Ajin: Demi-Human: Season 1
Episode 1 also reviewed here:
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Year:
2016
Director:
Hiroyuki Seshita, Hiroaki Ando
Writer:
Original creator:
Gamon Sakurai
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Country:
Language:
Format:
Episodes 1-12 of 26
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Review date:
25 April 2017
Ajin
Wow, I disliked that. It's very good, if you like this kind of thing. I really didn't.
It's set in a world where there are two kinds of people: humans and Ajin. They're indistinguishable. Even an Ajin probably doesn't know that it's an Ajin. They can live, love, laugh and do everything else a human can. Their intelligence is exactly the same and they feel the same feelings... until you try to kill one. Ajin don't stay dead. If you kill an Ajin, it only stays that way for a few seconds. The corpse will almost immediately generating black swirly particles that regenerate any missing matter and heal all its wounds. Oh, and some of them can generate invisible unstoppable killing machines that are liable to kill everyone in the room.
In other words, Ajin have superpowers. We're co-existing with them and they can't be stopped. What do you think has happened? Yes, that's right. Ajin are viewed as inhuman beasts, fit only to be tortured to death repeatedly in government vivisection camps! How can that possibly go wrong?
That's Idiot Worldbuilding Point #1.
Then there's the morality of it. What makes Ajin sub-human, eh? How has everyone agreed that human rights should be denied to these people who are clearly people? I don't see any justification for it, although there's a possible explanation in the observable fact that almost everyone in this fictional universe is scum. Nice, kind people are vanishingly rare, perhaps as a kind of Darwinism. Anyone who's not evil can be expected to be dumped, betrayed or killed by our "heroes".
I wouldn't exactly call this an Idiot Worldbuilding Point, but it certainly dissuaded me from caring. Let them burn. Should the villain want to destroy mankind... well, good luck to him.
Then there's the internal logic. The Ajin are described as a different species... yet when one is discovered, no one wonders if their relatives might not be Ajin too. The show never does a scene of government operatives machine-gunning our hero's little sister to see whether or not she regenerates. (A variant of medieval witch-dunking, perhaps?)
That's Illogical Worldbuilding Point #2.
I just didn't believe it. The show's actually very good in lots of ways, but I was handicapped by my inability to buy the premise. The brutality and inhumanity is just silly. I don't buy it. Pretty much anything that could happen to these idiots would be deserved.
However lots of people disagree with me. If you find the protagonist's callousness compelling and unique, then you might well love this show. It could hardly be bettered at gritty but thrilling violence. It's got a glorious baddie. It's got pulse-pounding music, an evil plot and lots of cool SF thriller elements. It looks and sounds great. It's the kind of anime to blow away lots of viewers who'd never normally dream of watching anime (or indeed anything geeky) and I'm not surprised at all that it got picked up by Netflix. This show should have broad general audience appeal, partly because of the realistic all-CGI art style. It's by the studio that did Knights of Sidonia (which I love), but they've been working hard on getting life into the faces and so this time everyone doesn't look dead-eyed. Visually, the show's fine. I have no problem with the CGI visuals.
I still disliked it, though. If I hadn't had going to write this review, I'd have ditched the show long ago. I was having to drag myself through. My biggest problem was the hero, Kei Nagai. He's a selfish shit, but that's not in itself a deal-breaker. More importantly, he's also boring. Eventually he'd push a friend off a cliff if he'd calculated that that would improve his safety... but his goal is to do nothing. He's basically passive and reactive, even when pushed into horrific situations. He wants to get away from all this and not be noticed. Theoretically that's understandable, but in practice it's hard to feel any sympathy for such a cold fish. Even his sister despises him. He can't be bothered to do anything for anyone, unless there's something in it for him. (Trying to change his mind on this can be actively dangerous.) He'll ask people how altruism works, because he doesn't understand it. I'm pretty sure he'll be forced to be more pro-active in Season 2, but we're still talking about someone who manages to be both unpleasant and uninteresting.
That said, though, he does develop over time (albeit in a sociopathic direction) and it would be wrong to call him one-dimensional. He starts out quite nice.
Satou, on the other hand, is fantastic. He's evil, but the kind of evil you can't stop watching. He doesn't like humans, he enjoys killing and he thinks big. What he does in ep.11 is laugh-out-loud cool, albeit also the kind of horrific that one day will make the show unwatchable when some terrorists actually do that in real life.
The rest of the cast is just sort of there. They're one-note. There's a hard-eyed government Ajin hunter who has as much personality as you'd expect. I quite liked his sidekick, though. In essence, this is a story built entirely from Kei Nagais. Everyone who matters is such an unsmiling emotionless bastard that it's hard to believe that even they'd feel much if they died. No one has a sense of humour. Everyone is loathsome, with the only variation being their position on the scale of "dully sordid and pathetic" to "would torture and kill people who haven't done anything to him".
I exaggerate, of course. There are nice people, although they won't matter for long. Hanae Yamanaka's lovely. More importantly, though, of course there's the show's evil hero, Satou. It's hard to call Nagai the protagonist. Satou's the one who's being cool and doing stuff, even if this tends to involve bullets, massive fountains of blood and deliberately arranging for his own allies to be tortured. You've got to love Satou and his relaxed attitude to life.
What did I like about this show?
1. the disintegrating ghost mummies are nifty.
2. I like the show's awareness that, say, a corporation going bust will also bring financial ruin to ordinary people who might happen to have invested in it.
3. Satou
...um, that's it.
This is a successful franchise, though. There's a live-action movie coming this year, on top of three anime movies and two anime TV series. I should also admit that I've erred because I'd meant to watch all of Season 1, but then after deleting it all realised that it was actually a 13-episode season and I'd only watched eps.1-12. Well, gosh darn it. My review is incomplete. How will I live with myself?
Not only do I dislike this show, but I didn't believe it. It's so horrible that it's silly. These people routinely go out of their way to be vile, to an extent that on occasion makes them stupid. They'll waste time torturing a man, not realising that he's willing to answer their questions. Scientists are liable to be bigoted, with closed minds. The show seems popular, though, and in fairness it is very well done. It's violent, bloody and exciting. It's a well-crafted thriller. Personally, though, I'd approve if everyone in it got drowned in liquid concrete and then buried at sea. Imagine a less interesting version of Torchwood: Miracle Day.
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