Banana Fish is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Akimi Yoshida. Serialized in Shōjo Comic from 1985 to 1994 and adapted into an anime television series in 2018, the series follows Ash Lynx, a teenaged gang leader in New York City. It takes its name from the J.D. Salinger short story "A Perfect Day for Bananafish."
Volume 1 cover, featuring Ash Lynx
|Written by||Akimi Yoshida|
|Magazine||Bessatsu Shōjo Comic|
|Original run||May 1985 – April 1994|
|Anime television series|
|Directed by||Hiroko Utsumi|
|Written by||Hiroshi Seko|
|Music by||Shinichi Osawa|
|Licensed by||Amazon Video|
|Original network||Fuji TV (noitaminA)|
|Original run||July 5, 2018 – December 20, 2018|
The main story of Banana Fish consists of six parts, published across 19 volumes:
- "Prologue" (volume 1)
- "The Mystery of Banana Fish" (volumes 1–6)
- "Ash's Counterattack" (volumes 7–11)
- "The Return of Golzine" (volumes 12–14)
- "The Final Battle" (volumes 15–18)
- "Epilogue" (volumes 18–19)
Part 1: PrologueEdit
During the Vietnam War in 1973, American soldier Griffin Callenreese fires on his own squadron in a dazed frenzy. He is subdued when Max Glenreed, a friend and fellow soldier, shoots him in the legs; as Griffin collapses, he speaks the words "banana fish".
Part 2: The Mystery of Banana FishEdit
Twelve years later, Griffin — now severely mentally handicapped — is cared for by his younger brother Ash, the leader of a gang of street kids in New York City. One night, Ash encounters a mortally wounded man who gives him a vial of an unknown substance and an address in California; the man utters the words "banana fish" before dying.
Ash begins to investigate "banana fish", though he is impeded by Dino Golzine, a Corsican mob boss who had groomed Ash as a sex slave and heir to his criminal empire. In the course of his investigation, Ash acquires several allies: Eiji Okumura and Shunichi Ibe, who have travelled from Japan to report on street gangs; Shorter Wong, a gang leader who controls Chinatown; and Max Glenreed, whom Ash encounters in prison while detained on a false murder charge. When Griffin is shot and killed in a fight with Golzine's men, the group sets out to solve the mystery of "banana fish" together.
Ash and his allies travel to the address in California, finding a mansion occupied by a man revealed to be Yut-Lung Lee, the youngest son of China's largest crime family. They later encounter the home's true occupant, a doctor who informs them that "banana fish" is an untraceable drug that brainwashes its users. Golzine intends to sell the drug to the United States government, which seeks to use it to overthrow communist governments in South America. The group is subsequently captured by Golzine's men, who inject Shorter with banana fish and instruct him to kill Eiji. When Shorter begs Ash to kill him in a moment of lucidity, Ash fatally shoots him.
Part 3: Ash's counterattackEdit
The group, with assistance from Ash and Shorter's gangs, escape Golzine's compound. Ash uses stock manipulation to destroy the value of Golzine's legitimate businesses and withdraws $50 million from their accounts, making Golzine appear to have embezzled the money. Golzine is forced to leave the United States to answer to his superiors in France.
In the power vacuum created by Golzine's absence, Ash secures promises of neutrality from Cain Blood, the boss of Harlem's street gangs, and Sing Soo-Ling, who has taken over the Chinatown gang. He begins to methodically take out the Corsican-affiliated street gangs, emerging victorious, but gravely wounded in a final battle. He is placed in a psychiatric facility for treatment, which is revealed to be funded by the Unione Corse, who fake Ash's death so they may use him as a test subject to observe the effects of banana fish on a live brain. Ash is able to escape from the facility, just as Golzine returns from Europe to reassert control of the Corsican mob.
Part 4: The return of GolzineEdit
Yut-Lung, having used banana fish to put his older brother in a vegetative state, enters into an alliance with Golzine. Yut-Lung eliminates Golzine's co-conspirators in the banana fish project, while Golzine eliminates the other members of the Lee family syndicate, making the two men the de facto leaders of the Corsican and Chinese mobs.
Golzine and Yut-Lung contract Blanca, a retired assassin who trained Ash, and threaten to kill Eiji unless Ash returns to Golzine and ends his investigation of banana fish. Ash agrees to their terms, accepting that he cannot defeat Blanca, and is reunited with Golzine as his advisor and legally adopted son. At a party thrown by Golzine, Ash is rescued by Eiji, with the support of Sing, Cain, and Ash's gangs.
Part 5: The final battleEdit
Ash retreats to the American Museum of Natural History, though Eiji and multiple members of Ash's gang are captured in the ensuing chase. Ash captures Yut-Lung and releases him in return for the freedom of the hostages.
Ash and his allies later repel an assault by Eduardo Foxx, a mercenary hired by Golzine, though multiple members of their gang are captured. The group tracks the prisoners to the psychiatric facility where Ash was previously imprisoned. In a climactic battle, Foxx and Golzine are killed, and all evidence of the banana fish project is destroyed.
Part 6: EpilogueEdit
Sing convinces Yut-Lung to end his pursuit of Eiji and Ash. The two agree to work together to reassert control of Chinatown.
Ash, wracked with guilt over the violence to which he has exposed Eiji, ceases contact with him. Eiji and Ibe return to Japan, though just before his departure, Eiji entrusts a letter for Ash to Sing. In the letter, Eiji says that while he understands why they can no longer see each other, "my soul is always with you." While distracted by the letter, Ash is stabbed by Lao Yen-Thai, Sing's lieutenant, who never forgave Ash for killing Shorter Wong. Ash dies, smiling and clutching Eiji's letter.
- Ash Lynx (アッシュ・リンクス Asshu Rinkusu)
- Voiced by: Yuuma Uchida
- The alias of Aslan Jade Callenreese (アスラン・ジェイド・カーレンリース Asuran Jeido Kārenrīsu), a seventeen-year-old leader of a gang of teenagers in New York City. Formerly a sex slave, enforcer, and heir to the criminal empire of Dino Golzine, Ash joined the mob at the age of seven after running away from his home in Cape Cod. Ash breaks from Golzine to solve the mystery of "banana fish," which drove his brother to insanity in Vietnam. Ash commands extraordinary intellect, charisma, and tactical foresight, in addition to being an expert marksman and knife fighter. His physical appearance is based on Stefan Edberg and, as the series progresses, River Phoenix.
- Eiji Okumura (奥村 英二 Okumura Eiji)
- Voiced by: Kenji Nojima
- A nineteen-year-old Japanese college student and former competitive pole vaulter, Eiji was forced into early retirement due to injury, and now works as Ibe's assistant. He travels to New York to complete a report on street gangs, where he becomes a close confidant to Ash. Eiji is kind and gentle, though frequently stubborn and naïve. Ash's deep love for Eiji is frequently exploited by his enemies, who correctly intuit that Ash's willingness to sacrifice himself to protect Eiji is his sole weakness. Eiji's appearance is based on the actor Hironobu Nomura.
Ash's and Eiji's affiliatesEdit
- Shunichi Ibe (伊部 俊一 Ibe Shun'ichi)
- Voiced by: Shinji Kawada
- A Japanese photojournalist who comes to New York City to do a report on street gangs.
- Max Lobo (マックス・ロボ Makkusu Robo)
- Voiced by: Hiroaki Hirata
- The alias of Max Glenreed (マックス・グレンリード Makkusu Gurenrīdo). A Vietnam War veteran, freelance journalist, and former New York City Police Department officer. Deployed in the same platoon as Ash's older brother Griffin, Ash initially blames Max for his brother's mental illness, though he later becomes one of Ash's closest confidants in his investigation of banana fish. His physical appearance is based on Harrison Ford.
- Griffin Callenreese (グリフィン・カーレンリース Gurifin Kārenrīsu)
- Voiced by: Kazuhiro Fusegawa
- Ash's older brother. A veteran of the Vietnam War, Griffin became severely mentally handicapped after being used as a test subject for banana fish. Later killed in the crossfire of a confrontation with Golzine's men.
- Alexis Dawson (アレクシス・ドースン Arekushisu Dōsun)
- Voiced by: Hidenari Ugaki
- A pathologist at the University of California. As a student, he and his brother Abraham accidentally created banana fish while attempting to synthesize LSD.
- Jessica Randy (ジェシカ・ランディ Jeshika Randi)
- Voiced by: Rica Fukami
- A journalist and Max's ex-wife. Jessica takes Ash's group in during their investigation of banana fish, and later joins the group for their final battle against Golzine. She and Max reconcile their relationship towards the end of the series.
- "Papa" Dino Golzine (ディノ・ゴルツィネ Dino Gorutsine)
- Voiced by: Unshō Ishizuka
- A kingpin in Unione Corse who aims to expand his power by selling banana fish to the United States government. Ash's former patron and later adopted father, he has groomed Ash since he was a child to be his sex slave and heir to his criminal empire.
- Frederick Arthur (フレデリック・オーサー Furederikku Ōsā)
- Voiced by: Yoshimasa Hosoya
- A vindictive and cruel ex-member of Ash's street gang, who allies himself with Golzine in order to usurp Ash.
- Abraham Dawson (エイブラハム・ドースン Eiburahamu Dōson)
- Voiced by: Yū Hayashi
- The younger brother of Alexis, who defied his brother's wishes to destroy banana fish, and continues to develop and weaponize the drug for the Corsican mob into his adulthood. As a doctor during the Vietnam War, he tested banana fish on unknowing soldiers, including Griffin.
- Mannerheim (マナーハイム Manāhaimu)
- The director of a federal mental health facility secretly funded by the Union Corse, who experiments on violent criminals to observe the effects of banana fish.
- Blanca (ブランカ Buranka)
- Voiced by: Toshiyuki Morikawa
- The alias of Sergei Varishkov, a Kazakh assassin and former KGB lieutenant who defected from the Soviet Union after his wife, a political dissenter, is murdered. Prior to the events of the series, he is employed by Golzine to train Ash to become Golzine's heir. He subsequently retires to the Caribbean but is called out of retirement by Golzine to capture Ash. A highly effective killer who dutifully carries out any contract he is hired for, he is hired by Yut-Lung to murder Eiji, but refuses to do so and defects to Ash's gang.
- Eduardo L. Fox (エドアルド・L・フォックス Edoarudo L Fokkusu)
- Voiced by: Kenyu Horiuchi
- A sadistic mercenary and former member of the French Foreign Legion, hired by Golzine to capture Ash.
- Yut-Lung Lee (
- Voiced by: Jun Fukuyama
- The youngest son of the Lee family, the largest crime family in China. Possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of herbs and poisons, he allies with Golzine to determine the chemical composition of banana fish. Yut-Lung possesses a deep grudge towards his brothers, who raped and murdered his concubine mother, and eventually violently deposes them. He is hostile towards Ash and Eiji and frequently attempts to capture and murder the latter.
- Shorter Wong (ショーター・ウォン Shōtā Won)
- Voiced by: Makoto Furukawa
- A Chinese American gang leader who controls Chinatown. A close friend and ally to Ash, the two met while in juvenile prison together. Shorter is sociable and gregarious, in contrast to Ash's stoicism. He is injected with banana fish by Golzine's men and ordered to kill Eiji, though he is able to ask Ash to kill him before he is able to do so.
- Sing Soo-Ling (シン・スウ・リン Shin Sū Rin)
- Voiced by: Shōya Chiba
- A fourteen-year-old Chinese American boy who assumes control of the Chinatown gang upon Shorter's death. He becomes a reluctant ally to Ash, after initially blaming him for Shorter's death. Though outwardly child-like and carefree, he is a skilled tactician and leader.
- Lao Yen-Thai (ラオ・イェン・タイ Rao Yen Tai)
- Voiced by: Sōma Saitō
- Sing's half-brother. Though Sing forgives Ash for killing Shorter, Lao continues to distrust him and resents Sing's deference to Ash in the ongoing gang war. In the final scene of the story, Lao stabs and kills Ash.
- Alex (アレックス Arekkusu)
- Voiced by: Haruki Ishiya
- The second-in-command in Ash's gang.
- Skip (スキップ Sukippu)
- Voiced by: Ayumu Murase
- An African-American boy, and member of Ash's gang. Killed in a confrontation with Golzine's men.
- Bones (ボーンズ Bōnzu)
- Voiced by: Masato Niwa
- A lieutenant in Ash's gang assigned to protect Eiji.
- Kong (コング Kongu)
- Voiced by: Takahiro Sumi
- A lieutenant in Ash's gang assigned to protect Eiji.
- Cain Blood (ケイン・ブラッド Kein Buraddo)
- Voiced by: Kenta Miyake
- The leader of Black Sabbath, an African American gang that controls Harlem. Though initially neutral, he later allies with Ash in his battles against Arthur and Golzine.
New York City Police DepartmentEdit
- Jenkins (ジェンキンズ Jenkinzu)
- Voiced by: Mitsuru Ogata
- A diabetic homicide detective assigned to investigate deaths caused by banana fish.
Banana Fish was first published in May 1985 in a supplementary issue of Shōjo Comic, and ran until April 1994. The series was collected in Japan as nineteen tankōbon and eleven bunkobon published by Shogakukan, who also published an official art book titled Angel Eyes, as well as Rebirth: The Banana Fish Official Guidebook.
North American publisher VIZ Media licensed two editions of an English-language translation. The first, published from 1999 to 2002 and spanning the first seven volumes, features flipped artwork and censors some expletives. The second, published from 2004 to 2007 and spanning the full 19 volumes, is printed in the original right-to-left format and includes a re-translated script. The series was additionally printed in both of Viz's now defunct manga magazines, Pulp and Animerica Extra. In 2018, shortly after the release of the anime adaption of Banana Fish, Viz announced plans to reprint the series.
|No.||Japanese release date||Japanese ISBN||English release date||English ISBN|
|1||December 15, 1986||ISBN 4-09-132451-7||January 8, 1999 (original release)|
March 3, 2004 (re-release)
|ISBN 978-1569313206 (original release)|
ISBN 978-1569319727 (re-release)
|2||January 26, 1987||ISBN 4-09-132452-5||May 6, 1999 (original release)|
May 5, 2004 (re-release)
|ISBN 978-1569313695 (original release)|
ISBN 978-1569319734 (re-release)
|3||March 26, 1987||ISBN 4-09-132453-3||December 8, 1999 (original release)|
August 17, 2004 (re-release)
|ISBN 978-1569314388 (original release)|
ISBN 978-1591161066 (re-release)
|4||June 26, 1987||ISBN 4-09-132454-1||March 8, 2001 (original release)|
October 19, 2004 (re-release)
|ISBN 978-1569315446 (original release)|
ISBN 978-1591161332 (re-release)
|5||November 26, 1987||ISBN 4-09-132455-X||January 9, 2002 (original release)|
December 14, 2004 (re-release)
|ISBN 9781569316733 (original release)|
ISBN 978-1591164173 (re-release)
|6||May 26, 1988||ISBN 4-09-132456-8||February 13, 2002(original release)|
January 28, 2005 (re-release)
|ISBN 978-1569316955 (original release)|
ISBN 9781591164180 (re-release)
|7||December 15, 1988||ISBN 4-09-132457-6||November 13, 2002 (original release)|
April 19, 2005 (re-release)
|ISBN 978-1569318430 (original release)|
ISBN 978-1591164197 (re-release)
|8||July 26, 1989||ISBN 4-09-132458-4||June 7, 2005||ISBN 978-1591164203|
|9||October 26, 1989||ISBN 4-09-132459-2||August 24, 2005||ISBN 978-1591168638|
|10||July 26, 1990||ISBN 4-09-132460-6||October 11, 2005||ISBN 978-1421500485|
|11||October 26, 1990||ISBN 4-09-133531-4||December 13, 2005||ISBN 978-1421501345|
|12||April 25, 1991||ISBN 4-09-133532-2||February 7, 2006||ISBN 978-1421502601|
|13||October 26, 1991||ISBN 4-09-133533-0||April 11, 2006||ISBN 978-1421503905|
|14||May 26, 1992||ISBN 4-09-133534-9||June 13, 2006||ISBN 978-1421505244|
|15||October 26, 1992||ISBN 4-09-133535-7||August 8, 2006||ISBN 978-1421505251|
|16||April 26, 1993||ISBN 4-09-133536-5||October 10, 2006||ISBN 978-1421505268|
|17||October 26, 1993||ISBN 4-09-133537-3||January 11, 2007||ISBN 978-1435222939|
|18||March 26, 1994||ISBN 4-09-133538-1||February 13, 2007||ISBN 978-1421508764|
|19||September 26, 1994||ISBN 4-09-133539-X||April 10, 2007||ISBN 978-1421508771|
A total of five side stories were published. In Japan, these stories were collected in a single bunkobon titled Another Story, while the 19th volume of the VIZ Media English-language translation includes Angel Eyes and Garden of Light.
Fly Boy in the SkyEdit
Originally published in 1984 — a year before Banana Fish was first published — Fly Boy in the Sky tells the story of how Ibe and Eiji met. During a high jump competition, Eiji attempts and fails a complicated jump. Ibe, watching a televised broadcast, is impressed by the performance but notices that Eiji appears to be depressed. Ibe seeks out Eiji to interview him, and to photograph his jumps for an exhibit.
During the interview, Eiji opens up about how he has fallen into a professional slump. When Ibe asks Eiji about why he looks sad when he competes, he responds that it is because he feels nothing when he jumps. Upon viewing the photos Ibe has taken of Eiji's jump, both men observe that what Eiji is really feeling is a sense of weightlessness; Ibe remarks that the bliss on Eiji's face looks like a "home run ball up in the sky."
A comedic fourth wall-breaking story, where Ash and Eiji discuss fan mail the series has received with creator Akimi Yoshida.
A prequel that tells the story of how Blanca and Ash met. Golzine, seeking a private tutor to break Ash's rebellious streak, blackmails Blanca into taking Ash under his tutelage. Initially, Blanca is convinced that Ash is too violent and unruly to be trained. When he encounters Ash after he has been beaten and sexually assaulted by one of Golzine's men, Blanca decides that he will protect Ash by teaching him how to fight. Blanca concludes that Ash's ruthless streak stems from having been deprived of love and that only through finding love will his true potential be unlocked.
A prequel that tells the story of how Ash and Shorter Wong met. Ash is admitted to juvenile prison when Golzine refuses to post his bail, where he is made cellmates with Shorter. Shortly after Ash's arrival, rumors begin to circulate that Arthur has placed an assassin in the prison. Shorter suspects the assassin to be Ash, after observing him single-handedly fighting off Ricardo and Frankie, two prisoners seemingly targeting Ash for prison rape. Ash tells Shorter that he knew Frankie was an assassin sent by Arthur to kill him; knowing that being under the protection of another inmate would complicate any attempt on his life, Ash had sex with Ricardo to force Frankie to make a move. When Shorter tells Ash that his manipulation makes him no better than the people he hates, Ash lashes out, though the incident prompts him to open up to Shorter. When Shorter is released from prison several months later, Ash happily bids him goodbye as a friend; Shorter notes that it was the first time that he ever saw Ash laugh and that Ash's face when he smiled was "angelic."
Garden of LightEdit
A postscript set seven years the events of Banana Fish, Garden of Light follows Akira Ibe, the niece of Shunichi Ibe, as she visits New York City. She stays with Eiji, now an accomplished photographer living in Greenwich Village, as he prepares for a major gallery show. Eiji has remained close friends with Sing, now a student at CUNY who continues to run the Chinese mafia with Yut-Lung. While viewing Eiji's photo albums, Akira notes that there are multiple missing pictures marked with the letter "A". Akira learns that these are photos of Ash, and is told the story of Ash's death and his relationship with Eiji. Eiji takes his photographs of Ash out of storage and places a portrait of Ash in his gallery show.
Banana Fish was adapted into a 24-episode anime series produced by MAPPA and directed by Hiroko Utsumi, which aired on Fuji TV's Noitamina programming block and Amazon Prime Video from July 5 to December 20, 2018. The series was produced as a part of a commemoration project to mark the 40th anniversary of Yoshida's debut as a manga artist. The adaption revises the setting of the series from the 1980s to the present day, adding modern references such as smartphones, and substituting the Vietnam War with the Iraq War.
A novelization of Banana Fish written by Endou Aki was published in 1998 by KSS Comic Novels. Titled Banana Fish: Memoir of Max Lobo, the four-volume series tells the story of the manga from Max's perspective.
A theatrical adaptation of Banana Fish, directed by Akira Furukawa and with a script by Kanno Shintaro, was produced in 2012 by the theatre company EXILE.
Reception and legacyEdit
Banana Fish has received critical and commercial acclaim, and has sold over 11 million copies. In a "Fifty Best Manga" poll conducted by the magazine Comic Link in 1998, Banana Fish was ranked first.
While published and marketed as a shōjo (girls') manga, Banana Fish's dense plot, heavy dialogue, and extensive action sequences led it to attract a sizeable male and adult female fanbase. When syndicated in the North American magazine Pulp, it was marketed as a seinen (young adult men) series. Frederik L. Schodt identifies Banana Fish as "one of the few girls' manga a red-blooded Japanese male adult could admit to reading without blushing. Yoshida, while adhering to the conventions of girls' comics in her emphasis on gay male love, made this possible by eschewing flowers and bug eyes in favor of tight bold strokes, action scenes, and speed lines."
Depiction of homosexualityEdit
Banana Fish is regarded as an influential work in the boy's love genre, and is frequently categorized as such. Though the central relationship between Ash and Eiji is never depicted as overtly romantic or sexual, the series has been praised by Schodt for its positive depiction of same-sex relationships. Ash and Eiji's romantic friendship was described by Carl Gustav Horn, an editor on the English language translation of Banana Fish:
There's nothing wrong with manga that make eroticism and teasing their focus, but if you want to make character and narrative your focus, I think you have to show some self-discipline as a creator. If you do so, you may also achieve more profound effects than if you just went for the fan service and easy thrills. I think some Banana Fish fans would argue that Ash and Eiji's relationship ends up being much more romantic because Yoshida places the emphasis on the struggles they face together, not the snuggles.
Male-male sex in the series is limited exclusively to acts of sexual violence and rape, though critics have commended the series' depiction of rape as universally negative and traumatic, contrasting the common theme of rape fantasy in yaoi.
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- Banana Fish, Volume 19, pp. 162–163, ISBN 142150877X. Akira: Was this Ash person Okumura-san's, uh ... well, lover? Sing: He was more than that. Which doesn't mean their relationship was sexual because it wasn't. But they did love each other ... maybe the way lovers do.
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