This anime was trash. Litter, even.
How about I just list the reasons why it was cringe until I can't go any further?
Race-based reasons why this show was "cringe":
OVER-EMPHASIS ON WHITE BEAUTY-STANDARDS: Why did they have so many characters on the show fawning over Ash's (the protagonist) "beauty", simply because he was white, blonde, and green-eyed?
BLACK AESTHETIC EMPLACEMENT: It's funny how the hip-hop theme is laced throughout the story, yet Black people are functionally invisible as characters (used as props to define Ash or others) throughout the show.
BLACK BUCK STEREOTYPE: "Yes: the Black guy is big and strong, but he is not very smart." Look at the Mr. T-looking Black guy in Shorter's gang who was introduced around episode 10. Dumb as rocks--and for what? Would it have been such a problem for him to have average intelligence like everyone else??? In one scene, he was literally wearing a chair around his neck. Who does that?
VIOLENT DEATH OF BLACK PEOPLE & GRATUITOUS VIOLENCE AGAINST BLACK CHARACTERS: Did they really have to show us a Black kid (named "Skip" of all things) being shot to death??? Why did we have to witness a Black guy being tortured in Episode 21??? Not to say that we'd eNjOy WaTcHiNg It, but they hardly showed us Ash being tortured. Ever. And if he got hurt, we saw him get treated too. That's more than we can say for any of the Black characters.
PUNKING THE BLACK BUCK TO ENDORSE THE OTHERWISE EFFEMINATE PALE-SKIN MALE'S MASCULINITY: Ash strolls into the Black part of town and stunts on the big, Black man in charge named Cain. (We're not going to talk about the irony of that name). We then get to witness symbolic buck-breaking. Before the episode is over, four compliments about Ash’s masculinity are manufactured from this big, Black man’s mouth. (How you gonna be a gangster and scared of a gun? All those people behind Ash likely could have subdued him quickly if Cain had let them try. So what if he could have gotten shot? There are some things you just don't allow.)
(What I Call) "JAPANESE SMALL-MAN DELUSION": The psychotic belief that a small-framed, effeminate/effeminate-looking man can dominate larger "more masculine" men though superior strength or intimidation alone. The Japanese love this, especially in situations where Black people are depicted as adversaries. Do y'all remember that RIDICULOUS scene when Ash infiltrated the lair of a Black gang in another part of town alone and left unscathed??? LMAO. Honestly, the plot armor was too strong to stomach.
THE ANIMAL-JUNGLE STEREOTYPE: Check out the dialogue in Episode 11 of Banana Fish. How come almost every time we see a Black person in an anime, there's a reference to either the wild, animals (normally monkeys, apes, or lions), or fruit (bananas or watermelon)??? Why are these east Asians (Japanese, Koreans, and Chinese in particular) so obsessed with these European-derived stereotypes? Maybe it's because they're a part of the WhiteX community these days...
Cain kept riding Ash right up until the end of the series. In episode 20, Cain says to Ash: "Damn, Ash. I sure wouldn't want you as my enemy." What inspired this praise? I'll tell you: Ash simply shot at a target he couldn't see. BIG WHOOP. Later, Cain continues to butter Ash up: "It gives me the creeps to see him so submissive." tHe CrEePs??? Really, Cain??? Why? Is it because Ash is your daddy now? Boy, bye. In episode 23, Cain said to Ash: “I guess even you fall apart sometimes”, “Stop torturing yourself”, and “I believe in you”.
Wow! I didn't know Dr. Phil made an appearance on the show! Cain! You just met this...albino murderess--do you really know the extent of his mettle enough to comment on it? Ash shouldn't mean anything to you, yet somehow, it disturbs you to see him in pain? You said you believed in him. What for???
THE IRRELEVANT BLACK IN LAW-ENFORCEMENT TROUPE: How about that Black CIA agent that followed the White one around and had no lines or authority?
COPY-CAT VIBES: Did you all catch how there was another Black guy named "Killer B"? Wow: They couldn't even come up with their own character names. They just copied Naruto. I guess they thought no one would notice?
Every single Black character was typed as irrelevant, cowardly or stupid except for Skip and Cain. Yet, both Skip and Cain were ridiculous as characters because they represented deplorable stereotypes: Cain was the big Black buck and Skip played the stereotypical role of a mascot or child jester (Bogle, 1990).
Other, non-race-based reasons this show was "cringe" include:
THE JAPANESE INNOCENCE (SOFT POWER) PROPAGANDA & WHITE APPROVAL-SEEKING: Want examples? Just check out Episode 11. Fellacio galore.
Repeatedly, Eiji verbalized a couple simple, basic humanitarian concepts. Ash often responded with amazement. He'd say things like: "Guess such nasty things [as this] don’t happen in Japan."
I'm sorry...do you mean the Japan which, till this day, is barred from having its own military as a condition of its defeat in World War II? Do you mean the we-refuse-to-make-amends-for-the-"comfort women" Japan? Do you mean let's-flirt-with-incest/child-pornography in anime & manga Japan???
Something is seriously wrong with the creators of this anime.
Bogle, Donald. Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, & Bucks. New York, The Continuum Publishing Company, 1990.