Well, that all just got a lot more complicated.
No question about it, Ajin has completely found its stride – and what a stride it is. In terms of pacing this show is about as good as any we’ve seen in a good while. In fact a an action-thriller the last four episodes anyway have been just about flawless – exciting, tense, relentless, smart, intriguing. And the thing about a Polygon show is that you do sort of get dulled to how unnatural the characters look after a while – especially when the content is as riveting as it is with Ajin.
Drip by drip, the truth is coming out. – though the finish line keeps moving further and further away as it does. Why doesn’t Satou dispose of this “project” when he deems it a failure? Because Kei intrigues him – there’s something odd about the kid, though just how odd isn’t made clear until later in the episode. Satou doesn’t seem to be a complete psychotic – he did let Eriko live, though that might have been just to avoid risking alienating Kei – but he certainly thinks nothing of killing anyone who might stand in his way. That includes the “researchers” he and Kei cross paths with as they’re escaping the compound.
I confess it – I’m not quite sure what’s going on with Kei. He says himself that he never feels anything for anyone but himself, and seems genuinely puzzled when one of the researchers he saves from Satou tries to help him. Yet try and save those men Kei did, at considerable risk to himself – those men who’d spent the last several day torturing him gruesomely. Why would he do that if he were incapable of empathy – if he were the cold and logical automaton his sister says he is? What I’d thought was developing into a straightforward struggle of Kei to maintain his humanity even in the face of relentless cruelty is apparently something quite different – though just what that is I’m not sure yet.
Maybe I’m looking at this too straight-on, but I do see a contradiction between the Kei Eriko (and Kei himself) describes, and the boy we’ve been watching for six episodes. But one thing’s for sure – as human or as Ajin, Kei isn’t normal. Even Satou is struck by the oddity of Kei’s black ghost, which seems to be composed of a larger amount of IBM than normal. And he seems genuinely incapable of leaving the researcher who tried to help him behind, while at the same time genuinely dismayed that the man is still alive – almost as if helping him is literally a compulsion.
The risk to Kei here is very genuine, because Ajin can die, as Satou reveals – if they regenerate without being able to access the head, a new head grows in its place (which leaves us with all sorts of philosophical questions about identity). Ogura spills a few more tidbits too (to the discomfort of his American handlers) like the fact that the black ghosts are apparently transparent (thought not 100% of the time) and that the Ajin’s ability to generate nutrients is somehow key to their regenerative ability.
There’s a lot to take in this week, as Ajin seems to have taken a rather unexpected turn – but then, what’s a good roller-coaster ride without a few unexpected turns? “Never a dull moment” is a turn of phrase that may as well have been invented for this show, because Ajin just doesn’t waste a moment of your attention – there’s always something happening, and always something to think about.