We finally did it, Split Screen readers. We finally roasted Madelyn enough to make her run off in shame. Now it’s just you and me. Mwah-ha-ha-ha! MWAH-HA-HA-HA! MWAH-
In all seriousness, Madelyn is gallivanting around Rome this week. Therefore, we didn’t get the chance to watch our usual My Hero Academia and Boys Over Flowers episodes in between the packing. However, since we care about you, we wanted to provide something to entertain you. So, instead, you’ll be getting this one-off with me, your other host Emma. Next week there will be nothing but, eh, we do what we can. If you haven’t read last week’s, now is the time to catch up.
To keep this on brand, I’ll talk briefly about the anime and k-drama I’ve been watching recently. You know, as opposed to the American and/or Canadian live action stuff that I promise I do watch sometimes. And, since I’m not watching any other k-drama, this means I’ll talk briefly about the anime I’ve been watching. Of course, I exclude My Hero Academia Season 3 because Madelyn might read this at some point, y’know?
So, we’ll be checking in on three shows (two currently airing, one finished), and it’ll be the three least embarrassing ones. Because I don’t know why I’m still watching Angels of Death. Clearly, there’s something deeply wrong with my taste.
Without further ado, let’s dive in to Not So Split Screen!
What Is It?
Banana Fish is an adaptation of a relatively popular shojo manga from the 80’s that somehow has never made the transition to anime. In case you were wondering what “shojo” means, it means manga targeted towards young women and girls. If you looked at the image above and thought “hm, that seems not very stereotypically shojo then,” you are correct. There’s definitely a lot less flowers and romance and cuteness and more guns and blood and massive conspiracies about a drug called Banana Fish.
If you thought “what the hell is a Banana Fish,” well, there you go. Apparently, the term originates from a J.D. Salinger short story.
Anyway, the reason it ran in a shojo magazine has a little to do with classifications being a bit different in the 80s and a little to do with the gay relationship at the center of the story. No boys allowed in my gay manga. Wait.
However, the relationship remains pretty background and subtextual throughout the whole story as I understand it. Sex is primarily framed as something painful and mean in Banana Fish, so the central relationship steers clear of it. Make of that what you will.
It’s being made by studio MAPPA, a pretty new addition in the anime realm. Masao Maruyama broke off from the well-established Madhouse (Death Note, Hunter x Hunter, Cardcaptor Sakura, etc) in 2011 to form it. Since then, it’s produced shows like Kids on the Slope (in partnership with Tezuka Productions), Kakeguuri, Inuyashiki, and, of course, the famous and infamous Yuri on Ice from 2016. I’d argue that the first on that list is the best they’ve made, but everything else has certainly been at least notable or unique. Banana Fish definitely fits that bill. Also, Hiroko Utsumi, formerly of Kyoto Animation and director of the first two seasons of Free! Iwatobi Swim Club, fills the director chair of Banana Fish. She likes her pretty boys, I guess.
Sorry for the studio talk. Anyway, MAPPA interests me as a studio. Also, I was interested to see Utsumi approach a more serious toned show since Free! (particularly its second season) did have more strong moments than many people credit it with. And, with a few exceptions, both the animation and direction on Banana Fish are amazing, particularly during action sequences. Hopefully, that level remains high and doesn’t topple like the animation breakdown that plagued Yuri On Ice near the end.
Should I Watch It?
As you may have noticed from the smartphones in the above clip, the adaptation of Banana Fish made the decision to modernize the setting of the story, moving it from the 80’s to the present day. It works and it doesn’t. While the modernization does help simplify the research parts, so far the staff only seem to have thought it through from the technology side. The story, characters, and society feel very 80’s action. That’s not bad on it’s own, but it’s awkward when it clashes with the modern elements. If you go into it with the idea that this is some kind of alternate modern day, it tones down the disconnect some. However, it still gives evidence that they didn’t give this as much thought as they should have.
If anything, I’m worried about the pacing. They’re adapting the entire 19 volume story into 24 episodes. Some of the rushing shows, particularly in the episodes focusing on main character Ash’s No Good Very Terrible Traumatizing Backstory. A lot of heavy stuff gets crammed together, diluting the impact.
To give you some perspective using our regularly scheduled programming, My Hero Academia also has 19 volumes. I’m not sure how many are currently animated, but it is certainly not all of them. And still, it has 57 episodes thus far. You can see the difference. Not having read the Banana Fish manga, I don’t know whether some of my issues stem from the original source, but either way, the adaptation either created them or failed to fix them.
Banana Fish is, at least, an exciting watch with lovable characters, smooth fight choreography, a distinctive art style, and a good amount of heart. It’s got an identity of its own, which is more than you can say for a lot of currently airing anime. I recommend it, with the content warning addendum that it’s got some pretty effed up stuff in it. I would look into those if you’re someone who might have trouble watching.
Banana Fish airs…sometime on Amazon Prime. Check Thursdays or Fridays, Amazon usually gets them up by then.
What Is It?
I don’t know why it’s called Planet With, don’t ask me. This wasn’t a show that I was planning on watching, but I saw a lot of people getting excited about the fact that it’s written by Satoshi Mizukami. Mizukami wrote two manga series considered by many to be classics: Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer and Spirit Circle. However, instead of adaptations for these two, he received the chance to create his own original anime with J.C. Staff.
It’s….well, it’s weird. Planet With throws you into its world with zero explanation. Soya Kuroi, our main character, lives in an apartment with Ginko, a green haired maid, and Sensei, a big purple cat. He can’t remember who he is or why he’s with them, but he doesn’t seem too bothered. He cannot seem to find any meat to eat. Suddenly, one day while he’s at school, a spaceship appears in the form of a bear(?) with hands at the bottom and PEAS written on the front. It seems to have been possibly going for PEACE, but it’s misspelled. Suddenly, six figures appear and summon mechs to fight the invading teddie bear. One of them enters a portal on the space ship to destroy it, sees visions of himself saving his mother from the fire that killed her and reconnects with her, before he finally blows up the teddie.
Meanwhile, Soya is pulled from school by Sensei and Ginko and told he must defeat the six superheroes. When he confronts one, he suddenly remembers the past he couldn’t before. While before, he felt obligated to go along, now he erupts in rage, blaming the power of the dragon that the heroes possess for killing his brother. And that’s the first episode.
Should I Watch It?
If you’re going to give any show a chance out of the ones currently airing this season, make it Planet With. It took me until episode 5 to fully get on board with it, but I am now super duper on board and waving my arms trying to get other people up here with me. Without spoilers, I promise that the elements introduced in episode 1 begin to make more sense. Mostly, however, the show proved to be more emotional affecting than I ever expected it to. Episode 5 made me sad, then touched, then sad all over again. Even before that point, I invested in some of the characters, but the smaller moments in this fifth episode stood out in particular to me.
Don’t get me wrong, it remains super weird. But it feels purposefully weird, and it keeps you on your toes. I don’t know whether Soya’s inability to find meat to eat is going to be an actual plot point or if it’s just there to be weird, but I’m down for it either way. Everything thus far works really well together. The characters play off each other, Soya gives us a good protagonist to connect with, and the fights get exciting because you root for both sides.
I mean, okay, the sound design sucks. I get what they were going for, I think. And two mechs crashing against each other might never sound pleasant, but it doesn’t have to be so awful either. Not that I’m an expert. All I know is that I’ve ripped out my headphones in pain a few times. Also, the CG is bad, in the storied tradition of bad CG in anime. Land of the Lustrous stands at the pinnacle of anime CG still, and nothing challenges its throne.
But everything else fires at all cylinders, and the show definitely gives the feeling that it knows what it’s doing and where it’s going. That kind of confidence is hard to come by.
Planet With airs on Crunchyroll on Sundays.
Kekkai Sensen & Beyond
What Is It?
Speaking of weird shows. Kekkai Sensen’s first season remains one of my three favorite anime ever. In case you’re curious, it’s Kekkai Sensen for fun and watchability, March Comes in like a Lion for emotion and character, and Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu for story and themes. Kekkai Sensen & Beyond features a different director than its first season, and I felt like it showed. Not that Shigehito Takayanagi did a bad job, per say, but his style gives a different vibe than Rie Matsumoto’s. I ended up putting it on hold at episode 8 and never finished the last four episodes.
Kekkai Sensen comes from Yasuhiro Nightow, the creator of the much more famous Trigun. The story takes place in an alternate New York City where an event called the Great Collapse caused the human world and the “alterworld” to be merged together. The Collapse was prevented from spreading farther than New York and stabilized by the erection of a barrier, but it didn’t re-separate the worlds. Instead, the citizens of New York (now called Hellsalem’s Lot) adjusted to sharing their living space with all manner of beings.
Libra, a group of primarily “blood technique” specialists, protects the balance as best they can in the chaotic city. We follow Leo, their newest member and possessor of the All-Seeing Eyes of the Gods on his daily adventures with the group and the life-threatening situations they find themselves in. I think Hellsalem’s Lot is my favorite fictional setting in any piece of media, and both the first and second season made great use of it to make the show come alive.
Should I Watch It?
Going back to it and starting at the beginning, I feel less bitter about the director change and enjoy it a lot more than I first did. Despite how much I love it, character depth for the main characters outside our protagonist Leo was lacking in the first season. Beyond gives you background and depth in spades but sacrifices the loose narrative thread that tied the first season together (one that was invented for the anime adaptation by original director Matsumoto, long may she reign). Since there was nothing connecting the episodes together, I felt less inclined to wait a week for each one. Beyond works much better as a binge watch.
Still, Beyond delivers more inconsistently than its predecessor. Some episodes, like the premiere, the third episode, Zed’s episode, and KK’s episode are stellar. Some are…okay. Nothing falls into outright bad, but it provides a different feeling than the consistently amazing episodes that made up the first season.
When you binge them, though, those only-okay episodes become less disappointing. And, when I say binge, I mean like two a day because that’s my definition. It’s still got the comedy, it’s still got the action, Leo remains one of my favorite protagonists. It definitely doesn’t get a 10/10 like the first season, but I’m much happier than I was the first time around with Beyond.
Will you like it? Well, obviously start with the first season. But if you like this clip, you’ll probably like it, yeah.
Thanks for humoring me for this Split Screen take over! We’ll have an off week next week, and then we’ll be back on schedule. If you’re watching any of these shows, tell me what you think! What are your favorite shows? Are you also pretending you’re not watching Angels of Death like me? Are you sharpening pikes to demand more MHA and BOF as opposed to whatever the heck this is?
Next time on Split Screen, Madelyn returns, All Might arrives, and fairytale vacation continues! As always, thanks for watching along with us!