5 Point Discussions – Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens 12: “Walk-Off Home Run” [Final]

by Sage Ashford

Lin’s partner from the past has emerged to tear Lin from his life in Hakata, and if he won’t come easily then he’ll kill all of Lin’s friends!  Will Lin and Banba be able to escape from Fei-Lan? 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. It occurs to me this entire series, Lin has been fighting with the limiter on, as he’s been winning all these fights in freaking high heels. Still, that finally comes back to bite him in the butt this episode when he winds up in a battle against Fei Lan. Rather than be forced into a situation where he has to kill his friend, he instead decides to escape; tossing a cigarette ash tray at a window to weaken it before leaping through like an action hero, he twists his ankle upon landing. See, this is why you should always wear flats when you’ve got a serious mission ahead of you.
In any case, he limps away to safety and decides to call Banba for help. Fortunately, Banba’s been tracking him thanks to one of Enokida’s tracking devices…but before they can escape, Fei-Lan manages to get a shot off on Banba, incapacitating him. Seconds later he knocks out Lin while he’s still in shock over what’s happened. With control over the Kakyu Association, he uses them to bring both Banba and Lin to a secret location. I thought it was a little weird for Lin to get tracked twice, but with a twisted ankle there’s no way he was moving fast–following him was probably simple.

2. When Lin and Banba wake up inside of a cell, they finally get to have the heart to heart Lin’s been trying to avoid since this arc started. He opens up about his past and what happened between him and Fei Lan, and even admits to himself he was only running away because he was afraid to let himself trust someone again. It’s a sweet moment of honest character growth…that immediately gets ruined when Fei Lan arrives.
Unsurprisingly, Fei Lan gets the bright idea to restore Lin to his “old self” with a tried, but true classic: make Lin fight Banba to the death. Apparently the experience has left him way worse off than it did Lin, because we got this idea a second time in two episodes. Also, can I take a moment to ask what “old self” Fei Lan is trying to revive? Lin’s still a hitman; he gets paid to murder people for a living, and the series hasn’t made any attempt to give him any other job.   Just because he made some friends doesn’t mean he’s gone soft…if anything he’s started to get better because hanging out with Banba makes him fight more dangerous opponents.
Still, the plan fails because Banba’s not secretly an awful person. When they’re offered the opportunity to choose their own weapons, Banba goes for a bat…and when Fei Lan tries to shoot him with a crossbow, he manages to deflect the arrow into hitting one of the Kakyu members helping him. Distracted, Lin takes the opportunity to use a knife gun to murder one of the others and injure Fei Lan.

3. Easily the most useful thing in this entire series has been Enokida’s tracker spiders.  They’ve saved several members of this group at some point, and once again saves Lin and Banba as everyone manages to track them down through one. During Enokida’s brief arc I complained about the show’s attempt to trick the characters in the episode without tricking the audience and how a story always feels less impressive that way. Well here they do a complete reversal, as it turns out half of Banba’s dialogue while captured turns out to be conversing with both Lin and Enokida, tipping everyone off to their location.
With the show being at the end, everyone gets a chance to show off: even the old man who normally just gives contracts and runs a restaurant reveals himself as an assassin. He shows up rocking the old school trench coat/tommy gun look, and dispatches an entire building full of chumps with the help of Banba. Enokida also gets the addresses of the remaining higher members of the Kakyu Association but…does it really matter? How many times does your organization have to get wrecked by the same group of individuals before you give up?  Wouldn’t they just stop coming after you anyway?

4. The last part of the episode is Lin going after Fei Lan, who’s bleeding after being shot in the side by Lin’s knife gun. This show isn’t really afraid of redemption arcs, but it’s obvious Fei Lan isn’t really capable of living a normal life at this point–he’s a bit too broken from his experiences. The fight scene he and Lin have is short but impactful, with Lin using a candy he got from Banba to distract Fei Lan and go for a killing blow. It’s a dark, intimate death…but oddly enough it feels necessary.
As unfortunate as it is, Fei Lan was the last remnant of Lin’s past–in refusing to confront it and running away, he’s been running away from any chance at a normal life. But when he finally faces Fei Lan down and brings their confrontation to a close, he’s choosing to embrace his present over running from his past. More than that, he’s willing to fight to protect the happiness he’s found. All of this is what makes the end scene where Lin returns to Banba and the others so powerful: he’s a broken kid finally learning to trust and embrace people who care about him.

5. Final Thoughts: Despite many of the people who watched it calling it anime of the season, Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens is a series you’re going to forget in a year. That sounds absurd coming from a person who loved the series, but it’s no less true. This is my runner up for anime of the season (nothing can unseat the gloriousness of Grancrest), and most people who watch it will tell you it’s one of their favorites, too. But none of that matters.
If you’ve seen my Spring TV Guide, you know there’s almost seventy new series coming over the next two months. After a season where we already had over fifty television series. And when the Spring ends Summer’s already got 40 more shows to come. And Fall typically has as many as Spring or even more. Altogether, it’s going to end up being over 200 series when it’s all said and done.  More television series air in a year now than some people used to watch in an entire lifetime.
To be sure, HTR has a lot going for it. The animation is beautiful, its jazzy soundtrack is delightful and reminiscent of Cowboy Bebop in the best way, and its plotting is superb. Its characters are all unique and likable in their own ways, and perhaps most surprisingly? It’s got an amazingly positive portrayal of a gay couple. (Oh, and Jiro and Jose are cool too, I guess.)  But the thing is…you’ve seen it before. A lot. And recently, no less.
Remember Hamatora?  It’s a slightly less well-written version of HTR but with super powers.  Or Bungou Stray Dogs?  It’s basically Hamatora plus HTR with the fanservice for women cranked up slightly. How about Trickster?  They’re all variations on the same idea: an eclectic cast of characters with unique skills in a big city dealing with issues only they can solve. And they’re all somewhere between good to amazing, too. But none of them are ever really capable of sticking, so they join the not-so-exclusive club of “forgettable, but great” anime series. (They’re also just the ones I could name off the top of my head.)
I don’t want that for HTR, but here we are. It’s no longer enough to be “good” in the era where more new media is available in a year than humanity used to create in entire generations. You have to have that certain something that can stick in the memory of pop culture, or at least the anime subculture. Being licensed to air on Toonami or being one of the many anime Netflix had invested in would’ve given it a better chance, but would help much more is if it didn’t just stop after a single cour.
People complain about series like One Piece or Naruto, but the reason they’ve got so many fans isn’t just because of their quality, but because they’re there. Month in and month out fans got to watch those shows. Naruto started when I was a freshman in high school and finished long after I graduated college. They didn’t just become a part of the zeitgeist, they pushed past that and became institutions. Three months isn’t enough time to do that.  A second, third, and a fourth season that continued to develop these characters and their world is what this show needs to elevate itself above those other series.
That all sounds kinda dark, but this is actually my argument for why the series should keep going. It has so much potential, and definitely has enough light novel source material to get a second season. Why stop now?
But for now, we’re definitely at the finish line. This makes my third series of the Winter wrapped up. Of course, Grancrest will keep going, as will Boruto and Black Clover…but soon enough we’ll find those series some new companions. For now, I hope you enjoyed following this show with me.
Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens is available on Crunchyroll.

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