5 Point Discussions – Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens 6: “Pinch Hitter”

by Sage Ashford

When Lin gets into trouble going up against someone looking for the Niiwaka Samurai, will Banba find a way to save him in time?  Or will Lin be another victim of the wrath of the Submarine Ninja?  Remember, if you like this article and 5 Point Discussions, please share it on Facebook or Twitter! It really helps. And if you’ve got any comments or questions, please hit me up @SageShinigami.

1. While Banba has become hungover from enjoying Hakata’s annual Oiyama celebration, Genzo calls in to request him for a job. To collect the mountains of cash the job was going for, Lin decides to take the request…only to wind up running into Shunsuke, who’s trying to test his skills against stronger opponents. One thing I’ll say, since joining up with Banba, Lin’s been forced to up his game considerably, as he keeps going against talented opponents or more ridiculous odds.
Lin isn’t exactly used to fighting with a samurai sword, so he winds up on the losing end of things. Just as he decides to switch to his preferred weapon though, he winds up getting kidnapped by the two idiots from last episode that were fired by Genzo for killing the wrong guy. Believing this is the Niiwaka Samurai, they intend to turn Lin in for a hundred million yen since the Samurai’s still wanted by the mafia Banba and Lin went after in episode 4, but more on that later.

2. Watching the previous episode, one might’ve thought that Banba would have been the one to get in trouble this week because he was so casually letting his guard down. But nope, it was Lin all along. He’s so busy trying to prove himself that he puts himself in real danger. The two men who kidnap him try to beat knowledge of the actual Niiwaka Samurai out of him, and when that fails they put out a torture request on the internet.
…Fortunately, apparently this town only has one torturer, and he just happens to be one part of the gang. Realizing Lin’s in trouble, Jose works with their plastic surgeon friend Saeki to replace Lin with a body double. Swapping Lin with the corpse, they carry him away with the rest of the gang to safety.
Everyone seems so happy to have the old sourpuss back that no one actually reprimands him for his stupid behavior. Well, no one except Jiro’s adopted daughter Misaki. Not gonna lie, my favorite kids in anime tend to be the ones that are way too smart and mature for their own age, so Misaki goes up several points this week to me. She rightly points out that Lin should be happy with himself instead of trying so hard to over reach, which in this industry could be deadly.

3. In the last arc, Lin and Banba teamed up and killed several high-level members of a group known as the Kakyu Association.  I was hoping that occurrence wouldn’t just go away, and it didn’t. This arc, the head of the Association has put a hit out on Banba/the Niiwaka Samurai. And though he starts out happy if anyone does the job, eventually he decides he wants to do it personally. Unfortunately, he decides that he’s going to put it off until after he gets a nice shag in with a rather beautiful woman.
Since this is a show featuring a cast of almost entirely hitmen, of course its a trap. The guy winds up dead as a result of the woman’s poison fingernails. It’s hinted that she was hired by Banba to do the job, and later we learn she’s actually Banba’s ex. It’s nice the story followed up on that, as there’s literally no way you could kill a portion of a mafia without them coming after you.

4. Since Shunsuke isn’t really after a job so much as he is a challenge, he actually tracks Lin down with the help of his buddy Naoya so he can finish off the match. Naoya winds up relying on Enokida’s help to track the kidnappers through the cameras in Hakata, and for a brief second you wonder how a big city can be such a small world. At least until you realize this is basically the underworld of the underworld, and how many people could do a job like Enokida’s and actually be good at it?
Meanwhile, when Banba learns Lin’s been kidnapped, he tries to rescue him without asking anyone else for help. So Lin winds up being saved while Banba gets caught by the Kakyu Association and carried to another location. Again, Shunsuke tracks them down with the help of Naoya, and bursts into the place killing all the Kakyu guys just for a shot at fighting the Niiwaka Samurai. He helps Banba escape and the two of them finally get to have their match.
The fight is pretty gorgeously animated, and the two are surprisingly even. I’m not sure if Banba was holding back out of a desire to not kill Shunsuke, or if Shunsuke really is just that good with just about any weapon he’s given. Either way, the duel turns in Banba’s favor when Shunsuke decides to toss a shuriken at him…and Banba smacks it back like a baseball pitch with his katana. It’s absurd, but not even the weirdest thing to happen this episode. It knocks Shunsuke off the edge, and Banba rescues him to avoid ruining the festival being held beneath them.

5. We don’t get to see what happens to Shunsuke, but it’s no surprise that he basically winds up at the next baseball game. It is a bit of a surprise that he winds up on the opposite team, though. That makes me wonder if their entire amateur league isn’t made up of professional assassins. A team full of snipers.  Some old school strong arm gangsters. Maybe a team of crooked cops. I realize baseball as a pasttime is quickly becoming bigger there than it is here, but jeez. I can’t help wondering how the whole scenario works–is no one concerned that the entire group could get murdered by a random assault from mob bosses? Ah well.  Maybe it’ll come up another time.
Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.

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