There have been so many Fitzgerald references lately that for a moment I thought this was yet another one, but after double checking, I realized that it’s actually referencing our other Very Happy friend, Ernest Hemingway!
In short, “To Have and Have Not” is a 1937 novel that tells the tale of a good man who’s forced into questionable activities by circumstances beyond his control.
When Ash orders Alex to kill the unarmed boys of the enemy gang, Alex’s reaction is used again to show us how this is an unusual thing for Ash. This is reaffirmed with little details, like with Ash being unable to hear the results of the massacre on the news–asking the tv to be turned off–or rejecting a gun model that would make killing easier during last week’s episode.
Earlier in the episode, Sing notes Ash brutally attacking the gangs under Arthur when he has only been on the defense before, and deduces that Shorter’s death must have triggered it. It takes a toll on Ash, who sees the metaphorical blood on his hands and feels like he’s losing himself.
This episode’s title is a clear reference to this situation. Ash continues to fight Dino and Arthur, but this time, he’s taking measures he never had before.
A declaration of war
At this point, I feel like this show has established war declarations in 14 different ways, but what’s another one I guess. Ash goes out of his way to do it too, appearing before Dino before he leaves the country.
Clouds are prominent during this scene. Clouds have been connected to Eiji plenty of times before, mostly as a way to convey freedom. They appear here just before Ash speaks about his freedom and threatens Dino with opposing his plans. The biggest difference here is that when the clouds dominate, the shots are unbalanced, conveying a tension that’s never there when they’re used with Eiji.
In many ways, this episode feels like a set-up for episode 13, especially where the villains are concerned. Still, there’s an undeniable satisfaction in watching them shake in fear of Ash, just like a superhero giving a good punch to a baddie is satisfying.
Green: a rotten world
Green is a very prominent color in Ash’s color palette–it’s the color he was introduced with. It’s an ambivalent color that can either indicate good and hopeful things or rotten and poisonous ones. Ash’s eyes are green, but it’s also the color of his world.
Yau-si is wearing green when Sing notes how similar he is to Ash–I’ve gone over this a couple of times before, so I won’t do it again. Dino is also wearing it when Ash pays him a visit.
A green that’s mixed with yellow–a color that’s in Eiji’s color palette–was present when Eiji told Ash that he would wait for him “forever,” while being framed at the center of Ash’s world, and the greens Eiji wears in this episode are variations of this.
A poisonous green is very prominent when Ash kill enemy gangs while being dangerously close to being consumed by his rotten world, just like Eiji feared last week. It’s there as the color Ash goes to when he leaves Cain’s place, and it’s there with red at the beginning when we see that Arthur also goes to him.
Green is also present where Cain tells Ash about Arthur’s plans. The influence Eiji’s words had over him is still present, so he decides to accept Arthur’s challenge–even when it’s an obvious trap–because it’s a chance to stop the massacre between gangs, which was already taking a heavy toll on Ash.
Red: Cain Blood
Red understandably dominates when we meet the one who’s known as Cain Blood. Colors like red and purple–the ones that were chosen for his introduction scene–also work better with darker skin tones. The scene is very dark, but when light touches the boys, their skin pops-up (while, for comparison’s sake, Ash pale skin gets lost in the color), so props for that, Banana Fish.
We don’t spend much time with Cain, but it’s just enough to see that he might be intimidating, but he’s pretty understanding. Now that we know Cain and Sing (and have known Shorter) we can also see that there’s a series of specific qualities that can be found in the gang bosses. They’re smart, strong and command respect. They might or might not be scary, the boys that are under them genuinely appreciate them–and it goes both ways.
They’re also fiercely independent and are drawn to others who share those traits, which is why both Cain and Sing respect Ash in their own way. Notably, Arthur is the opposite: he “rules” using fear and absolutely despises Ash. He also has no problem “submitting” to someone else for the sake of his ambitions, even if it’s someone he despises.
Ash & Eiji
Green & blue
We have seen red and blue combinations to mark Ash and Eiji as each other’s match plenty of times before, but this the first time the boys are connected with green and blue. The change is one Ash’s end, and again, it comes with the poisonous situation we find him in.
Eiji wears blue when hears Ash orders his gang member to kill and fights against his worries because “he has decided to trust him.” The room Eiji’s features prominent blue curtains–practically the only thing we see when Ash enters the room to ask Eiji for the pictures. Based on things like the desk and bookshelves, it looks like an expensive workplace, and the color it’s marking it as Eiji’s.
There are two other things that I find interesting in this room. We could all easily assume that the apartment is more than big enough for two people, but seeing that room is clear, tangible proof that the boys didn’t have to share a bedroom. Nothing’s stopping Eiji from putting a bed in that blue room–there’s more than enough space there.
Instead, we see that the boys chose to share a bedroom. They both have individual beds, giving them space, yet the beds are at a bedside table distance in a room that’s ridiculously huge, giving them intimacy.
The other thing is the camera. We see a DSLR surrounded by nothing but the blue curtains when Ash is telling Eiji that “he does enough for him,” marking the camera as something that’s Eiji’s. Ash’s past has given him an understandable aversion to cameras–he tells Ibe “not the face” when he was about to take pictures of him during the first episode. The purpose of having a camera here is merely practical, but adding details that mark something like that as Eiji’s is another detail that tells us the comfort and safety that Ash feels with him, enough to trust him with things he wouldn’t normally with other people (like the gun).
The green and blue combination is present during Ash and Eiji’s fight. It’s late at night, so the room’s dark, but blue dominates. Eiji wears nothing but green.
Eiji is an understanding person, but it’s still notable how much he understands Ash. Scenes like the one where he asks Ash how he could get an apartment like that shows that he sees that Ash hides things from him, but chose not to push for answers because he understands why.
However, the scene where Eiji is wearing all green is the one where Eiji pushes, and it’s for a more than understandable reason: he doesn’t want Ash to lose to himself to his poisonous world. It’s not a coincidence that this scene comes right after Ash was questioning the same thing.
When he tells Ash that he doesn’t understand the weak–suggesting Eiji is far more understanding than Ash when it comes to them choosing whatever that would guarantee their survival–Ash clunches the blue sheet. Ash lashes out seconds after this, asking Eiji “what does he know about his world,” which isn’t that different from saying you don’t understand me. Ash leaves soon after this, acknowledging later that he was hurt because he could see that Eiji’s words were true.
It’s a scene where Eiji wears the color of Ash’s world–and being from “different worlds” is brought up again–but it doesn’t end without Eiji understanding even the things he wasn’t seeing with Ash. Meanwhile, blue dominating the atmosphere dark atmosphere could easily symbolize Eiji’s effect and influence over Ash.
Food is present again in this episode during Ash and Eiji’s relaxing moment. It’s notably Japanese food–presumedly made by Eiji–and while Ash doesn’t necessarily like everything–let’s say he’s not a natto fan–he still eats it.
Later, when Eiji goes to apologize after their fight, Ash offers him an “American natto hot dog.” It’s most likely an abomination in Eiji’s eyes, let’s be honest, but it’s notable that Ash offers him food that mixes American and Japanese before Eiji sincerely apologies for hurting him and Ash opens up about why it hurt in the first place.
Before Ash offers Eiji the food, we’re told that the library is where Ash goes when he wants to be alone, and that he doesn’t like to be bothered when he’s there. However, everything literally lightens up as soon as Eiji shows himself to Ash.
Food it’s also present during another moment between Ash and Eiji.
Eiji: love interest
After pumpkin parties and learning that Eiji’s friends with the housewives (of course he is), Ash suddenly asks Eiji if he has a girlfriend.
This is a scene that comes after Max points out that Eiji’s fly is the next day and tells a blushy Ash how he “can’t think straight when it comes to him.” (Of course he can’t.) This means that instead of gathering the courage to tell Eiji “hey, actually, you’re leaving tomorrow” he goes “I’m sure you must have a girlfriend waiting for you.”
This is something I usually describe as “I couldn’t protect past love interest so I’m pushing you away because now I’m in love with you but scared of losing you too.” Yeah, that’s a lot of words. Either way, I’ve never been a fan of this, because it’s usually crappy to the past lover–whose death is used to develop the male character and his new romance. Add to any variation of that the “putting this new person through the same danger the dead person faced while making a show out of highlighting the parallels, but this time he can save them” and you’ll get a hearty “fuck you” out of me. I feel very strongly about this one, folks.
The good thing is that this situation doesn’t go there. The bad thing is that this is the third dead woman (after Jennifer and Yau-si’s dead mom) in a show that only has two named alive: Nadia and Jessica. Neither is prominent and both have some form of pain inflicted on them (grief or sexual abuse). We also only know both because they’re someone’s wife or sister, rather than by some contribution they have to the plot. Banana Fish is not great with how it treats women, no.
Eiji continuing to get roles that usually goes to female characters continues to be interesting to me, though. We could question the adaptation’s decision to have Ash asking if he has a girlfriend–rather than using a gender-neutral word–but then again, that also reinforces this connection.
Eiji’s connection to the girl Ash liked is established just with the things Ash chooses to say when he’s trying to push Eiji away. After all, Ash could have reminded Eiji that he has a family in Japan. Ash could also have brought up literally anyone important to him that Eiji knows was killed to make the point of how dangerous it is to be close to him, which could have even been more effective since Eiji got to know most of them. Instead, Ash talks about what happened to a girl he used to like to tell Eiji–who comes from “a different world”–how “the world” won’t let him get close to normal people.
Eiji understands at least part of this, asking Ash if “his presence is a burden,” but it’s not that Ash doesn’t want him around, it’s just that he’s is scared of what could happen to Eiji if he stays.
The connection’s also aided visually by showing Eiji when Ash talks about someone he liked being killed and showing Ash when he regrets not being able to save that person.
There are other details worth mentioning too–some more notable than others–like how Eiji reacts when Ash asks him if there’s someone else–confused by the question and quick to deny it–, how Ash mentions not caring about any of the girls who showed interested in him just after Eiji gets jealous, and Ash choosing to drop everything in favor of spending a good time with Eiji, knowing that it could be the last time he sees him.
If Ash is a superhero and Eiji the love interest, then we should also have supervillains, right?
This show definitely goes into supervillain territory, Arthur even had an actual Evil Laugh! However, it also throws in some “yup, that sure is messed up, but luckily for us, it totally never happens in the real world!”
Regardless of the political climate and whether or not you can see the Project MK-Ultra and Cold War roots in the story, in terms of familiarity, the Middle East conflict is now what Vietnam was to people in their 20s and 30s in the 1980s.
I’ll most likely avoid getting too much into the sociopolitical aspects because I feel there are far more qualified people than me to talk about it. What I can say is that at the very least (and unfortunately) there seems to be something timeless about a few powerful people willing to sacrifice innocent lives for the sake of their ambitions.
We now get a quick but clear picture of why figures from the government are involved with Dino and what specific purpose they have for banana fish. Curiously enough, choosing Afghanistan under a fictional name is not entirely divorced from those 80s roots I’ve just mentioned, so props for that too, Banana Fish. Using a fictional name can feel like a sort of retreat though–I do wonder if it was done to avoid “controversy” or if they weren’t allowed to use the unaltered name in this context–which can take something away from a work like this.
Episode 13 is scheduled to air in October. Episode 12 ends right as Ash goes to have his fateful fight against goddamn Arthur too, but what’s waiting a few more days when we still have months of suffering ahead.
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