(WARNING: This post may contain small spoilers from Banana Fish. Read at your own discretion.)
Revenge is often slow moving and slow burning. It may take years for a characters revenge plot to be fulfilled, but that doesn’t make the results any less sweeter. Most often than not characters design revenge schemes in order to destroy the recipient; either psychically, emotionally or sometimes both. Whether it is served piping hot or cold-revenge is one dish I can’t get enough of in anime.
The definition of revenge has a multitude of meanings. The first one is described as “the action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands“and the second one is “the desire to inflict retribution.” You can think of the first definition as the famous saying, “an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, hand for a hand, a foot for a foot.” Revenge often serves as a reminder to others that you should not be trifled with. Revenge provides a way to keep order in a society where the rules of law are weak and malleable, but at the end of the day revenge always comes at a price.
One character that is comfortably familiar with revenge is Yut-Lung Lee from the anime Banana Fish.
Considering that revenge is a human response, it isn’t surprising that Yut-Lung would seek out revenge in the show. The emotion of revenge often stems from the feelings of hatred, anger, or hurt that was once portrayed as love or desire. It is generally a result of something you might have always wanted but was ripped away from you, or someone you always loved not being with you anymore. Once this specific thing/someone is forever wiped away from existence in your life you might think you need to seek retribution. This feeling implies that whatever it was that you held closest to you still in fact matters deep down. Seeking revenge on someone means that you are still affected by whatever was done to you.
Yut-Lung Lee sought out revenge not only on Ash and Eiji in the series, but his own brothers as well. Yut-Lung is the youngest of seven children, and his parents died when he was just six years old. That is when he started living with his aunt and uncle. But where does the revenge plot come in you may ask? Well, I’ll tell you. Later on in the series we find out that Yut-Lung’s mother was a street vendor’s daughter and became his father’s mistress when she was just 10 years old. His father was 65. When his father died, his half brothers came in and raped/killed his mother as they despised her and Yut-Lung of being their father’s favorite mistress and child. Thus seeing Yut-Lung as a threat for the inheritance. They raped/killed his mother and made him their weapon to keep him from gaining power.
Yut-Lung grew up hating himself and vowed that he would bring the Lee family to extinction with his own hands. He would kill his own brothers and family to make them pay for their crimes against him and his mother. A perfect leeway for a revenge plot am I right? The right thing for Yut-Lung to do would be for him to let it go, forgive and move on but that’s not how this works in anime! Nope. Revenge is another key to why Yut-Lung despises Ash and Eiji so much.
Yut-Lung believes that he and Ash are like Yin and Yang. His feelings towards Eiji are amicable at first but then they slowly turn towards hatred later on in the series. He believes that Eiji will drag Ash down and likely be his downfall. He also despises Eiji because of how much he means to Ash, viewing him as this undesirable weakness. This was really prevalent in episode 18 when Ash didn’t hesitate to shoot himself in the head for Eiji when Yut-Lung as him to.
In a few episodes towards the end of the anime series Blanca states that Yut-Lung feels like this because he desires the sort of connection Ash and Eiji have. A pure unrequited love for one another, something that Yut-Lung never got to experience. This is due to his mother being raped/killed by his own brothers and his father being a POS pedophile. Yut-Lung never got to feel the emotions of love, security, affection because those emotions were replaced with loneliness, heartache, and affliction. Something no child at the age of six should have to experience.
In a lot of ways Yut-Lung still shows signs of being a child on the inside. Throughout the series we see him display signs of selfishness, whining, and crying/throwing tantrums when he doesn’t get his way.
To me, this shows that Yut-Lung missed the opportunity to really be a child because of his past experiences. He grew up not knowing what true happiness/love felt like and was completely consumed by the thoughts/idea of revenge. I can’t imagine the type of toll that took on him. I should probably also note that Yut-Lung was also used like a sex toy much like Ash was in the series. I am sure this also played into his feelings of wanting to be loved by someone. The desire to want to be loved unconditionally by someone is eats at you like a parasite. Yearning for something you want but cannot have will break your soul little by little. And that is exactly what Yut-Lung was in the series…a broken young boy pretending to be a man. Blanca knew this from the moment he met Yut-Lung and Sing confirms this in the last episode of the series.
As Alex over on Watch JoJo (in 2017) says, “No one does revenge stories quite like Japanimation.” Revenge stories in anime tend to give us the best tortured and diverse characters. I couldn’t agree more. Yut-Lung’s story of revenge was one of the best plot points in Banana Fish. I was captivated by him, not only by how beautiful he was, but also by how tormented he was a young man. Lost, angered, jealous, bitter, but also endearing in some ways. When Yut-Lung showed his weak points he was utterly helpless and that made me feel for him. I wanted to reach out and hold him. I knew deep down that he was still a young boy crying out for attention/love. And that is what a good story should do. It should make you feel something when watching/reading/consuming it. That means the creator/author did their job (*as I have stated many times on my blog before).
Yut-Lung’s character in Banana Fish was one of my favorite things about the show. I definitely find myself often thinking about him and how he felt throughout the series. I feel like we can all relate to him on some type of level. My hopes for Yut-Lung in the aftermath of Banana Fish would be for him to find himself, love himself, forgive himself, and be able to overcome his sense of self-deprecation. Ash and him both deserved better, but they only knew how to survive the hand they were dealt. I would want Yut-Lung to find inner and outer peace. As Yut-Lung says, “Nothing is born from history.”
Other shows that also contain revenge themes are 91 Days, KILL la KILL, Psycho Pass, Castlevania, Berserk, Claymore, Afro Samurai, Code Geass, Dante’s Inferno and Terror in Resonance. Of course there are tons more but I don’t have all day to name them all XD
Disclaimer: All imagery and photos come from searching for them on the internet. I have no claim or right to them. If I find any links I will always post them (this usually entails fan art or any other work affiliated with an artist)