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. I’ve seen a lot of interesting theories on why it seems more discordant here than it did with Sidonia – my own take being that the fact that this series is much less stiff and wooden in terms of writing is the main cause, but also that it was the space setting suiting the CG palette better, or the comparative abundance of close shots of the characters with Ajin.
There’s likely some truth in all of that, but in the end it doesn’t really change the equation – everyone needs to decide for themselves if the CG is a deal-breaker. My gut feeling right now is that it isn’t one for me, because I really enjoy the story here. I got through it with Sidonia and with Sanzoku no Musume Ronja (though the beautiful Ghibli art design certainly helped there), I’ll get past it here and confine my wistfulness over what might have been with an I.G. or Madhouse adaptation to dreams.
The title of this episode – “Why is This Happening to Me? It’s Not My Fault!” must surely ring familiar to anyone who’s lived with an adolescent (even themselves). One could certainly take Ajin as a rather clever – and literal – discourse on teenage alienation, and I don’t think they’d be too far from the truth. Thematically this series comes off as somewhat reminiscent of Kiseijuu, with a more contemporary flavor to it. Adolescence is the time when we become a different creature than we were before – one that can seem monstrous to others (like our families), and even ourselves. This is a recurring motif in fiction for a reason, and Ajin is a good spin on it.
As with Kiseijuu, we’re forced to confront the question of who the real monsters are here. And so far at least, we haven’t even been given any direct evidence for why Ajin are to be so feared (or at least that was true until this happened). Indeed, the ones who come off worst in the episode are the two thugs – kidnappers and probably wannabe rapists to boot – who set their sets on Kei for the ¥1,000,000 reward money and his “friends” from school. If anything they’re even more disturbing because unlike the kidnappers they represent “normal” people and kids to boot, and (apart from one who seems genuinely unsettled at the way Kei has been turned on and tossed aside) they express no remorse over what’s happened apart from having lost out on the reward.
Also added to the mix formally are Tosaki (Sakurai Takahiro) and his assistant Shimomura Izumi (Komatsu Mikako), the government officials in charge of rounding up Ajin. Clearly Tosaki is telling the local cops (who he regards as mostly idiots, and I’m not sure he’s wrong) the bare minimum they need to know to try and catch the boys. But so far it’s only the hoodlums getting close, and indeed one of them manages to “kill’ Kei during a pee stop. But Kei uses his voice to freeze them once he revives, and interestingly Kai seems partially immune to its effects. Is this something specific to his nature, or is it a function of Kei’s intent?
The key to all this Ajin stuff is clearly the weird creature that materializes around Kei every time death is present (including when it isn’t Kei’s death). Is it death itself? An alien, some sort of Kami or youkai? This may be one of those scenarios like Kiseijuu where detailed origin explanations are not the point, but it’s still interesting to speculate. On some level this creature seems to be an extension of Kei’s consciousness, parroting his thoughts and feelings – and it kills the two hoodlums based on those thoughts and feelings. There’s a lot of fascinating stuff to ponder on with Ajin, and that and its insistent narrative drive seem likely to be enough to make it a highly watchable series.