Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Series Review: Fun Times With A Group of Killers

For an anime I expected nothing from, Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens delivered a fairly compelling story full of fun and interesting characters. What did you think of it or did you miss this during the Winter 2018 season?

Review:

There was no doubt that one of my favourite shows from the Winter 2018 season was Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens. I really enjoyed the character interactions and the way each story thread and introduced element ended up being used in a meaningful way. There never felt like something just existed for the sake of it or that any loose ends were left out. While the subject matter might put some people off (there’s quite a bit of violence and death as well as assault), this one ended up being really interesting to watch.

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The opening theme really gets you excited for the episode and I thoroughly enjoyed it each episode. It kind of perfectly set the tone of the episode and introduced the characters and their relationships nicely without giving too much away. The jazzy music continued throughout the rest of the episode and generally was always kind of fun even if a lack of variety was noted at times.

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The character relationships, particularly the developing relationship between Banba and Lin, were definitely part of the draw of this show. Characters met and their meetings had impact on other characters. The character that had the largest character focus was Lin and his character ended up being quite interesting despite the fairly generic tragic backstory. This one is another case for generic not always being bad. While it was pretty by the numbers tragedy due to poverty leading to being trained as a hitman (okay, maybe not that standard but it felt pretty generic while watching the flash back episode) they timed it right when I had wanted to learn more about his character and it filled in some of the gaps while also setting up the final villain of the series. Again, everything was purposeful and used so even the less amazing story elements were pretty acceptable.

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The support cast are pretty awesome, with a range of personalities and roles and again, all of these are used. None of them feel unnecessary to the story as a whole and none of the characters feel repetitive or unused. The one exception is a character who sees to just be the one destined to have poor luck which is used for fairly lack lustre comedic effect a few times but fortunately isn’t an overt distraction from the story, and even then their presence is integrated into the greater narrative.

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Given this one is listed as an action, I should probably address that. If you are after epic battles and fight sequences, this one isn’t going to work for you. The action is fast and brutal with most sequences over in seconds. That said, it always injects some drama into the scene and each character has a unique approach to fighting that is visually distinct.

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However, this show does have some real downsides. One of those is the lack of danger or tension in the series. None of the villains, even the final one, present much in the way of a real threat and after the first one, very few are even built up to be threatening. The main cast don’t get injured, or their injuries are brushed aside even when they shouldn’t be. It all leaves you feeling a bit like none of the drama in the series will amount to much, so if you aren’t having fun with this series there isn’t a lot else to connect with. There’s also this weird visually effect with light that they use throughout the series that is kind of distracting but it isn’t a deal breaker, it is just kind of ugly.

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That said, I had a great time with this show and really looked forward to it each week. I wouldn’t mind another show like this one. While it isn’t perfect, it is definitely watchable and well worth giving a try provided you aren’t put off by violence.

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Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 12: They Set It Up And Bring It Home

This anime didn’t disappoint. As we went into the final episode it delivered yet another cohesive resolution to its plot bringing everything together in a highly satisfying manner.

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Of course we get plenty of Lin and Banba, which probably explains part of what I liked about this episode. But mostly it was that all the characters came together in a fairly natural way, we had a fairly big blood-bath of enemies with, once again, minor injuries for the main cast, but we also had Lin make his decision regarding Fei and that gave the episode just the right amount of drama.

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As close to a confession as we’ll ever get.

The Lin/Fei moment was particularly well handled. It didn’t drag out and their final fight lasted seconds but had suitable impact. I can’t say I had any complaints at all about how this ended up. Looking forward to writing a final review for this series, but I think I’ll rewatch it first.

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Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 11: Betrayal By Any Other Name

Banba, Lin, and all the other hitmen, torturers, assassins, hackers and other unsavoury characters continue to enthral as this anime enters its final stage. There is blood being spilled aplenty in this episode as well as some sweeter moments and some funny moments. Somehow the balance is just right and we continue driving smoothly toward a conclusion that I really hope manages to bring this series to a truly satisfying end.

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However, this week is all about betrayal. Past betrayals returning to bite characters, current betrayals, fake betrayals, justifying betrayal, and it all feeds into the motives of these characters as they are manoeuvred into position for what will hopefully be a spectacular confrontation in the final episode. My only real request though is that Lin gets a happy ending.

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There’s not much else to say about this episode. If you’ve been watching the series up until now, the story continues very well. If you haven’t been watching the series and a bit of blood and violence aren’t enough to put you off (early instance of sexual assault), then give this series a go, it is totally worth it.

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Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 10: Two Episodes To Go And All The Threads Are Coming Together

There are few anime that episodes from their final I feel confident in believing that everything is somehow going to come together, but Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens is remarkably reassuring in the way that each arc within the show has had closure and as we move into the final we see that each of those independent arcs served a purpose in the greater narrative. While this show may not be the most thrilling caper ever, the solid and consistent writing is more than making up for it and I’m thoroughly enjoying not having to wonder whether something actually has a purpose because I know at this stage that it will.

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That doesn’t mean that the show is perfect by any means but you could do a lot worse than what Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens dishes up this week as we see Banba’s campaign against the association resurface just as the Submarine Ninja is also hired to take them out. The association in return hires a Chinese hitman to protect its interests who just happens to be Lin’s old friend and we see everything and every player being effortlessly woven back into this story.

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Couple that with the ongoing great sound-track and the fun characters and this episode was just great fun to watch. I’m looking forward to next week and I’m really hopeful that this anime can stick its landing.

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Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 9: This Confirms It – Lin Needs a Hug

Anime has this real trend of giving main characters fairly horrific back-stories which are usually revealed through flashbacks at the mid-season or just before the final arc of the season, and Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens has followed trend by devoting most of this episode to Lin. Now we already knew Lin had a fair amount of tragedy in his past but knowing things were bad and seeing what he went through and the ongoing impact it is having on him are two entirely separate things.

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It’s a straight forward episode with no twists or turns or sudden character developments. All the clutter that this series usually injects is stripped away and we get a very straight forward narrative about Lin and his time being trained to kill. In one way that doesn’t distinguish it from other episodes of the same ilk in other shows and yet it does heighten the impact in this season as we get a solid focus on this character and this moment.

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And while the end of this sequence is about as predictable as it comes that isn’t to the episode’s detriment. It wears it well and ultimately the ending has more impact because you have seen it coming and you get the satisfaction of it playing out as it needs to without trying to be overly clever.

I’m wondering though if this is the beginning of a final arc that will play out over the next couple of episodes or whether they will rush through it like the previous arc. I’d like to think they will give us a few episodes of build up to really get to a climax for this series. Either way, I enjoyed this episode and hopefully the show can continue to entertain.

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Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 8: I Think We Need A Spin-Off Series Called Saito’s Revenge

Review:

I took three things away from this episode.

Number 1: The main cast have plot armour surrounding them so it doesn’t matter how many people they are up against, how much on the back foot they are, or how hard they are hit, they are going to get up and win the day so don’t worry about it.

Number 2: Enokida is definitely a pain in the neck but probably better to have him on your side than against you. Though, in Saito’s case it is hard to tell sometimes whether Enokida is actually with him or trying to kill him given this is the second time he’s given Saito assassins to deal with.

And Number 3: This show is a lot of fun no matter how predictable the plot twist for the current story turned out to be. And being fun despite being predictable is a fantastic feat and one that more shows should aim for. You don’t have to reinvent your genre to draw in an audience.

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The one complaint I do have is that the villains so far in this show really haven’t been worth the effort. Partially that is because of the aforementioned plot armour surrounding the main cast, but even the hacker and crew didn’t really manage to get beyond ‘bad guys’. They really don’t have any discernible traits or interesting characteristics and the audience has no reason to really concern themselves with them.

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Which kind of makes their defeat a little bit bland. It is a minor complaint though, because this episode zips along and it is really fun, aided as usual by the jazzy sound track and really fun main characters.

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Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 7: About Time Someone Tried To Kill the Hacker

Review:

I’d been wondering how Enokida was still alive and kicking given he seems to take on more or less any job even if it means trouble for his friends. This episode starts a new arc that reveals some of his back story and also plunges us into yet another interesting caper. The only down side of this is that Lin and Banba took on a more supporting role this episode when I really wanted to see more of them.

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It isn’t a surprise that Lin and Banba kind of faded into the background for quite a bit of this episode given we’re establishing a new crew that seem to be the face of the main antagonists (though like everyone else in the show they are also working for someone), some new victims, random muscle, and of course Enokida’s father and servant. And these new faces are kind of fun, or at least have the potential to add something to the plot as we go forward.

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But probably the best point, outside of this show just being beautifully written, was that for the first time I kind of cared about Enokida. So far, he’s just kind of been there. Sometimes helping, sometimes being a bit of a jerk, but not really a character in his own right. This episode took some great strides in fixing that.

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So, another fun episode bringing us more mayhem in Hakata and I’m looking forward to this story continuing next week.

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Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 6: Mistaken Identity Can Be Fun

Review:

I think this is the episode I officially fell in love with this series. I’ve really been enjoying it so far but there’s always been a hesitation in committing to it because there were so many chances for the show to derail. Yet 6 episodes of consistent entertainment and I’m now head over heels for this anime and I’m just going to try and squash that voice in the back of my mind that keeps asking where does it think it is going now.

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So what made this episode so great? Lin takes on a job for Banba and pretends to be the Niwaka Samurai which of course leads to him facing off with the ninja. That said, Lin wasn’t doing too terribly against him (not great but he didn’t get instantly wiped out so go him), however outside interference meant that Lin ended up kidnapped and knocked out. Which is where our story shows once again that every plot point exists for a reason and the kidnappers, realising they have a fake, hire the torturer for hire who set up his website in the last episode. Of course, they couldn’t have known that the torturer knew Lin and would swap him out. But what really makes this whole sequence special is how Banba and Lin both reflect on the other as they realise what is going on.

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I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my heart skipped a beat after that. I genuinely love these two characters and how well they play off one another. And just in case all of this wasn’t enough to make this a truly praise worthy episode, we do in fact get a fight between the real Samurai and Ninja.

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Plus a baseball game showdown at the end. This show is pure entertainment and when you couple a great story with great characters and a great soundtrack, there is very little not to like.

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Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 5: Why Not a Ninja?

Review:

This show continues to impress with how it manages to weave its story together. Despite episode 4 bringing the first arc to what felt like a decisive close, this episode managed to feel like we were just picking up where we left off while integrating the new problem our characters will face. I do feel a bit sorry for Saito as the main connecting thread was his departure from his job at Murder Inc and the killer they sent after him. He really needs to catch a break in the next couple of episodes.

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The newly introduced hitman, who for reasons that only vaguely make sense is going to be known as a ninja, is a nice addition to the large cast and I wonder if he will remain an antagonist or whether he’ll end up joining the rest of the baseball obsessed crew that we have met. Certainly Lin would be happy enough to hit the bench.

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Outside of the well told story though, this show continues to work with these characters and the interactions between Banba and Lin remain the highlight. While the other characters are interesting enough, and I have to wonder how long until someone decides they are sick of the informant selling them out and decides to take him out, Banba and Lin are still a show stealing duo and a real pleasure to watch.

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I’m looking forward to next week as the preview was intriguing and with Banba on his ‘break’ from work, it will be nice to see if Lin can hold his own or if he’s about to get in well over his head.

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Karandi James

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Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 3: Game On

Review:

Well, this anime just became my favourite of this season (still sitting underneath March Comes in Like a Lion which carried over from last season). The first two episodes interested me and started getting me drawn into these characters and their world but episode 3 consolidated everything I wanted from this show. Between the great sound track, betrayals, murder, and all of the general chaos, this is a great start to a season.

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Saito decides to do something about his situation and seeks out the avengers to frame the guy who framed him (sounds like it could be fun). This plot doesn’t get a huge amount of development but the seeds are there and it is definitely going to mess up other plans later on. More importantly, at least Lin and everyone else is smart enough to realise Saito has clearly been framed and not one person actually believes he killed the girl.

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As for Lin, he gets a very cool opening sequence when he goes to confront his former boss. The boss kind of bothers me because he has had countless chances to actually kill Lin and each time he ends up gloating and not actually doing it. In the office he gloats about how he’s been pocketing the money that Lin thought he was sending to his mother (who has apparently been dead for five years). That’s kind of petty and gloating about it just makes this guy look even more pathetic. Though I guess then we don’t just wonder about why Lin isn’t dead at the end of the episode given this guy already has a clearly established M.O of talking too much.

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Meanwhile, Lin isn’t the only one being targeted now as Banba’s also stuck his nose in too far. Lin and Banba teaming up was inevitable so I’m glad they didn’t drag it out and have Lin act stubborn for half a season before they got to this point. Still, it won’t matter if they don’t find a way to avoid the hitman who is clearly going to be coming for them sooner rather than later.

Basically, this was a lot of fun (you know if you don’t mind murder in your stories) and there’s plenty of characters to like and despise in various measures and plenty of plots bubbling away. I’m looking forward to seeing where this should go next but I’m very glad I picked this show up this season.


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