5 Point Discussions – Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens 9: “Hit and Run”

by Sage Ashford

We learn of Lin’s shadowy past and how he came to become a hitman. But is there more to the story than even he’s aware of? Remember, if you like this article and 5 Point Discussions, please share it on Facebook or Twitter! It really helps. And if you’ve got any comments or questions, please hit me up @SageShinigami.

1. After several weeks (and nearly ten episodes), everyone’s favorite surly crossdressing assassin is starting to get used to actually having friends. Though it can be off-putting seeing the juxtaposition between his macabre daily work (this episode we see him torturing a dude who beat his wife up for web hits) and coming home and asking Banba not to forget the toilet paper, it’s still endearing and cute to have him develop into a person who knows it’s okay to rely on people.

So of course, this is the episode where we learn why he has such trouble doing it in the first place.  But not before we get the mandatory baseball mention, where Lin learns the team’s hilariously complex hand signals. They could have easily done a series of parody mini-games at the end of every episode if they wanted, and thinking about it now I’m kinda bummed they didn’t.

2. It’s finally been confirmed HTR is only a single cour, so it’s time to start bringing up all the characters and plot threads that were unresolved in time for the finale. Having said that, the weirdo from a couple arcs ago, Shunsuke Saruwatari (or the Submarine Ninja) has made a return. We don’t get much of him this episode, other than him complaining about the crappy jobs he’s gotten since his dealing with the Kakyu Association went left. His buddy Naoya pops up with a job for him, but we don’t see what it is this week.

3. Until now, we’ve only gotten a glimpse of what Lin’s life was like when he lived in China, but we’d never actually been shown. This week, they go back into the past for a bit. Lin and his sister grew up in a dilapidated house with their sick mother, where every so often someone would come by asking the mom to sell one of their children so the rest of the family could go on and have a happy life.

Eventually, Lin decides to be “noble” and just sell himself. It makes sense, only…if he was willing to do that, couldn’t he just as easily have gone and found a job? Why do the one time lump sum when you can send annuity payments for life? In either case, the story then takes a decidedly dark turn, as he joins a truck full of boys as they go for various fates: some are placed in adoption, one particularly dark fate mentioned is being used for organs, and the last is joining a former prison where the kids there would be trained as child soldiers.

For the next six years, Lin is trained in the art of being a proper assassin. While there, he has only one friend: his cellmate, a Karma Akabane lookalike named Fei-Lan. The kids all train in groups of two, even though they’ve been told they’ll all need to learn how to survive on their own. Fei-Lan and Lin become pretty great friends, and you get the sense it’s because both chose to be here.  Lin decided he would leave to give his family a better chance, while Fei-Lan’s mother was a prostitute who’s business initially tried to use him to “help out with work”. Fei even says the life he has living in a prison and learning to kill is better than the one he had before. It’s their shared mindset that leads to them excelling above and beyond every other student, all the way up to their last years in the camp.

4. But unfortunately, this episode has to stick with its grimdark setting, so…IT’S TIME FOR A DEATH BATTLE…!!!! Their graduation exam is being tossed in a cage together and being told one of them will have to kill the other in order to make it out. Initially Lin tries to make a plan for them to leave together, deciding he’ll attack the door a few times to give them a chance to bust out.

I’m not sure how sound this plan is, given they’re all surrounded by guards holding what look like automatic rifles, but it doesn’t matter. True to expectations, Fei Lan cracks and attacks Lin just as he’s about to get them out. Fei knew what the exit final was all along, and actually killed his first partner to avoid having to risk dying. Still, he doesn’t count on Lin’s will to live being as strong as his, and Lin gets in a sneak attack, slicing Fei-Lan’s eye and leaving him to bleed out.

The problem I have here is…you’d think Lin would actually be better at killing people, all things considered. He spends so much time narrowly avoiding dying after getting his butt kicked, and I always thought that’s ’cause he just stumbled into this profession. The first few episodes make you think he’s only doing it to make enough money to save his sister.  But he got more direct training to kill people that Oliver Queen did on Arrow.

5. Next Episode: I don’t usually do these for this series because this show doesn’t have much the time-honored NEP. But this week we get a neat little epilogue back in China, where a hitman is finishing off his latest contract. While he’s working, he gets a phone call informing him of the whereabouts of someone. “Surprise”, Fei-Lan’s been alive this entire time, and just in time for the end of the series he’s about to re-enter Lin’s life and force him to deal with what should honestly be crippling amounts of PTSD by seeing him again.

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens is available on Crunchyroll.