Up Close with Xianming Lin

From the moment we are introduced to Lin in Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens we know a few things about him. He has zero attachment to anyone, will do whatever he has to do, and for some reason he likes to cross dress. As the series continues to weave its tale of assassins, betrayals, and baseball Lin remains in the midst of a crazy story and along the way makes some progress as a person and the audience is given a little insight into how he got to where he was at the beginning of the series.

And yes, there are some spoilers ahead.

Hakata Tonktsu Ramens Episode 1 Lin
You have to admit – he knows how to make an entrance even if he isn’t aware of practical shoes.

At the beginning of the series we meet Lin. In one episode he takes out one target as an assassin, claims payment on another hit even though he didn’t actually kill the guy, and after his employer withholds payment we see Lin turn his back on him and actually protect his next target so that no one else can kill him until his boss pays him. It’s cold, fairly audacious, and done with a matter-of-fact manner from someone who has come to not expect much else from their day.

However, Lin is not a cold and hard killer. Nor is he an emotionless puppet. Even in the first episode of Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens we see a character driven firmly by his emotions. At first the motivation is paying money to save his family and then it shifts to revenge.

Lin isn’t disconnected from others because he lacks emotion. As we learn more about him, and see the flash back to when he was trained to become an assassin, it becomes clear that Lin is disconnected because he feels too much and is scared of trusting others because of the hurt of previous betrayals and losses.

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 9 Lin

He sold himself in order to save his mother and sister from poverty. Making the best of a poor situation, he befriended his roommate in the training camp only to learn that the final test was that they had to try to kill each other and his roommate knew this all along and intended to kill him. Even working as an assassin for a boss he knew was scum, he felt betrayed when the boss first wouldn’t pay him, then tried to kill him, and finally that same boss sold his sister to someone he knew would kill her in a horrible manner. It is no wonder that Lin recoils from others and as he starts feeling comfortable in Hakata he begins making plans to flee.

Despite that, Lin ultimately stays. While Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens is not the kind of anime where the power of friendship overcomes the big evil and they all go back to their normal lives, the connections Lin makes after meeting Banba in Hakata are what allow him to be saved toward the end and while things might not be normal they do go back to playing baseball (even if Lin still really doesn’t get the sport at all).

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The one question we don’t get answered about Lin is why he likes to cross-dress. The anime never once addresses it and the only time it even comes up is when he’s mistaken for a woman or deliberately uses his appearance as part of a plan. But the why never comes up and we know he hasn’t just done it his whole life because he wasn’t cross-dressing in any of the flash backs.

It is a mystery and one of many reasons why I’d love a second season of Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens. The main reason though is that these characters, assassins and flawed human beings that they are, were a lot of fun to watch and I could definitely watch them face and overcome some more challenges and be entertained.

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Karandi James
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12 Days of Anime Characters – Lin Xinming

12 Days of Anime Title Image

Onto day 8 of the 12 Days of Anime. While on Day 7 we looked back at  Shizue from That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, today we turn our attention to the hitman with a sense of style, Lin from Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens.

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens - Episode 5 - Lin

Lin is one of those characters that you just come to love fairly instantly. The series never really addresses why he cross dresses, he just does, and it just becomes part of his character, like his frugal nature and distrust of others. I will admit though, that Lin is only as interesting and likeable a character as he is because of the connection he forms with Banba in the first episode. And what a greeting. 

Hakata Tonktsu Ramens Episode 1 Lin

Considering the situation Lin finds himself in he is a remarkable together character. He’s trying to save money to free his sister, he sends money to his mother, and all he has to do to earn that money is kill people for a boss he hates. However, when the boss refused to pay him because of a double booking, Lin decides it might be time to find new employment leading to a chain reaction of events and reveals (including that all his efforts to support his family up to now have more or less been for nothing). 

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 9 Lin

The thing about Lin is that he’s a character you can sympathise with but not really relate to. You haven’t been sold as a child, trained as an assassin and then worked as a hitman trying to support a family from back home that turns out isn’t being assisted by you in the slightest. So there’s no relating to the character, but you can be sympathetic to his plight and more importantly, he never comes across as pathetic. Lin’s a fighter through and through and has a great sense of humour considering the situation.

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 12 Lin

However, it is Lin and Banba together that make a truly compelling viewing experience. Where Lin is cold and distant, Banba is very much in your face and intrusive. Lin is cut off from others whereas Banba has an entire support network. Where Lin is frugal and careful with his money, Banba is loose and fairly carefree. The two make a good odd-couple pairing and their contrasts work well. 

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 7 Lin and Banba

The only regret here is that we don’t have any word of a second season so we’ll just be left with the 12 episodes we have. And on that note it is probably time I gave the series another watch through.

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Karandi James
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Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Red Rum / Murder Inc Card Case
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Ghost Hunt Episodes 11 – 13

Two arcs reviewed together this time because they are both pretty short.

If you want to catch up you can check out my previous reviews of Evil Spirits all Over, The Doll House and The Afterschool Hexer.

Review: Ghost Story in The Park

This stand alone episode is a refreshing change. We’re outdoors, in the park, and getting soaked by a petty and vindictive spirit who dislikes seeing couples in love. Honestly, it’s a filler episode at best but it does show Mai’s jealousy as Masako uses the opportunity to get closer to Kazuya.

Review: A Silent Christmas

While it only goes over 2 episodes, this arc hits a fair emotional punch. We’re dealing with orphan children at Christmas time and a possession by a child’s spirit. When the spirit possesses Mai things get even more distressing.

Positives:

  • Lin actually speaks in whole sentences during these episodes.
  • Because the cases are smaller there is more focus on the characters in these episodes.

Negatives:

  • The storylines are pretty uncompelling as there is little mystery in what is going on.
  • Kazuya seems to take a back seat to some of the other characters during these two stories.

I must admit, I regularly skip right past these two stories when I’m rewatching Ghost Hunt. They don’t add a great deal to the series and don’t quite match the tone of some of the other story arcs. That said, if you’re watching the series for the first time, there is some good character development to be found.