“The Rich Boy” is a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which was also part of his 1926 collection “All The Sad Young Men.” This episode could have easily referenced the collection itself and call it a day; we’re full of sad young men here. However, I’m inclined to believe this title has Yau-si in mind.
What’s relevant here might be how “The Rich Boy” studies a self-centered, egotistical character, and the fundamental differences that come with (certain type of) different upbringings. This is an episode that introduces us to Yau-si, who seems to have “two personalities,” not unlike the main character of the short story this episode references.
Muted, plain and warning colors
Yau-si’s introduced in a dark night, partially illuminated by the moonlight–just like his name. He puts on a good boy act as soon as he wakes up, trying to deceive our group. In those scenes, he’s wearing purple. Purple has been used in previous episodes to foreshadow big changes or death, so it’s fair to say that the color can’t be trusted in this show.
Yau-si falsely identifies as Dawson’s adoptive son–the man we’re looking for here–to justify his presence in the house. The next time he appears, he already starts to test Ash. From that moment on, he wears plain white: our warning is gone.
Notably, Ash spends the entire episode wearing white as well. It’s a color that can have a lot of different meanings–including cultural ones–but it can also be linked to nothingness. Both Yau-si and Ash wear normal and plain, “empty” white shirts. It’s perhaps a choice meant not to give much away while giving the boys something in common (visually).
Eiji spends the entire episode with a blue striped shirt. The shirt has a single red line–blue and red is a combination that has marked his connection to Ash from the very first episode. The rest of the lines are white, and considering he has connections to both Ash and Yau-si in this episode (both wear white) it could’ve been intentional.
Eiji isn’t the only one with a possible visual connection there. Like the two boys, Shorter wears white, but with his bright orange and green just as little details on his shirt. He wears gray too, which is the most “muted” color we have seen on him, and well, you can hardly get more “muted” than gray.
Gray can be reliable, and we see plenty of instances where Ash relays on Shorter in this episode. It’s also an episode where Shorter has reasons not to be his usual bright and outgoing self, which the toned-down color palette reinforces.
Max wears green–a color he shares with Ash’s color palette–and Ibe wears lavender. With any other show, I would have said that the color is there to convey something like mystery or femininity and call it a day, but that doesn’t fit Ibe. He doesn’t have any prominent role in the episode either, yet he wears it all the time.
Considering Yau-si’s purple served as a warning–foreshadowing the change his reveal as Yut-Lung would bring–I wouldn’t be surprised if Ibe’s purple is there as a warning as well, foreshadowing a change that will happen to or around him.
Trapped in cages
In one of the final scenes in last week’s episode, we saw Dino and Lee with two lighted candles, which normally symbolize life. It’s a scene where powerful individuals are either offering or planning to capture Yau-si and Ash respectively, and I mentioned a connection between the two candles and the two boys. This episode reaffirms that their freedom is indeed in the hands of those men.
Candles and the white shirts aren’t the only things Ash and Yau-si have in common.
In this episode, our group finally discovers that banana fish is a drug, not a person. Ash goes a step further and mentions some of its chemical components, but he doesn’t go far enough. Banana fish it’s still an unidentified drug with unknown effects.
Later, as Max goes through some records, he discovers information that leads him to believe that the military itself could be involved with the drug. Suddenly, the banana fish situation could be a nationwide conspiracy, which both Max and Ash agree it’s bigger than them. However, when Max vehemently asks Ash to walk away, the latter refuses. Ash is determined to avenge the death of his loved ones, but that’s not all there is to it either. For Ash, his life and freedom depend on this “war.”
As Ash tells Max that he will never be free unless he fights, we see Ash from outside a window. The framing gives the sense that we’re looking at Ash from outside of a cage.
Ash isn’t the only one who’s trapped. After Shorter’s informed of the change of plans–and forced to “spy” Ash–he has a scene where he lies to Ash, telling him that there’s nothing shady about Yau-si. Ash trusts him.
As Ash leaves the balcony, we see the balcony railing in the background and the door with glass windows at the front, giving the impression that Ash is leaving a cage, which has Shorter inside. We know that if Shorter disobeys, his sister Nadia will pay the price. Shorter is trapped.
After Ash leaves, Yau-si enters “the cage” almost immediately, and Shorter discovers that he’s the Yut-lung whose orders he’s obliged to follow. Yau-si drops the act and takes command, but this doesn’t really mean he has more freedom than Shorter.
We see a moon when Yau-si reveals the reason behind his name, reaffirming that the Lee we saw in New York is the top dog. Meanwhile, Yau-si is the seventh (hidden) child, “destined to rule the darkness behind the light.” He smiles darkly as he talks about “the blood shed in the shadows,” and we see him from outside of a window. We’re seeing a boy who was groomed to dirty his hand whenever others order him to, and at that moment, he’s just as tapped as Ash.
We see this framing with Dino when he’s having a phone call as well, but only briefly. He turns around, leaving the window behind him and facing Abraham. In this case, this could symbolize how Abraham’s “careless” actions momentarily put Dino on a tight spot.
A venomous snake
I’ve said before that Banana Fish is Very 80s, and updating the setting alone it’s definitely not going to get rid of that. The drugs and conspiracies, gang wars, even parts of Yau-si’s character; all those are elements that give some of the vibes of an old American movie.
Certain outdated lines have been left out of the script, but in some ways, Yau-si–who’s delicate appearance makes him prone to be confused for a girl–kinda reminds of a type of character that used to be referred as Dragon Lady. What we have seen of him thus far suggest that he’s a deceitful and mysterious figure, with enough ability to be a real obstacle. It’s the reason he was chosen to capture Ash, after all.
Everything about the way he moves is delicate and snake-like, besides suggesting strongly trained skills–which is implied to be part of his Chinese heritage. If we pay attention to the details, we see him give some small, quick “evil smiles” whenever he feels Ash suspects him.
Still, Yau-si’s character is already beginning to show more complexity. There are enough details to let us know that he’s trapped, powerless against the demands of his elder brother.
When he threatens Shorter, the latter snaps. Shorter then begins to tell him about how he used to respect the power of the Lee family, and we see a big purple carpet, signaling the death of Shorter’s trust.
Cornered and hurt, we see Shorter’s unshielded eyes for the first time, marking him as vulnerable in front of Yau-si. Shorter then says that to him, the Lees are no different from scum like Dino anymore, and call Yau-si a venomous snake.
Shorter leaves the room, and as Yau-si gets up from the bed, we see that Shorter’s knife has cut some strands of his hair off. Cutting some hair off symbolize what we already see on Yau-si’s face: Shorter words affected him. Still, the discarded hair is left behind. Yau-si’s not going to stop.
Ash & Eiji
This episode has moments that reaffirm Ash’s perceptiveness and cool personality. We can see him showing off in the action bits, but it’s also present in more quiet moments, like when he’s suspicious of details such as intruders wreaking havoc in the scientist’s library but somehow leaving the computer intact.
Notably, Ash immediately feels Yau-si’s hidden presence and doesn’t even look at the tea the latter offer him. Going by Ash’s lines and Yau-si’s expressions, it’s a scene where Ash shows that he suspects Yau-si, which the latter notices.
It’s worth to mention how Ash tells Yau-si that he “doesn’t like being approached from behind” as the reason he reacted like he did when he caught on his presence. Soon after this, Eiji enters the room, and we actually hear his footsteps. Eiji doesn’t only approach Ash from behind, he reclines over him, getting into Ash’s personal space just to look at what he’s doing on the computer. To Yau-si’s shock, Ash remains relaxed and concentrated on his tasks the whole time–he doesn’t even turn around to confirm who is it.
The moment it’s a sweet example of how Ash trusts Eiji, but it also implies that Ash is able to recognize Eiji by the smallest of things, like his presence and the muted (there’s a carpet) sound of his footsteps. I compared the way Ash quickly scanned Chinatown to superpowers in episode 5, and these sure are some super senses.
When Ash “cracks the code” and gains access to the pc, Ash and Eiji share their excitement and celebrate with an enthusiastic hi-five, showing camaraderie. Yau-si is always present in the shot, telling us how the main purpose of what we see is to make him realize how close the boys are. The show didn’t have to go out of its way to show a hi-five actually turning into hand-holding though, but it did!
When Ash and Eiji hi-five, they interlace they fingers, which is a pretty intimate gesture by itself. It goes even further though. In the next shot, we see them holding hands, and both are gently but notably caressing the other’s hand with their thumb, which adds certain sensuality to the intimacy of the hand-holding.
The focus it’s on Yau-si while the hands are blurry, reminding us of the purpose of what we see. Still, the way the boys hold hands convey that what Yau-si is witnessing is closeness and intimacy painted with romantic layers. It’s also notable that Ash is the one who starts the gesture.
Ibe dreads having to tell Eiji that they’ll be returning to Japan, so Ash decides to be “the bad guy.”
This gives us a scene on a balcony with a beautiful sunset, but like the light of the sun, the words are harsh. Ash tells Eiji that “he’s a burden” and to go back to Japan–he notably doesn’t look at Eiji at this part. There’s a considerable physical distance between them. Part of the railing puts a physical separation between the boys as well, and we see the sun shining brightly between them.
Eiji shows certain awareness of his own limitations, but having him talk so pessimistically gets heavier when you think about the reason he wanted to stay in the first place. Eiji is our bird who, after injuring one of his wings, forgot how to fly. He didn’t want to feel like he’s quitting again, yet here is Ash telling him to go away.
What Ash says later is important, not just because it affirms how valuable Eiji’s help has been to him, but because it shows how he can open up to Eiji as well. Ash reveals that before Eiji, no one has ever helped him without expecting anything from him, giving another layer of importance to Eiji successfully pole-vaulting to get help–even when he has forgotten how to fly.
We see a low angle shot of Ash–presenting him as a big, strong figure–when tells Eiji that he only ever picked up a gun because it was the only way to survive. We also see the sun behind him, and as Ash speaks, he lifts his hand in front of it, closing his fits and taking the light out.
It’s a metaphor meant to convey how life has toughened Ash, and this happens before he turns to innocent and “uncorrupted” Eiji to tell him that he envies how “he doesn’t need a gun” to live. Once again, Ash and Eiji being “from different worlds” is brought up, but this time, it comes from Ash himself.
Before Ash goes, he tells Eiji “you can’t do something I can’t, so we’re equal.” He’s alone in that shot, and we see the shadows of railing that was separating him from Eiji. However, Ash and Eiji’s shadows are very close together, so close that part of their bodies overlap.
In that shot, the part of the railway is separating Ash and Eiji’s shadows from Ash’s body. It’s a scene where Ash is pushing Eiji away, but with those shadows, it ends in a way that shows that they’re connected. The fact that we see them close in shadows can be conveying what Ash really wants but isn’t saying. Ash then walks away, and we notably cut to another shot just before Ash’s shadow can get separated from Eiji’s.
The sunset scene, unlike the hi-five turned hand-hold, focuses exclusively on Ash and Eiji. However, at the end of it, we see that Yau-si was looking, witnessing their closeness again. Windows are used to convey caging multiple times during this episode, so the framing here can be already foreshowing how Yau-si will use this information to trap our boys.
Good-natured Ibe goes to check on Eiji, and we quickly discover that Ash’s reassuring Eiji that he was helpful was not enough. In a self-deprecating manner, Eiji feels useless, even when Ash actually ended up telling him otherwise.
Eiji’s being sent away just when he was determined to stay as well, making him wonder if coming to the states was pointless after all. Those are hurtful things by themselves, but it’s a lot worse when we consider what losing pole-vaulting put him through.
As Eiji says that “he’s fine” with all of this but “having to hear it from him…” he starts tearing up, and we see the sky from his point of view.
Eiji’s strongly connected to clouds. They were present when he stood his ground and decided to go with Ash to Chinatown, where Eiji getting more involved in Ash’s world was framed as Eiji’s choice. We saw all those birds just last week as well, wondering what it would take for our bird to fly again.
Now, as Eiji’s being pushed away, he looks at the sky and let his feelings overcome him. It’s a moment when Eiji is lost and questioning his purpose, and it’s not a coincidence that moving clouds take the focus.
Ash’s face is hidden from us after he speaks with Eiji, but when we do see him, we’re shown that he’s far from being unaffected. Eiji cries, and the pouring water we see when we cut to Ash can easily be representing his feelings. In fact, Ash feels so bad that he just has to have a drink, reacting in a way that shows it’s not something that he usually does.
The first and only time we saw Ash drinking was when he was mourning with Max, and Max it’s present here as well, quickly noting how “being cold to Eiji must have been hard to him.” Max takes the drink away from him–and starts drinking himself–also nothing that Ash wants Eiji away to protect him from the danger he’s planning to face.
It’s an observation that reaffirms how much Ash cares, and it also serves to jump to the next subject: New York it’s where things will get heavy. Max decides not to confront Ash anymore and accompany him on his “war” instead. In that vein, Max also informs Ash that he’s going to take some steps on his own regarding the banana fish business, further cementing his active role in the plot.
A bad omen
I’ve mentioned purple foreshadowing change with Yau-si’s clothes and reaffirming the death of Shorter’s trust. It’s also present when Ash tells Max that he can’t stand hiding from Dino anymore (who also wears purple because why the hell not). It’s there on the curtains when Yau-si, fully aware of Eiji’s closeness to Ash after observing them, orders Shorter to kidnap him.
Purple it’s also there when Ash, after witnessing how bad Mike felt seeing his parents–Max and Jessica–fighting in front of him, decides to take action out of sympathy. He purposedly behaves like a brat, trying to upset Jessica. Ash also tells to Max that “all parents are garbage” and that kids just “can’t change them, even if they want to.”
Knowing Ash’s upbringing, it’s understandable that he has a harsh perspective on the subject (and some resentment). It’s also his way to tell Max to “do better” for Mike’s sake.
Unfortunately, the last example also means that purple is very present on practically all the walls in Jessica’s house. The reason we get there in the first place it’s because our group makes a little detour; Max wants to see his son on his birthday.
Little Mike is the cutest thing, and I frankly loved seeing the strong-willed Jessica come alive. Without Jessica, it’s an episode where women’s contribution would have just been providing ass-shots in the most American movies way or to have their security threatened (Nadia). Seeing her is more than welcomed.
Not without paying a price though, not without paying a price. The episode ends with intruders from the Chinese mafia breaking into Jessica’s house, and purple is on the walls as we see the scared Mike and Jessica hug. I trust I don’t need to repeat what purple could be telling us here. To say that nothing good can come out of this it’s an understatement.
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