Ajin – 14

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

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7 comments

  1. s

    That’s interesting that you mentioned the consistency of cg in anime because i make note of that when talking about the future prospects of cg once anime productions start getting a better handle on it. Im not a fan of polygon picture’s character cg; however i will say this: there is a benefit to their cg in that almost nothing within a scene is a still frame. Everybody is moving even when the camera is not focused on them performing a significant action. Characters in backgrounds are always moving as well and having their body language conveyed like the guys in the ramen shop this episode. In traditional animation, they would be reduced to still frames and the animation effort would be what is in the foreground (although more talented anime studios who use tradition 2d animation know how to circumvent this and create the illusion of constant movement in the foreground and background like kyoani. Every character in ajin has their own distinct body language; just look at how kei and kou behave physically when they talk to each other; it’s as if they are two human actors on screen rather than animated figures (there might be a bit of mo-cap in ajin). Cg allows this to be possible. The fact that everything is moving and that characters are always reactionary as if it were live action is a benefit of cg but again, i wish it looked cleaner.

    As for the quality of the cg this season, the lighting effects have gotten better and there’s a bit more flexibility with the facial expressions which leads to the characters feeling less stilted. Character models are rendered just a smidge better as well. Of course a part of it is that you (and i for that matter) are getting use to cg in anime, but your eyes dont fool you; there’s been a sliiiight bump in this season’s production values. Anyway a strong start to ajin’s second season and from the looks of the ep preview, things are about to get wild and action-oriented. I agree that ajin is one of the better anime thrillers we’ve seen in a while but a large part of the anime community write it off because of the visuals

  2. After seeing how other studios do their cgi I have a newfound respect for how consistent Polygon Pictures is.

  3. o

    Wasn’t Kou a college kid who was originally killed in a motorcycle accident? Or did I misremember the character?

    Glad he’s sticking around though.

    Something that bothers me with Satou’s plan… since nobody knows a Ajin is an Ajin until they’ve been killed, if he starts wiping out the ‘normals’, it’s just a matter of time before he starts creating Ajin who wake up pissed at him. For that matter, it’s just a matter of time before a black suit turns Ajin and isn’t sure which side he’s on anymore.

    (Also, did we ever get confirmation that Satou actually let Kei’s sister go safely?)

  4. Z

    The motorcycle fatality (who left incriminating evidence behind in his helmet) was Nakamura Shinya.

  5. o

    Ah ok, thanks. No excuse for the confusion – there’s aren’t *that* many characters in this one to keep straight.

  6. s

    im pretty sure kou is older than kei tho

  7. Last season was also a struggle to get episodes. I usually got it from Tokyo Tosh and Deadfish subbed the 1st season. I have not even seen a subbed version of this available.

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