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.
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.
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).
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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3 thoughts on “Up Close with Xianming Lin”
Lin was one of my favourite characters from that series, especially his confidence and love for dressing the way he did. It was nice that it didn’t fall into too may tropey traps either.
He was such a great character. I wish more people had watched the series because there were a lot of great characters to talk about from it and Lin was just awesome.