Banana Fish #10: Babylon Revisited

This week we have revenge, bitch! Well, not entirely. Our main villains are still evil and well, but burning the mansions of your enemies to the ground is a good first step!

“Babylon Revisited” is an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel published in 1931. Although it deals with multiple themes, what I find most relevant here it’s the intense guilt caused by the loss of someone important.

Last week’s episode delivered a devastating blow to our heroes. It literally ended with Arthur having the last laugh–or so we were meant to think. Ash and Eiji are nowhere near recovering from Shorter’s death, and we see Yau-si’s horrified reaction during the first few minutes of this episode. While the episode generally focuses more on the action, it’s perhaps not surprising that the title references how Ash feels about what happened with Shorter.

yau-si says i didn't want to see that.jpg
me neither, but here we are 

Dino, Arthur & Yau-si

This episode briefly introduces the white house chief of staff and a presidential candidate gets murdered. It’s another step in what we already know is Dino’s big plan, but it’s hard to care much about it besides the brief wildness in the murder scene, maybe. There are just too many things going on in this episode, which is all far more entertaining than seeing this bunch of bastards gather together.

What’s worthy of mention here are perhaps the brief conversations between Arthur and Dino. Both men are set on torturing and killing Ash, and notably, both have been physically scarred by him. When Arthur expresses his eagerness to kill Ash, we get a something very interesting situated right beside his head.

arthur with a bigass sword by his head.jpg
Off with his hea–ah sorry, wrong story 

Arthur’s ambition is what makes him stay with Dino, which he has no problem admitting. He has plenty of disdain for Dino and sees those who surround the latter as monsters, but he doesn’t have much problem with that either.

In fact, Arthur has his own brand of “monstrosity.” The undertones in the scene where it’s implied that he will begin to cut Ash–which is properly flamed with unsettling, tilted angle–clearly tell us that Arthur very much gets off with torturing people. Add to that the way Arthur talks about, touches and gets all over Eiji’s personal space in previous episodes–clearly enjoying scaring the boy–and you have all the vibes of a classic repressed villain. Do with that what you will, but my position can be better expressed with a hearty Yikes.

dino says maybe my mistake was trying to keep him caged
or maybe the real mistake here is your existence

On Dino’s part, we get more insight into how he sees Ash. We have seen objectification that dehumanized Ash last week. This episode continues with that in scenes with Dino, but this time, Ash is described as a wild beast who refuses to be caged.

Interestingly enough, he’s not the only one who describes Ash as an animal. Yau-si does it as well when he notably says that “a wounded tiger is the most dangerous beast.”

Besides knowing that Yau-si’s secretly plotting his elder brother’s destruction, much of the character it’s still a mystery. He’s perceptive and quick to point out Ash’s weakness. At this point, we don’t need to be told how crazily strong Ash is when he’s attacked, we have seen this plenty of times, but when it comes to those he loves, Ash is vulnerable. It’s something that both emphasizes his self-destructive recklessness and how deeply he cares for his loved ones.

yausi says ash is strongyausi says ash is week when it comes to his loved one

Lighted candles have been used as symbols of life in this show, and they have notably been connected to Ash and Yau-si. In this case, there’s only darkness and a chain, so I’m inclined to believe it symbolizes Shorter’s death. After all, Shorter was trapped until his very last moments, and this is what’s hurting Ash the most.

Candles aren’t the only thing used to connect Yau-si and Ash. We have seen plenty of similitudes between the boys; it wouldn’t be strange that someone as perceptive and informed as Yau-si would’ve noticed those as well. Yau-si’s a character that’s entirely motivated by his desire to get revenge, so the fact that he goes out of his way to make sure Ash has a chance to get his makes plenty of sense as well.

However, there are also fundamental differences between the two, which is what ends in Ash promising to kill him the next time they face each other again. Not that Yau-si is terribly concerned about it. Awfully self-destructive, those two, but Yau-si definitely wins there in attitude thus far.

Sing: loss & banana fish

sing says i'll kill ash.jpg

Sing is one of our most notable new additions to the cast. He shows smarts and competency that reminds Ash’s gang of their own boss, but what’s most relevant is how he ends up swearing to Ash that he will have his revenge. Get in line, kid.

Sing wanting to kill Ash after learning what happened to Shorter is very similar to what happened between Max, Ash, and Griffin. Max had to shoot his best friend. He didn’t kill Griffin, but someone who deeply cared about him swore to Max that we would kill him for “betraying and hurting” his older brother.

ash fire

Ash was also forced to shoot Shorter, but in this case, it was fatal. Besides the outcome, the difference here is that unlike Ash, Sing doesn’t know what really happened, and in this case, Ash has Max’s role while Sing has Ash’s. Both Shorter and Griffin were victims of banana fish.

Sing walks in on Ash burning Shorter’s corpse, but the flames are given another purpose.

To say that the flames are used to mark Ash as an intimidating figure is an understatement. In that scene, Ash is framed as the devil himself. Meanwhile, Sing gets framing that conveys tension and uneasiness.

sing uneasiness

We have seen Sing doing swift and effective attacks multiple times throughout the episode, but Ash doesn’t even bat an eye, easily blocking him. It takes seconds for Ash to defeat Sing, and when the latter goes away, we see him as a small figure while Ash is framed as a big and strong figure–so big we only see his legs. Sing never stood a chance.

Ash & Eiji

Very early in the episode, we see an unconscious Ash remembering when his older brother left him. Griffin wears green, which visually connects him to Ash. However, when Griffin smiles at him, he’s slowly replaced by Eiji’s smiling face.

This is not the first time we see something like this happening. During the premiere, Ash only ever showed open vulnerability in Griffin’s presence, marking him as the most important person in Ash’s life. It’s not a coincidence that we cut to Eiji’s introduction in that very moment.

eiji's angel smile

Ash’s love for Griffin was strong and unconditional. Seeing Griffin gently smiling at a crying Ash, promising not to forget him–besides knowing that he raised Ash–tell us that the feeling was mutual.

This visual connection establishes that Eiji is now taking Griffin’s place as an important person in Ash’s life. Eiji smiles gently while wearing pale yellow, giving purity to the image. We have seen the attraction and trust between the boys before, and now the show is also establishing unconditional love. This is not the only scene when that happens.

Before everyone escapes, Ash decides to stay behind to get Shorter’s body, telling us how what Eiji said to him earlier got to him (getting back to this in a sec). Eiji asks him to please be careful. As Eiji tells Ash that “he’ll go crazy” if he loses him, we have a close-up of Ash’s face and shiny eyes, showing how touched he is.

eiji says i'll go crazy

After that, we cut to Alex while Ash intensely tells him to take care of Eiji and “never leave him until he comes back.” Ash’s face is hidden from us, but Alex reaction is pretty telling: he has never seen Ash like this before.

Notably, green dominates the scene, which has been established as one of Ash’s colors. Green is a very ambivalent color that can convey decadence and danger–think about how often poison is green–but it can also convey hope.

We know that Ash is the boss of a street gang. When a worried Eiji asks Ash to please come back and that he’ll “wait for him, forever,” he’s is in the center of the frame, surrounded by green and Ash’s gang. As Eiji professes words of unconditional devotion, he stands at the center of Ash’s world.

eiji tells ash he will wait forever

We can see that this affects Ash as well. His face being partially or completely hidden can convey how he’s overwhelmed by the things Eiji’s making him feel.

Both scenes happen before and after Ash rescues Eiji, but let’s talk about rescue itself for a bit.

It’s a scene that won’t be unfamiliar for those used to see superheroes rescue their love interests, but here, the damsel in distress role goes to a very good boy instead. There’s an actual sparkling sound effect when Ash hears Eiji’s voice. When Ash blast the door open, Eiji literally throws himself into Ash’s arms, who smiles when Eiji hugs before grimacing from the pain caused by his wounds. Eiji gets worried, all while touching his arm and standing very close to him. Just a few seconds before this, Ash visibly exhales in relief after seeing Eiji for the first time since getting freed, safe.

eiji hugs ash

Eiji is a strong person, although his strength is different from Ash’s; one singlehandedly blows up mansions while the other is a kind soul unfit for violence. Still, even though Eiji can be awkward and shy, we have seen him show courage when there’s danger, especially if he’s concerned about others. It would be reasonable for all the situation to get to him, after all, Shorter died in his arms just a few hours ago. At the beginning of the episode, we see Eiji as a small, grieving figure separated from his environment.

However, when Ash comes to rescue him, Eiji stands tall and faces the situation heads on. He’s the one who brings up Shorter when Ash it’s still to hurt to even think about it. When Ash explodes, Eiji apologizes, but he doesn’t look away. Eiji has shown awareness of his own limitations as well, so he tries to pull his own weight and asks Ash for a gun to protect himself, but Ash refuses.

ash says i'll protect you to eiji

Just five episode ago, Ash was telling Eiji  “not to get in his way” when he stayed with Ash despite his attempts to push Eiji away. Later, Ash gives Eiji a gun, telling him he won’t be able to protect him when the fight starts.

Ash reaction here is completely different. We see Eiji’s determined face turn into a surprised expression when Ash tells him that “one murdered is enough,” and we cut to Ash’s determined face when he tells Eiji that “will protect him.” Before, Ash gave Eiji the means to “fight for himself.” Now, Ash is willingly choosing to be responsible for Eiji’s safety.

ash says watch your back.jpg

We get close-up of the boys looking into each other’s eyes when Ash tells Eiji to “never leave his side.” This shot is the perfect recreation of a manga panel, but in the context of this show, we have a very similar framing to the one from the look they shared after Ash’s kisses him, and they both have something in common: trust. We’re outsiders looking at them share an intense but private moment.

never leave my side

I’ve called that the Partners in Crime look, and for good reason. Amidst the chaos, Eiji remains determined and collected. During the fight, all Eiji can do is watch his back, but he has the inner strength and courage to meet Ash halfway emotionally.

The different faces of revenge

The action takes a big part of the episode, and while there are moments where the characters look slightly off-model, the storyboards and the direction are solid. I was hooked from that moment where Ash takes a breath to steel himself. The camera movements and the soundtrack really sell the franticness of the moment. There’s also dramatic grenade launchers–and look, I don’t want to sound biased but we’re clearly talking about quality.

fucking rambo
Ash going full Rambo is Good Content 

We’ve seen purple combined with gold in that mansion so many times, but now we see purple with a grainy filter, reinforcing that we’re about to see a lot of death here.

Very much like that sharp revenge, the adaptation adds a little scene to make sure no rapists gets off lightly. Ash blast the room where the people who abused Jessica were and does exactly what Max wanted to do to them in revenge. The framing gives Ash all the power; he literally looks down at the garbage.

ash looking down.jpg

Not all revenge in this episode is cathartic though. In the most disturbing scene in the episode, Ash kills Abraham–just like he promised he would–but not without seeing Shorter’s body. This time, it’s not anger and disdain what overcomes Ash. It’s horror and pain. Ash’s eyes are empty and we cut to part of a house exploding right after he screams, symbolizing what’s going on inside.

ash fire general shot.jpg

After this, Ash escapes and Yau-si takes Sing with him. The episode ends with a general view of the city while Yau-si welcomes Ash back “to the big leagues.” It feels like the end of an arc, and it would make sense if that’s the case.

Our villains got Shorter killed. Ash just landed an important blow to them with the damage he caused. There are damn good reasons for the grudge both sides have for the other to get massively bigger, so naturally, the stakes have to get higher. Stay tuned.

 

Episode #9: Save Me the Waltz

Episode #11: The Beautiful and Damned

 


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4 thoughts on “Banana Fish #10: Babylon Revisited

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