Ajin may be the ugliest series of the season, but that episode felt like it lasted about five minutes.
Here’s the thing about Ajin, which is reminding me more and more of Kingdom and less and less of Sidonia no Kishi with each passing week. It’s an incredibly straightforward show, really, despite the fact that there’s a mystery at its heart. Where a show like Dimension W swerves all over the road, Ajin just gets you there. Dimension W is a roller coaster, a sensory overload – but the thrills with Ajin are more like being in the passenger seat of a race car. It’s an good old-fashioned supernatural thriller, as comfortable to slip into as your favorite recliner.
I’ve always appreciated series whose grasp of pacing is such that an episode seems to last a lot less time than it actually does, but that’s an especially important quality with a thriller like Ajin. Seriously, when I went to rewind a part of the scene where Shimomura was visiting Eriko at the hospital, I was expecting the slider to be somewhere around the halfway point, but the episode was almost over. Because this series is so direct and straightforward in style, there’s just no wasted space here – every scene matters, and links to the next. Perhaps you lose something in character nuance with an approach like that, but it seems to fit Ajin like a glove.
We’re learning a bit more about what may really be going on here, piece by piece. It’s immediately obvious that the “man in the hat” is an important character – he’s Satou (Ohtsuka Houchu). What’s not immediately obvious is whether he’s a white hat or a black hat, but he does at least seem to be a leader (possibly self-appointed) among the Ajin. Does he seek out newly “born” ones and come to their aid, or are his aims more sinister? The first time we see him he’s rescuing fellow Ajin Tanaka Kouji (Hirakawa Daisuke).
Satou at least is well-known to Tosaki and Shimomura, who spot him as they’re leaving Kei’s house after having interviewed his mother. She’s another human who should have some loyalty to Kei but seems to have none whatsoever. Tosaki leaves his assistant to deal with the hunt while he goes off to deal with the higher-ups, which leads her to the hospital and Eriko. Meanwhile Kei and Kai are still fleeing into the mountains, pursued by another would-be reward-seeker on a motorcycle.
I like the way the reality of the two boys’ situation is slowly being laid out, largely from Kei’s perspective. Not only is he realizing just how fucked he is, but it’s also becoming clear that for all his bravado Kai is no professional operative – just a clever kid with a bike and two helmets. He’s in over his head and Kei is smart enough to understand that by sticking with his friend he’s putting him in terrible danger – but as well, that without Kai he’s even more fucked. Worse still, Kei’s hesitation in using his voice to cause their pursuer to crash could easily have gotten Kai killed (I’m not sure yet how he survived – or if it’s connected to his partial immunity to Kei’s voice). It’s a grisly yet very cool moment when Kei realizes that the only way to fix his broken legs and move on is to kill himself – a kind of macabre reset button.
The black ghosts are certainly crucial in all this, and they seem to some extent to reflect the nature of the Ajin they’re joined to. When Shimomura goes to the hospital, she manages to get Eriko to recall the story of her brother’s strange behvior when their puppy died – but in doing say says a little too much about blacks ghosts. And when Eriko is about to let slip that Kai may be Kei’s accomplice, the episode ends on a truly shocking note – thanks to Tanaka’s black ghost (both of them seem pretty psycho). There’s a whole lot more to this moment and it looks as if we’ll be finding out a lot more next week, but the other element of this scene that interests me is the indication that Eriko may yet turn out to be loyal to her brother. We haven’t been given much to feel hopeful about in terms of humanity, so that would be a nice change of pace.