As per usual, Ajin is it’s normal self this week – which is to say a kickass action thriller that seems to fly by in about ten minutes. Even when there are a few elements that don’t totally work, the show on the whole just does – so seamlessly, in fact, that it can be a difficult one to write about. I’ve spoken about this with Haikyuu – shows which eloquently speak for themselves don’t lend themselves to a lot of interpretation, especially when they’re as straightforward and direct as Ajin is.
That said, this week I find it interesting to watch Ajin after my interview with Michaël Dudok de Wit, specifically as it relates to the topic of hand-drawn vs. CGI animation. Mr. de Wit is, of course, a brilliant animator and artist. He speaks passionately about the need for 2D animation, about the beauty of imperfection, the Wabi-Sabi of the cel. And I wholly agree – it’s impossible to instil personality in computer animation. It can be beautiful, but it can’t be individual.
But then, Ajin is hardly beautiful – yet, I find myself noticing the CGI less and less. It has improved a little, but more than anything, I think it’s the consistency – and consistency is something CGI is very good for. TV anime doesn’t have the luxury of men like de Wit and Miyazaki drawing for it, or the budget of a Ghibli film to draw on. In the hands of Bones or Madhouse in elite mode, 2D animation is (to me) objectively a far superior product, be it for action or characters. But most TV anime isn’t that, and maybe there’s something to be said for halfway decent 3D animation that delivers a reliable viewer experience and relatively strong action sequences. It’s working OK for Ajin, anyway – and it’s here to stay, one way or the other.
When I spoke of elements that didn’t really work in this arc, mostly I referred to the two Americans. They’re cartoons, frankly – no less caricatures than the long-nosed freaks in the infamous ANA commercial (that sort of thing obviously isn’t going to be getting any better). But they’re plot devices, more or less, and not at all bad enough to take this arc down. Izumi’s loyalty to Tosaki is really the centerpiece of this arc. She relentlessly tries to save him, sacrifices her body over and over. Finally it’s the whipped dog Myers turning on her master that leads to Tosaki’s rescue (which is about what you’d have expected).
If you expected gratitude from Tosaki (I didn’t) you’ll have been sorely disappointed. Thing is, as much as I dislike him I’m not sure he’s in the wrong here – and the big mistake came in Kei not being more skeptical of her claim that only Tosaki knew the Minister’s schedule. Without a victory against Satou Tosaki’s life is pretty much shot anyway – he’s about to be fired or worse – and Izumi’s lie has cost the strike team their one chance to get a stab at Satou. Ot so it seems, anyway.
Satou fills his end of the bargain – he kills the Minister right on schedule, and makes sure it’s on video so he can broadcast it. Then he announces where and when the next hit is going to be – at the board meeting of Musashi Heavy Industries. As Kei says, what Satou really loves is playing games – and who knows, maybe that is one vulnerability of his. It’s certainly starting to cause some unrest among his followers, who’re beginning to sense that the man in the hat isn’t really interested in social change so much as alleviating his own boredom. With the existence of the “new” anti-Ajin task force now officially acknowledged (things are starting to get a bit political here) the field is getting crowded – and time is running out for Tosaki to prove he’s relevant on this game.