institute has taken him off the list and put Baron Zakharev as the new person in charge. Though, Zakharev as a newbie still has Dino assist him. Dino then waits for Ash to wake up. He is disappointed he has become this weak so it’s no point killing him. He wants Ash to get back to his usual strength. That is when he will hunt him down and corner and kill him. Max finds out about Kippard as a big investor in Corsican Foundation. Good timing for him, the institute gives a monthly tour and that is like tomorrow. Meanwhile Ash acts like a horny flirty gay boy in front of the camera. Are the guards gay because they are watching in shock. Until Ash throws the sheets over the camera. Obviously the guard who went down to check is gay. He came alone and left the door open to check on him! No surprise Ash gets the better of this dumb guard and steals his stuffs.

Episode 16
Dino lets Zakharev take charge to see how he handles this. And so Ash manages to evade the dumb guards and even knocking out those who come close enough. This is even when the ward is being locked down. He manages to make his way to even take Alexis with him. With the tour cancelled, Max and Ibe take this chance to snoop around. Even they too can bested a few guards before being captured and they play dumb about getting lost. It’s amazing Ash could carry a heavy luggage (Alexis) especially this unbelievable scene whereby they were hanging on the edge of the elevator’s exterior. Ash manages to pull Alexis and himself up! Super genius, super handsome, super strong! So much for this hi-tech security facility because they escaped via garbage chute. The only non-secured place. Heh. Ash is about to make his escape when he sees Max and Ibe being escorted. Now he has to go back and save those old geezers! Why do old geezers have to slow him down?! Anyway, Ash manages to knock out the dumb guard to save them. And they have the cheek to say they came here to rescue him. The trio disguise themselves as a doctor (Max), nurse (Ash) and corpse (Ibe). A horny doctor tries to flirt with Ash and gets punched! Damn Ash looks so hot even as a woman! They steal an ambulance and make their final escape. Zakharev is frustrated Ash has escaped. He is not amused when Dino admonishes him for never being ready to handle this. When Zakharev threatens to make him pay, Dino shoots him. Dino built this project and nobody is going to take Ash but him. Ash learns that Eiji is missing. Looks like now he has to go find and save him even though he is worn out. Otherwise he cannot stop worrying.

Episode 17
Ash returns to his gang. Glad to see him alive. But once Ash finds out what Eiji told Sing, he gets mean with this Chinese dude to keep Shorter’s murder a secret. Eiji had to make him stop. A little bit of tension before the guys made up. Bromance hug? Sorry girls. No kissing. Dino is called by Yut Lung. He sees Hua Lung drugged like a zombie. Yut Lung has done his research on Dino’s Banana Fish project. It seems Yut Lung has carefully planned and killed one of the board members of the foundation. He can kill the rest of them so Dino gets back control of it. In return, he wants Dino to kill the rest of the Lee clan including their wives and children to stop their bloodline. Yut Lung further shows him a garden. He can tell Banana Fish is made out of some mutation of a plant’s alkaloid rather than being 100% pure chemical. Ash won’t even tell Eiji to go home because he knows he won’t listen. Plus, even if he does, he gets worried. So there’s your reason to begin a bromance? They hang out together and Ash does research on drugs and stuffs at the library to even come up with the deduction that Banana Fish isn’t purely all chemical synthesis. All the while, Ash could sense someone is watching him but cannot tell. Is his guts playing a prank on him? True enough, there is someone stealthier than a ninja observing him. He is Blanca, Dino’s retired (now coming out of retirement?) subordinate. Apparently he is here to decline Dino’s request but when he tested and saw how Ash’s Spider-senses was tingling, he is now curious to see how formidable he is. Blanca accepts the job. Ash shows his findings to Max and his colleague, Robert. They report Abraham’s condition. His brain’s neural pathways have been damaged but the doctors cannot determine if drugs did it. If only they could find a causal relationship. Hence Ash goes to prostitute himself by becoming Kippard’s f*ck boy. Damn this fatso is also into young kids! Was he so aroused that he couldn’t even recognize Ash? Too late when Ash reveals himself. The cops aren’t looking for him since he is officially dead. Ash wants Banana Fish but Kippard is willing to die than sell out his country. So much for patriotism when Ash shows him a scandalous photo of Kippard having sex. Probably it’s from Dino. Before Kippard could say anything, Kippard gets sniped between the eyes! Nice handy work from Blanca. Ash immediately hides and knows the sniper is a very professional one to take this shot from afar.

Episode 18
Ash is puzzled that Kippard’s death is not reported in the newspapers. His suspicions confirmed when he sees the news that Holstock just died in a car accident. This is no more than just a coincidence. Then he realizes the only person who could pull this off is Blanca (a book he left behind as clue). In fact, Blanca is staking out opposite the apartment and even showing Dino and Yut Lung Ash’s ‘hideout’. Ash tries to test waters as he stands in front of the window. When Eiji comes in, Blanca snipes at him but only gives flesh wound. Then a personal call from Blanca to confirm it is him as well as Yut Lung to confirm he hired Blanca for this job. Ash is to come for a negotiation. Otherwise Eiji dies. Hence we get one last bromance of Ash and Eiji as the latter invites him to Japan once this is over. And yeah, Ash’s protection of Eiji grows even more solid. When Ash arrives at the negotiation point, Yut Lung gives him a gun to shoot himself. Immediately Ash takes and does so! Everyone is shocked but of course the gun is empty. Even more shocking as Ash asks for a loaded gun! On to serious matters, Ash is to hand over all their data on Banana Fish as well as Abraham. Then he is to go back to Dino’s side. Do all this and Eiji will be safe. Damn, Ash agrees! Yut Lung is in shock he is willing to throw everything away for a boy. Hey, you say it, he do it. What’s the problem? But Ash has only a request and that is to fight Blanca. Can this guy go up against the man who trained him how to fight? Nah. We see Blanca moving like a butterfly and Ash like a baby! Blanca privately talks to Ash and thought he had gotten over his past. He wants Ash to give up Eiji and return to Dino where he will have everything (I thought Dino said he will make him suffer like a prostitute?!). When Dino had Blanca taught Ash how to fight, he was reluctant to do so but realized it gave him a place in the world. He doesn’t want to lose him and ruin himself. Ash will not go back to everything that is fake. Better to be alone than with fakes. At least he is happy with 1 guy who cares about him. Ash’s plea is for Blanca not to hurt Eiji. No can do. He will do the job he is entrusted. So Ash returns to take Abraham, leaves some cryptic message to Ibe like it’s his last goodbye. Then he holds up Max and Meredith to get the data before giving it all to Yut Lung. Yeah, Ash looks so dead now…

Episode 19
Yut Lung wants Blanca to work for him now that his contract with Dino is over. Blanca refuses citing he is retired. Yut Lung won’t give up yet because he is obsessed in killing Eiji. Eiji sees Sing so he could take him to Yut Lung whom he believes knows where Ash is. Yut Lung tells everything and blames him for all this. So please kill yourself. But Eiji is done blaming himself and if he is going to kill to protect Ash, he’ll do it. We see Ash in some ruthless high level talks to use Banana Fish in Kafghanistan and the Maliban (?!) just to show the world America’s might even if it means abandoning their troops. Ash might sound deadly but behind the scenes he dreads doing this. This isn’t the prostitution thingy he signed up for. Well, he isn’t selling his body but his soul. So in some sort of protest, he refuses to eat and this takes a toll on his body. Sing tells his gang that Dino is going to hold a party to celebrate the recent victory of the courts dropping his tax evasion charges. They are going to use this opportunity to sneak in and save Ash. Yut Lung interrupts Blanca’s flirting with the maid. He mentions Blanca’s real name and his shady past as some elite force in Kazakhstan as well as his dead wife. Dino tells Ash about the big announcement at the party that he will make Ash his successor and son. However Ash cannot stop laughing and mocks people like him only sees him as some sex toy and dirty toilet. Is this what the American dream is? Dino beats him up only to be stopped by the doctors. He is going to teach Ash everything and make him his chaste wife. When Blanca and Sing visit Yut Lung, they apprehended an assassin who failed to kill Yut Lung. He poisoned himself. Luckily Yut Lung got a flesh wound. It seems Blanca is here to agree to his deal to be his bodyguard although the only condition is to protect him. Blanca then reports to Dino that he has made a contract with Yut Lung because he knows his past. Eiji and Sing begin planning their party ambush. The more the better because Cain’s side joins in.

Episode 20
At the party, Ash is temporarily blinded so he can’t see well. Sing’s side crashes in to cause panic. Eiji then points his gun at Dino. Ash recognizes his voice and is stunned he is doing something this reckless. Dino takes Ash hostage to see if he dares shoot. Well, Eiji shoots but only gets Dino’s shoulder. He missed at this range?! At least enough for them to take Ash and run. I can’t believe Ash can still be a sharpshooter at this point. It’s fine if he can even shoot with his eyes close but with all those noises? While the men keep looking for them above ground, they are actually hiding in an abandoned underground station. But when Ash realizes that everyone has gathered here, he orders all to get out because the sewers are like a maze. True enough, their pursuers come chasing them and trying to corner them like a rat. Eiji tries to be the bait to get Ash out. Cain knocks Ash out to bring him back to his base but Ash won’t be grounded. Hence Ash is spotted trying to take refuge in the museum. Yeah, museum has bad security. Heck, none at all. Yut Lung decides to catch him without Dino’s help. He gets to see how formidable Ash is when he snipes at his men. Unheeding Blanca’s advice to stay put and play the waiting game (because Yut Lung wants to catch him first), he sends some of his men inside and they got panicked by the darkness as Ash slaughters them all. Blanca knows this is Ash’s plan to draw himself attention as this means Eiji is still underground. Too bad he has just been caught. With Cain and his men driving by to do some chaos, Ash takes this chance to take Yut Lung hostage. Bad timing as Eiji and co are also brought here. Ash wants him to bring the hostages in if he is ready for negotiations. Eiji and all his men for Yut Lung. Blanca agrees to his terms and when both sides are exchanged, Ash and Blanca take pot shots at each other. In the aftermath, Yut Lung is shaken and Dino heard about what happened. It’s his turn to take charge of hunting down Ash.

Episode 21
Sing limps back in and he is very worried about his men being taken hostage by Yut Lung. He wants to go rescue them or they’ll be killed. It’s time for Ash to work his magic again. Once they find where they are being held, they bust in. Everything ended so easily that Ash feels something is off. Why were they held in an obvious place? If they were important hostages, why were there so few guards? This is all part of Dino’s plan as he shows Edward L. Fox the fruits of his labour of raising his ‘son’. Ash and Max reunite for the first time since the former’s ‘death’. Max needs his help to infiltrate a gay club run by Frank Zareb AKA Frog. He used to round up boys for Dino. While Dino doesn’t use pictures to blackmail his clients and only serves as insurance, Frog does otherwise. Ash is forced to rekindled unwanted memories of Frog and his men taking dirty pictures of him as a kid. Ash is tempted to kill him but with Max stopping him, they only get the pictures of victims. Ash wants Max to use his photos only since he is dead but Max just burns everything. Frog is later killed by Fox. When Cain’s men start getting killed, they thought it was Dino’s men. But Ash felt something strange about the way they attack and weapons they used. Some research and info digging reveal they are former elite soldiers who served in many missions and are officially dead. Their regiment leader is Fox. People like them love war because it allows you to legally kill. With Max and Robert targeted, Ash advises to put some guard for their family. Better still, Jessica joins in! So it’s safer to leave their son with some other relative? When Eiji asks Ash of putting himself in the enemy’s shoes, Ash starts to realize their viewpoint. The killings are to stir up the chain of command and see how the leaders act. True enough, they spot the soldiers taking formation outside their hideout. Ash has everyone divided into several groups and plan their several diversions and exits. They are to meet at the pier in 48 hours. The battle begins. Ash does what he does best at surviving. However that may be cut short because Fox has got Max and his side captured. They use them to lure Ash out in which Ash shows himself.

Episode 22
While Max and the captured are taken elsewhere, Fox interrogates Ash. It seems Fox wants Ash to join him and they can rule the world via the foundation. Of course Ash laughs at this and vows never to submit. So Fox’s idea is to rape him?! Why are all the old men so gay here???!!! Saved by the call from Dino. Because as Fox goes to answer it, his men continue to abuse Ash. Fox’s carelessly threw his unextinguished cigarette butt means Ash used it to burn the ropes and kill those men! With Eiji and co charging in, Fox and his men escape. Ash is shaken from all this but a hug from Eiji calms him down. Lao Yen Tai, Sing’s right hand man argues with him about being submissive to Ash. He will not accept this. Also, he is secretly working with Yut Lung and although he wants out, he is forced to continue because this is the only way he could protect Sing who is also his half-brother. Max and his men interrogate Max for the important data but he remains stubborn knowing he will at least be kept alive as bait to lure Ash. Ash and Jessica manage to get that data Max stored safely in the vault. Jessica goes through it and sees the incredible data that would turn the White House upside down. Some of Lao’s men want to kill Ash and Yut Lung gives them the green light although he knows they can’t but at least they may kill Eiji. Blanca against Yut Lung’s orders goes out to find Eiji because that Japanese boy must not be allowed to die. Another moment of bromance between Ash and Eiji. Yeah, they’re talking how they would love to experience the other’s lives. I guess we got some free time that Eiji teaches him some basic Japanese. Was the bromance too good that they didn’t notice Lao’s men entering to shoot?! If not for Eiji’s quick reflex, Ash would have been gone. But Eiji gets some lead in his guts. This turns Ash into a monster as he guns them down mercilessly and continues to do so even when they’re dead! Eiji is glad Ash is safe before losing consciousness. There, you wanted to trade places. Now you got it. Having fun?

Episode 23
Eiji is taken to hospital and a frantic Ash wants to go with him, only to be stopped by Blanca. Ash is still stubborn but is told that by doing so, they will only link Eiji’s relationship to him and make him a criminal. Frustrated Ash calms down but he has no time to rest. He summons everyone for a rescue mission. Before that, Sing apologizes for his men’s betrayal and will take responsibility. This means a one on one fight with Ash after this is settled. Lao cannot accept this and runs his mouth. Sing punches him and that’s it for Lao. He calls it quits. Ash agrees to Sing’s demands seeing he had that determined death in his eyes. But inside Ash is breaking as he keeps worrying about Eiji. Since when is he religious and praying to God to take him instead of Eiji? Blanca returns to Yut Lung and is forced to listen to his tragic story. His father was the most powerful man for overseas Chinese. His mom, a poor street vendor became his mistress when she was just 10. He was 65 then. When Yut Lung was 6, father suddenly died. Yut Lung is forced to watch his brothers rape and kill his mother. Thus Yut Lung believes he has the right to hate. And so like Ash, they are just demons underneath a beautiful face. He wants to tell him that he cannot be saved. Not by something so fragile.

Blanca resigns from Yut Lung’s employment. Now it’s his turn to tell his story. During his time in his elite force, he lacked emotions until he met his wife, Natasha. The government opposed their marriage but it was the first time he defied them. When he was away on a Crimean mission, she was killed. A terrorist group claimed their doing but who knows it could be the government. That is why Blanca opposes Yut Lung from taking Eiji from Ash. He learnt to hate but not to love. One cannot be loved unless you love. At least Ash knows this. I guess resignation accepted. Just go to your freaking Ash. And so Blanca did and have him hire him as his ‘driver’. But before they head to the mental institution, Blanca takes him to the hospital to see Eiji one last time. Because cops come to check on him every midnight, he must make it quick. Ash sneaks in and is sad to see Eiji sleeping. He says goodbye but Eiji could recognize that voice and musters enough strength to wake and tell Eiji to go. What a teary goodbye. Outside the mental institution, Ash tells Blanca his plan. He collaborated with Jessica to leak data on Banana Fish to the media (because either way, he knows the hostages will be killed). Because of that, Dino is now forced to suspend activities as he goes into damage control mode. Dino orders Fox to guard the place and kill all the hostages and send it back to Ash. As Dino and his entourage leave, they are ambushed by Ash’s men. Dino is taken hostage by Ash. Fox sees this and tells Mannerheim to give all the research data and drug samples to him. Ash takes Dino back to the institute as a bargaining chip for the hostages’ release. But Fox confronts him and gives his answer: He shoots Dino!

Episode 24
Fox orders his men to plant bombs all over the facility before they make their getaway. However Ash manages to escape despite being anaesthetized. Fox orders the lockdown of the facility but looks like somebody overwrite it. Dino?! Oh Fox, you failed in your mercenary teaching to always make sure somebody is dead. Jenkins and Charlie see Eiji in hospital. They say that thanks to Max’s evidence, an official investigation on Club Cod will begin. Ash will not be charged as he is the victim and they’re here to hear his side of his story. Too bad Eiji doesn’t know where he is. Cain’s men are in a gunfight with the elites to rescue their comrades. But it is Jessica who is badass, diving in and making her shots count. Like wow WTF?! Only in American where divorced couples can find romance in danger and want to remarry again. Good for you, Max. Sing neutralizes a few guards escorting Mannerheim. The doctor runs off by himself and is unfortunate to become Ash’s hostage. However he is shot and killed by Fox. I thought this guy wanted to tame Ash because he sends a helicopter unit to fire like hell! Is he that confident Ash won’t die from this?! Thanks to Blanca being a great sniper, Ash can have his one on one fight with Fox. Fox stabs his shoulder but Ash conveniently grabs a power tool and drills into him. Because one of the dying elites set of the bombs early, this blows Sing off. Ash has to rush to save him and tells him to just drop the Banana Fish samples. Hollywood cliché but Ash making this mistake of not making sure his enemy is dead? Yeah, Fox tells him to drop the kid or else. It’s Ash’s lucky day as Dino shoots Fox in the head. I guess Dino knows everything is over for him. So he just falls into the sea of fire. Sing doesn’t understand why Ash saved him. Had they kill each other, somebody else would have profited from it. Let’s just end everything right here.

Next day, the White House issues an official apology in light of government officials buying young boys as sex toys. Sing confronts Yut Lung and pulls a gun on him. Yut Lung accepts his fate but Sing won’t kill him despite ranting how he trusted him not to betray their Chinese brothers by teaming up with Dino. He was just jealous of Ash being able to open up to Eiji. It’s time to move on. Things in Chinatown have gone so out of control that it isn’t safe anymore. He hopes they can bring order back. Ash sees Blanca who will leave for the Caribbean tomorrow. Ash is okay in not seeing Eiji off. He always knew he was always trouble to him but couldn’t accept it. He describes Eiji as a warm person, a kind and honest person who completes him. He considers him his friend and if they never meet again, at least he could think about him. When Sing visits Eiji, he realizes Ash hasn’t visited him. Eiji gives him a letter for Ash. But where to find him? He is sure he is at the library. Sing is mad that Ash didn’t see Eiji one last time. Ash doesn’t want to get him involved again. Sing is willing to be his messenger but no words from Ash. The usual gang see off Ibe and Eiji. The latter finds it sad that Ash didn’t come but at least his gang members are here. Sing lies to put Eiji at ease by telling Ash wishes him well. Ash reads the letter. It writes of the different worlds they live in. But he is glad to have come to America because he met him. He never felt scared of him the first time but rather he felt he was hurt. He has always thought of wanting to protect Ash from that loneliness he is drifting towards to. At this point I guess it made Ash want to rush to the airport but Lao stabs him! Instant karma as Ash shoots him dead. Ash returns to the library and ‘sleeps’. Finally he can ‘sleep’ with a smile. The last lines of the letter reads Eiji’s will always be with him and although he says goodbye to America, he won’t say goodbye to him yet. He believes they will meet again. The greatest friend he ever has. :’(.

Gangstas Of New York
Damn, that ending sure hit hard and it was a very bitter pill to swallow. Despite so, it was really a bittersweet ending. Ash and Eiji didn’t get their final bromance together and although I was really sad that Ash died in the end, it was the only way left for him. After all, he has already achieved what needed to be done and unless he wanted to go back to his thug life, I think in a way that would make Eiji sad. Therefore Ash’s fate has finally come full circle. You live by the sword, you die by the sword. The irony of Ash surviving so many near fatal wounds and this is how he goes out? It is sometimes the most least expected thing that kills you. And for Ash, that is when he let his guard down thinking about Eiji. It’s also sad to think that Eiji left with a wrong impression of Ash’s fate but it’s better for him to return to Japan with a positive thinking. Not much good will be done if Eiji goes back home crying and broken hearted. Maybe he’ll learn about that much later when the news reaches him. Hopefully he will be ready. And even if the tragic fate that the greatest bromance brothers friends can never see each other again, it is good to know that they will always be each other’s best friends, heart and soul.

The plot and pacing of the story are surprisingly interesting. Overall, I could say that there was never a dull moment while watching this. Sure, there are moments when it is slow and the showcasing of the bromance between Ash and Eiji that serves more for building the bond between them rather than some cheap yaoi stuff everyone else thought it was going to happen. From the discovery to the hallucinatory drug of Banana Fish to Ash fighting against Dino and his organization, the ultimate path of this story is Ash trying to find salvation and freedom in his tragic and fragile life. Seeing him going through that journey was an amazing ride thanks to good execution of the story.

At first it keeps us intrigues as to what Banana Fish is in the first place. But once it is revealed what it truly is, the story didn’t lose its momentum as it shifts to the struggles of Ash and Eiji and what they must do next. Hence the title of this series may ironically be prominent in the first half of the series and become some sort of an extra thrown into the back burner of our minds in the second half, but with other developments and potentials keeping our minds preoccupied, this super drug would be the least of our problems when so many other factors come into play.

Ash as the central character is one whom viewers will mainly root for. His character is given ample and a lot of screen time to develop and flesh out properly. At first Ash might look like an overpowered character (but without any super powers) because of his sharpshooting and very keen observation. Besides his good looks, he is also very intelligent and knowledgeable in just about everything. Not forgetting his personality that can range from being suave and charming to tough and determined gang leader. Everything about him is almost oh so perfect save for his tainted past. When you discover the atrocities that Ash had to go through since young and the need to survive, it makes all his ‘overpowered moves’ to seem more justifiable. That is why in a way Ash is a lot relatable to us than other fictional characters with superhuman powers. The struggles of an exploited young soul and the decisions he is forced to take to survive in this dog eat dog world all rings too familiar in this sad reality of ours. Too bad a lot of us aren’t as hot as him :)… :’(.

Ash always looks strong on the outside but inside he is fragile and breaking down and this shows the human side of him because those who don’t know him would have automatically labelled him as a monster. Many of us could relate this kind of character to somebody we know. Like our mothers. Always being the scary drill sergeant but deep down just a caring delicate soul. This double face is perhaps the best way for Ash to survive. The only way he could be a leader to his men, a post he never wanted to have and stuck with forever.

Eiji is not as prominent as Ash but he is both the glue and hammer that holds him together while at the same time that frees him from his shackles. Ironically he is also Ash’s strength and weakness. Hence many of the situations that they are caught in danger with can be attributed to Eiji. It is that dilemma situation of because of Eiji was there, it happened. And also because Eiji was there, things got to work out the way it should. Hence Eiji is truly a catch-22 situation for Ash. But I believe that Eiji’s presence has brought a lot more good to Ash than bad. Ash wouldn’t have been able to fight against the oppressed had not Eiji come into his life. Yes, they faced many dangers along the way but that is only expected when one is defying the norm and fighting for your own freedom.

On the same tragic side with Ash but on the opposite end of the polar is Yut Lung. Unlike Ash who seeks salvation, Yut Lung takes the path of destruction. It might be his way to fight from the shadows because his specialty is poisons, he doesn’t go head to head with Ash. Hence it might seem cowardly that he tries to target Eiji to get to Ash. Unfortunately for Yut Lung, Ash always manages to step a few steps ahead of him. That is why Ash is more successful than him in terms of survival. Not to say that Yut Lung isn’t a survivalist but since he inherited his wealth from the Lee clan, he thinks money gives him the power to control. It is true that Yut Lung too has a tragic tale of his own but he isn’t the only one. Hence he has this shallow thinking of what demons like them should act and do. That is why many of Ash’s actions take him by surprise like the time Ash didn’t hesitate to shoot himself when Yut Lung told him to despite the gun is not loaded. Ash was prepared to do what it takes in what he believes in. Can Yut Lung match that determination? That’s why Ash could ‘progress’.

Dino as the main antagonist is also a formidable one instead of some old fart who has power, money and influence and a taste for young boys. Sometimes I thought it was silly when both Ash and Dino were so close to finish each other off, they decide to put it on hold because it is not their ideal way of killing the other. Back to waiting for that other perfect chance. It might sound silly but I looked at it from another perspective. Dino had poured in so much effort to raise his ‘best son’ and he surely had doubts of just killing him like that. Even if Ash is already hell bent on going against him, Dino had all the power and resources to just end Ash’s life like that. But he couldn’t. Because of all the effort put in, he needs to get that ‘satisfaction’ and squeezing him to the last drop before Ash kicks the bucket. And I believe it’s the same for Ash. Not that he has hopes for Dino turning over a new leaf.

Even if Ash ends this quickly by killing Dino, he would not have the chance to expose his secret heinous experiments and thus the vicious cycle goes on. Bringing Dino himself down might be just short term and wouldn’t do anything good. That is why Ash went to great lengths to bring down his organization so that a repeat of creating future monsters will not happen. Otherwise with Dino just gone, another monster would just step in to replace him. Thus the vicious cycle repeating once more. That might happen seeing Dino too met his fate. Glad it wasn’t the aptly named scheming Fox too. Imagine trained elite forces getting owned by street gangs. All that greed for money and power must have really brought their downfall, huh?

I have not much to comment on the other characters but they do play their minor role albeit not much. Like Sing who feels pretty much underused and looks the part because he was thrusted as the Chinese’s leader in a short notice after Shorter’s death. It is to an extent true what Lao said about him becoming Ash’s dog but remember, he was the only one who saw how fearsome Ash could be. You really don’t want to make enemies out of this guy. Literally, Ash could have been America’s representation for shooting at the Olympics. He never misses. Never. Ever. Then there is Blanca who also looks like another overpowered character. Because if Ash who already looks overpowered and cannot best his mentor, what does this say? But instead of being the ruthless mercenary he once was, Blanca plays the voice of reasoning especially to Ash when his head gets clouded each time Eiji is unwittingly involved. Hence somebody like Blanca prevents Ash from making an irreversible mistake that would have ended their bromance a little too sooner.

Max and Ibe feel almost irrelevant in the second half. Though Max did do a few things to help out Ash, Ibe overall feels more like an excess baggage. He is just a setting for a reason why Eiji came to America. Call him a poor guardian because he reluctantly lets Eiji run all over the place but if Eiji is being this stubborn determined to save Ash, what else can he do? It must be one of those longest trips to America for a Japanese. Until Eiji resolves this matter with Ash, looks like they’re looking for an extended stay in America. Remember to extend the visas again. I never had hope for Jenkins and Charlie to be useful cops. Being on Ash’s side doesn’t make their character any good because they look more like useless cops and totally absent in the second half of the series.

There are many social issues tackled by this series that rings so much closer to home and reality because it is still prevalent today. Especially child trafficking, child pornography and drugs. It feels like as long humans exist, these will never end and will carry on forever. Because as long as there are corrupt politicians and the widening gap between the rich and poor, you bet that the latter will definitely be exploited. Money makes the world go round. Everyone has their dark secrets. Too bad a lot of old ugly men here are portrayed as paedophiles. And politics of course. What a dirty word that is today. In the case of street gangs, I guess it is for the sake of this series’ plot that white boys, black guys and the Chinese all come together to fight against the common oppressor. Where are the Latinos, dude?! Internal gang struggles don’t seem to play a big issue with Ash being such a badass that he should’ve been a politician and change the whole political system upside down. Not that I think Ash cares about America as a whole either.

You can’t have gangs and organized crimes without some sort of action. So to say the least, they are entertaining and also satisfying to see Ash gunning down his enemies although sometimes it can get a bit unrealistic because he goes on and on, wave after wave like as though his invincibility AKA God mode and unlimited ammo cheat code have been activated. Although there are lots of blood and deaths here, it is not as gory compared to say, Shingeki No Kyojin. It’s pretty mild to say the least. But this series isn’t shy in killing a lot of characters off. As shockingly early and young as Skip to the typical cliché of villains like Dino and Fox eventually meeting their demise at the end. Some I never expected such as Shorter (not at least on a short notice) and some receiving their just desserts (somehow I just really wanted Abraham and Kippard to just f*cking die). Sorry, no double lovers’ suicide for you fujoshi fans out there.

The art and animation don’t feel like your typical conventional Japanese anime. It is more realistic compared to those sparkling wide eyed anime characters. Sometimes it feels like an American production doing a joint venture with the Japanese to produce this ‘cartoon’. I would also like to give points for the detail of the background since there are details being given attention to that makes you feel that the setting is really in America rather than a Japanese version of what they think of America is like. Of course it is not exactly a masterpiece since there are some scenes that are considered low quality. At least during scenes when they focus on the drama in front and not wanting our eyes to wander to the backdrop behind. To say the least, at least the animation is fluid during scenes that matter. This anime is done by MAPPA who did Shingeki No Bahamut series, Kakegurui, Zombie Land Saga and Yuri On Ice.

Voice acting I only recognized Jun Fukuyama as Yut Lung and a very meek Rie Kugimiya making her short-lived cameo as Jennifer. I thought Max sounded so familiar and it took me a while that this is the voice of Sanji of One Piece (Hiroaki Hirata). Initially I was mistaken to think that Tomokazu Sugita was behind Arthur’s voice but it turned out to be Yoshimasa Hosoya (Reiner in Shingeki No Kyojin). Same case of mistaken identity to think that Sho Hayami was behind Blanca’s voice although it did sound a little off. It was Toshiyuki Morikawa instead (Julius in Black Clover). My condolences to Unshou Ishizuka as Dino because he passed away in August 2018 from esophageal cancer. Since Banana Fish ran its cour in the second half of 2018, I wonder if he recorded all his lines before succumbing. I thought they would be replacing him with a new voice (like how it was done in Tada-kun Wa Koi Wo Shinai). I may be mistaken because I have this perception that seiyuus lend their talents a week before the episode airs or at least do a few episodes worth of lines to save time. Otherwise how do you think long running shows like One Piece can go on forever? But I suppose it is easier for shows with 1 or 2 cours seeing that the script has been laid out and fixed assuming there are no unforeseen surprises.

Kudos to Yuuma Uchida (Edogai in Golden Kamuy) in bringing out the life and various moods in Ash that it makes his character really sound convincing. I want to say the same for Kenji Nojima as Eiji (Yuuto in High School DxD) but he sounds very gay and weak most of the time. Really. The other casts are Shouyo Chiba as Sing (Koutarou in Tsuki Ga Kirei), Kenyu Horiuchi as Fox (Kinemon in Once Piece), Kenta Miyake as Blood (All Might in Boku No Hero Academia), Rica Fukami as Jessica (Sailor Venus in Sailormoon), Yasumichi Kushida as Kippard, Takashi Nagasako as Meredith (Gale in Soul Link), Makoto Furukawa as Shorter (Banri in Golden Time), Shinji Kawada as Ibe (Shino in Naruto), Souma Saitou as Lao (Utsumi in SSSS.Gridman), Yuu Hayashi as Abraham (Michizou Tachihara in Bungo Stray Dogs), Hidenari Ugaki as Alexis, Shuuhei Sakaguchi as Hua Lung (Kawachi in Yakitate! Japan) and Hisao Egawa as Wang Lung (Saigou in Gintama).

The opening and ending themes have this feel like they are songs from America bands. I know the world has integrated so much into a melting pot that it’s hard to tell but my first impression in hearing these songs is that they aren’t your typical Japanese anime pop or rock. The first opening theme, Found & Lost by Survive Said The Prophet is a total hard punk rock piece with all that typical insane screaming vocals. Hearing this song somewhat reminds me of Linkin Park. Or at least this is the kind of song that the American rock band would sing. The second opening theme, Freedom by Blue Encount is also a rock outfit but it feels a lot more toned down than the first one. The first ending theme, Prayer X by King Gnu has some hip hop elements in it although it is more of a slow one. It sounds fitting when you think about the state of Ash’s mind. Honestly, I prefer this one compared to the second ending theme, Red by Survive Said The Prophet. Though this slow rock is also fitting in terms of Ash’s state of mind, but hearing this piece sometimes make me feel I’m listening to some cult song because of that weird chorus vocals. And some of the lines sound weird too.

Overall, this is one of those animes that shouldn’t be judged by its promotional poster and synopsis. AKA the age old adage of don’t judge a book by its cover. It is surprisingly interesting and entertaining despite many of its unsavoury themes like drugs and child pornography. The bromance between the 2 main characters might look like clickbait for some yaoi moments but it is a good thing that those remain as delusions in our heads (except for that prison kiss that would most likely be the most yaoi you’ll ever see). It’s not a gay story (thank goodness) but a story of 2 guys rather. A story of revenge and redemption amidst the corruption and politics. If you like animes with an interesting story, tragedy and badass stuffs, don’t brush this one aside. After all, bananas and fish are good for you because they are filled with potassium and omega-3 acid respectively. Better this than drugs. And remember people, don’t do drugs.