OP: “Boku wa Boku de Atte (僕は僕であって)” by angela x fripSide
Ajin returns to our screens after a brief six-month layoff (the show is using a contiguous numbering convention so I will too), part of a rather impressive multi-platform empire – TV, OVAs, movies, manga. It must be said that Polygon has done quite well in terms of their choices in material, as both Sidonia no Kishi and Ajin have proved very successful for them. I wish I could say they’ve been as successful technically, but for what it’s worth either the CGI has gotten a little better since the first season or I’ve gotten used to it, because I hardly noticed it here.
There isn’t a whole lot of pomp or circumstance attached to this season premiere – just a very brief recap at the start of the episode and we jump right back into the action. That means the odd couple Nagai Kei and Nakano Kou have just escaped from Tosaki’s capture attempt, while Satou-san is moving on to phase 2 of his plan to terrorize humanity and turn the tide in the Ajins’ favor. This is not one of those thrillers where we have a neat and convenient two-way conflict (good vs. evil or otherwise) – there are multiple centers of power here, and even the protagonist is hardly a model of good guy behavior.
One of the things I like best about Ajin is its consistency – like it or hate it, with full CGI there aren’t the usual anime peaks and valleys when it comes to animation. And in terms of pacing this is one of the best series of year, plot-driven in a positive sense. But there has been character development, and one way we may be seeing the dynamic change is through Kou having a larger role to play this time (if the OP is to be believed). I think his presence is good for Kei as a character, because Kei’s stony amorality can be a bit of a downer in its relentlessness. Kou is far more straightforward and linear, a kid who acts like a kid and sees the world in more stark and clear definition.
He and Kei play the part of a peachfuzz Butch and Sundance here, barreling across the country in a stolen car I’m not sure why Kou knows how to drive (driving age is 18 in Japan). They’re an entertaining duo – Kou is forever making dumb moves, and Kei is forever exasperated about it. Kou jumps on Kei’s suggestion that they need allies by driving to Satou’s old hideout, thinking of the dissenters Satou buried alive – they’re not found here, but I suspect we’ll see this angle again. Kei’s idea is altogether more daring and seemingly crazy – strike a deal with Tosaki by apparently threatening his comatose wife.
This makes a certain sense, actually, because – as Kei has discovered by hiring a detective agency to dig up dirt on Tosaki – Tosaki is every bit as desperate as the boys are. He’s screwed up one too many times and if he can’t foil the Hatter’s Phase II, he’s pretty much toast. As the moment Satou is the greatest enemy of both Tosaki and the boys, and there’s no question they could be valuable weapons if Tosaki chooses to make use of them.
As for Satou, he remains the one most in control here. He’s given the government demands he knows they can’t and won’t meet as a pretext for killing fifteen prominent enemies of Ajin – “cleansing” – to be followed by Phase III, which is to take over the country. Satou is the MacGuffin of the story, the straw that stirs the drink – everything revolves around him and what he chooses to do, and while I don’t think Kei and Tosaki would (or should) ever be true allies, it may be they’re both smart enough to realize neither of them is remotely a match for Satou on their own. Frankly I don’t think they’re a match anyway, but if Satou is the smartest guy in the room Kei is certainly the second-smartest (and maybe the smartest, bar the gift of experience). Thing is though, Satou is smart enough to realize that makes Kei the greatest threat he faces…
ED: “Koutei no Sumi ni Futari, Kaze ga Fuite Ima Nara Ieru ka na (校庭の隅に二人、風が吹いて今なら言えるかな)” by CreepHyp