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Breaking Down Banana Fish, Vols. 14-16

Hello and welcome once again to our roundtable, Breaking Down Banana Fish!

We continue this month with our new three-volume format, and with just six volumes left to discuss, that means we’ll have the entire series covered by the end of our May installment.

Volumes fourteen through sixteen are action-packed, as Eiji and the others manage to (mostly) pull off their ambitious rescue operation, followed by a declaration of war by Golzine that places all three of our major gangs at the center of a military-style siege. Meanwhile, Yut-Lung declares a war of his own with assassin Blanca on board as his bodyguard.

I’m joined again in this round by Michelle Smith (Soliloquy in Blue), Khursten Santos (Otaku Champloo), Connie C. (Slightly Biased Manga), Eva Volin (Good Comics For Kids), and Robin Brenner (No Flying, No Tights).

Continued thanks to these wonderful women for their hard work and brilliance!

Read our roundtable on volumes one and two here, volumes three and four here, volumes five and six here, volumes seven and eight here, volumes nine and ten here, and volumes eleven through thirteen here. On to part seven!

Breaking Down Banana Fish, Vols. 14-16

MELINDA: There are a few things I find striking in all this, but I’ll begin with just one. Back in volumes seven and eight, we watched Ash wage a war against Arthur and his gang that really crossed a line. He hunted Arthur’s guys mercilessly, executing them in cold blood, even when they threw away their weapons and begged for their lives. Though these were teen boys just like him, each probably with his own troubled past, he took them out coldly, one by one. His actions were fueled by deep pain and vengeance, and though Yoshida took care not to damage the character with readers, there’s no doubt that she’s led him down an increasingly dark path that’s pretty hard to come back from.

In volume sixteen, Golzine hires mercenaries to hunt down Ash and his associates, beginning with peripheral gangs who couldn’t even see it coming, then moving in closer to Ash’s core group. They’re highly skilled and completely brutal, and though Yoshida is careful to draw a line between their sick love of killing and Ash’s reluctant fight for survival, on the surface of it, there is some uncomfortable similarity. Motives aside, in both cases we see someone very skilled taking out scores of teens who never had a fighting chance.

How well do you think Yoshida handles these complex shades of gray? Do you think she fully acknowledges them, or is she working against herself on some level, trying to tell a black-and-white tale in the very gray world she’s built?

ROBIN: I do think that Yoshida succeeds in distinguishing everyone’s motives for killing. Ash may be mercenary and vicious, but he is reacting to what has been brought to his doorstep. This doesn’t necessarily make any less of a cold-blooded killer but the fact that he doesn’t enjoy killing keeps him from being unsympathetic or irredeemable. The real villains are those who enjoy killing for its own sake, and indeed relish the opportunity to kill, something that Ash has never done.

Blanca is the only ostensible villain who is not a sadist or sociopath. I’ve warmed to his character over these volumes because at this point the “Papa Dino sends yet another matchless killer after Ash only to be outmatched by Ash’s superior brain/strategy/skillz” is rather tired. Blanca, on the other hand, is sympathetic, honorable, and smart enough to match Ash. A worthy adversary, if you will. There’s a part of me that wants Ash to just run away with Blanca at the end and go shoot tin cans with epic precision on some Mediterranean island, just because it feels like that’s the only way Ash would ever get any peace!

MICHELLE: I’ve warmed to Blanca a lot, myself, which has come as some surprise.

I’m not sure that Yoshida is fully acknowledging Ash’s similarities to these mercenaries—there’s just the one panel where he talks about his own killing being involuntary—unless she’s doing so by the many scenes showing how his tactical mind is similar to a soldier’s. One thing that I find a little disturbing in my own reaction is that every time Ash shoots a merc with deadly accuracy I give a little internal cheer. I am choosing to avoid scrutinizing what that says about me.

ROBIN: I’m with you Michelle, in both giving a wee cheer when Ash takes someone out and in not thinking too deeply about that reaction. I think that also speaks to Yoshida’s increasingly awesome mastery of action sequences in terms of pacing, editing, and using it as an excuse to show feats of marksmanship. It’s competency porn! Is there anything more hot than someone being supremely competent?

MICHELLE: Haha! It totally is competency porn! You’re right about the action, too. It’s riveting and exciting and challenges the conventions of what shoujo manga is presumed to be. Even though I haven’t got a lot to say about these volumes, I still enjoyed them very much.

MELINDA: I actually think that a weakness of Yoshida’s here is that she avoids thinking about her own reactions and motivations as well. That line you reference, Michelle, “I stay right at home, and I don’t wanna kill anybody in the first place, and I got people making me do it all the time,” strikes me as a bit of a cop-out. She wants to make sure she’s kept Ash in the clear, but I think she’s cheated the character that way. I think Ash would be thinking deeply about this stuff, and that remark feels like an excuse he’d never actually make for himself.

On the other hand, I’m definitely with both of you and the allure of both competency porn and (surprisingly) Blanca in these volumes!

EVA: What you all said. To some extent I’ve turned my brain off while reading these volumes, which has helped me cope with some of the violence and general anti-logic craziness that Yoshida has created for her characters to deal with. (Robin reminded me of Shaenon Garrity’s OMF article on Banana Fish, in which Shaenon reminds us that the story is taking place in “New York” and not in New York — this helped a lot, too.)

As much as I disliked Blanca in the previous chapters, I’m now finding his general attitude of amusement at everyone’s reaction to Ash’s Extreme Competence to be quite entertaining. Although he ostensibly works for Yut-Lung, what he’s really doing is playing a lethal game of chess with Ash. Who can out-think whom first? Golzine and Foxx may think they’re in charge, but really, not so much.

The character I’m finding to be surprisingly irredeemable is Yut-Lung. His spoiled princess-like need to be the boss of everything has become exhausting for Blanca, deadly for his soldiers, and exasperating for me as a reader.

MICHELLE: Aw, I kind of want to pat Yut-Lung on the head. True, I would probably pay for it with my life, after undergoing agonizing torture. I sympathize with his plight of being near enough to the top to see the person ahead of him, who forever remains untouchable and out of reach.

MELINDA: I think it’s Blanca who actually is saving Yut-Lung for me at this point. Without Blanca, I think I’d find Yut-Lung as exasperating as Eva does, but with Blanca, I’m finding him sort of adorably pathetic.

ROBIN: I’m glad Eva spoke up, because I’ve been finding Yut-Lung insufferable these past few volumes and was trying to figure out how to articulate that. His whole potential to a smart foil has been destroyed by his petulance, and while he’s still dangerous, he’s not really a threat to my mind any more. And thus, far less compelling.

CONNIE: Melinda, I like your point about how Ash would be comparing himself to the mercenaries and agonizing over it. It’s a shame that we don’t see more of that… but then again, I suppose there’s enough of Ash blaming himself for everything.

I also feel like Yoshida isn’t really examining or acknowledging any similarities between Ash and the mercenaries. Ash is above them simply because, from the beginning, he hasn’t really wanted any of this and we already like him and know he’s not a bad guy. And that’s fine. The comparison is an interesting one, though, if only because I thought it was hilarious the first time through when Dino called in a freaking army to kidnap Ash because nothing else would overpower him.

ROBIN: I was thinking a bit more about Ash’s self-examination and being similar to the mercenaries — and I guess I feel like it would be repetitive to see that here. We have seen him in past volumes angst over his own decisions and propensity for violence, and I would have found it out of place here to see more of him pausing to internal monologue about what a killer he’s become.

I don’t see that as Yoshida’s failing — if anything, I think it’s true to life. Most people don’t turn a particularly probing eye on their own motivations and emotional states, especially not (to indulge in a stereotype) men. Ash already acknowledges he’s permanently damaged because of how he’s grown up. Agonizing over the moral lines he’s crossing becomes self-defeating. It would halt his forward momentum, and he needs to keep going to win. The fact that we’ve seen Ash regret previously, during down time, is enough for me.

Yoshida could have other characters comment on the similarities, but again, I’m not sure anyone would choose this as the time to do so.

MELINDA: I think, actually, I wouldn’t have needed to see Ash examining this. But I would have assumed he was, in the background, if only Yoshida had left out that line. I wish she’d just left it out.

ROBIN: I can see that, Melinda. I guess I just didn’t react to that line. Here’s my question: do you think Ash would seek out opportunities to kill (like Foxx does) or that he somehow kills unprovoked? (I don’t think you do…) Because the sentiment of that line is, to my mind, true — he wouldn’t be out there killing people except that he’s being forced into situations that make him have to. Yes, he chooses to take out people in a strategic and cold-blooded way, not in a heat of the moment/self-defense sort of way, but I don’t feel like he’s incorrect in feeling forced into his actions. Whether he’s truly justified in how many people he kills or in what manner is a troubling question, but it’s also something that has to be judged against what else might have happened had he not acted and the enemies he’s fighting.

MELINDA: You’re right, Robin, I don’t think Ash would seek out opportunities to kill, ever. But I do think he scares himself with how easily he’s able to kill at this point in his life, and he’s aware that he’s killed people he didn’t have to (like some of Arthur’s boys). He knows he’s capable of losing control, and he knows he’s lethal enough for that to be a really bad thing. For us as readers (and certainly for Eiji), Ash is in the clear, because of what he’s been through and what he’s been forced into in so many aspects of his life. But I’m quite sure that Ash knows that he’s living in the (darkish) gray, and he’s learned to live with that. Otherwise he’d have cracked up years ago.

What it comes down to, is that the line doesn’t read like Ash to me. It reads like the author acting as an Ash apologist, which I think actually demeans the character a little bit.

KHURSTEN: If black and white you mean that Ash is always in the white kicking the ass of his agressors in the dark, I suppose it boils down to her own need to want her hero to go through this hardship. The way I see it, the grey world is still grey and Ash is moving himself towards somewhere clearer, towards the end game. He hasn’t left the grey world but as things become clearer to him, I think he’s slowly coming to terms that he wants out. Sadly, he knows that in order to get there he’s got to get rid of all of this crap to get closer towards his goal.

If there’s something that I noticed Yoshida acknowledged, it’s the fact that Ash has to step up as a leader to deal with this crazy mercenary mess and that he cannot do this alone anymore. I think she’s also acknowledge far too long ago that Ash has no qualms of moral thought for every kill. It’s like she’s given him this survival instinct of “it’s either you or me dies and there’s no way in bloody hell I’m gonna die.”

That said, I also think the situation with Arthur is different with the mercenaries. He’s got something to settle with Arthur in those pages. With these mercenaries, I believe it’s closer to survival. I think it’s because it’s a different battlefield now hence he recognizes that without him at the back and comandeer them, they won’t survive and last against these military folks. As he said, he owes ’em a lot for trying to get him out and by keeping them alive through this ordeal is his payback. The skills are definitely the same but the motivations are entirely different. In these volumes, there was a deliberate choice on his end to bring everyone in on this in order to survive unlike with Arthur where he just fought it all on his own.

I must have to disagree with you Melinda on Ash sitting back on this one. I believe that line Michelle mentioned was nothing but an affirmation of his position in this mess. I think no kid his age would want to start picking up guns, but since his life is messed up and things have started to turn for the wrong, he’s got to do what he’s got to do to live. As he pointed, people were making him to do it. I’ve never really thought of him as a hard ass street kid. If I will recall those quiet moments with Eiji, Ash would choose peace over this violence.

It doesn’t change the fact that he’s kick ass here and I must agree with everyone that Ash’s hero level just rose ten folds with the action scenes and the shooting and all that. Competency porn is a nice way of putting it. It’s like those movies where you think you’re going out on a regular date then suddenly your date’s some kick ass assassin, like that dude Mark Wahlberg played in Date Night. Sexy competent spy stuff.

MELINDA: One thing I really do appreciate in Yoshida is that, within the teen gangs at least, she’s only created one tactical super-genius. I like the fact that Operation Rescue Ash is effective in terms of its primary goal, but doesn’t play out perfectly because the boys didn’t really think past that. I think this makes their successes later on during the fight against the mercenaries (when they do have Ash) feel more realistic. Sing, Cain, Eiji, and the others really rise to the occasion in both of these scenarios, but we aren’t asked to suspend our disbelief any more than we already have. I’m also glad to see Jessica turn up again, to break up our boys’ club just a little bit.

MICHELLE: I agree for the most part, especially in terms of Sing, Cain, and Eiji all holding their own in a respectable way. I must say, though, that while I really enjoyed the tactical maneuvering, at times Ash’s super geniusness did get kind of over-the-top, like when he recognizes tactics from, like, Zaire in 1978 or knows how to defeat knife-wielders with special kung fu.

KHURSTEN: I think that’s amazing too how the boys just became the kind of allies who watch for Ash’s back too.

MELINDA: Interestingly, I’d say that the super-Ash stuff bothers me less in these volumes than it has previously, partly because we’ve already been asked to accept that he got his training from super-assassin Blanca, but also just because nothing we’re being asked to believe now is really any more extraordinary than what we’ve seen from him already. We’ve seen Ash spout off strategic and political details about remote foreign governments and we’ve seen him effectively take out pretty much everyone he’s ever fought in close combat (which surely required the techniques he’s explaining to the guys here). At this point I feel like we’ve either already bought into Yoshida’s super-Ash or we haven’t, and if we have, it’s pretty much par for the course. :) I know I’ve been one of the biggest complainers on this front before now, but at this point, I’ve made my peace with it.

ROBIN: I have to agree with you here, Melinda, in that whatever genius Ash displays is something I’ve come to accept at this point in the series. Unrealistic though it may be, I’ve gotten over objecting to it as often even as it still bothers me occasionally.

I do appreciate that Sing, Eiji, and Cain are all good at what they know how to do but are not anywhere near Ash’s level of innovation and strategic brilliance. Cain, who I kind of adore, is shown to be an excellent leader and a clever guy, and I appreciate that his normal level of competence is displayed and appreciated within the story.

I did have a few thoughts that jarred: first, while Ash may be down with military tactics, and the guys he’s recruited do know that area like the back of their hand, it did feel a tiny bit false that they were immediately talking and planning their counterattacks with a kind of military heirarchy and even language. Ash I can believe, but the rest of them seemed to settle into their roles a bit too easily.

Also, you’ve got French military special forces guys ripping through a part of the city…where are the actual cops? I know the cops know that one, that area is rife with gang activity, and two, that Ash in particular is often the center of these problems, but in the past there’s at least been a reference to a police response. This time, nothing. No shouted phone calls, no decisions to stand down and leave the gangs to their war.

MELINDA: Oh, that’s a great point about the police, Robin. I never even noticed.

MICHELLE: I wondered about that, too, especially since one of the volumes showed Charlie and Jenkins again in the cast of characters, from which I think they had been missing a bit.

And yeah, probably this is a bit too late to be complaining about Super-Ash, when it didn’t bug me that much before. Maybe it was a case of me not really noticing it until y’all pointed it out and so now it seems more glaring to me.

EVA: See, this is what I mean about turning off my brain. Heh.

Ash being a military genius doesn’t bother me nearly as much as Ash in the boardroom bothered me. It helps that in these volumes we get flashbacks to young!ash during his paramilitary training. Yeah, it’s pure craziness, but it bolsters what has come before and sets up the chess game that is now being played by Ash and Blanca. Cain and Sing are smart, but young, and know what they know through on-the-job training, so to speak, and are much easier to support and cheer for, as a result. I know I’ll cry real tears if/when bad things happen.

I’m ThrILLED to see the grown-ups return to the scene. Especially now that Sing (I love Sing!) is in deep doo-doo. I’m finally on the edge of my seat to see what comes next.

MELINDA: I love Sing too! Not exactly a profound response to Eva’s comment, but I wanted to say so. :D

I guess I’ll add here just how much I loved that his reaction to Jessica and Eiji breaking off from their assigned group was pure glee at having an excuse to put himself back in the action.

ROBIN: Melinda, I too loved Sing’s “that’s what I’m talkin’ about!” reaction to being able to get back in the action. Go, Sing, go!

CONNIE: The lack of a police response in volume 16 really bothered me when I first read the series. It was like they were having a war in the middle of New York City, and nobody noticed. And it is especially glaring in a series where police activity has figured heavily in the plot a few times before. As far as Super-Ash goes, matching wits with a mercenary army was where I drew the line. I could accept everything else before this, but for some reason waging a war against French mercenaries was just too crazy for me.

I did like the Ash rescue mission carried out by all the other characters, though. While it wasn’t as polished and professional as an operation run by Ash, they did it, and it felt more like an effort of skilled teen gang members (if that even means anything) than Ash’s plans usually do. And it was a little more interesting because of it.

MELINDA: So, one of my favorite sequences in this group of volumes is the battle with Ash at the Museum of Natural History, though not precisely for the battle itself. I think what I enjoy about it so much is where it fits into Yut-Lung’s arc and his increasingly desperate agenda. He’s pretty much caught red-handed by Papa Dino here as being decidedly not on the same team. I’m also extremely fond of Yut-Lung’s “employment” of Blanca, which feels more and more like an act of charity (and perhaps sympathy?) on Blanca’s part. How do the rest of you see their partnership, and do you think it works with the natural progression of Yut-Lung’s character?

MICHELLE: I actually really loved these two together in these volumes, especially Yut-Lung’s shame at having been taken hostage by Ash. I think his interactions with Yut-Lung have a huge part to play in why Blanca mysteriously becomes more compelling in these volumes, because they allow us to see that, despite his purchased allegiances, his personal sympathies lie with Ash. And even though he’s willing to protect Yut-Lung, he’s not willing to help him in his most desperate quest, which throws Yut-Lung into a tizzy. He’s really become my favorite villain now because he still manages to remain sympathetic, despite all his dastardly schemes.

KHURSTEN: You girls pretty much summed it for me. Yut Lung has an obsession to get Ash down in a strange rivalry which he could never win. The more he tries to bring Ash down, the kid just gets him back down. And while he felt that having Blanca on his side would give him an upper edge, Blanca and Ash reminds him that our hero is a different animal altogether.

I found the panel in page 18 of volume 4, where Yut Lung was surprised by Blanca’s decision to accept his contract as quite telling of how vulnerable Yut Lung can get. He had an almost innocent expression, one of disbelief and yet surprised that one of the things he had hoped could save him finally came.

CONNIE: The Museum fight is my favorite in the series. Yoshida really nails everything about the timing, the atmosphere, the way the characters are reacting to each other… it highlights exactly how dangerous Ash is one-on-one in a truly surreal setting.

And it only happens because of Yut-Lung. Well, sort of. But even with Blanca there to even him out, I could not stomach Yut-Lung during this fight. I understand his obsession, but even after we’ve had him along for the ride all this time, he just doesn’t have a stake in things the way that Ash and Dino do, and his motivations in volume 15 for going after Ash again and again and wasting the lives of his men just seems petty and indulgent. The same could be said of Dino, I think, but Dino’s involvement is personal, whereas Yut-Lung is mostly just sticking his nose in at this point. That said, he is kind of a fun character at this stage of the game, even if he is infuriating.

MELINDA: Connie, I’m so glad I’m not alone in my love of that museum fight! Honestly, I love it from the very beginning, when Ash is deliberately running through the streets to draw the attention of the enemy. It’s a virtuoso battle, really.

MICHELLE: If by virtuoso you mean “makes fangirls go “eeeee!” while they’re reading” then I must agree!

ROBIN: Virtuoso battle FTW! I don’t…have much more to say than that, but…yes! The fight scenes like this — cinematic, tense, carefully edited — are what I love best about this series visually.

KHURSTEN: I do still prefer the imagery of the train. This one is just right below it, like 2 degrees lower. Still hot, but perhaps not just as cinematic to my preference.

When they did say Museum of Natural History, the first thing that entered my head was “Ash, don’t you bloody dare destroy any artefacts there with your gun slingin’!” Sorry, part of my job. :< EVA: I stand unanimous in my WTF reaction to the museum scene, then. Seriously? Really? We’re going to have a fight, in a locked museum, with no security, police, administration, general public, or any other kind of freak-out? Really? I mean, I was along for the ride, sure. And visually the battle was great. But the lack of even a single HAT-TIP TO REALITY AT ALL? Yeah. Sorry. It pulled me right out of the story and made me shake my head.

MELINDA: Okay, so I have two questions, one for the three of us who have read the series before, and another for the three of you who are reading it for the first time. For the repeat readers, was your experience with these three volumes different this time around, and if so, how? And for the n00bs, Eva mentioned earlier that she’s finally on the edge of her seat at the end of these three volumes. Is there anything that happened here that’s changed your perception of where the story might be going or how you see a particular character?

I’ll answer my appropriate question here. The reason I found myself compelled to *ask* is that as I was reading these volumes, I realized that, aside from the museum fight, I didn’t remember them at all. I was so focused on Ash and Eiji’s relationship the first time I raced through the series, I barely paused at this point in the story to really notice what was happening. As a result, I felt like I was reading it for the first time, and it was awesome. I had so much fun with it, taking in all the details. For that reason, I think I’ve enjoyed these volumes more than anything we’ve covered so far.

MICHELLE: I’m a n00b, and my perception has definitely changed.

For one, the speed with which I zoomed through these volumes brings home just how quickly three volumes can pass, which makes the end of the series seem that much closer. I had envisioned some sort of end where Ash would not only triumph over Papa Dino, but also succeed in eradicating all traces of Banana Fish from the planet. Now, with him so caught up in this local struggle, I’m not so sure that’s going to happen. It’s possible that it’ll just be fighty, fighty, fighty up until the end, and while that would be awesome to read, I think I might be disappointed when all was said and done.

I guess I’m basically hoping the story will slow down a little bit and let me savor its final moments, but with Ash falling into the clutches of the mercenaries at the end of volume sixteen, that isn’t looking too likely.

KHURSTEN: When I re-read this again, the only thing in my head before and mildy during that museum scene was “Blanca and Yut-Lung… this tension is the stuff of fanfics.” It never dawned on me before, in fact I don’t exactly find myself paying attention to Yau-Si because I think when I first read him, he was an annoying guy with rivalry issues.

The scene and the Museum felt like another run-in with the bad guys when I first crossed it. Reading it again reminded me of Ash’s own capabilities and the same time Yau Si’s obsession with him. For this reading I felt like I was in the shoes of Blanca, smiling and saying, “You absolutely HAVE NO IDEA who you’re messing with.”

There were definitely some changes after this nth read. I’ve actually grown to like more of Ash’s buddies here. Like the guy in the mohawk that got shot down, I ended up screaming “OMG! DON’T DIE!” Somehow, reading it again made me feel more connected and involved in the story, and perhaps more understanding of their characters and motivations.

CONNIE: For these volumes, I had pretty much the same experience I had the first time because I liked that museum fight so much (and the sewer part before it, and I guess the Ash rescue, too), that I’ve been looking forward to it since I started my re-read. Other than registering annoyance with Yut Lung this time around, pretty much everything else played out the same way for me. But I was in the same boat as you, Melinda, in terms of flying through everything in order to get to the Ash/Eiji parts for most of the series my first time through. And like Khursten, I was getting annoyed at yet another long confrontation, but this one really made me sit up, slow down, and take notice. And I don’t really have that much to say about it, other than this was a really long string of great action scenes, and that ending it with a confrontation where guys get killed by a lone commando in the dark among dinosaur bones is probably one of the most interesting things Yoshida could’ve done.

MICHELLE: Although I definitely love the Ash/Eiji moments and was a little sad that there weren’t too many in these volumes, I’m not reading specifically for them, even though I’m a first-time reader. The relationship between those two is the emotional anchor of the series, of course, but I really do enjoy all of the scheming and jockeying for position amongst the bad guys (I think I must be the only one of us who thinks fondly of Yut-Lung) as well as the exhilarating action scenes. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m trying to take in all of it, and not just the evolving relationship between the two leads.

MELINDA: I’d say, Michelle, that I think much of the reason why I was racing through for Ash & Eiji during my first read was exactly because I was racing through. I marathoned the second half of this series in the span of a couple of days, so it was that kind of rabid, total immersion read that tends to take on a life of its own. It’s been nice this time around to be forced to slow down and really look at everything, and these volumes worked really well for me in that sense.

MICHELLE: It’s exceedingly rare that I am able to race through something. It helps if said something has nice, big panels that aren’t too busy. Mostly, though, I think I am pretty much stuck on the “slow down and look at everything” speed, which is sometimes a curse and sometimes a blessing.

EVA: I haven’t been racing through the story. Instead, I’ve been reading as assigned, which has both helped an hurt the story. I may be having more WTF moments than those of you who did marathon readings because of the starts and stops — I forget sometimes what happened previously, or haven’t lost myself in a character to the point that I forgive automatically the WTFishness of some of the scenes.

On the plus side, reading these three volumes together worked to get me excited for what is coming next. I do care about some of the supporting characters more than I care about Ash and Eiji. They’re the ones who stand out in my memory. I love Sing and his on-again, off-again resentment of Ash. He’s smart and witty, and I want him to come out on the other side of this adventure. With this most recent cliffhanger I’m not sure that’s going to happen, so I’m looking forward to our next assignment. I love Cain and his badassness/vulnerability. I want to see more of him and listen to his cockeyed pseudo-slang that makes me giggle where it shouldn’t. And with his life, and the lives of his gang members, hanging in the balance, I want to know what happens next. These are the guys wearing the red shirts. There is no guarantee of their survival.

Everything that came before was set-up for me. Now we’re getting down to business.

Thanks to everyone who has been reading this roundtable all along. Be sure to check back in May, when we’ll post our final installment!

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  1. Just as a side note, I’d like to point out to my cohorts that I didn’t really talk much about feeeelings this time around. :D

  2. Super-Ash is, of course, ridiculous, but I treat it as pure escapism and mild author’s-darling syndrome… with a side of pondering why Yoshida gave these characteristics to the American, along with lines like Ibe’s “No wonder we lost the war…” in an earlier volume.

    Also, I liked seeing Ash all done up in suits like a little British schoolboy. Yeah, I’m shallow.

    Ash’s “Outside forces are making me” line: I wonder if that doesn’t just serve the purpose of reminding us that he’s a teenager? I’d have to go back and reread it to judge if I think it does this skillfully or not, but Yoshida does drop in these little reminders every so often.

    “Also, you’ve got French military special forces guys ripping through a part of the city…where are the actual cops?”

    Hee! As a born New Yorker, I’m often amused by what Yoshida thinks this city is like. I’ve cracked up reading her graffiti! We have this rep for being a lawless cesspit and all, but I was here in the 80s, and…no. Just, not even. It’s pretty tame, really, which has come back to bite me when I traveled to tougher places and thought I was tougher than I am. (Did Yoshida ever travel to NYC? I think I remember reading somewhere that she hadn’t.) But I’m so used to that from the media, even the U.S. media.

    Michelle, I also think fairly fondly of Yut-Lung, but I think it’s mainly because he’s so young (and not all that physical, unlike basically everyone else in the manga. Even Eiji leaped over a wall back in the day).

    I’m speaking too much from memory — I need to go back and read these all the way through, if I could find the box they’re packed in…

  3. Chepseh says:

    Umpf. I’m only at the very beginning of your wonderful discussion. I’m learning like xjkbhf&! for my final college examination right now. In my current state of mind I won’t be able to join your table with comments that are really profound, or at least deeper than “OMG luv BF, Ash x Eiji 4eva, but the last volume sucks sucks!!!”.
    But … seeing that you’ve got sooo little comments I want to at least express a big big huuuge **T H A N K Y O U** with a cherry on top for doing this. Especially even though Banana Fish has barely any followers in the Western world (which is in my eyes easily some sort of fandom sin :C ). I’m looking forward to reading all of your statements! You rock!

    PS: Yes, and I’m really in opposition to *those* things in vol 19. But I know that there are also others who see the ending more positive, as bittersweet-poetic and etc. . I’m really curious about how you will analyse (and argue about? ;D) the end!

    PPS: Sorry for mistakes with the language, this was written by a German Fraeulein.


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