(Author’s Note: I’m traveling for the next few days, so post length and timing will be outside normal range. Thanks for your patience.)
Ajin isn’t even making a feint towards finishing up its story this season. We’re still quite perceptibly in the expansion stage even at this late date, though to be fair there are some unusual circumstances at work with this adaptation. While most Winter series are preparing for their finales Ajin still has three episodes to go (due to the Netflix distribution deal). And of course, there are those movies – the first two of which seem to be broadly what the TV anime will cover, but which will eventually take the manga’s story further than the TV. That part of the equation is a rather odd one I’m not sure I like as a viewer, but I wonder if it may be a forerunner of what’s going to become a popular strategy to market a franchise.
This was an interesting episode in that we didn’t get a whole lot of movement in terms of character or plot, but did get a lot of exposition thanks to Ogura getting his favorite brand of cigarettes. Interestingly Kai remains completely absent from the story – not a peep about him for weeks. I suppose it could be argued that the seeming lack of curiosity or concern from Kei is evidence that this new version of the character is every bit as cold and calculated as he claims to be – now that Kai has no practical value to him, Kai doesn’t matter. Of course, I would argue that Kei’s decision to leave Kai behind for his own sake refutes that assessment. If Kei really is the monster he says he is, why not just use up Kai until he’s no longer valuable?
Up in the mountains, the fantasy life that Kei has been building up in his mind is starting to crumble. The world is a lot smaller than it used to be and such places are no longer the islands of anonymity they might have been once, but the real issue here is small-town suspicion and resentment. Japan’s rural areas have lost most of their young population to the cities and as a result the folks left behind tend to fall into two broad camps – either those like Kei’s “Grandma” who desperately crave the attention of any young person, or those like Kita-san who deeply resent all youngsters and distrust them. In Kita’s case he has personal reasons to feel that way – his son screwed him over for a city girl and stole his land – but the broad arithmetic is the same.
In this context we see that Kei is both desperate to keep his house of cards from falling, and pretty adept at thinking on his feet. I’m not sure whether the display of crocodile tears echoing those of Satou-san was meant to make a broader statement about Ajin or simply provide a stark moment of irony, but clearly Kei is a good manipulator too. As for Kou, Kei shows no signs of weakening on that score – he continues to keep the other boy hostage in his truck tomb, and even the reading materials he provides are a form of torture.
Satou himself is mostly unseen this week, readying to move forward with his terrorism plan, though his comment of how important it was to show the humans that Ajin aren’t “hooligans” was interesting. Meanwhile Ogura (who’s utterly absurd, but in kind of an entertaining way) tells Tosaki that IBMs can only be sustained for five to ten minutes, and makes more allusions to the legendary Nakamura Shinya incident – where there was a “flood” of IBM manifestation due to “extreme emotion” (this is obviously a hugely important bit of foreshadowing). Tosaki’s handlers and Sokabe continue to believe they have his number and have sussed out that he’s using Ogura in secret, but the presence of Shiromura is the hole card which keeps Tosaki in the driver’s seat (at least for now). I continue to wish a pox on pretty much every major player’s house, but there sure is a lot of interesting stuff going on…