Banana Fish 5-6 by Akimi Yoshida: A-

I’ve always been intrigued by Ash Lynx, the lead character in Banana Fish, but suddenly I feel like I understand him so much better after reading these two volumes.

We begin with Ash and friends still in Los Angeles at the home of Dr. Alexis Dawson, one of the creators of Banana Fish. When Ash and Max are drawn away by a threat against Max’s family, Chinese mafia member Yut-Lung exorcises his influence over Ash’s friend, Shorter, and kidnaps Eiji, taking him back to New York to become Papa Golzine’s new plaything. Of course, the beautiful Yut-Lung is immediately turned into a tool by his own brother, who sends him as a gift for Golzine with the expectation that he’ll also act as spy.

Ash is captured soon thereafter—though not before Alexis Dawson can conveniently return and explain all about the origins of Banana Fish—and everyone reunites at Golzine’s mansion, where the true capabilities of the drug are demonstrated when Shorter, under the influence of Banana Fish, is compelled to attack Eiji, which in turn causes Ash to kill one friend to save another. Yut-Lung, once he sees how horrible Banana Fish truly is, helps Ash escape, leading to an incredibly awesome sequence where Ash raids the armory, gets Eiji and the others to safety, then returns for Shorter’s body and vengeance upon Dr. Abraham Dawson.

There’s really a ton of plot in these two volumes but what stands out to me the most are some amazing scenes involving Ash. I love, for example, how he cries over Shorter’s fate and in sympathy for what’s happening (or going to happen) to those he cares about. It really shows that, though he’s tough and brilliant, and has suffered and been mistreated, he’s not too damaged to love others. I love that so much of what he feels for Eiji is conveyed in simple looks, because there’s not enough time for words. I love that he looks a little confused that Eiji values him so much. And I love how he ignores the pleading of Abraham Dawson and simply empties his gun into the man who is, in a way, ultimately responsible for much of the misery that is Ash’s life.

It’s pretty impressive that Yoshida is not only able to show more facets of her lead character, but also move the plot along significantly, resolving the mystery of Banana Fish, setting up some of its possible ramifications, and blowing wide the scope of the story by showing that the White House and the US military are in cahoots with Papa Golzine.

It seems that the story is going to get a lot bigger than I was expecting—Ash versus the government?—but like his gang, with whom he’s finally reunited, I have faith that he’s going to survive, one way or another.

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  1. I love that he looks a little confused that Eiji values him so much.

    What a great observation. And thus, I love YOU. 😀

  2. Eric Henwood-Greer says

    I just discovered that you were doing write ups on the individual vols of Banana Fish—which is great for me as I just started reading the series through, for a second time. Without any sort of spoilers, what has stuck with me (and has it ever) about the series are small moments, and emotions from it—the actual twisty (and addictive) plot, hasn’t really at all, so it’s fun to read it all over again.

    Anyway, I hope I can follow along with you guys—there’s so little English press on this title (I remember for a long time I worried Viz would just drop it all together—though it annoys me that they never did the final vol with the side stories).

    It’s probably my all time fave “long” (ie over ten vols) manga published in English (well, maybe with Nana or PSMEarth), and I honestly would rank Akimi Yoshida right up there just below the great “49ers” like Moto Hagio, who so strongly inspired her. I wish we’d see some of her other work (Lovers’ Kiss anyone?) in English. But anyway—great to spread the Banana Fish love!

    • Thanks for the comment, Eric! I love what you said about the emotions and small moments staying with you but the intricacies of the plot fading over time. I’m sure Melinda (leader of the Banana Fish roundtable) would agree with you whole-heartedly on that one.

      I came to the series after VIZ had already finished it, but I must say they really are good at finishing long series, even if they don’t sell particularly well. I bet Basara and Red River weren’t huge earners, for example, but both made it to the end. Perhaps the success of the Shonen Jump titles makes that possible.

      And, since we are talking about awesome shoujo manga, I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend Basara to you, since it’s my favorite. 🙂

  3. Eric Henwood-Greer says

    I’ll have to check out the roundtable—I’m kinda new to all this, so just excited at what I can find (especially since I know no one who’s even bothered reading Banana Fish, among my other titles, in person).

    I guess some early vols of Banana Fish are out of print—recently I wanted to replace my first 6 vols which were the old ’90s left to right editions, right the right to left ones, and saw that vols 2 and 3 of the new editions sell for a LOT on amazon marketplace. Oh well—at least I have the earlier ones.

    You’re right about Viz being pretty good at it—I think part of the problem was they launched BF back in the nineties when they’d release 2 vols a year—then it was put on hold before they decided to relaunch it in the new format—I really had given up hope of it ever coming back (and 2 vols a year, in itself, was pretty agonizingly slow).

    And I *love* Basara—I actually started reading it ten or so years back in French… Great taste 😉

    • I am envious of your ability to read manga in French! I recently bought Rose of Versailles in that language, but haven’t attempted it yet. I need to buy more of Mitsuru Adachi’s Touch in French, but I still keep holding out hope that will appear in English one day, since his Cross Game has been licensed.

  4. Eric Henwood-Greer says

    And feel free to email me directly—but where is the roundtable *clueless*


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