Originally published on The Fandom Post.
What They Say:
“Ninth Inning, Two Outs”
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After three episodes of setup, Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens goes through its climax at a breakneck pace, resolving plotlines left and right. Such a fast pace could come off as rushed in lesser hands, but Ramens pulls it off in a way that’s both entertaining and satisfying. Skipping over the trade the last episode had set up and going straight to Lin getting captured is an unusual decision, but it allows the episode to get to the meat of everything immediately. That meat being, of course, the reveal of the Niwaka Samurai.
In a less than shocking twist, it turns out that Banba was the Niwaka Samurai all along and he quickly kills all of the thugs who had captured Lin, including Munakata. The reveal would have been more surprising if it wasn’t pretty obvious as soon as the Samurai showed up. From the distant view we got last week, he looked a lot like Banba, and that only becomes more clear when we first see him up close. The mask and hairstyle don’t do much to hide the fact that they look exactly alike. The ruse that he had killed Banba was also not particularly convincing since the opening clearly sets up Banba as one of the leads who isn’t about to die in episode four. Predictable twists aside, this was likely Ramens’ best episode yet.
Banba’s fight against the mayor’s men is the series’ first prolonged fight, and Ramens goes all out with it. It’s not much of a challenge for Banba, but the way he cuts down the armed men using nothing but a katana is cool regardless. The animation for this is once again slick enough to support the action, but not particularly flashy. The highlight here is easily Banba using a sheathed sword like a baseball bat to knock a grenade back at the guy who threw it. It’s silly, but cool at the same time. Now that we’ve seen Banba in action, we have a much better idea of why he never seems flustered. His plan to use a corpse’s head to fake his own death is plenty clever, and his fighting skills clearly establish that he’s a force to be reckoned with. His actual reason for the outfit and mask is just as amusing as you’d expect from Banba: because it’s cooler that way.
Once the thugs are dealt with, Ramens quickly combines its plotlines by having Banba and Lin finally meet up with the Avengers and Saito. From there, they quickly find the mayor’s son, scare off Reiko, and deal with him. Saito’s only role here is knocking him out with a baseball, which leads me to think that his role here was more about getting him involved in the Hakata underworld for future plotlines than anything else. As is, the mayor’s son is captured and forced to admit to his and his father’s crimes on a live broadcast. We also get to see just how much Lin cared for his sister, which helps add a bit more emotional impact to her death.
Banba and Lin’s conversation afterwards is also noteworthy for the slight romantic undertones. They’re still undertones-little things like Banba carrying an injured Lin back and giving him the nickname Lin Lin-so it’s hard to tell if the anime is actually setting up a romance between them or just using it for fanservice. If it’s the former, it would be an interesting change since it’s so rare for anime that aren’t purely yaoi or yuri to have a central gay relationship. If it is just a bit of fanservice, it’s harmless enough not to be an issue since it’s not particularly distracting or demeaning to the characters.
The final reveal of the episode is why the show is actually called “Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens.” It turns out that the Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens is the name of the baseball team that Banba and his various contacts play on together. Now that Lin and Saito have joined the team, it looks like they’ll be here to stay.
What seemed like Ramens’ main plot turned out to be nothing more than a way to get all of the cast together. Speeding through the climax was certainly an unexpected choice, but it works by keeping the episode consistently entertaining across the board. Now that the cast is all together and we know Banba’s secret, Ramens is poised for plenty more adventures in the city of Hakata. It may not be particularly deep or complex, but that’s not completely necessary here. Like Banba’s outfit and persona, Ramens’ main concern is being cool. So far, I’d say it’s succeeding.