Oh Satou, you’re such a very bad man…
One of the things that Ajin really has going for it, I think, is that it’s one of the more believable sci-fi series we’ve seen come down the pike in a long time. Of course there’s suspension of disbelief with the concept of Ajin in the first place, but if you stipulate for the record that they exist, it’s not difficult at all to imagine events playing out exactly as they do in this series. Ajin takes a rather dim view on human nature, yes, but sadly I don’t think it’s all that much of a stretch. And it’s one of the few manga or (especially) anime that goes anywhere near the third rail of domestic Japanese politics.
This season has been unerringly consistent both in terms of pacing and quality, and this episode is really no different (apart from the annoyingly long recap at the beginning). One could make the case that the first eight episodes of this season have all been setups and technically I think they’d be right, but really – does it feel that way? That’s so much internal momentum and logic that setup eps feel action-packed, and there’s almost no wasted screen time. But we’re surely headed towards full-on payoff now, and it promises to be a doozy.
Satou has obviously been headed for something big all season, but the real clincher is when he tells his Yakuza black marketeer “next week would be a good time to go overseas for a bit.” All of Satou’s henchmen are feeling uneasy about the direction he’s taking them (including Tanaka, though Okuyama may be the lone exception) and it’s easy to see why. There’s no going back from the direction he’s taking the Ajin – they either “win” and gain a state of perpetual warfare, or they become lab animals to the last Ajin. For him that’s a desirable equation, but it’s clear that there are those among thee Ajin who more or less just wanted to be allowed back into society to live in peace. Maybe that was never going to happen anyway, but it sure as hell isn’t going to now.
Really, this is coming down to a battle of wits and wills among a group of characters with some serious sackage. Tosaki is not to be underestimated – for all his failures he’s clearly ten times to man Sokabe is, as he proves with his expert blackmail when the latter tries to shut him out of the plans for Satou’s assault on Musashi Heavy Industries. But he’s smart enough to defer to Kei, who’s clearly the better strategist and tactician. But are either of them remotely a match for Satou, who seems to combine guile, genius and flat-out don’t-give-a-damn in the most terrifying manner possible?
It probably makes sense that Satou’s secret weapon would have been an EMP bomb, though I confess it didn’t occur to me. It’s almost as if Satou knew he’d be going up against an anti-Ajin force reliant on Musashi’s cutting-edge weapons – all of which are turned into doorstops by the electromagnetic pulse. This is a form of terrorist attack experts have been fretting about for years in the real world, and it’s easy to see why. The net effect here is that it levels the playing field and turns Musashi’s headquarters into a back-alley knife fight – and that’s a situation where Satou-san very much likes his odds. Kei, Kou and Izumi are trapped on this inside, cut off from communicating with Tosaki – turning this into a battle of wits between Satou and Kei, the two smartest guys in the room.
I think the scariest thing about Satou is just how much this comes down to fun for him. Sure, he says he wants to rule Japan and I’m sure he’d enjoy that – but really, for the Man in the Hat this is a game. When you stop and think about it, being both an immortal and an adrenaline junkie is kind of a bad combination. Boredom is Satou’s enemy just as much as the Japanese government and their corporate cronies are, and the higher he can raise the stakes the bigger the thrill he gets out of the exchange. Sooner or later I suspect he’s going to figure out that Kei may be the one person in Japan who’s cunning enough to give him a real fight. And when he does, that’s when Ajin is going to get really interesting…