Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More

Ash and Eiji’s Gay Romance – Banana Fish


80s shojo manga turned retro-modern anime Banana Fish is a lot to describe. And also a lot Period. It’s the kind of work that can cause strong, complicated and mixed feelings of all kinds. But I don’t want to go there! What I’m absolutely sure of and what brings
me joy is that at its heart, there are Ash Eiji and their incredibly compelling relationship. They are simultaneously an old married couple and just dumb boys who love being with each other. It’s a classic opposites attract, bringing the best out of each other, with a two different worlds colliding sort of situation. Ash is an American gang leader, a fighter and a survivor in every sense of the word. He’s also very much an 80s action hero trying to break away from a life of crime. He’s a good boy! His most notable original design is based on actor River Phoenix and it captures that good old magnetic, intriguing bad boy kind of energy. He also really has that classy vibe, like Greta Garbo… without the tits? Meanwhile, Eiji would be like the ingénue
in those movies. He’s a Japanese boy with a heart as big as his hair is puffy and boy is it puffy. His original design is based on 80s heart-throb
Hironobu Nomura whose image also seems to lean on a certain puppy-eyed, appealing innocence. Eiji is a sweet, normal boy living a normal
life in Japan until he comes to the states to learn the true meaning of “be gay do crimes” Ash and Eiji’s relationship is… let’s say without labels, or rather, it transcends labels. It’s interesting to look at the way the
whole thing is framed, and the romantic tropes it uses. Like the superhero’s girlfriend with the whole kidnapping and the saving of the love interest from the bad guys. Or bringing up a past love interest that the protagonist couldn’t save to convey fear that they might not be able to save their love from danger. On a more sexual note, there’s the gun as
a metaphor for something else and the intimate shaving. It’s also clearly in conversation with western classic gay movies, and there’s also how multiple scenes in the anime incorporate gay ass rainbows. Ash and Eiji’s relationship is open enough
for you to either read it as an asexual romance, or as tension that’s not acted on in front of our eyes so follow your heart! These alternatives reminds of Touya and Yukito’s relationship in Cardcaptor Sakura who curiously enough, come from newer source material but an older adaptation. The portrayal of these relationships share
some notable similarities, like the close friendship or the suggestion that they are about to kiss through framing and movement, ending on an intimate embrace instead. There’s some very interesting Ash and Eiji content on outside material from mangaka Akimi Yoshida, and they have certain elements that set them apart from other more questionable content
you might or might not find around the internet. There’s physical unity, connection and belonging
with the use of all black clothes that literally unites their figures. In one of them, Ash is directly looking at
us with a pinky ring that apparently used to symbolize association with crime, as if he were making a statement to both his world and the audience. Points were made. Notably, Ash is either taking charge with
Eiji letting him or Ash letting Eiji take charge as a sign of trust. There’s the act of shaving while looking
into each other’s eyes as a very classy way to convey tension, longing, and intimacy. There’s also an illustration of the two
wearing what looks like traditional wedding tuxedos, where Ash looks at Eiji and holds
nine red roses, which by itself are classic symbols of romantic love and desire and nine of them basically means “I want to spend my life with you” On the anime side of things, there are details like the gun as a metaphor for consent. There’s the way they changed where exactly Ash finds Eiji when he wakes up after they fall asleep together. And of course, there’s the kiss. The kiss in the manga happens for “plot” reasons, and it gets mostly framed as comedic relief. But the anime sees that as an opportunity to make gay things gayer. There’s an emphasis in softening Eiji into
it and how it affects him in a “falling under a spell” kind of way there’s the high that’s meant to come with a good kiss, and creating an atmosphere of intimacy between the boys by separating these dudes reaction from what’s happening, rather than letting them take some attention away from it for the comedy. Another interesting addition is a shot after
the kiss which again emphasizes the intimacy and also the trust between the boys, presenting them as equal. The reasons I hate the ending and everything that came out of it, which is a massive disservice to everything that’s good in this story and also massive (long beep) is longer than toilet paper, so I’m not going to get into it. But what’s most relevant here is the relationship
between Banana Fish and classic gay films and just you know sad gay stories. Illustrations with Ash and Eiji reference iconic shots from My own private Idaho Maurice and My beautiful launderette Banana fish’s ending it’s practically
a note for note reprise of Midnight Cowboy’s ending. There are feelings of a beloved bringing comfort
before passing away, dying before reaching a desired destination, tragedy juxtaposed with the morbid mundanity that a total stranger passing away can bring… Someone is experiencing a terrible loss but life goes on for the rest of the world and all that. The story in Banana Fish and these movies
are pretty different, but they all share notable similarities besides featuring a blond boy
and a brunet They all have relationships that are based
on a strong friendship. The relationships that are referenced… don’t exactly end well with the exception of My Beautiful Launderette, which ends on a more hopeful note for these boys. It’s also the one relationship being referenced
that’s explicitly sexual, and where it being interracial is part of the plot. With the exception of Midnight Cowboy, all these films were released during the 80s and early 90s, which is when the manga was being serialized. I wrote about this show while it aired extensively because apparently, I like suffering, and something that I noticed is that the attention
to detail is insane. For example, Eiji is linked to the freedom
of birds with emphasis on the flying. And also to blue birds that symbolize happiness
in outside material, but in the show, this little round boi is linked to Eiji and then used to foreshadow his kidnapping in the next episode. But what’s more interesting is the use of
colors and lighting to represent Ash and Eiji’s connection. Blue and pink are connected to Eiji and red and the decay of green to Ash and his rotten world. Because of this connection, green combined
with Ash’s gang are also used to frame Eiji as the center of Ash’s world. Red and blue are also shown in Ash’s heart in the first ending, and often in their clothes. Rainbows are present when Eiji pole-vaults
over a wall, capturing Ash heart for the first time. It’s there when Eiji first accepts a gun that Ash offers him When Ash tries to convince Eiji to go back to Japan for his own safety for their first time, ending the scene by telling him that
they are equals instead. This is also when Yut-lung fully realizes
how close they are and plots to use Eiji to get to Ash. It appears again when Ash tells Eiji the opposite, letting him know that he wants him to stay by his side. It’s also in the second ending, which heavily
focuses on Ash and Eiji. It’s there again surrounding New York during
in the final episode, while Eiji says they’ll meet again. By the way, the anime encourages more ambiguity in the ending with details like this and the official website’s character relationship
chart, which turns the picture of everyone who’s dead gray. But Ash is shown as alive and the line that
connects him to Eiji gets bolder and thicker, which is then reinforced by official art showing
them going on dates. I don’t even care if they are trying to
sell me (beep) he’s alive (beep)! I don’t want to speculate too much, but it’s clear to me that the anime staff had their hands tied, and in pretty weird ways at times. Why else would the word forever disappear
from Eiji’s lips when Ash asks him to stay with him, and land in a dark wall behind Ash, referencing the heart that unites them in the first ending? It smells of having to sneak in something
you really wanted to be there. By the way, this is a scene that cuts back
and forth between Ash and Eiji, where Ash is dealing with his world and Eiji is contemplating
going back to his, just to end running back to Ash instead. Speaking of adaptational choices, the anime favors certain softness and emotional vulnerability over the manga’s grittiness, which has some
interesting results. Some things that are consistent, like Eiji
being framed as the one Ash longs for, but the anime art goes further with
the intertwined rye, physically creation union while conveying their emotions Just take his hand damn it! Eiji himself is visually framed as a light
in Ash’s life, which is also an anime addition. In the scene when Ash tells Eiji he wants
him to stay with him, Eiji is positioned in a way that makes it look like the sun and
its light is coming out of him. So when Ash says that the sunset and the sunrise are the only thing worth seeing “in that dump” the connection is right there, reinforced by the rainbow that appears in that moment. With all that being said, as much as I like a lot of things the anime does with these two, and as much as I understand that the
80s brand of Extra was not gonna make it outside of the 80s, I don’t think we can live in
a world without an Ash and Eiji scene to the tune of an 80s power ballad. So allow me to leave you all with this.

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