OP Sequence

OP: 「夜は眠れるかい?」 (Yoru wa Nemureru kai) by (flumpool)

「僕らには関係ない話」 (Bokura ni wa Kankeinai Hanashi)
“The Story Doesn’t Matter to Us”

Ajin presents a dilemma that’s becoming increasingly familiar for the anime fan.

Where do you want to start with Ajin? There’s no way you can broach the subject of a post about this series without answering that question, because there’s just no much of the positive and the negative here. We live in an era when full CGI shows are part of the anime landscape whether we like it or not (generally, I don’t) and they change the experience of watching a series in a quite profound way.

There’s quite a story with Ajin before you even get to the animation. This is a highly decorated manga, having been nominated for both the Kodansha and Tezuka prizes, and it sells very well. Polygon Pictures has already released the first of theatrical trilogy acting as a sort of alternative version of the TV series (which strikes me as rather an odd thing to do). And because the series was licensed to Netflix before it ever aired (as was the second season of Polyon’s Sidonia no Kishi, with which Ajin shares a director) it’s that rare anime that isn’t being streamed – which explains the delay before a good English version hit the streets, streaming having led to the demise of most true subbing groups.

Well, Ajin is here, and it is what it is. And that’s a good many things, many of them outstanding. I’m an avowed believer that seinen adaptations make some of the best anime out there, and Ajin is a damn good seinen manga. The premise – 46 known super-human Ajin knows as “Soldiers of God” exist in the world, but there could be more, hiding among us – is a great one. The dialogue is smart and respects the audience, and the writing is pretty ruthless.

But for me at least, the animation is an element that can’t simply be ignored. CGI is becoming more common in anime, though full-on CGI series are relatively rare still. Polygon’s efforts all look the same to me – the same under-formed character designs, the same creepy artificial movements, the same robotic facial expressions. It was at its best with Sanzoku no Musume Ronja (a Ghibli-padded budget and art didn’t hurt) but even there the character animation was the weakest element of the series. I’ve seen conflicting opinion on whether Bubuki Burnanki is full CG (I think it’s a hybrid), but it’s striking how much more natural and detailed the look of that series is as compared to what Polygon does.

It’s frustrating to see really good manga get subpar visual treatment, and especially puzzling when the manga are very popular (like this one, or Kingdom). But once again a much-loved seinen manga has been turned over to Polygon, and I guess we should be thankful that they’re much better at narrative than character animation – and that we’re getting an anime at all. For my money Ajin is actually a better series than Sidonia because in addition to having a very strong sci-fi premise like that series, Ajin also has well-drawn and complex characters who interact in believable ways.

Chief among them is the protagonist Nagai Kei (Miyano Mamoru, who also sings the ED) a studious and serious high-schooler with a hospitalized little sister. His childhood friend is Kaito (the omnipresent Hosoya Yoshimasa), a “bad seed” Kei’s mother has forbidden him to fraternize with. Everything Kei does seems geared towards being good – a good boy, a good son, a good student. A good human, in other words. But ever since the day he saw a strange shadowy creature hovering over him when death was in the air, it seems that Kei has always suspected that he wasn’t human at all.

We’ve seen this broad premise in many forms, but it’s very well executed here. I like the fact that it was Kai that Kei immediately thought to turn to when his secret was exposed by a grisly truck incident, and that Kai was already preparing to come to his friend’s aid. The action scenes are tense and nicely staged, and the premiere manages to convey both a sense of compassion for Kei and of consequence with the events happening to and around him. In short, it’s a good episode – really good, if you like smart and disturbing seinen anime. The only question, really, is just how much of an obstacle those visuals are – and that’s a question every viewer is going to have to answer for themselves.


ED Sequence

ED: “HOW CLOSE YOU ARE” by (Mamoru Miyano)



    1. They pretty clearly outline that the show has two pluses going for it that help counter the choice of animation style, the source material is very good and the animation studio is known for doing a good job adapting works narratively.

    2. There’s people who like CGI animes? Anyways, the CGI sucks even if you were this mythical person who just really eats some CGI ass. Bad models, bad touchups, bad animation, bad lighting, it’s all bad bad. The story is intriguing.

      There is nothing cosmetically in this anime that is satisfying and that’s really a shame.

  1. CGI can be done right (Expelled from Paradise) can work and not be obtrusive. This is not CGI done right, it is CGI done on the cheap. Wooden, Rigid, and noticebly un-lifelike really breaks the experience. Even RWBY looks professional compared to this… It’s a shame really because it hits a lot of the right buttons for an interesting and popular show, but it’s probly going to be confined to a niche due to poor stylistic choices, ala the rotoscoping that killed Aku no Hana’s potential popularity.

    1. Except Expelled from paradise has a movie budget and a maximum of a few hours time length. A few great examples of high quality and high budget anime films include the Appleseed films especially Alpha., PlanZet,and Vexille.

      So far the best episodic cgi anime I’ve watched in terms of graphics is Appleseed xiii because the models are detailed (however less detailed from the movies) and did not try as hard to mimic 2d animation and aesthetically fine. It’s certainly the ugliest of the Appleseed lineup but one of the better cgi episodic anime.

    2. eh expelled from paradise is not strong example in my opinion. There’s one series that had good cel shaded cgi that people tend to forget about…..black rock shooter. Now the cgi in that series didnt look like complete dookie. I remember it fooling audiences at times as they were under the impression that the action in the “ethereal world” was hand-drawn. Bubuki/Buranki takes a page from BRS by using similar techniques. While it doesnt do it as well, it handles it cg much better than most cg anime on the block today. It kind of mimics the cg used in shows like kill la kill and panty and stocking in some of its action scenes; that’s why there are some who think it’s actually a hybrid when it’s completely cg

  2. I didn’t really see anything “smart” in this first episode, so I hope it proves better than this intro. In fact this was all edge and not much else. Honestly I think the CGI was the least of the problems here, because even if it was a beautiful-looking show it would still be really shallow. I half-expected them to outright state that humans are the real monsters, like some cheesy old-school morality play.

    El Goopo
    1. the series is smart in how it doesnt play all it’s cards right away; it progresses character motivations and plot threads at a good pace without giving away everything all at once. Ep 1 was a decent display of that but there is more to come. Ajin is a good series from what ive seen

  3. uuuuuuuuuugghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…whyyyyyyyy??? imagine if ajin was being animated by BONES or production ig (the good department). Even so, this first ep kicked ass. It’s a shame that the west has gotten so much from switching over to cg for most of their animation while japan cant seem to get it into gear. Whether for budgetary reason or time constraints, it doesnt seem like they know how to use cg yet on a tv or movie budget (expelled from paradise was still jarring). Unfortunately we are reaching a point where cg is becoming prominent in anime so if this going to be an inevitability, then at least just marry the two. Use hand drawn animation where hand drawn animation would excel most at (like with character animations or sakuga moments; anime cg just cant do human models right) and leave cgi for rendering environments, massive objects, or intricately designed structures. Just like how live-action movies shouldnt be oversaturated with cgi, but should rather be a blend of practical effects with uses of cgi when needed (aka mad max fury road), anime should be the same as well. Dimension W has the right idea in that it uses hand-drawn techniques and only uses cg for certain things; that’s the direction anime should go

  4. The CGI IMO is not bad, it’s Sidonia no Kishi quality. The problem Ajin may have is a lack of those “epic” scenes (i.e space battles) that help bandage over the faults in character movement, modelling, and design. Many of Sidonia’s animation issues fell to the wayside when the large firefights were featured for example. Without something similar the problems with full CGI will come to the forefront for many viewers, unfortunately.

    I am surprised at the Netflix deal too. Once was a fluke, twice is deliberate. It is likely Netflix is testing the waters to see how popular these shows can be. The subject matter certainly helps considering the dark, serious, sci-fi tone of both Sidonia and Ajin–there’s a lot of sci-fi viewers left unsatisfied with current TV offerings over here, something only now being addressed with SyFy’s The Expanse. Netflix furthermore only pays the licensing fee and does not have to deal with managing audience numbers and commercials, saving a hefty chunk of cash if this venture does not succeed. I’d consider it the first tentative step into seeing how well Western-palatable animated series will perform over here. If the Sidonia ratings (from what I remember) are anything to go by, expect Crunchyroll and Funimation to get some serious competition soon.

    1. eeehhhhh the cg’s bad as it was in sidonia (it’s more noticeable depending on what is being rendered) Sidonia had good art design for backgrounds and creatures so the viewers attention was sometimes averted from bad anti-aliasing, framerates, and off-putting composition. So yea, in short, the cg was bad

  5. In the manga, it’s shown Kei’s body getting completely obliterated by the truck, with his limbs and insides spilling over on the road. But here, it’s only shown him being run over by the truck minus everything else, which makes it less grisly than it’s supposed to be. And that’s my only complaint here.

  6. I say, his hentai is rather unappealing, art-wise.

    “Ajin presents a dilemma that’s becoming increasingly familiar for the anime fan.”

    That dilemma being – how can i read anime blogs and avoid stumbling upon enzo every five seconds.

  7. Great that I can still get my LiA fix though the site is down, I’m glad I subscribed to this site through twitter.

    For me the episode was pretty standard, almost exactly what I was expecting right down to the animation. I got quite a few Tokyo Ghoul flashbacks, but without the excellent cinematography and direction of that show. Polygon Pictures had some really nice mecha battles in Sidonia, so I hope there’s at least something like that here to make me appreciate the 3D, the opening does show small hints of it.

    Earthling Zing
    1. yes; one of the hurdles cgi has to overcome is the uncanny valley affect so yea even the best cgi may have some moments of awkward motion. Pixar has managed to sort of circumnavigate this issue by making their human characters look disproportionate. This allows for viewers to identify with the character models as human beings without having them pick up on the uncanny valley

  8. The CGI doesn’t look great, it’s passable, and the story didn’t quite pull me in. Though the copy I watched had some poor subs, so that didn’t help (in fact I didn’t bother finishing the episode). I’ll have to go back and finish it. A little disappointed, but will give it another shot.

    Bamboo Blade Cat
  9. I don’t see how they are lacking in facial expressions , every screen shot you have posted for Nagai Kei can absolutely speak for itself and conveys his emotions in a very clear way.

  10. If the story weren’t so damn intriguing I would drop it. But Sidonia grew on me like a unwanted fungus. Gonna give it a few more eps, see if I can get over the dreadful cgi like I did KoS.

  11. What kills me is that it’s not even good CV. In my opinion Sidonia looked better than this, and in Buranki it was so good I could forget it was CG. If Polygon is “the CG studio” why can’t they do it right?

    1. Agreed, I just caught up on Buranki and the CGI is miles better. That’s saying a lot, this is still cgi. I think Sidonia’s space theme helps with CGI to be honest as it’s more imaginative for the viewer and darker (literally, less light). Real life Japan and populace in CGI we can’t really “imagine”.

  12. lets be REAL…Sidonia looked like crap, BUT it worked with the type of atmosphere that show had, much like the murky graphics of ps2’s Fear Effect games….

    that being said..I’m watching LESS and LESS ANIME these days because of this LAZY trend.

    I WANT HAND DRAWN you cheap bastards!!!

    BROOKLYN otaku
    1. The percentage of CGI in anime is still miniscule, and the types of ALL-CGI anime are even smaller. I wouldn’t use that as evidence that I’m watching less anime if it barely holds an argument.

    2. They’ll gladly deliver hand drawn if it was worth the money… Japanese animators are already getting paid pretty poorly. You want them to work harder for minimum pay?

      Goodwill Wright
      1. NEVER a CGI hater bro….just a low quality HATER! in all things…..and unfortunately i lack the artistic skills to contribute to the world of animation…dosent mean i cant be a critic.

        i wish i could though…oh the ideas i have in my head………………..

        BROOKLYN otaku
    1. The CGI sticks out like a sore thumb dude…It’s hard not to miss. If were as simple as “don’t watch the show” bro I’m sure many would drop it. But as you can see (or not) in the comments it’s not just black and white .

  13. Only problem with the 3D CGI animation industry in Japan is that they feel the need to make their 3D look hand drawn. To the extent they even posterize the frame rate to replicate the frame rate of your average anime. Which in my opinion is wrong on so many levels.

    Japan can do good CGI. Disregarding Square Enix’s portolio of CG, you also have TOEI animation which did films such as Harlock and Saint Seiya (the 3D films). Both started out as anime-esque looking media, but they adapted the design to 3D quite well.

    Goodwill Wright
  14. Jeez Louise, here we go again with the “trendy” naysaying about CGI, which isn’t even half bad in this show. I’m actually more concerned about the story at this point, because nothing in it felt strikingly interesting so far.

  15. I think I’m the only person enjoying the CGIs this season. Am I that much of a crazy person? I always thought it represented bad anime and bad animation, wouldnt even try to watch it… And this season I just started watching Bubuki and now Ajin and loved it so far!
    I think CGI gives a kind of flow to the movements that, although they still look a bit robotic and there’s a big room for improvement, we can’t see with normal animation. In general the action scenes have a better flow with CGI.
    And hey, the story seemed really good so far!

  16. Looked fine to me. Once you start watching, you get drawn into the story if it’s any good, and this worked fairly well, with decent characters and a very immersive soundtrack.

    It’s mostly a matter of perspective. A lot of non-CGI shows cut corners by having fixed non-moving figures in background scenes which is equally distracting if you are used to live action or high-budget animated movies.

  17. The CGI looks bad, the framerate sucks, and the movements are kinda robotic.

    Yet it didn’t bother me as much as I expected. Perhaps I got used to it with Sidonia and learned to focus more on what I was shown instead of how it is shown. And in that case, I think I’m gonna enjoy Ajin just fine.

    But in Sidonia’s defence. The CGI worked better there.


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