Firstly, I’d like you to keep in mind this isn’t a review as we’re only halfway through the Winter season. This is me looking at a series that started this winter with little fanfare. And yet, it fast became my only must watch pick of this season outside of March Comes in Like a Lion. I know I am not alone in saying that this show has been surprisingly good but even without the surprise factor, this show is just good. While, like most stories, it won’t suit everyone’s tastes, there are certainly enough reasons for you to give it a go if this is a show you didn’t pick up this season.
The most compelling reason would be that this show demonstrates some fairly solid writing. In its first four episodes it wove an interesting story with multiple characters and plot threads and seemed to effortlessly bring it all together. Not one scene or moment was wasted as everything fed into the overall story and had some significance even if at first you couldn’t quite work out why something might be important.
I recently watched the first episode again to introduce a friend to the series and realised how many things I missed the first time. There are just so many small details that have been included and overall it creates a very cohesive and fairly compelling narrative. While the existence of that many hitmen in such a city in Japan might be fantastical, the narrative effortlessly leads you to believing that the scenario is plausible and that somehow this city functions.
That said, at its core it is a story about hitmen and revenge, which might not interest all viewers. I was worried about the new arc starting at episode 5 and whether the show could manage to keep its momentum going, yet both episode 5 and 6 proved beyond doubt that this story has some real thought behind it to deliver something that feels fresh even if it is walking some fairly familiar story lines.
Outside of the story, we have some really interesting characters. Probably the best part about the show is that the characters are all fun in their own way, even with the dark and serious subject matter. Whether it is Banba, who enjoys playing the clown, Lin, who has clearly been given the straight man role, Saito, who is just in over his head, the Avengers, who are every bit as over the top as their name implies, or the myriad of other hitmen, organisations and victims we encounter, each character is memorable in their own way and leaves an impression. That said, Banba and Lin’s relationship, and how that has developed over the course of the first 6 episodes, has been fantastic to watch unfold and I can’t wait to see more of it. Episode 6 saw me truly fall in love with the characters of this show and now I’m just worried they are actually going to get hurt before the season’s end.
It is perplexing that the characters are all so oddly likeable despite most of their actions. The culmination of the events of the first arc leading to the surviving characters playing baseball together was very well done and seeing these characters interact in their day to day lives, outside of the killing people part, goes a long way toward humanising them and making you want to see them succeed even as you have to question their moral standing almost every other minute of the episodes.
With some decent music, some very well done scenery (having been to Hakata I’ve had the pleasure of actually recognising some of the scenery and it has been an excellent reminder of the trip), and pacing that knows exactly when to move on and when to pause on a moment, Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens has so far been a pure joy to watch.
While there are plenty of reasons why this show might not hold up all the way until the end of the season, there are plenty of reasons to believe that it will continue to build on this very solid first half. If you haven’t tried it yet, give the first episode a go and see if this anime can draw you in. Definitely not for those squeamish about blood and murder though.
Thanks for reading.
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