The Hakata ward in Fukuoka may not be at the top of your travel destination list. The area is where the underworld comes to life with drugs, prostitution and hitman abound. Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens follows such a group of misfits as they try to make a living in a near unliveable world. The stars of the series are dynamic duo Lin Xianming and Banba Zenji, with Banba a mysterious yet comforting figure and Lin haunted by past demons. Based on a light novel of the same name, the series has 12 episodes and aired during this year’s winter season. It was praised pretty highly by other ani-bloggers, so I decided it was high time for me to give it a chance!
The series starts off incredibly strong with the first 3 episodes. I was instantly hooked, and invested in the characters particularly Lin Xianming. The rest of the 9 episodes are still quite good, but the series never regains the stand out quality of those first 3 episodes. Which can make it a little disappointing once you get to the end. I could easily have seen those 3 episodes extended to be about 6, and cut out the second ‘plot’ and merged plots 1 and 3 together, to make the entire series focused on Lin Xianming rather than randomly jumping to mushroom head in the middle of the series.
Like many anime with 12 episodes, it’s really hard to connect with the large cast of characters. By the end of the series I knew 3 characters names, and a few I just referred to by their character tropes. For example there’s the unlucky dude who is literally just there for laughs – absolutely not character development besides a 2 sentence backstory. Banba himself is never fully explored, there’s a hint at history with an ex-girlfriend and that’s it. We never know why he took on being a masked hitman or the reason behind his god awful haircut.
What this does do well is its action scenes. There’s so really tense sword fights, brawls and getaways throughout the series. The action is swift but clear, and you can always enjoy seeing how the characters will take advantage of the situation. I also enjoyed the inclusion of some baseball scenes to break up the action. While I did say that characters didn’t get much screen time, the baseball scenes did give a chance to show some camaraderie and the ‘family’ ties they had between them.
Overall, Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens was an interesting watch. I enjoyed the action, the story was pretty good and the characters fun. It’s just disappointing when you can see a series being so much better than it actually was. Some tightening of the story, and maybe ditching one or two characters could have made a really stand out action series. Overall I’ll give the series an 8/10 .
What did you think of Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens? Do you have another series you’d recommend me to review next?