「佐藤さん、あんたのせいでメチャクチャだ」 (Satou-san, Anta no sei de Mechakuchada)
“Satou-san, this is all your fault”

Ajin is a perfect illustration of both the joys and frustrations of being an anime fan.

I don’t think it can be denied that we’ve entered a brave new world in anime production, for better or worse.  Streaming was a big step, and now we’ve seen it move to the next level with exclusive rights deals like the one Paragon signed with Netflix and Fuji TV signed with Amazon (for the NoitaminA block).  I’m in favor of anything that prods anime to market itself to a broader audience (and the international audience is obviously broader than the 20,000 otaku studios traditionally market to), not to mention brings enough money into the industry so that animators hopefully don’t have to live like slaves.  But there are downsides to all this, and Ajin is a prime example.

Would Ajin’s production schedule have been different if it had been created under the traditional system?  I don’t think there’s any question about it.  The contrarian argument is that it might not have been produced at all, and that’s certainly possible.  Nevertheless, I find the notion of a series stopping in the middle of a story by effectively saying “Wait for the movies” no less frustrating than one that tells you to go read the manga.  This is a common syndrome with seinen – very rarely do we ever see them adapted fully.  And while having more movies coming is nice, it should be noted that the manga itself is still ongoing so even there, you’re not likely to see an ending.

If you can get past that – and the grotesque character animation in all of Polygon’s series – Ajin is easy to recommend.  It’s a hell of a great thrill ride, in fact – in terms of writing, I think this is one of the better action thrillers in recent anime history.  It’s coherent, beautifully paced and genuinely involving.  I don’t recall an extended stretch in 13 episodes where what was happening on-screen seemed anything but essential to telling the story.  I wouldn’t call Ajin lean or spare because there’s a ton of story here, but it’s all muscle and no fat.

While I won’t call what we got this week an ending, I would say it worked very well as a placeholder – and gave us a hell of a cliffhanger to boot.  As expected Kita-san sells Kei out for the reward money (and also as expected, he gets screwed out of it – how much does a police certificate of appreciation go for on eBay?).  While I think Kei’s idea that he could hide wth Obaa-san was a fantasy all along, at least he was preparing an escape plan – that shopping trip he sent her on an essential part of it.  It’s tempting to chalk up Kei’s using Obaa-san as a human shield to his newfound amoral nature, but in truth it was the sensible thing to do in the moment and even she knew it.

One big question as all this plays out is what’s going to happen with Kou – will Kei abandon him to an eternity of darkness and isolation, dying of dehydration over and over and reviving?  No, but Ajin does a pretty good job of convincing us that he’s going to lure the pursuers to Kou using his phone while Kei makes his own escape.  So why, then, does Kei – the ultimate pragmatist – decide to rescue Kou and escape together with him?  Maybe it’s purely for practical reasons, because it seems Kei has finally decided he has to take Satou on and he needs all the allies he can get.  Or maybe – just maybe – there’s still a trace of the Kei we saw in the first couple of episodes alive in this version.

Another question that crosses my mind is why Shimomura-kun uses her IBM (Kuro-chan? Kawaii!) to save Tosaki, over and over.  She’s being held against her will through blackmail as far as we know, and Tosaki is the only one who knows the truth.  If she’d just let Kei’s IBM kill Tosaki (or was it Kou’s?) wouldn’t she be a free ajin?  I’d hate to think it’s something cliched like she’s in love wth him or something, but I do believe it’s a question that begs to be asked.  As for Tosaki, while he’s marginally sharper than most of the humans on his team, one wonders how many more times he’s going to get away with letting ajin slip through his fingers before he runs out of rope.

The ending (such as we get one) is a two-pronged affair.  Satou issues another terrorist video, laying out phase 2 of his plan: he’ll assassinate 15 people complicit in the mistreatment of ajins, and if Japan doesn’t capitulate to him before he finishes he’ll enter the “final” phase (and he opens his eyes so you know he’s serious).  And Kei and Kou make their escape thanks to some mysterious powers from Kei, and resistance to Tosaki’s tranquilizers (thanks to a timely bullet to the head).  Whether this is another manifestation of the legendary Nakamura Shin’ya incident I don’t know, but it’s clear Kei is very anxious not to go back on that dissecting table.  The final moments with he and Kou are a sort of peachfuzz Thelma and Louise, the two of them jumping off a cliff together (the look Kei gives Kou when he asks what “worship” means is priceless).

And now, we wait.  I’ll certainly continue to follow Ajin in movie form, because it’s a damn good story and it has me thoroughly hooked.  One might agonize over what might have been – a multi-cour traditionally animated series from Production I.G. or Madhouse, say – but that didn’t happen.  And what we’re getting, in fact, is a darn sight better than the bulk of what we get from anime – one of the tighter and move gripping thrillers of the past few years.  That’s something to be grateful for, and I am – Polygon may not know how to make characters look realistic, but they absolutely know how to choose a story and adapt it splendidly.


  1. I’m really getting tired of all that single cour business plaguing anime, i ranted about it before in “My Hero Academia” 2nd Ep post but this time i’ll keep it short.

    Before they had to use filler, invent an anime original ending (or both) in order to make an anime out of an ongoing manga, later on they started splitting the shows into multiple separate seasons each made of one or two cours with months if not years between each season and the next (like Attack on Titan and Sidonia Knights), i was fine with most of that and understand why things needed to be that way, but now they seem like they don’t care at all, they just make an incomplete story/adaption that ends with a freaking cliffhanger and slap it in our faces, it feels like “Hey you ungrateful monkeys, here take this glorified manga trailer and shut the hell up”!!

    I checked and Ajin has 6 volumes of manga as of now, i’m no reader of the manga but i know for sure those 13 eps couldn’t have possibly covered even 5 volumes, so they just end the series on a cliffhanger and tell us to watch the upcoming movies!!, what!?, that just felt very cheap, why even bother with a TV series if you won’t complete it!?, they should have just made the movies, cause now this series feels like a very long manga trailer and not an anime in it’s own right (like say Parasyte), it just feels disrespectful to the medium and the fans, simply put i won’t be supporting them when the DVDs and Blu-rays come out, my support goes to studios who produce complete satisfying anime again like Parasyte or anime from the good old days like Eureka 7 and Full Metal Alchemist:Brotherhood, heck even Bodacious Space Pirates is worth supporting over any modern incomplete anime cause it felt like a real anime not a glorified trailer, one with a complete story that satisfies the very basics of story telling and the three act structure!!!

    This kind attitude is hurting the industry and the medium of anime, i know manga is usually favored over anime but this new trend is just so terrible it could eventually hurt the manga industry, i hope they realize this sooner than later before it’s are too late.

    1. Your rant is totally unnecessary and ill-considered… Just because you personally feel frustrated by a story that isn’t yet complete doesn’t mean your feelings represent everyone. Most people that have seen and enjoyed something are happier for it. How many people would say they wish they hadn’t enjoyed something? Countless anime have been released over the years that never really adapted the full story from given manga, visual novels, light novels, games. Doesn’t mean we’re better off without them.

      Besides, your argument doesn’t remotely apply here. Who’s to say this wasn’t produced as a movie series first and foremost and released as a TV series on the side to expand its potential audience… If it wasn’t you probably would have never heard of it. To claim it’s wrong to release in multiple formats is ridiculous. Many popular series have released TV follow ups on cinema. And you admitted yourself you won’t buy it on disc because you’re so annoyed. It only just came out on Netflix so you’ve obviously watched the show subbed for free like everyone else here with no intention of supporting it. If you enjoyed the series, you’re going to download the follow up movies when they’re out.

      Overall the state of the industry hasn’t changed much except higher production costs mean one or two Cour anime is the norm unless it proves popular. If its an adaption we rarely get an anime original ending leaving opportunity for sequels if it is popular. If it isn’t we can always check out the original media. Anime original endings were nearly always disappointing so leaving things open to a potential continuation can only be seen as a good thing. Unless you like to complain about things for the sake of it of course.

    2. Actually, I’m also a proponent of creating a decent stopping point, whether anime original or stopping early, just to satisfy the basic needs of complete story telling. I’m not a big fan of “read the manga for the rest” sort of story telling. Although I understand it from a business sense, it irks me as a viewer. I expect to feel like my time with a series is worth it by the end, and I just can’t get that feeling if the story itself doesn’t feel complete, regardless of whether there is more “in the books.”

      By example, there is plenty of supplementary material to the various Joss Whedon projects, or for those were were left cold after any of the Star Wars films. Directing them to a comic/book/audiodrama/game/etc was more of a bandage, but not really solving the root of the issue, which was a sense of disconnect caused by incompleted storytelling.

      Not going to go so far as to say it totally ruins my experience, but it does diminish it, and I can see how it could diminish the genre as well. However, I don’t anticipate it causing the “downfall of anime,” as unfortunately, the tactic seems to work for a great many people. It DOES mean, however, that what many of my mindset consider “quality” anime is become more sparse. I’ll reserve judgement in this case until after watching the show.

    1. I don’t think RC has ever done season retrospective posts, have they? I know I don’t do them at my site. The monthly retrospectives have been a semi-regular feature – Cherrie is in charge of those, butI don’t think there’s one planned for March, sorry.

  2. Great anime, but it’s certainly starting to fall into derivative territory. Kei, specifically, is now turning into what was probably inevitable, the special Gary Stu savior MC. He’s unlike the other Ajin with powers never before seen, and somehow he’ll stop Satou, a far more intelligent and well-trained antagonist. Can writers stop using that character type?

    And agreed, Shimomura-kun, just should’ve let the IBM take out Tosaki, that dude is just the worst. I suppose she’s just doing it out of a sense of loyalty or duty…even though he treats her like a dog on a leash. I dunno, I hope that too doesn’t go into trope territory like you said.

    Bamboo Blade Cat
    1. Im pretty sure shinya nakumara was mentioned to be an abnormal case as well; i dont think it’s a cause of MC syndrome. If anything, Kei is far from a gary stu

    2. Kei’s been specifically training on understanding and controlling his IBM. I don’t see anything “Stu-like” about it. I agree it would have been Stu-like if he pulled out these advanced abilities at the beginning, be he’s spent something like half the season working toward this. There is also room within the story for advancing of abilities as it was said earlier that individual variation existed, and there’s very few other aijn who have been examined (either by the audience or the humans) so someone saying something can’t happen is just a display of ignorance.

      It also appears to me that the reason Kei’s IBM abilities seem advanced to the others is only because the humans have simply been too arrogant in assuming they knew everything they needed to know based on only a few ajin samples. This is the same arrogance that allowed them to be dismissive of the professor from the US. They didn’t recognize what they thought were hard limits on IBM abilities were just lines drawn in sand. You just had a “stu!” reaction because a character with limited knowledge was surprised at discovering that limit.

      Loved the scene with Tosaki panicking and he reacts by shooting those which are upsetting him, thus freeing them. Again, enforcing the limits of the human mind when dealing with an enemy who resets at death. He’s the most experienced at this, yet still messed up in a quick moment.

      Sad to find this was the last episode. Was not prepared.

    3. Kei’s been training in the woods by himself, and the only thing he’s discovered is his Ajin does the opposite of what he wants and is slow to take direction, so not sure if that’s enough characterization to justify his development.

      Yes, Ajins are variant, but this seems to be going into a direction of being over powered; we saw during his fight with Satou the beginnings to this, and I’m just not convinced the characterization works/maybe I have less patience since I see too much of this type of storyline in general of hand wringing regular-ish teen MC that will somehow develop the skills to beat superior antagonist.

      Bamboo Blade Cat
      1. The hilarious thing is that what you’re lamenting about is pretty much word for word what Kei laments in the manga right after where the anime ends. What he does after that is also very logical

  3. “Another question that crosses my mind is why Shimomura-kun uses her IBM (Kuro-chan? Kawaii!) to save Tosaki, over and over. She’s being held against her will through blackmail as far as we know, and Tosaki is the only one who knows the truth.”

    She’s obviously in love with the man. Now whether it’s more Stockholm Syndrome or pure love is another question, but she’s shown time and again that even though he seems to believe their relationship is simply one where she follows his commands because she has no other option but being captured she actually wants to help him simply so she can be around him.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *