Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens Episode 1 Review: Play Ball

An expansive cast of characters, interconnected storylines, and of course, good old fashion mystery come to a head in the first action-packed episode of Satelight’s Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens! Finally, an anime I can really sink my teeth into!!

Japanese Original Episode Title: プレーボール


Based on the light novel series by Chiaki Kisaki and illustrated by Hako Ichiiro, Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens takes place in Hakata, a ward in Fukuoka where 3% of the population is rumored to be comprised of hitmen. Of course, a place like that is bound to have its fair share of dangers. Delve into the city’s underworld along with a series’s eccentric cast of characters ranging from hitmen and pickpockets to even detectives. There’s never a dull moment in Hakata!

Episode Highlights

Beginning at the end: The episode starts off with the last five minutes of the episode before rewinding back to the events that lead up to that moment.

It’s all part of the job: Lin literally kills two people before the five-minute mark without so much as breaking a sweat, armed only with a small knife. And in a skirt no less!

Tragic Backstory: Not even five minutes in and they’re setting up a tragic backstory, complete with a vague childhood flashback. We don’t even know anyone’s name yet and already we know they have issues…

Everyone’s a hitman: Three percent of Hakata’s population is said to be made up of hitmen…

Location Hoping: The episode jumps between various locals to introduce us to some of the main players in Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens.

Breathtaking Backgrounds: Damn, the backgrounds are gorgeous in this first episode! Each setting is like a work of art, full of such rich details and coloring, it’s hard to believe that they were crafted by human hands…

Buying the essentials: Saitou goes shopping for some hitman essentials: a knife, twine, rubber gloves… The whole scene kind of reminded me of the zip tie scene from Fifty Shades of Grey, where Christian Grey, a man who enjoys BDSM, visits a local hardware store to pick up some rope and zip ties. When asked what he wants them for he lies and says ‘home improvement’… Spoiler alert: They aren’t for home improvement.

Bringing a shoe to a stick fight: Banba and Lin face off against one another armed only with a large piece of wood and a high-heeled shoe, respectively. And even when armed with such mundane objects they manage to hold their own pretty well.

Ramen: It’s in the title, so ramen was bound to make its way into the episode at some point, albeit briefly.

Themes & Trivia

Meaningful Title: The name of the series is a reference to a ramen dish Hakata is well known for.

It’s just a hobby: Lin, a ruthless hitman, likes dressing up in women’s clothing, and when asked by one of his targets why he’s dressed the way he is, Lin simply replies that ‘it’s a hobby’. He even stops mid hit to check out a woman’s sweater hanging in the closet… However, that doesn’t mean Lin likes it when men hit on him…

Fish out of water: Despite his friendly disposition and rather soft features, Saitou is a hitman for hire. It’s certainly strange to think of such an adorkable guy actually killing anyone…

Red Rum is Murder: The facade of one of the biggest hitman companies is aptly named Red Rum, which is just murder spelled backward. Perhaps this is a reference to Stephen King’s 1977 horror novel, The Shining, in which there is a scene where a young boy writes the words ‘Red Rum’ on a door. When seen in the adjacent mirror the words spell out ‘murder’, which is what hitmen do… they murder people for a living.

Corrupt Politicians: The Mayor of Hakata, Harada, is up to some suspicious business. A photo of him in the middle of a questionable meeting is key to uncovering the secrets surrounding a police officer’s death, and on top of that, he hired a hitwoman.

Baseball the Great Japanese Pastime: There are more than a few baseball references in this episode, the title (Play Ball) being one of them. Perhaps this is a nod to the well-known popularity of the sport in Japan. Apparently, this is a carryover from the light novels as well.

Badass with a stupid name: The Hitmen’s Hitman, the mysterious killer of hitmen who roams the streets of Hakata.


It’s only Episode 1 and I am already hooked!! This series has everything I love: an expansive cast of unique characters, mystery, action, and ramen (?) all set to a funky jazz beat! I am in love! I was getting some serious Baccano vibes from this show and with the promise of some political intrigue and underworld dealings, you might as well throw in some Durarara while you’re at it. This episode hit every single mark!

The characters are all likable, and as of right now, I can’t think of one that I dislike. They each have their own interesting personalities, hell, I will admit that I am invested and it’s only the first episode… The art is pretty solid, but the backgrounds… I am a sucker for gorgeous backgrounds and this anime has them in spades! And don’t get me started on the Jazzy background music *insert fangirl squeal* I have died and gone to anime heaven! I can’t believe I have to wait a whole week for Episode 2!!

If I Could Save Time in a Bottle

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens is like the secret love child of Durarara and Hamatora, with just a dash of Baccano thrown in for extra flavor. It’s got it all: action, mystery, awesome characters, and a kickass soundtrack! I can’t wait to see what this series has in store for us this season, and if this first episode is any indication, it’s gonna be an enjoyable ride!!

What did you guys think of the first episode of Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens? Are you as excited as I am for the rest of the series? Or do you think it’s too good to be true? Let us know what you think in the comments section! And don’t forget to check the rest of the Winter 2018 anime reviews on MANGA.TOKYO!

NEXT TIME: Irregular (イレギュラー)

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens

Winter 2018 | Anime Info

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