Yut Lung is not an easy character to like he’s cruel, manipulative and for some people who were willing to get behind him as a fun bad guy. He commits the ultimate sin of crying and getting drunk instead of having a final showdown with Ash. Here’s the thing though Yut actually embodies the themes of Banana Fish such as abuse, the self-destruction that comes from clinging to the past, adults failing kids and the importance of connection. I’d also argue his ending ends up saving the narrative from completely betraying its core message.
Yut lung is first introduced in episode seven of the series titled “The Rich Boy” though he does not reveal his true identity until near the end of the episode. He comes across from Shorter's perspective as domineering and seductive there’s an air of sensuality to his movements as he speaks to Shorter giving him orders blatantly toying with him. This presents him as a clear antagonist who means trouble for our protagonists.
Yet this moment also reveals the cracks in Yut’s facade of being in control. After his taunting Shorter lunges for Yut and pins him quite easily. This causes Yut to freeze up while Shorter breaks down and cries on him revealing his faith in the lee clan is completely shattered. He refers to Yut as a snake states if it wasn’t his sister’s life on the line he’d kill him and denounces the Lee Clan completely as completely corrupt. Yut looks completely unsettled and guilty a look which remains on his face even after Shorter leaves the room. This suggests there is more to Yut then meets the eye a kind of inner emotional conflict going on within the young moon dragon.
Episode Nine reveals the first element the contributes to Yut’s breakdown during “ Save Me the Waltz” Yut Lung’s brothers present a Yut lung who is dressed in a traditional and very feminine Chinese outfit and wearing make up to Dino who looks at him with desire. Wang lung Yut lungs oldest brother states “Our brother will accompany you to New York, please take good care of him” Later when Dino is interrupted by a phone call it is revealed that he was about to enjoy Yut and Eiji sexually revealing. Yut lung was an offering used to broker a deal between Dino and his brothers. Yut treats the matter with total matter of fact ness when he tells Eiji “ Its just how it is in our world” implying it’s not the first time his body has been sold to older men by his brothers.
A lot of Yut’s haters really seem to overlook both this scene and the implications and what’s even worse is earlier in the same episode. Yut’s older brother Hua Lung flirts with him and touches his hair telling him he “ Your as beautiful as your mother” Wang Lung also has hints of attraction to his sixteen year old half-brother by slowly running his finger up Yut’s lip while wrapping a hand around his neck or grabbing his chin the same way Dino does with Ash. The anime talks about Yuts desire to kill his brothers to avenge his mother.
Yet It barely touches on the fact Yut has had no personal autonomy from his brothers since age six, when Hua lung held him back and cruelly made him watch his own mothers gang rape and murder. This created in him a sense of powerlessness that only got worse as he got older. While it is not stated that Hua and Wang Lung acted on their lust for their sixteen old brother. Psychotherapist and group therapy leader Mike Lew, author of “Victim’s no Longer” lists some of the possible symptoms of Incest survivors. Over the course of the series Yut lung has displayed guilt, difficulties with anger, need to be in control, fear of intimacy, being unable to think straight, wanting to die, feelings of unreality detachment, jealousy, escaping into addictions, inability to relax, disconnection from feelings, Difficulty in expressing verbility being heard cared about Yut lung has shown a lot of these traits though out the series which suggests Yoshida knows exactly what she’s implying. Much like Ash Yut lung is a product of sexual abuse which is one of the key themes in Banana Fish.
The one difference between Ash and Yut that gets overlooked a lot is. Is that Yut is from a traditonal family who value blood ties above all else. It’s even implied to be the only reason Yut wasn’t murdered like his mother. In his brothers eyes Yut is still a Lee because he has their father’s blood. Everything Yut is everything he does is in his mind linked to his family. Unlike Ash who feels no ties or connection to Dino he can’t detach himself from his abusers and see himself as his own person since he shares their blood. I’ve noticed Yut tells Dino he wants to wipe out the entire Lee Bloodline. “If I cannot escape I shall take them down with me” Yut declares at one point. Later Dino notes this means Yut’s destruction as well and is never contradicted. He also tells Blanca later “My mother was not a Lee” which reflects that Yut sees his mom as separate from himself and his brothers. She is not corrupt in his mind and not a Lee.
As Yut reveals to Lao in volume 15 on page 125 “ You brothers appear to have affection for each other how diffrent from my family” this hints Yut finds his rather unsual. Since his family uses him as part of their business transactions objectifying and using him to spy and even kill their enemies in the worst ways possible. When Shorter states aloud what Yut already knows the Lee’s are corrupt it gets to him because Yut is a Lee as his brothers constantly remind him. In his mind Yut views himself as bad due to his blood not his choices. This does not give Yut any sense of individuality and it keeps him under his brother’s control even after he kills them.
Unlike Ash, Yut Lung starts out defined by his past. His scars run so deep it even affects his ability to form relationships. After the destruction of Yut’s bloodline he has to find a new purpose. Yut lung spent his youth being driven by revenge and hatred for his brothers. So he finds a new enemy Ash Lynx he wants to kill Eiji and trap Ash with Dino turning his protagonist foil into his worst enemy. “If Ash is alive like you say he is, I will become his enemy” Yut Lung says as he declares war on both Ash and Eiji.
This makes sense as abuse survivors can subconsciously seek to recreate the same toxic environments that they grew up in, in episode 20 “The Unvanquished”. When Yut is hunting Ash the other boy gets the drop on him roughly grabbing him by the hair and using him as a hostage in exchange for the release of his group. Yut lung is getting exactly what he claims he wants Ash is acting as an enemy here and could very well kill him. But after the fact Yut is furious and a flat out emotional wreck. Why? Because Yut lost control of the situation and got used, threatened and tossed around while being helpless like he has ever since he turned six. This is symbolized by Ash choosing to grab Yut by the hair something Yut’s oldest brother was shown to do frequently in previous episodes. Yut wants Ash as an enemy on his terms he wants to control their antagonist relationship. If Yut is going to die at Ash’s hands it still has to be on his terms. Instead he gets used as a bargaining chip against his will in another transaction. Ash enforces this by stating “ I know the human body’s vital points and infinite ways to torture without killing” to Blanca as he holds a knife to Yut’s throat. This shows Yut actions trap him in a vicious cycle where he victimizes in an attempt to recreate the same abusive dynamic that defined his whole childhood. Except this situation makes it impossible for Yut not to be helpless. This is self-destructive and keeps Yut unable to fully move on.
Another theme of Banana Fish is adults failing children. While Yut’s brothers would be an obvious example of this. I think a more complicated example would be Blanca. I’d argue Yut’s pursuit of Blanca shows the start of a small change in Yut’s thinking. While previously Yut sought only allies to accomplish his goals with Sing and Dino Goldzine. His pursuit of Blanca doesn’t come across as professional especially since Blanca refuses to kill Eiji offering to be Yut’s bodyguard instead. Something Yut doesn’t actually need since he appears to have numerous people paid to protect him. This makes sense as Yut’s interest in Blanca manifests after Ash tries to put a bullet in his own head to protect Eiji. Yut has been jealous of Ash/ Eiji this whole time but he told himself their love was self-delusion. Now that he’s faced with the realities that yes this is real. Internally Yut seeks Blanca as an attempt to have that affection for himself, now that it’s presented as a possibility for someone like him.
However Blanca fails Yut, he stands by while Yut carries out his plans even though they nearly get him killed. He just kind of awkwardly stands there while Yut has a drunken nervous breakdown. And worst of all Blanca unintentionally feeds into the teen’s insecurities and negative thought patterns. “It would only make another one of us. Unloving, unloved” he states. Well intentioned or not Yut just hears that’s he is not only unloved but Blanca sees him as unlovable. This is why he gets angry when Blanca says “There will be someone who will care for you and love you. You just don’t realize it.” Since this is being said by a man who is preparing to walk out on Yut. This makes Blanca’s words seem like empty promises. The irony is after this Yut directs Blanca to Ash’s location so he can get there in time. This proves Blanca wrong as Yut’s aid has no hidden agenda for once. He simply cares about Blanca and helps him the only way he can. While some might argue Blanca did help Yut by telling Sing his past. I think that dumping a teenagers psychological problems on the shoulders of another teenager and heading back to the Caribbean hoping the two of them don’t destroy each other is not helpful.
Yut lung also fits into the theme of the importance of emotional connection. As I talked about before Yut has been without love since the age of six he’s only ever been met with hostility and violence or people leaving except one person, Sing. When Yut Lung offers to lie for him in the aftermath of Ash’s escape and sympathizes with his fear of being unable to beat Ash. He also says he doesn’t want to tell Sing why Ash killed Shorter. “I don’t want to tell you because I don’t want to drag you into the same hell” this shows Yut Lung being concerned for Sing’s state of mind. Sing being introduced to an empathic and softer side of the young mafia heir grows attached. While a good majority of Sing Yut Lung’s interactions happen off screen. One of their biggest dynamic moments reveals enough. When Eiji takes Yut hostage in his escape attempt Sing is ready to kill him until Yut shakes his head no. Even after Eiji leaves with Yut, Sing gets on a motorcycle and drives after them. “Do you want to die that badly?” Sing asks him after Eiji leaves. This showcases Sing realizes Yut has a death wish and is concerned for him. Yut pushes him away because his focus is on his jealously fueled obsession with Eiji and he does not recognize Sing’s concern.
This becomes a repeated pattern though out their dynamic. Even after Sing cuts ties with Yut and joins Ash, he still attacks Yut’s assassin to protect him. Later Yut completely betrays Sing by capturing and later killing one of Sings boys, despite knowing how insecure Sing is about being a leader. So he can achieve his own selfish goals. Yut also later uses Sings older brother Lao to pursue Ash by convincing him this will save Sing. Later in episode 23 after Blanca tells Sing Yut’s past. He finds Yut at his lowest point expecting and even welcoming Sing killing him with the gun he brought. Instead, Sing shows understanding without excusing Yut for his actions and pushes him which mirrors their first meeting where Yut showed sympathy and understanding toward him. Here Sing shows the same concern for Yut even after seeing him at his worst. “ I cann’t hate you” the other boy tells him. This causes Yut to see that Sing cares about him and embrace that creating a very deep emotional connection.
This dynamic and Yut’s arch saves the core of the Banana Fish story which is about living despite past trauma and finding your way out of violent cycle. If you view the theme of Banana fish strictly through the character of Ash it becomes bleak since Ash doesn’t live. He basically lets himself die and Eiji, Shorter, Max etc. everyone who ever supported or helped Ash their influence and encouragement of him amounts to nothing. The bad guys were right Eiji’s love was his destruction not his salvation. Yut lung on the other hand ironically presents a positive alternative. He starts off lost and broken and spirals to the point of complete despair only for Sing to offer him the chance to let the past go and move on rather than drown in hateful despair and give up on life. In the end Yut is asked to rebuild China Town this gives him alternative purpose that is way healthier then revenge. The chance to rebuild rather than destroy this hints Yut lung can have a more positive future with Sing by his side. A partnership that was formed in a moment of empathy and is one of unconditional love. So there you have it love or hate him, Yut Lung embodies several Banana Fish themes. He is an abuse survivor with self-destructive tendencies who is failed by adults but ultimately forms one of the strongest connections in the series which ultimately saves the ending from being completely pointlessly cruel.
Lew,Mike. Victim's No Longer. Nevraumont Publishing Co.1986.
Banana Fish quote recaps