Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 9 Review

Originally published on The Fandom Post.

What They Say:
“Hit and Run”

The Review:
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After weeks of focus on Banba and the supporting cast, Ramens returns Lin’s backstory in its best episode yet. Outside of some banter and baseball practice between Lin and Banba (as well as a brief appearance by Sarucchi), this episode took an interesting turn and focused primarily on how Lin became a hitman in the first place. It’s not a happy story, as you might guess, but Lin’s past is far and away the most emotionally effective Ramens has ever been.

Lin’s training began with him selling himself as a child to support his mother and sister, even though his mother had adamantly refused to do so. From there, it went as you might expect. He was taken to a training facility with a group of other boys, and trained as a hitman. Part of what makes this sequence so effective is how bleak it is. Lin (known then as Maomei) is far kinder than the hitman we’ve come to know, but still has a core of steel. He knows what he’s getting into by selling himself, but still does so willingly and endures all the pain he’s put through. It would be easy to oversell this story and have it become manipulative, so I’m glad Ramens chose to take a relatively restrained approach. It never lingers too long on the cruelty Lin endures, but instead lets the situation speak for itself. A child being trained as a killer is an inherently tragic situation that doesn’t need any added drama to be effective. Instead of that, there’s just a lingering sense of sadness throughout the episode, aided in part by the visual execution.

Rather than the bright lights of the city, much of Lin’s past is displayed in muted greys, browns, and whites. There’s relatively little light, which adds a sense of bleakness to an already dark story. There’s none of the organized chaos of previous episodes, just a quiet sadness that permeates through the entire flashback. Ramens’ visuals have rarely been more than decent, so it’s impressive to see such a strong atmosphere that’s primarily visual in nature.

Strong as the episode is, it’s not perfect. Lin’s friendship with his assigned partner, Fei-Lan, is where the plot stumbles. As soon as Fei-Lan explains that he and Lin are meant to work together and be like one person, it’s obvious that the story’s going to end with them being forced to kill each other as a final test. This kind of plotline has been done too many times to be anything but utterly predictable. While it adds a sense of inevitability that contributes to the bleak tone of the episode, the obviousness of this twist robs it of a lot of impact. Having Fei-Lan turn out to be a manipulative bastard who was planning on killing Lin all along doesn’t help matters. Aside from coming off as random, it makes their fight far less dramatic. Two friends being forced to fight by a cruel enemy is far more compelling than one friend just turning out to be evil. Since we know Lin is going to survive, the former scenario would make for a more emotional storyline, and having Lin live with the guilt would make him a more compelling character. As is, Lin killing Fei-Lan is more reactive than proactive in a way that explains his trust issues, but not much else. On the whole, it’s a missed opportunity in an otherwise excellent episode.

In Summary:
I didn’t expect this kind of emotion from a show like Ramens, but boy am I glad to be wrong. Lin’s backstory goes a long way to explain why he’s so hesitant to open up to anyone, and stands as a compelling story in its own right. There’s a weight to it that hasn’t been present in previous episodes, a weight that makes it the most compelling storyline yet. Outside of the underwhelming Fei-Lan parts, this is far and away Ramens’ best episode yet. Bringing in Lin’s past now implies that something’s going to come back to haunt him, especially since it ends with the sense that we haven’t gotten the full story yet (we still don’t know why he changed his name). With such a strong opener to this arc, I’m eager to see what Ramens is going to dish out next.

Grade: A-

Streamed By: Crunchyroll

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