Blah blah, blah, great episode of Ajin. Terrific pacing, yada yada. But warning: incoming bitching. Because there’s anime-original material coming up, and as far as I know that’s the first time we’ve seen Ajin divert from the manga storyline in either its TV or film adaptations. I certainly have faith in the ability of the staff to adapt material beautifully, but this is uncharted territory – one way or another manga readers will likely complain, since there’s no more hated word in anime circles than “filler”.
One thing I will say – we’re off to a good start, because if the ending this week kicked off the new material, it was a cracker. I believe most of what we got before that was canon, and while it was the Ajin we’ve come to expect – taut, disciplined storytelling – there was certainly a major plot twist. That was the introduction of Kotobuki Takeshi (Saitou Souma), the 17 year-old cellmate of Kai’s whose appearance was teased at the end of Episode 16. That teaser made it seem as if Kotobuki was going to cause big trouble for Kai, but it turns out to have been a misdirection – though there’s no denying his presence does indeed cause Kaitou some trouble.
I think it’s pretty clear from the start here that Kotobuki is an Ajin – it was certainly hinted at strongly enough, and there’s no other way to explain his mysterious escape from the juvenile prison. That escape, it turns out, was going to Satou’s Ajin meeting on a “whim” – after which Kotobuki promptly presented himself back at juvie to be locked up. But he’s not going to share that with the cellblock psycho, obviously, and knowing Kai as well as we do we know he’s not going to sit idly by and what Kotobuki be tortured to try and wring the information on his escape out of him. Kotobuki would just as soon have Kai butt out and take care of his own, but well – it’s Kai.
Meanwhile, our old friend Satou is seven names down his list, and Tosaki is increasingly desperate to move forward with his plan to stop him before the Minister’s number comes up. It’s interesting that so much of Kei and Kou’s training seems to involve basic gym class activities (which Kou has the advantage in) because I wouldn’t have thought building up their physiques would be the most important preparation for dealing with Satou. But Toaski at least isn’t blind to the strategic genius Kei brings to the table.
So was that a nuke Okuyama was building for Satou? Sure looked like it – and that would certainly represent a pretty dramatic raising of the stakes. So does an Ajin with wings (I believe that part at least is anime-original), which Kotobuki shows off to Kaitou in a rather splendid and dramatic reveal at the close of the episode. As if all that weren’t enough, the U.S. Department of Defense (oh boy, here we go with the cartoon stereotypes) shows up to investigate Ogura’s “death” – which is seems very likely they know wasn’t a death at all. Whatever percentage of all that is original I don’t know, but to this point there hasn’t been a hint of a drop in quality so I feel pretty good about watching all those plot threads untangle themselves.