Banana Fish is a classic shōjo manga by Akimi Yoshida which ran from 1985 to 1994 and spawned several mini-spin-offs: Private Opinion, Angel Eyes, and The Garden with Holy Light. The series was very popular in Japan.
There are nineteen Japanese tankōbon or eleven bunkobon reprints published by Shogakukan, an art book, Angel Eyes and Rebirth: The Banana Fish Official Guidebook. The spin-offs are collected in a single bunko titled Another Story. There was also a NHK radio drama, released in 1996 on CD as "BANANA FISH Part 1-3". Eiji was voiced by Kazuhiko Inoue and Ash Lynx was voiced by Tohru Furusawa.
Banana Fish is published in English by VIZ Media. The first (now out-of-print) graphic novel edition spanned the first seven volumes and featured 'flipped' artwork, subsequent "shōjo" editions are in the original right-to-left format and released on a bi-monthly basis (these new editions feature some translational differences). The series also ran in both of Viz's now defunct manga magazines, Pulp and Animerica Extra for several years.
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1973, Vietnam - an American soldier goes mad and guns down his buddies. Since then, the only words he has uttered are "Banana Fish"...
- Ash Lynx - The protagonist, a street-wise young gang leader with expert marksmanship. His real name is Aslan Callenreese.
- Eiji Okumura (奥村 英二 Okumura Eiji) - Japanese former athlete who, due to an injury, became a photographer's assistant.
- Blanca - A retired assassin and the man who trained Ash to become Dino Golzine's heir. Though he cares for Ash, he carries out any contract he is hired for.
- Dino Golzine - Ash's former patron, a mafioso kingpin with pedophiliac tastes.
- Shunichi Ibe (伊部俊一 Ibe Shun'ichi) - Japanese photojournalist who brings Eiji to the U.S. to do a report on street gangs.
- Frederick Arthur - A former member of Ash's street gang who allies himself with Golzine in order to usurp Ash. He is particularly vindictive and cruel.
- Max Lobo - A Vietnam War veteran and journalist who has trouble with his ex-wife. Max Lobo also has a young son. He becomes Ash's main confidante in his battle against Golzine. His real name is Max Glenreed.
- Shorter Wong - The gang leader who controls Chinatown, ally to Ash, who has been friends with him for a long time.
- Sing Soo-Ling - A very young member of the Chinese gang. Attacks with the deadly "flying dragon fang." He, like Ash, is amazingly smart and calculated for his age. He is loyal to Shorter.
- Lee Yut-Lung (李月龍, Japanese: Rii Yuerun, Chinese Hanyu Pinyin: Lǐ Yuèlóng, Cantonese: Lei5 Yut6Lung4) - The youngest son of the Lee family, the top family of China's criminal underworld. He despises his brothers for looking down on him and wants to depose them. Regards Ash and Golzine as special and is jealous of the care Ash shows for Eiji, a normal boy.
- Cain Blood - The cool and collected leader of New York's African-American gangs. He supports Ash in his gang war against Arthur.
Spin-offs and Prequels
- Fly Boy, In the Sky
- Eiji Okumura and Shunichi Ibe were introduced in this early short story by Yoshida.
- Angel Eyes
- The story of the beginnings of Ash Lynx's friendship with Shorter Wong.
- Private Opinion
- Details Ash's first memories of meeting and coming to trust Blanca.
- Hikari no Niwa, or The Garden with Holy Light
- A short story set after the events of Banana Fish, in which the characters Eiji and Sing, now several years older deal with the shadows of their past and try to cope with their present lives together.
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Frederik L. Schodt identifies Banana Fish as:
...one of the few girls' manga a red-blooded Japanese male adult could admit to reading without blushing. Yoshida, while adhering to the conventions of girls' comics in her emphasis on gay male love, made this possible by eschewing flowers and bug eyes in favor of tight bold strokes, action scenes, and speed lines.
- Schodt, Frederik L. (1996) Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga - Japanese Comics for Otaku. Berkeley, California: Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 1-880656-23-X
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