「君は黒い幽霊を見たことがあるか?/ いざとなったら助けを求める最低なクズ」 (Kimi wa Kuroi Yuurei o Mita Koto ga Aru ka?/ Iza to Nattara Tasuke o Motomeru Saiteina Kuzu)
“Have You Seen the Black Ghost?/Trasho Who Only Asks for Help When Desperate”

Let there be no two ways about it – whatever you might think of the other aspects of its production, Ajin is a superbly written series as far as I’m concerned.  The first three eps were excellent, but this week’s double-episode (which, as I understand it, takes the series through almost all of the material covered in the first movie) was a standout – some of the best anime this season, and some of the best action-thriller anime I’ve seen in a long time.

A thriller (be it horror, sci-fi or otherwise) has multiple goals it needs to accomplish, but at the very least it has to be a little thrilling.  Ajin has that covered and then some – like last week these episodes flew by.  There’s always something happening on-screen but not just that (which isn’t really all that hard), it’s always something interesting.  You always feel like you should be paying attention because something important is happening, and in an entertaining way.  Pacing is important in an genre but never more than this one, and Ajin is nailing it.

There’s a lot more than that to appreciate, though.  The plot here is really well put-together, and it manages to guard its secrets without seeming to cheat.  We’re finding out stuff more or less at the same rate Kei is, and by no means do we have anything like a complete picture yet.  Who is this Ajin Nakamura Shinya who was responsible for the “incident” everyone (especially Tosaki) keeps referring to?  Who is this mad scientist Ogura Ikuya (Kinoshita Hiroyuki) who seems to have defected to the American side?  And where did Ajin come from in the first place?

Most importantly, though, Ajin keeps us guessing about the people involved even as we grow to know them.  Shmomura is obviously an Ajin (the preview spoiled that) and Tosaki seems effectively to be blackmailing her into helping him.  Satou, though, is the most opaque and probably important unknown element.  Obviously he’s a badass of the first order, as his rescue raid late in the episode showed (cutting off his own arm after he was hit by a dart was pretty cool) – and he pulled it off without even revealing his special ability (it seems some Ajin have them, others don’t).  But is he a bad man?

At this point it seems so, though the series does expertly yank us back and forth on that question.  After kidnapping Eriko he seems to be genuinely concerned for Kei’s welfare – he introduces himself as head of the “Ajin Protection Committee“.  But then it seems as if he might have killed Eriko once she was no longer useful, but this turns out to be a feint – and again, after his meeting with Kei in the woods he once again seems like a decent soul.  The issue here – which Ajin plays on so expertly – is that we desperately want Satou to be a good guy, because there are so few of them in this cast, the world is so cruel, and Kei so obviously needs someone like Satou to help him.

In the end, though, the game Satou is playing seems quite clear – he wants to win Kei over to his side by any means necessary, but that means Kei has to come to hate all humans and want to seek revenge against them.  The rest of it is all an act, and when that doesn’t take he allows Kei to be captured and tortured assuming that will turn Kei into the vicious monster Tanaka seems to have become.  I don’t like torture porn much – not here, not in Tokyo Ghoul (which this series broadly resembles in some ways), nor elsewhere.  I can see why it’s being used, at least, because Kei’s humanity is really the central question of this entire seres, and it has to be tested firmly – and at least (for now) the torture arc was relatively short.

We learned an awful lot about a lot of people and events in these episodes.  Eriko resents Kei because she feels he betrayed Kai (and I think he does, too) by agreeing to stop seeing him because Kai’s father was a criminal.  Yet Eriko still loves Kei enough to want to help him (and I suspect Kai even more).  The nature of the black ghosts (“Invisible Black Matter” as Ogura calls them) is that of a “second life” – an extension of one’s self that can be controlled with enough practice.  It seems the amount of pain an Ajin feels is inversely proportional to the number of times they’ve died – which while rather grisly, does offer a bleak kind of comfort for Kei.  And we learned that Kei is strong enough to withstand 10 days worth of torture without becoming the killer Satou wants him to be – a “failure”, as the latter calls him.

The crucial question now is what Satou will do about Kei now that he’s failed to turn him.  Will he rescue him anyway, rather than leave any Ajin in the hands of humans?  Just what Kei’s options are if he doesn’t isn’t exactly clear – he’s certainly decided he doesn’t want to put Kai in any further danger, even assuming Kai were in any position to help him.  There’s something especially tragic about a gentle soul who wants nothing more than to live a quiet life without hurting anybody, and has that taken away from him by fate – and while Kei isn’t especially heroic in the conventional sense, there’s something heroic about simple decency.  Especially when the world is as indecent as the one he’s been forced to adapt to.

 

Preview

14 Comments

  1. At first the CG held me back / bt the show was good . But I agere with you 100 % episodes 4 and 5 just floored me,

    Who is good / bad is the ? which like you said.

    As far as the torture / or lab work was needed to drive home the Plight of the Ajin in the goverment hands .They have no rights. However are the Ajin just as evil selling human body parts? Setting up Ajin to be tortured !.

  2. From first impression, I thought that it would be like some horror series like tokyo ghoul where the hype is degraded by just the violence shown through the whole story, but this one isn’t like that. Here everything is well interpreted, well explained and well shown as we hope for a well made dark story. If I were to compare to any other anime of this season, this one is the one that got my full attention, and that in every details. I really and highly recommend it to anyone who loves horror story or rather I recommend it to everyone, because as far as I’m concerned, from the 1st Ep to this 5th Ep, the hype continue to grow constantly and there’s no day when I’m not checking for the next show to savor this pearl of anime we do not see that often these days.

    ManOfSteel
  3. Ajin is a series about which one could play the “if only” card all day long, but that’s a study in diminishing returns if ever there was one. The CGI is what it is – it’s not going away, it’s not going to get better.

    Ep 02

    Ajin may be the ugliest series of the season, but that episode felt like it lasted about five minutes.

    Ep 03

    For someone that did not find a glimme ray of Hope at the beginning, you sound now like “See, i told ya!” Guy

    Let there be no two ways about it – whatever you might think of the other aspects of its production, Ajin is a superbly written series as far as I’m concerned. The first three eps were excellent, but this week’s double-episode (which, as I understand it, takes the series through almost all of the material covered in the first movie) was a standout – some of the best anime this season, and some of the best action-thriller anime I’ve seen in a long time.

    Your credibility for me is fallen nearly to zero.

    Worldwidedepp
    1. You’re reading into what they’re saying totally wrong.

      The “if only” comment is based on the animation. As in “if only another studio had worked on this it would have had better animation and maybe people wouldn’t look down on it immediately because of the cg”.

      Same with the “ugly” but “felt like it lasted five minutes” comments. The animation sucks but like when you’re really engrossed in a show the time just seems to fly by.

      Enzo has been mostly positive this show from episode 1. Hell half of the first review is explaining how even though it’s unfortunate the studio relies on subpar CG the story is good and the studio does do a good job telling stories.

      qwert
      1. my personal though is that Enzo left the “I am an Western Anime fan” World and became “i am an Nippon Anime fan”. He is loosing the Western point of view of the Animes

        Worldwidedepp
  4. There were some people (or most of them, I don’t know) who harshly judge this anime as the ugliest one of this season…let me give to you people one advice that can help you a lot in your life : “Don’t judge things before tasting them first”. That way you will avoid missing some really nice opportunities as this one. If graphics all that matters to you then you’re doomed to pass through all good things.

    BeFair
    1. A show can be brilliantly written and still be ugly visually (I would even say it’s common). And just because one takes a realistic view of a show’s shortcomings on the production side that doesn’t mean they’re going to miss out on any opportunities. Hey – I watched Kingdom for almost a hundred episodes, and there aren’t a lot of series uglier than that one.

      Really, you’re presenting a false choice here in the interest of sounding superior.

      1. How ironic to see that what I was trying here is to support the show you blogged and the one who bashed it is the one I supported, and besides said “Really, you’re presenting a false choice here in the interest of sounding superior.” Some people may laugh at it, but I’m really sad about it. Please read my last comment below, I somehow missed to put it on reply from your comment.

        BeFair
  5. So to you what I’m saying here is for the purpose of sounding superior? Well I won’t engage in any debat so I’ll rephrase what I was trying to say here : “See the whole contents before doing any haste judgement because the visual, what you call ugly, presented here can actually be a positive asset to the whole show.” I won’t say that this anime has good graphics, but going as far as saying that it has the ugliest visual? Sorry but I don’t find that statement realistic at all. You must know that most of CGI anime doesn’t have a high quality design, and if I were to compare to other anime appearing this season, then Phantasy Star 2 has a more ugly CGI quality than Ajin (and there are more). Furthermore, as absurdly as I see it, seeing people skip a show just because of graphics is really sad.

    And really please refrain from doing any haste remark like what you interpreted my statement as an act of superiority.

    BeFair
  6. I am fine with the CGIs except for the facial reactions… that’s my only beef at the moment because Ajin is the ‘best written’ series this season – and I am watching both Erased and Shouwa Rakugo.

    Even so, the CGI is detrimental enough for me to push it down to the second best or third best if the visual aesthetics are included. Nonetheless, the crap is real with Ajin. Wow.

  7. I think I’m floored by the absolute lack of humanity from the humans. They find out a very, very small portion of the population is different, possibly immortal? Humans immediately try to dissect the Ajin, conduct experiments on them not seen since World War II, or medieval times. There’s no interrogation, just immediate dissection. Meanwhile, they are portrayed as mass murderers to the public, even to family members who had no idea their siblings or children were Ajin. It’s the absolute hate seen from Tosaki and the doctors towards Kei, who only a few days ago was just a normal high-school student, that gets me. Even Kei’s own sister Eriko, who already hated her brother, piles on when she learns Kei is totally different from her. A brother who will never be sick, never have to have an operation, compared to a bed-ridden sister. And the rest of the population can only see the money they can get for capturing an Ajin.

    This is the big fear that comic book superheroes have towards totalitarian governments. Any form of power beyond today’s power of standing armies, military hardware, and assassinations is seen as being “outsider” to The Club. The right to say “No” to a government, and back it up with force or escape, is the worst crime to these people.

    But no one has tried the “carrot” compared to the “stick” here? What about “friendly” interrogation, compliant experimentation, brainwashing drugs? Nope, just wrap the guy so tight in mummy rags he can’t move, can’t even scream, and start hacking off body parts. Ugh. Totalitarians don’t trust anyone not completely a patsy.

    Obviously what’s between-the-lines here is the black/invisible ghosts, or dark matter entities, which apparently killed a lot of doctors/scientists in the past. That’s one reason why the humans are so cautious with Ajin. But here you have a boy who doesn’t know what he can do, yet Kei is treated like a war-scarred adult. By everyone, even Satou, or the Man with the Hat, who wants to make an army of Ajin, it seems, not coexist peacefully. How about making friends with Kei before he becomes a berserker with his black ghost? Nope, government can’t do that – shoot him and start the dissection.

    jhpace1

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