「待て、もう一度話し合おう」 (Mate, mouichido hanashiaou)
“Wait, we’ll talk it over again”

For the first time in a long time, I’m starting to worry about Ajin.

Looking back at my history with this series, the only real hangup has been the usual Polygon CGI assault on human decency when it comes to character animation. It took a couple episodes to work through that, and while you never totally forget that’s there, it’s been pretty smooth sailing ever since. But there were a couple of canaries in the coal mine that were starting to cough last week, and with this episode they seem to be on life support. Fonzie isn’t warming up the bike or anything, but it does concern me when I see potential problems become actual problems in a predictable way.

There are two separate issues bothering me about Ajin, though they’re very closely related. The first is that we’re getting to the point where there’s really nobody in the cast that deserves our empathy, and the occasional act of decency is always met with catastrophe. That’s the author’s choice, of course – he’s under no obligation to make Kei or anyone else sympathetic – but for me at least there’s a limit to how much viewing enjoyment I get when I don’t really care what happens to anyone. Despair and depravity are fascinating dramatic subjects, but I find they wear a little better when cut with a bit of contrast and texture.

The other problem is the potentially even more troubling, I think. That’s what I see as the inconsistency in Kei’s character. Now, I know that the original writer of Ajin was Miura Tsuina, but he mysteriously dropped off the project after the first volume, leaving Gamon Sakurai as the sole author as well as artist. I don’t know if that’s the reason Kei’s current personality seems so different from the first few episodes as to stretch credulity, but if not it would be a whopper of a coincidence. I get that the kid has been through hell, the kind of stuff that can change someone – but I’m just not buying it. This isn’t the same character, plain and simple – his actions now are simply inconsistent with the boy we were introduced to. And for me, that’s a problem on multiple levels.

I’ll give Sakurai and director Seshita Hiroyuki credit, because there was an unsettling feeling in the air as soon as Kei met Nakano Kou. Even if it was hard to say exactly why, I knew Kei was going to screw Kou (keh!) even as he seemed to be making nice with him. I get that Kei was happy to have found a place where he thinks he can be safe (though that’s a mirage if you ask me), but really – first poison Kou with Ibotenbutake mushrooms, then drown him, then imprison him inside the carcass of an old truck? And let’s be clear, the plan has to be to keep him in there forever otherwise there’s no point. I’m sorry, Kei’s tortured reasoning and talk of “value” sounds like a writer trying too hard to explain away a rank inconsistency of character. It just plain doesn’t work – and while pretty much every series has stuff that doesn’t work, considering what’s involved here this is the sort of thing that could take down the whole ship.

So, as Kei starts off his campaign to be the most unlikable member of the cast, his chief competition – Satou and Tosaki – are hard at work trying to secure the title. Satou’s plans for “war” are in full-swing with the help of the Yakuza. And Tosaki (who for me is still in first place) is in a whole heap of trouble, with his handlers running out of patience and his old subordinate Sokabe now being assigned to shadow him and wait for the first slip-up to destroy him. Tosaki takes out his rage on Ogura, who doesn’t seem to care about starring in this week’s torture porn segment but is bummed about not having his favorite brand of cigarettes (is there something special about those, I wonder?).

In short, it’s all a bit of a nihilistic clusterfuck at the moment. Ajin is still beautifully paced and engaging as hell, but it does feel as if we’re reaching a bit of a crisis point. If indeed the problem is the incompatibility between Gamon and what came before, well – there’s really no fix for that. And if Gamon’s vision is to tell a story where decency has no role or reward and no one in the cast is worth rooting for, the shelf life of Ajin isn’t going to be extended anytime soon. But there’s so much good stuff here that I’m going to remain hopeful until given incontrovertible proof that hope is wasted.




  1. I for one always saw him like that though.
    The exceptions would be his childhood friends and people who actually tried to help him (he can be a selfish asshole, but he put his life at risk for anyone who helped and treated him as an actual human being).

    The only time I’ve seen him doing otherwise was when he was combining forces with someone with an objective in common, but that’s not really as sympathetic as it sounds at all (even in the latest chapters of the manga).

  2. The thing is although Ajin has really intense pacing with plots and actions, the character development is incredibly slow, like you get a little every episode, and you almost get no back story of MC until chapter 20 or so in the manga. That isn’t a bad thing IMO, in fact it’s like the MC is a part of the mystery you have to solve along with the ajin mystery.

  3. Kei being an ass is kinda the point. Even his own sister way back when called him trash. Kei has his own set of convictions that he sticks to absolutely, he doesn’t choose to help someone because “it’s the right thing to do” he does it because he chooses to. It’s a lot more interesting to see a char with no morality then some hero of justice MC everytime.

    1. Being an ass is one thing, being a genuine sociopath is something else. For me it all comes down to actions – and Kei’s actions in the first few episodes are not consistent with his actions this week. Is the fact that those chapters were written by two different people coincidental? As I said, it would be a whopper of a coincidence.

      1. Eh I kinda disagree, even in the first 2 episodes it was made pretty clear that Kei didn’t really care at all about his sister or his ‘friends’ they were simply societal norms he was following as needed to further his goal of being a doctor. He really only cared about himself and his image.

  4. I don’t mind Satou, he’s pretty much the Magneto character who seems to have justifiable reasons for his anger, as he’s just a product of his environment.

    Tosaki always has a sniveling look like he’s fuming and sneering with hatred. He’d make the perfect Iago.

    Kei’s behavior I guess I buy. It makes sense that now that he’s in an extreme situation, his personality will adhere to more extreme measures to retain his normalcy, I guess is the point, until of course, he inevitably comes to his sense to fight Satou, whether he wants to or not.

    The only issue with the episode I had is Kei should’ve broken his legs/feet from that jump so high up, and the other kid should’ve been severely injured. Also that choke will knock you out in 5-10 seconds or less when done right, and it looked tight, but they never portray that accurately. Like Holly Holm said about being choked unconscious, you always think you have more time.

    Bamboo Blade Cat
    1. I don’t mind Satou, he’s pretty much the Magneto character who seems to have justifiable reasons for his anger, as he’s just a product of his environment.

      Satou’s that “guy who just wants to see the world burn.” He’s just a more sedated Joker, basically- he gets his kicks out of destruction, but without Joker’s signature fits of laughter and silliness. I don’t recall if the anime’s shown Satou’s life history yet (The anime and the manga are kind of bleeding together for me) but if you’ve seen it/when you see it, you will realize at once that Satou’s just a psychopath’s psychopath/Hollywood stereotype psycho and the antithesis of Kei who is law abiding so long as there is a stable status quo of normalcy with no extenuating circumstances (Like the current crazy happenings) necessitating drastic measures to preserve/restore his desired normalcy.

      Kei’s behavior I guess I buy. It makes sense that now that he’s in an extreme situation, his personality will adhere to more extreme measures to retain his normalcy, I guess is the point, until of course, he inevitably comes to his sense to fight Satou, whether he wants to or not.

      Right on, just as we discussed back in episode 6. Kei is a psychopath with an idiosyncratic, exclusively logic-based moral code (No emotional component) which justifies anything and everything in pursuit of his innate/conditioned fundamental desire for a normal life. Which, incidentally, when there is a stable equilibrium of normalcy means Kei is generally allergic to criminality as he knows that human systems of morality are the best, time-tested and true means of preserving persistent states of social normalcy. But when the status quo breaks down, human social norms go out of the window as his perfectly logical psychopathic self recognizes that human morality is ill-equipped to deal with situations outside of the stable peaceful equilibrium state. This what we are seeing now. Kei has become an outlaw, living on the fringes of society, he’s in one of those non-equilibrium states where the usual rules don’t apply- and so all bets are off. But this does not make him Satou’s friend however- Kei’s goals are twofold, one, to preserve the stable equilibrium state of society in general, and two, to reinsert himself into society as a part of this stable, normal equilibrium state. All of which are at odds with (sedated) Joker Satou’s goals- so in spite of his ruthlessness, Kei is humanity’s greatest ally, and best hope…

    2. I’d like to see more of Satou’s history, but overall he fits the Magneto character of being a victim that wishes to get revenge through mass murder (although he did say he likes killing), so he does show a sadistic streak in him.

      Bamboo Blade Cat
      1. I remember that in the first or second episode Kei is being choked by those two guys who come after him for the money, and I have seen similar results in other shows when characters are being choked in that particular manner. Is there a reason why yellow/clear fluid is leaking from Kei’s mouth while being choked, and what is said fluid?


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