Ajin – 02

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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.

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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.

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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.

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11 comments

  1. R

    Thanks Enzo for not dropping this show. The CG may deter many viewers from appreciating the show and bloggers from picking it up (like Kingdom), but I’m in. It has a well-told plot — it’s got me curious — and thanks for mentioning Kiseijuu, as I got the same vibe. The lack of humanity in the conversation of Kei’s classmates made me feel sad — it’s pretty ironic and pathetic , and I do hope that kids today are not like them. I also quite like Miyano-san’s singing of the ED — it’s restrained yet sad. Overall, I think this show has a lot more to tell than its CG…I’m in for the full course.

  2. Yeah, you know – visuals are important. I’m sad Polygon’s character rendering is still so, frankly, bad. But Ajin has something, that’s for sure. It’s a very nicely written series.

  3. Yes – that is the crux. I also feel the series is pretty interesting narrative wise and has potential, interesting enough so that the cgi does not “distract me”, if that makes sense. Sidonia and Arpeggio are the only other cgi series I have seen that have been able to pull this off….

  4. s

    im on board with again even with the crappy cgi; however i will give credit where credit is due. The only time i think the cgi is effective is on the black ghosts; i think it has to do with the fact that the uncanny valley effect of the cgi makes the black ghost feel that much more haunting and ethereal. It overall feels like an entity that i would be shitting my pants seeing in real life

  5. s

    *im on board with Ajin* geez these derps

  6. So far so good. Very high chance of continuing this. While they could have gone with more traditional anime, the CG does not bother me that much. The premise, the story and the characters are so far overriding the aesthetics of the CG. Fascinated enough to overlook it.

  7. S

    Why CGI? I’m not asking just for Ajin, but many other like Sidonia no Kishi, God Eater or Sanzoku Musume no Ronja as you mentioned. Is it cheaper than traditional animation? Is it easier to do? CG does not bother me when it is used in action sequences since it gives a good feeling but I’m troubled with how faces of the character are not moving as they supposed to be even in a moment full of drama. I like Ajin and will continue to watch but I can’t help but complain about Polygon Pictures after all. I was hoping for some progress in character animations after Sidonia no Kishi but again I’m disappointed.

  8. Well, you’ve said it yourself – it’s cheaper. It requires fewer man-hours and trained staff. What troubles me more than anything is that Polygon seems to be emerging as the leader of the industry and not only is their CGI not the best in the sector, there’s no indication they’re getting better at it.

  9. R

    The thing is, even with cgi there are obvious differences in quality. Compare this with BBK/BRK (just the cgi, Ajin is much better plot wise) and I’m sure you’ll see the difference

  10. J

    I honestly couldn’t even get through the whole of the first episode of this series, and I’m not usually one to give up on things that quickly. Those visuals are just something that I can’t get over. It looks like a crap internet series that was given a lot of money so they could have actors with SOME sort of training do the voices.

    Much akin to RWBY, this was something that will not likely ever see any screen time on a television in my house. But, I applaud you in your efforts to delve into the story itself despite the computer visuals.

    If one’s going to use a computer, at least make it look like ReBoot, yea?

  11. T

    I would be honestly ok with the CG if it looked good. Isn’t Polygon a CG only Studio? If this is all they do, why does this this seasons Bubuki Buranki look so much better in comparison? Honestly, I’m just frustrated. The manga is brilliant and it had an amazing, realistic art style that would have translated brilliantly into anime form. What’s more, even if it adapts the manga well it will never get the credit or popularity it deserves because 75% of viewers stopped paying attention as soon as CG was mentioned.

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