Banana Fish (Shojo Edition) Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 9.95
  • Pages: 192
  • ISBN: 1-56931-972-3
  • Size: Tall B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Banana Fish (Shojo Edition) Vol. #01

By Eduardo M. Chavez     May 31, 2004
Release Date: April 01, 2004

Banana Fish (Shojo Edition) Vol.#01
© Viz Media

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Yoshida Akimi
Translated by:Matt Thorn
Adapted by:

What They Say
Vice City: New York in the 80's...
Nature made Ash Lynx beautiful; nurture made him a cold ruthless killer. A runaway brought up as the adopted heir and sex toy of crime lord "Papa" Dino Golzine, Ash, now at the rebellious age of seventeen, forsakes the kingdom held out by the devil who raised him. But the hideous secret that drove Ash's older brother mad in Vietnam has suddenly fallen into Papa's insatiably ambitious hands - and its exactly the wrong time for Eiji Okumura, a pure-hearted young photographer from Japan, to make Ash Lynx's acquaintance...

The Review
Tonight I will be looking at Viz's reprint of Yoshida Akimi's Banana Fish. Mohawks, wife-beaters and huge mustaches, oh my!

I am not sure if the cover image is appropriate at this point in the series, but I have to say that this image with Eiji on a bed, gun in hand is simple and beautiful. The inked image is done on a cover that is full of different shades of yellow. Cool! On the back cover is the original front cover art (featuring Ash firing his gun) to the left of a long blurb.

Logo Check!! (2003 Megs)... as the original logo was already in English, I have to say I was disappointed to see Viz go with such a weird looking font.

Inside the printing looks real nice. Inks are sharp and I have not noticed alignment issues. Actually, it appears as if Viz did not even blow the pages up as there is quite a bit of above and below the panels Yoshida laid out. I really like seeing this as the screen tone does not get effected too much.

This volume features ads for: Hansel & Gretel, Excel Saga, and Basara graphic novels and Ceres and Boys over Flowers DVDs.

Yoshimi's art really stands out from most shojo designs. There is a little more realism, as her designs are always to scale, with stereotypical North American features. You will not find huge eyes or bishonen here. Characters are all sporting costume designs from the 80's: mohawks, thick mustaches, wife beaters, tacky jackets and ties. Oh gosh its just awful (but cool!).

Backgrounds are wonderful. Yeah, at times I wonder if this is supposed to be New York as the generic looking bars and warehouses could be set in LA, Detroit, Chicago... Despite the look, I was really impressed by the backgrounds as they helped out the simple yet active layout. While the panel placement may not be fancy, the perspective is wonderful. It reminds me of a good film's storyboard.

This Shojo GN reprint is presented in its original right to left format. All of the SFX are translated with layovers. The touch-up is really good and for the most part the translations look pretty good.

The translation can be a little tough to follow at times. It still works very well with the idea of this title, Japanese journalists go to New York to report on youth gangs, but it can through readers off a bit if they are not expecting Engrish. So here and there when the Japanese characters are communicating with Americans their grammar could be a little off, and when they speak with each other (in Japanese) we get to see that dialogue in "<>"'s. Honorifics are used between the Japanese characters, and I like the way that Thorn and Horn give the American characters a tough edge in their dialogue, as well.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
New York 1985, and something weird is hitting the streets and alleys of this metropolis. Recently, there has been a string of suicides within Gotham's upper-class. To the NYPD these "suicides" remain on the books as they cannot find motives for any of these deaths, nor could they find real connections to any individual who would murder anyone of them. And most importantly, these random deaths are not stopping.

Teenager, Ash Lynx, may be the only person who may know a thing about these... these murders. He just walked into one as it was going down. Seems his own crew (gang) has been wrapped up in this. Ordered by local Mafioso, "Papa" Dino Golzine, his boys iced some local author and almost botched the job. Now as bad as Ash can be, he is not one to have people killed unless he does it himself. Something has to be up with all of this. And what about that author? What was his deal with "Banana Fish?"

If there was not enough investigative work already, a pair of journalists from Japan are in town to do research on American youth gangs. They will be working with the assistance of the NYPD to contact local gangs and fate has them meeting with Ash and his gang. Remember, they might look like children, and some of them are, but among them are adults in bodies that have not caught up to the souls inside them. As a first impression Ash is nothing like yakuza - good looking, laid back attitude and very young is literally a polar opposite. Still the kid commands a presence amongst crowds like this, and when not around his gang he regularly has audiences with the major players in the New York mafia world. What got him here were two things: his looks and his brains. The guys looks has got him places where only a few go; while the brains keeps him there.

Unfortunately, for all those involved with Eiji and Shunichi trouble has decided to show up for Ash. Now everyone is scrambling - cops, Ash's gang, and the reporters. And who was behind all of this... one of Ash's ambitious boys and one of Papa's thugs getting back at Ash for personal reasons by using his involvement with that banana fish murder. Now Eiji is stuck with Ash caught up in this mess, and from now on these two will have a bond that could cause both of them more trouble as they get deeper into this mystery of "Banana Fish."

There really are not enough titles like this in North America. Banana Fish is not just a wonderful mob drama, and people can quickly forget that this is a shojo title. Yoshida's take on '80's New York my be a little superficial, but looking back it brings up memories of cheesy cop dramas and to me even some of the better moments of Grand Theft Auto. Abandoned factories, dark alleys and tiny dives makes for great settings for crime, and by mixing the cast with professional criminals and young punks can add different levels to this drama (Ambition. Individual experience versus teamwork. Manipulation.). Then behind all of that there is the mystery of Banana Fish. There are few stories out there, let alone manga titles, than can weave a tale like this, make sense and age so well.

For those who would not touch shojo manga with a 10-foot pole, Banana Fish should change your mind. This is not your average shojo title, heck there are hardly any females at all so far and in my opinion so far we are bishonen free as well. Instead we get action, drama, suspense and some of the ugliest looking mustaches and suits I have seen in ages. Take a step back to the '80's and watch your back.

With this being my third time around with this title, I have to say this is the best I have seen it in English (PULP and 2 versions GN). I already enjoyed the translation, but now reading it in its original orientation with the images in their original size is great. Best of all Yoshida's product, full of action, comedy, suspense and a little American history is almost perfect for American audiences (especially with all the mob/crime dramas that are on our airwaves nowadays). One can only wish for more titles like Banana Fish.


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