Banana Fish #6: My Lost City

The title “My Lost City” refers to an essay by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which forms part of a collection of personal essays–written from 1920 to 1940–by the same title. The essay uses New York to juxtapose persistent idealism with the awareness of a far more unforgiving reality. However, what’s perhaps more relevant here are not the feelings for the city itself, but the feeling of something lost; the speculation of whether or not it can be recovered even if there’s a certainty that it just won’t be possible.

This is an episode where we go to Ash’s hometown and learn more about his biological family. We also learn that Ash was already abused at a disturbingly young age even before he fell into Dino’s clutches, which makes the possible implications behind this literary reference quite sinister.

Ash’s lost city

ash looking down.jpg

The moment our group arrives at Cape Cod, we see a black-capped chickadee, which is the state bird of Massachusetts.

Ash wears a muted, unemotional grey while Max and Ibe wear pale blue. Eiji shares Ash’s grey, with just a little red–a color that so far has been used to connect him to Ash.

Later, Eiji and Shorter wear the same clothes they wore when Griffin was confirmed as dead; Eiji wears his toned-down brown-pinkish cardigan and Shorter the yellow hoodie with a little pale blue over it, which I suppose is his own version of “toned-down.” Notably, bright yellow is a color that he shares with Eiji, who later wears what I would’ve thought is the same hoodie if it wasn’t for the size.

mad angry at ash's father.jpg

I’m inclined to see pale blue as a way to convey powerlessness here. When they first get out of the truck to see Cape Cod, Eiji notices that Ash stays behind. There’s a close-up of him looking down then, literally surrounded by the pale blue of the truck.  Soon, we meet Ash’s father–who shares his color palette of red and green–and instantly gives Max reasons to get angry. Ibe has to physically restrain him while Ash tells him to “let it go,” implying that it’s pointless. Max might be rightfully angry, but there’s nothing he can do about it.

It’s not exactly easy to watch the scenes with Ash’s father. He knows what happened to Ash, but still treats his son like an unwelcomed “whore” as soon as he sees him. This is unsettling by itself, but even more because this mindset of “slut-shaming” a victim of sexual assault it’s still painfully alive nowadays. It’s even worse when we learn about the abuse itself and how the pertinent authorities deal with it.

With the grim and disturbing atmosphere, the flashback sequence looks like something out of a horror movie. We see bones and blood, yet the thing I found the most haunting is Ash’s big, shocked eye, observing the adults talk at the police station in petrified silence.

ash father says the town loved him you know.jpg

Few things are more infuriating than the words of the cop, who–trusting more in the rapist’s good reputation in their community–doubts Ash and when pressed, actually suggest that a kid might have seduced the bastard. Yes, when this cop starts to get the idea that this kid might have actually been raped, his reaction is to blame the victim. I can’t even begin to articulate how angry this makes me. It’s absolutely ridiculous, yet we can’t even say this bullshit doesn’t happen in real life–is one of the main reasons victims choose to remain silent. In fact, it’s the knowledge that victims truly are exposed to this what makes this scene even harsher.

It’s indeed a frustrating situation, to say the least, and the way the “responsible” adult deals with it actually manages to make things worse. Ash’s father–clearly unprepared to deal with what happened to Ash–tells him to “let the creeps do what they want” as long as they pay him. Considering that Ash taking money is what makes his abuser drop his guard, this does save Ash’s life (which was probably what his father intended) but not without exposing Ash to so much pain and desperation that it drove him to commit his first murder. Ash’s survives, but not without losing something important. Not without gaining painful scars.

eiji says ash is strong.jpg

Six episodes into this show and it seems like Ash’s trauma knows no bounds, which is certainly one of the hardest things to digest in this story. What we have learned over the past few weeks is horrible and disturbing enough, yet it turns out that this poor boy already had such a horrid experience even before he fell into the hands of predators who would cause him even more pain. It’s A Lot, and just writing these last few paragraphs makes me feel incredibly tired.

Still, it’s worth mentioning that this scene ends with something the show has been subtly (and sometimes, not so subtly) trying to do for a while–with angles, forks, and so on–which is giving Ash strength. These characters are affected by what they heard and aren’t sure how to react, but Eiji looks at up and decidedly says “Ash is strong,” just before we see them getting lost against the vast sky.

The bird that forgot how to fly

ibe says eiji was a pole jumper with great talent

Past episodes showed us that an injury cut short Eiji’s days as a competitive pole-vaulter, and how after seeing how depressed he was, Ibe decided to bring Eiji to the states with him. This episode also reveals that Eiji was so good that he was on a scholarship. All this means that after having lost something he was good at, Eiji was dealing not only with feelings of defeat and self-deprecation, but with external pressure as well.

Eiji has a strong connection to birds and clouds, which is reaffirmed again in the scene where Ibe tells Max why he brought Eiji with him. Ibe looks at the sky before we get a flashback with Eiji pole-vaulting, telling Max that Eiji “forgot how to jump.” Max then looks at a bird on a tree, comparing Eiji to “a canary that can’t sing.” Before Ibe says that he would do anything to see Eiji jump again, the bird flies away, leaving us staring at an empty branch. The bird literally flies away before Ibe expresses what he wants, conveying how Eiji himself doesn’t share his interests.

ibe says eiji has forgotten how to jump.jpg

Besides already caring about Ash, last week Eiji revealed that emotionally and mentally, he is in a position where he can’t allow himself “to quit” again. While Ibe talks about “rescuing” Eiji, the Eiji we see is very different from the one we saw in last week’s flashback, where it was clear that he was in a bad place. Here, Eiji is full of life instead; he shares a moment with Ash and Shorter, relaxed and laughing.

Ibe then says that this is his way to repay Eiji for giving him “his break” as a photographer, but Max sees through him. It’s not about repaying Eiji, Max notices, but about Ibe admiring the pole-vaulter so much that he wanted to be (or live the dream through) him.

As they look at birds flying in the sky, Max wonders whether or not what Ibe is trying to do is the best thing for Eiji. The unvoiced question here is what will take to make our bird “fly again” and whether or not it has to be pole-vaulting.

max asks is that what best for wiji with birds flying.jpg

Notably, before Max and Ibe talk, Ibe tells Ash that he and Eiji are “too different,” not only in personality, but in backgrounds as well. As Ibe says this, we see birds flying away, just like when he talks to Max about what’s best for Eiji. The way birds are used already tells us the answer, even if these characters might realize it yet.

There’s another instance when we see Eiji’s connection with birds. Is not the focus of the scene though, and it’s extremely subtle.

In a scene when we have both Ash’s father and Eiji, we can see that the former is reading the paper. The front page is almost laughably unremarkable, but there’s another page that’s certainly more interesting. In that page, there’s a moment when the only things we see are the words “Kidnapping” in one headline and “check out cute bird!” in another. The bird in the picture is a tufted titmouse, which is the bird that’s used the first time Eiji is strongly connected to birds.

Ash & Eiji

eiji says it's a nice place.jpg

While we can deduce this based on Ash’s behavior, the only time he actually voices his honest feelings is when he’s with Eiji.

Eiji says “it’s a nice place” and the view is indeed beautiful and cinematic. However, the colors make the atmosphere feel intoxicating.

This makes a strong contrast with the previous scene, where they found out that Abraham–the man who killed Griffin and is associated with banana fish–used to serve with him, just before Griffin met Max. We also learn that the address Ash got when he first got involved with banana fish is Abraham’s. As Ash listens to this, he looks at a photograph where he’s with Griffin–definitely taken in simpler times. Ash is serious and silent, with deathly purples and detached greys dominating the atmosphere.

eiji asks ash if he hates the place.jpg

When Eiji asks Ash if he hates his hometown, Ash answers with a certain detachment, but unlike the previous scene, the dark and saturated–almost overwhelming–sunset tells a different story.

Later, Eiji wakes up and finds Ash practicing his shooting. As Eiji goes to Ash, the framing places a physical object to separate the boys from the house, giving them a sense of privacy. This exact same framing would be used again later, but in that scene, the physical object separates Ash from Ibe. This indicates not exactly a simple culture clash, but how Ibe being overprotective of Eiji–and indicating how different the boys are–is making Ibe’s differences with Ash separate the former from the latter instead.

Eiji and Ibe both come from the same “normal” lifestyle, but at this moment, Eiji doesn’t have this problem. The atmosphere is peaceful and relaxing, the sky soft and pastel.

ash says you can shoot it if you want too

eiji says can i
Sweet Eiji’s enthusiasm is an example of the “opposites attract” sort of interest we’re seeing with the boys

Guns have been coded in previous scenes with these boys. Eiji asking Ash if he “can touch it” and Ash letting him–even he never let anyone touch his gun–marked Eiji not only as trustworthy and his innocence as special; it works as a metaphor for consent as well.

When Ash gives Eiji a gun in another scene, he leaves it on the bed before leaving. Eiji takes the gun and confidently points it towards the viewer, and there’s a single ray of light that touches him. This ray of light actually has a rainbow, with its colors gradually getting stronger as Eiji takes the gun.

In this episode, we have Ash offering Eiji his gun completely unprompted, and then teaching him how to shoot. Like the first time, this scene serves to show just how at ease Ash is around the pure-hearted Eiji, and how he already trusts him.

ash says hold the grip tighterash says pull the trigger lightly

It’s important that Ash is the one who gives the first step and asks Eiji if he wants to “try it.” Eiji is undoubtedly innocent and inexperienced, and when Ash notices this, he helps him. Eiji already had a blush in one check, presumedly because of his excitement, but when Ash wraps an arm around him and pulls him closer to correct his posture, we get a full blush. Eiji concentrates on Ash’s explanation then, and the blush dies down. However, as Ash explains to Eiji things like how he has to “hold the grip tighter” and “pull the trigger lightly,” he’s always very close, keeping his arm around Eiji.

He only gets away when Eiji actually has to shoot. Eiji misses the bottle, which both highlights inexperience and how this soft boy is just not made for violence. Like the first time Ash gave Eiji a gun, this scene is charged with double meaning as well.

Death, Jennifer’s fate & farewells

the fucken murder house.jpg

From the first shot of the house, I just couldn’t help but notice its decadent walls and purple roofs. If you have been following these weekly banana analyses for a while (yeah, I’m really calling it that) I’m sure you already know where I’m going with this.

Last week’s episode used so much purple, mostly to foreshadow change. This episode uses a lot of purple in that house, specifically, mostly as splashes or details in the background.

The color is present the first time we see Jennifer, and it’s on the door (albeit more subtly) Ash’s father opens before revealing himself for the first time as well. When Dino’s henchmen find them, we get a close-up of one of them giving their first step to enter the house, and the floor turns purple only in that shot. Later, they shoot both Jessica and Ash’s father, the former dying instantly. It’s fair to assume that all that purple was already cluing us in on this result.

jennifer calls ash's father with lots of purple

The almost inexistence of female characters in the show frankly makes Jennifer being so disposable more upsetting. Jennifer wears pale blues and pink during most of the episode, reaffirming femininity and a passive nature, and when she’s killed, she wears a pale yellow dress–which can convey innocence, pureness–and yellow shoes. Jennifer was kind, gentle and pure-hearted–the only good thing in that place.

The action it’s fast and it gets bloody–Ash’s kicks are the best and Shorter literally has his back–but besides Dino’s henchmen, we also see Jennifer dying unceremoniously on screen. The one improvement this has over the original is that this time, at least we are not forced to see her half-naked body being shot down.

We see that Ash is affected and other characters feeling bad, but all her asshole of a partner has to offer is an unemotional “the good ones die young.” Even I am more upset than him. Like Skip–who I refuse to forget–Jennifer deserved better.

ash screams damn you

After this, we get a brief scene with Ash’s father. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a redemption scene, but it does confirm that in his own way, he really did care about Ash. He also gives Ash “his blessing” to do whatever it is he wants to do. Deep down, Ash cares about him too, and is visibly upset at having to leave his wounded father behind. Ash didn’t want to do it, and is no coincidence that when Ash is unable to move from his biological father’s side, Max is the one that makes him snap out of it.

A tearful yet angry Ash asks “his dumb father” not to die. While we don’t stick around enough to find out more about his fate, there’s just enough purple there to not have much hope.

A change of plans

dino asks for lee's help.jpg

In last week’s episode, we saw the Chinese mafia offer Ash’s assistance to go against Dino. Ash noticed that the motivation they weren’t revealing is an interest in whatever caused his drift with Dino, which is, of course, banana fish. Dino uses this to his advantage by assuring Lee is just a poison the latter would have no use for while offering him a deal in exchange for his help. Last time Dino talked about banana fish, he said that “it would change the world” so we know he’s lying.

At one point, the scene focuses on a painting with twelve men on a boat. While I haven’t been able to find any real painting this could be referencing, it’s clear that the men are traveling. We see this paint when Dino mentions Ash traveling in the company of friends.  The colors really pop-up: we have a touch of red and different blues. It mostly uses purple though, and if it’s purple…

lee asks why go through so much trouble to catch a boy.jpg

When Dino and Lee talk, both have a glass of wine, and there are two candles on the table. Wine can be a symbol of friendship and notably, we don’t see either of them actually drink it–Lee doesn’t even touch his glass. Red wine can represent blood, life, strength. Candles are normally associated with life as well. The two candles are present in shots like when Lee asks “why go so far for one boy” and when Dino mentions Lee owning territory in L.A.

When Lee accepts Dino’s deal and offers him Yut-Lung’s assistance, everything is present: the two candles, the two glasses of red wine and the painting with the travelers. Regardless of whether or not Lee sees through Dino’s lies, they reach an agreement. The symbolism reaffirms that they are powerful men bargaining with (or for) the life of other people, which will definitely have an impact on our traveling main group.

lee agrees to assists dino
In Dino’s case, he wants to capture Ash. In Lee’s case, he’s offering Yut-Lung. It’s perhaps worth to notice that in some cultures, wine used to be present in sacrifices.

As a last note–and before seeing our boys reach L.A.–we have them talk about the meaning behind Yut-Lung’s name, which is “the moon who has control over the dark.” We actually see a literal moon amidst the darkness. Look forward to meeting him next week! Or don’t. Nothing good can come out of this anyway.


Episode #5: From Death to Morning

Episode #7: The Rich Boy


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8 thoughts on “Banana Fish #6: My Lost City

  1. Banana Fish is one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while, but I have to say it can be extremely tough to watch due to emotional investment. These analyses really get me through the week. The attention to detail is marvelous and clearly required a good amount research, but just as importantly it’s validating to see the rightful anger directed at the way Ash and others are treated. The “redemption” scene with Ash’s father still doesn’t sit right with me, but to make up for it it was fairly cathartic to have the first time we see Eiji (as far as I recall) lose his cool and raise his voice be in defense of Ash.

    Liked by 1 person

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