Banana Fish (Shojo Edition) Vol. #02 (Mania.com)
By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Release Date: Saturday, May 01, 2004
Translated by:Matt Thorn
What They Say
VICE CITY: NEW YORK IN THE 80s...
A runaway brought up as the adopted heir of crime lord "Papa" Dino, Ash Lynx has forsaken 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 it's exactly the wrong time for Eiji, a young photographer from Japan, to make Ash's acquaintance. When Dino arranges for Ash's frame-up for the murder of a man he had motive to kill twenty times over, an "accident" behind bars is on the agenda. But in the same prison is Max Lobo, a journalist himself on the trail of the enigma code-named Banana Fish...
I am not sure if the cover image is appropriate at this point in the series, it is an action image of Ash firing a gun. 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 (with Ash and Eiji panicking) to the above of a long volume description.
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. If you look closely, you will notice that there is quite a bit of space above and below the panels Yoshida laid out. I really like seeing this as the screen tone is not effected too much.
This volume features a cast notes and a page long recap of volume one, as well as an ad for Sensual Phrase.
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 it is just awful (but cool!). Ash's blonde hair and lanky body is based on Swedish tennis star Stephan Edberg (straight out of the 80's and early 90's as well).
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 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.
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.
Captured by Dino's thugs, Ash is fighting for his survival and the safety of his friends. He as fallen for Marvin's trap and with Skip his life is now on the line. What Ash is not aware of is that this is only a small part of the greater web that has been set by Dino, using both Marvin and Ash to assume control of whatever "banana fish" is. The Dino's web went far beyond anything Ash would have believed and once Ash was caught, the ambitions of those wishing to take Ash's turf proved to powerful to escape from.
Papa Dino did not get to the position he is at by playing favorites or getting to attached to his tools (I mean men). Therefore, he is not above killing a few of his men or using his biggest political cards early if the results provided dividends. The risks are of no relevance if things payoff for him. A kingpin works that way. He can do his job from above without putting your fingerprints on the work and rake in the rewards if any are found. If nothing is gained, he replenishes the troops finding others that are ambitious and flawed to use repeatedly. Dino’s game is playing with a lot of risk right now. Moreover, while he feels he is a few steps ahead of his opponent, he might have used too many cards this time round.
Once caught, Ash knows something huge is going down. He tried work on Dino earlier. He knew something was coming but the magnitude of this attack overwhelmed his resources. His gang panicked. He panicked. Eventually, a few of his boys were shot. The cops are on him now and who knows where that will lead him. Nevertheless, he knows he cannot give up, for Papa Dino is going all in for some reason. As long as he is able to outwit Dino, he should be fine. Doing that might be a little tough without his support system, though.
Yoshida does not waste any time to put our hero in deep trouble. Ash has been able to survive on the streets for years by using his wits and his own connections to keep two steps ahead of his enemies. Yoshida does this story right by teaching Ash a lesson immediately into this long series. And the lesson is "do not mess with the mafia, especially a kingpin." Guys like Papa Dino are ruthless men without serious attachments to anything in life. They live on taking risks and every move we see Dino make is as big as the next. Ash does not have that luxury. He has to use his wits to fend off the attacks, but as we see here, luck will be needed just as much as smarts for the power of a mafioso boss is able to do almost anything.
By immediately creating this struggle for Ash, Yoshida draws in her readers into a world where escape seems impossible. We just do not know enough about Ash to believe he can survive all of this. But Yoshida through well-placed flashbacks was able to give Ash some hope to work with. As those pieces become clearer to Ash, it becomes evident to the reader that it is Ash against the world.
A concept like that is so much fun, because every new character gets used in a different way. Every new twist in the plot means either another trap or a loophole for Ash to exploit. Every new move done outside of his immediate world should eventually tie into his plans whenever he gets out. Therefore, you see Yoshida is setting up something much larger than what is going on before you in this volume. It is so big, but if you pay attention, things start to fall into place quickly. And you get to see if from three perspectives - Dino's, Ash's and Eiji's. Pick your poison and you should have a lot of fun.
You get to see life on the street. You experience an interesting take on life in prison. Then there are all the happenings in mansions, hospitals and underground abortion clinics. Yoshida covers a lot of ground in one volume of manga, but it gives readers a chance to take in a lot of this version of New York.
Banana Fish already challenges the ides of what a shojo title can be, but it as it develops it quickly becomes one of the more intriguing titles in all of manga. This cast, the setting and the multi-layered plot come together to create a riveting story that entertains from start to finish. Quite possibly one of the best crime dramas out there (someone should make a live drama out of this). Pick this up now, you won't regret it.
Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left