Although the city of Fukuoka might look relatively peaceful at first glance, in actuality it houses a thriving mixture of dangerous individuals such as killers, detectives, and professional revenge seekers right beneath its surface. Among their number is Zenji Banba, a laidback and observant detective who is investigating the work of other hitmen companies in the area. However, Banba might not be the only one with a bone to pick with these organizations, as Xianming Lin, a crossdressing male hitman in the employ of one such company begins getting fed up with his lack of jobs and pay.
One day, after Lin's current target commits suicide before the hitman could reach him, his company refuses to pay him even half the amount they were originally supposed to for the assassination. Frustrated, Lin requests another mission and is offered the job of taking out Banba, whom his organization believes has been interfering with their business. However, when Banba arrives at his home and finds the hitman inside, Lin surprisingly doesn't even attempt to kill him. Instead, he offers the detective another option: to join him and form a team. With the offer on the table, exactly how will Banba respond, and just what plans does Lin have in store for the underground world of Fukuoka?
i only started watching this because of yuki kaji, but i ended up falling in love with it. for people who enjoy character-driven stories like me, this is a great anime to watch. it's very satisfying to see how all of the characters come together and become some sort of found family.
the arcs aren't drawn out, but instead of feeling rushed, they just make me feel more satisfied. they spend a bit of time in each arc introducing and fleshing out a character, which is to be expected with how many there are in the group. it doesn't
feel disjointed though.
the music is also great!!! the jazz ed playing at high points of the episodes kind of remind me of archer a bit. and the op is a quality bop as well!!
the only thing that bothers me is how they use light in scenes outside, but other than that, i really love this anime. hope more people watch it!!
Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens was one of the Winter 2018 anime I've anticipated for quite a while, and it truly delivered the punch that it deserves.
The city of Fukuoka (or Hakata City as always mentioned) is not your usual city, while it thrives on the outside world, its citizens are literally another story. Basically, the thing is, one in every three citizens is are revenge-job-seeking hitmen, killers (whether hired or not) and detectives, all laying low in the lurch.
Zenji Banba is one of those private detectives in the Hakata area, trying to seek out hitmen companies so that he could interfere with their hitmen jobs,
and that raises the aspect of hitmen Ling Xianming, a crossdressing man who's complaining about the lack of jobs and pay of his hitmen agency. A killer job out to exterminate Banba sets him the job of partnering with him and the slew of casts who are tied together with him (Saitou, hire-turn-target for Murder Inc, Enokida the mushroom head and intelligent hacker, the other hitmen Jiro and his caretaker Misaki) to figure out the disturbings of Hakata city.
Based off a novel series of the same name, I was immediately pumped by the setting and was deeply enthralled with the killing (be advised, no one below 18 should watch this) and action that kept me engrossed all the while, and I wasn't disappointed one bit.
Zenji Banba isn't your causal, typical detective. Nicknamed the Niwaka Samurai for his slick-sharp ninja skills, he's considered the primary target for most of the hitmen, including the organization (sorry I forgot the name) that on hindsight oversees the entire hitmen situation, and with the help of his friends, he's always a step above the competition. His love for ramen, pollock roe and baseball defines the show's title and it's uncanny but good information.
Ling Xianming the crossdressing man who's on a mission to figure out the death of his sister, is the usual hitmen, until (as mentioned) the very agency he worked for are the culprits behind the murdering, and storms on a rage to get his revenge back. His young appearance with Fei-lan serves as both a brother and a backstabber, as his killing-ridden youth serves him the purpose of being a hitmen to this day. Never a man that's cool on jokes, he primarily serves to get his job done with the least amount of disruption possible.
Kazuki Saito is your average hired hitmen that really can't seem to do his job well after a hiring from Murder, Inc. that leaves him in tropes that nothing ever goes well for him, and that relegates him into secondary character development.
Enokida, Banba's best informant and hacker, is also uncanny, but the best character I have seen in this series: Intelligent, knows his way around things, and even if in a tight corner, plays the trick games to eliminate his opponents into oblivion. His signature hacking is displayed by his red mechanical spiders that pick up info, and serves great information for him as sort of a pick-up. His relationship with his father is canon to the series, once admonished for hacking his dad's stuff, was sent to be killed but given a chance to live in Hakata and reestablish him as an alias to his real identity.
Shunsake Saruwatari (or Sarucchi as Nitta calls him) the hitmen sent to kill Banba (that no one else can kill) and Naoya Nitta the consultant on child murders both have a relationship that extends beyond the agency that they once worked for, Murder Inc. Their young days were spent playing baseball, and with that relationship, extends to the hitmen days where Sarucchi (like Lin) was getting tired of lesser jobs, and left Murder Inc on the job to exterminate Banba. Unfortunately, crossing with Banba with his always miss-the-target shirukens, so his killing resolves into another day.
The other characters (Jiro the other hitmen, Misaki his caretaker) really did a good job showing off their character traits, and that's something that I really treasure with the series, it's really good.
Satelight really did their magic on this, and it really feels on-point with the lavishing visuals of Hakata City, no to mention the murders that though feel like uncensored, but it really fleshes out the series as its driving tour de force. The character designs were really nice and thought out through and through, giving the series the stylized, serious but casual look. Well done and well played.
It's weird for an OST to have a jazz-sounding track on here, but it's the same reason that is exemplifies the series when it comes in adherence to the settings that the series is based upon. With that said, the OST here is nothing short of a great job done, with the OP really giving the sense of the killing and murder intent and the ED totally jazz-sounding end card that showcases the series setting (AGAIN) and rounds it up like a summary.
Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens definitely isn't a show for those below 18 (age-restriction), but it highlights what it was supposed to do, and it does that well. Moreover, like me, if you came into this with the PVs before it, the anticipation really turned out to be an experience not to be missed. With that said (for anime onlys), if you're up for the action, I'd recommend this to you, it's one of the great shows of the Winter season.
The night sky is vibrantly illuminated by the mellow glow of colorful lights, emanating from each building throughout the city. More lively during the night than day, the city of Hakata radiates a deceptively alluring glow covering it entirely; masking the dangers that lurk around every corner.
Hakata is infamously known for 3% of its population being comprised of hitmen, torturers, yakuza, and worse. This percentile is further divided into agencies, gangs, and websites for freelancers; a few of them are hilariously named “Murder Inc”, “Shadeyjobs.com”, and “RedRum Inc”. A sly snap at other action crime anime that strive to be realistic with overwrought edginess. Darkly
comedic and self-aware writing like this permeates throughout Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens, immediately defining the tone as pure enjoyment as opposed to the logic-based standard.
With each member of the show’s large cast is in the 3%, it becomes abundantly clear that there’s always at least one criminal exchange occurring in this city. Even the cross-dressing main character Lin is an expert hitman with a comically harsh attitude. Cursing the men who ogling him, simply saying “I’m a man you moron” or “I’ll kick your ass” under his breath. He may say his cross-dressing is just because he likes the fashionable clothing, but he cleverly uses it as a method to be underestimated by his targets.
At the beginning Lin’s completing his latest hit on a private investigator, that is until he finds that he’d rather swap sides and defend him to try and earn some extra cash. Hakata is after all as much of a money-driven city as it is crime riddled and our main character is only a cog in the system.
Lin’s lone wolf personality immediately clashes in quite funny ways with the charismatic detective Banba. Make no mistake, him being a detective does not grant him moral high ground over the rest of the felonious 3%. In his introduction, we see him at a political rally casually feigning a gunshot by popping a balloon, all for the sake of weeding out a potential suspect. He often employs these radical but successful methods that no detective in their right mind would resort to. He's just as ready to kill as Lin and does so mercilessly alongside his hitman counterpart, with personalities so opposed it wouldn't be unfair to call them foils of one another.
At first, their whole relationship consists of Lin being annoyed by Banba’s listlessness and constant baseball metaphors. Then, to kick the first arc motion, Lin’s sister is unexpectedly murdered, forcing the unlikely pair to work together and seek vengeance against the hitmen agency responsible.
In the first of many arcs, the wide ensemble cast of characters is introduced. Each with a vivid personality, a distinct urban design, and a role they fill in Hakata. As Banba so nonchalantly puts it, they’re all playing a game of baseball. Whether or not you depend on the allies you make will decide how far you make it in the game. An ideology that starkly contrasts that of the lone wolf Lin, but satisfyingly he comes to embrace it as he spends more time with Banba. Them playing baseball on a team of their fellow hitmen served to support the show’s many metaphors, but also provided some of the purest light-hearted comedy in the show. Numerous food scenes also serve to lighten the tone, with delicious looking dishes and of course the titular Hakata tonkotsu ramen.
Aside from those heartwarming moments, a devilishly wry tone drenches Hakata. Delving into the criminal underworld, dark themes are inevitably explored; however, these themes do not overpower the sarcastically comedic tone due to the characters we see them through. Each member of the criminal cast contributes to this tone with cool and collected attitudes; aware that their dangerous careers can lead to their death at any time, they throw themselves into entertaining action. Any need any need for arbitrary anxiety is removed. Even with the uncertainty when the next betrayal, murder, or kidnapping might happen, the headstrong cast remains a joy to watch. Most of them work in or run those previously mentioned agencies and gangs. In one of the more impressively balanced but tonally ludicrous scenes, we see the stereotypical but inoffensively portrayed gay bartender Jirou with the sly middle school girl Misaki design their torturing agency website as casually as if it were a school project.
Only one character, a fresh face in town trying to start his hitman career, gives us a perspective of what an everyman would look like stuck in the middle of the whirlwind of crime. He's way out of his depth and gets into many hilariously troublesome situations. These side characters don’t receive the same level of development as the leads, but through seeing where they fit in the wacky underground of Hakata they become likable people who get further exploration in the background of the central story. After all, the story moves like a bullet, a pace fast enough to engage but it still finds the time to spare on the minor details. Shaping the world and its inhabitants as believable rather than outright outlandish.
Most importantly out of the whole cast, the lead characters Lin and Banba are unphased by Hakata’s crime-infested underground and are ready to give it all they’ve got in combat to secure the outcome most in their favor.
Sharing a few snide comments to maintain an air of entertainment rather than fear, they slice, shoot, mask their identities, and use every trick they’ve got up their sleeve to create action set pieces worth watching for alone. In spite of the show’s relatively low budget, it thrills with swift and comprehensive shot composition, thoughtfully composed writing, and enough blood to earn an R rating.
Bolstered by a volley of trumpets rising during action scenes and mellowing into jazz during quieter ones, even the soundtrack contributes to the rich style. Both opening and ending sequences have fast pace jazzy tracks as well, showcasing major characters in rapid-fire succession with enough style and symbolism to make them as substantial of the show. Practically every facet of this anime carries the city’s dense style; the glow of colorful lights reflecting off the river during the night, as well as sunshafts sneaking around buildings during the day.
Hakata is the kind of setting that serves as a character itself, with a distinct visual style underscored by jazzy music, alluring but also undeniably dangerous. Stylish, darkly comedic, and slyly self-aware. Even without a complex plot or top-tier production values, Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens is a good neo-noir action anime worth watching.
Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens is like an action movie made in todays Holywood. It doesn't make sense, it's overflowing with clichés and one could ask why the hell does it even exist. Yet, it does and I have to bear with the fact that it'll continue to exist. Because there is one reason why it does still make a lot of money. And that reason is the action, because action equals entertainment. But entertainment, like Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens perfectly shows, doesn't equal quality.
The story takes place in a city Fukuoka, which, in this fictional version, is overflowing with killers and assasins. So much infact that
the show itself tells you that 3% of Fukuoka's population are indeed those blood-seeking hitmen. Wait.. what? Let's take a minute and think about how ridiculous that number is. Speaking in the name of math, every 33rd person is a killer, and we are not counting those who are not directly killing, but work within the hitmen system aswell, hence the number of people either working or helping the hitmen companies is even more ridiculous. Not only it begs a question like 'why doesn't the police or goverment do anything about it' it's also absurd to believe that such a city could even exist as it would be very normal for people to move out of a city in which there are murders happening at every corner of the street. Oh but please don't missunderstand, I don't want this show to be realistic, I purely want it to make sense. Which it doesn't.
You might start complaining that I'm digging too much into details that are not supposed to be the main factor of the show and that I'm just nit-picking to find mistakes in it. Which is fair, because I propably am, however I just can't stand that the show tries to act normal and peaceful even though the information it provides suggest almost everyone should be dead by now and the whole city should be in shambles. And it's not just that. Nothing about the show makes sense. I have an another example. There are some sort of detectives, which might make you think that somebody wants to do something about the situation. However, the only thing the detectives do is kill the 'bad guys', which results in more mad people, which results in more hitmen jobs, which results in more killed people. Good job Mr. Detective, you really saved the city this time around.
One thing I hear a lot when defending a non-sense making show is that it's just making fun of itself, which is something I understand and can respect. In terms of Hakata however, it just seems like a lame excuse. Sure, all the things I've written might make it seem like the show is a one big satire. However, even if that's supposed to be the case, it doesn't work. A show that it worked quite well in is for example Animegataris. Which was just a parody in general, and a good one at that. Hakata is not a parody. It's creators exaggerated every single statistic number to new heights to make it seem like it's an original idea and then completely forgot to explain why are the things as ridiculous as they are. That's a parody? No, that's laziness.
In terms of the actual story, the show could be divided into a couple of arcs in which always some sort of bad guy who likes to kill people appears only then to be killed or reformed to a good guy in the end. Sounds plain and simple and that is exactly the case. It always tries to give us background information about some of the characers, but not only those moments fail at making me care about them, the flashbacks themselves are in most times so overused and cliché that you can't even take much from them. There was for example that classic case of two best friends forced to kill each other in order for one of them to survive. Which is as cliché as you could possibly get. The whole story development also lacks a lot of drive and almost every episode, even if having a different villain and resolving around a different character, always had the same feeling as the ones before. Overall, the story ended up being a huge pile of rubbish mess that didn't make any sense and wasn't even interesting one bit.
Another thing that supports my claim of Hakata being a bad anime are the characters. Which are (suprisingly?), just very bad. I guess I'm gonna start with the main duo, Bamba and Lin. Both of them are hitmen and they start living together because of circumstances I don't even remember anymore. Bamba is a.. nice guy, potentially. A classic case of an outgoing, caretaking MC that would normally end up with the female MC. I said normally because there is not really a female MC present. But you know who is? It's Lin. A guy, who is, for untold reasons, wearing women clothes and a blonde wig for the whole show. Yes guys, that 'girl' on the cover is a guy in reality. Well, atleast the show says it. I personally wouldn't want to believe it because outside of having a male voice-actor, that guy is just a classic anime woman in heart. You know, just a 'trap' in general. And I hate traps. They are always the most bland and poorly developped characters in the entire show and their only purpose to exist is to get the memes going for you. Which is a process just begging for attention. He is also an extreme Tsundere, which is just a terrible personal trait for males in general and the whole series makes it seem like he has a thing for Bamba. All hail yaoi? Well, nothing really happens (thank god), but the feeling is certainly there at times. And while the show tries to make us care about both of them, neither of the two appealed to me in any way. Quite the opposite actually.
As for the other characters, I don't think anyone is even worth mentioning. There is really a lot of side characters and almost none get any actual screen-time. The reason for that is that the show really overdid it with the number of people shown. You'll realize soon enough that there are so many characters just standing in the background doing absolutely nothing, that really shouldn't even be there. The problem of so many random characters came in place when some of the kinda important ones really started to blend together and I just didn't know which one of the bad guys is on the screen anymore. And talking about characters, I think the show tried too hard to 'please' everyone with the personalities diversity. There is the super-smart guy, the loli, the strong guy, the dumb and aggresive guy, the Tsundere, the nice guy, the innocent and clumsy guy and some others. I'm not saying that this would't work under different circumstances, however in this case it felt like the show once again tried to hide it's huge flaws behind a thing that could possibly appeal to the audience, which could result into them not noticing the actual mess. And by the mess I mean the non-existent plot continuity and terrible character development.
The last thing the show does and the only thing I can agree does atleast respectably well is the action. Environment around hitmen and assasins provides quite a lot of ground for fightning and killing and the show does an OK job at exploiting that. The fights, while not being dramatic or climactic by any means, are pretty much the only bearable part this anime has. One because you are able to forget about all the other things for a while, Two because they are not the worst even in comparison to some others. Though I still have to say that while the close-quarters combat was the one done decently, whenever anyone tried to use a gun I was asking myself if they ever held that thing in their hands.
The art was definetly not the worst, I would call it very fair. Some characters had interesting desings though most of the less important ones looked almost the same. The whole animation wasn't bad and the arstyle looked nice and clean. The OST was very fast-paced and decent, though nothing extraordinary by any means. The voice-acting was not the most pleasant, though I think it's rather a problem of the character personalities rather than the actors that voiced them.
With my review coming to an end, it's about time to answer some questions. Is Hakata fun to watch? Possibly, it's fast paced and has a lot of blood. That's enough for lot of people. But is Hakata also a good anime? No, it's not. It tries to hide it's undeniable flaws behind some action and self-aware jokes, and goes full-on enjoyment mode without caring about it's actual quality. And while I think I would fall for the bait half a year ago, I'm slowly getting to the level in which I also care about if the anime is actually good. And Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens is not.