Japanese Title: Ajin
Related: Ajin: Demi-Human 2nd Season (included in review)
Ajin Movies (old version)
Similar: Parasyte –the maxim-
Watched in: Japanese & English
Length: 26 episodes (2 seasons), 3 OVA
- Starts well.
- Fast pace.
- Interesting immortality mechanics.
- Villains try far too hard.
- Allegiance flipping.
- CG still needs work.
- Poor dialogue.
Ajin: Demi-Human is one of Netflix’s first anime commissions and most known for its use of CG characters. Before you flinch, the CG isn’t anywhere near the level of Berserk 2016. For one, keeping the environments in 2D was a wise decision. The characters still don’t look great, mind you. The problem with CG characters is that parts of the model are too smooth, such as the mouth, and the smooth animation later chopped to 24 frames-per-second doesn’t blend well. In 2D animation, the mouth will jump from one position to the next – perhaps with an ‘in-between’ position – but in CG, the mouth moves from start-frame to end-frame in a smooth motion, which doesn’t look right. It’s smooth, yet choppy at the same time. For a look at how to use CG for 2D animation, I cannot recommend this video enough on how they did the graphics for Guilty Gear Xrd (skip to 33:55 if you don’t want to watch the full hour).
The CG will likely prejudice most anime fans, not giving the rest of the series a chance. But let’s imagine you don’t mind the CG – what of the story?
Ajin: Demi-Human revolves around humans called ‘Ajin’ that can regenerate, paralyse with a scream, and summon Black Ghosts to vanquish enemies. Humanity fears their powers. To be an Ajin is to live in perpetual hiding, hated by all. Upstanding student Kei walks in front of a truck one day, only to get up from a pool of his blood to see black matter issuing from his skin. He is an Ajin. And so starts his life on the run, distrustful of everyone around him and with nowhere to go. However, an old friend comes to his aid.
The story starts strong, pitching us headfirst into the Ajin situation with intense action and tension as everyone and their mum wants Kei. Not dead, funnily enough, because the bounty for capture is immense and there is the whole matter of immortality.
On the opposing team, we have government worker Tosaki and his secretly Ajin partner working to control the superhuman threat. He tries too hard to sound tough. When witnessing Ajin immortality experimentation through torture at a research facility, he threatens his partner to do as he says or this would happen to her, even though she already does anything he wants. What’s the point of the threat? He also sabotages the research organisation for reason that don’t make much sense in an attempt, I assume, to paint him as tough and independent.
However, this is nothing compared to the true villain, Sato the old man Ajin. Every line out of this guy is bravado and metaphors about war and video games. Never have I seen a series want you to find a villain intimidating so badly, yet keep failing and trying with the next scene. He could have been interesting with his manipulation of Kei, turning him against humanity, and his acts for Ajin rights and compassion from the public. Sadly, the bravado overpowers it all. Season 2 is particularly bad for this.
As for Kei, he’s an average protagonist without much personality going for him. He also can’t seem to decide on his motivations and allegiances. For example, when Sato is breaking him out of the research facility, Kei switches to protecting the researchers from Sato, who wants to kill them all. These people just tore his teeth out, severed his fingers, and drilled his skull for ten days and he instantly wants to help them? The first thing one researcher says is a promise to get him back on the torture slab! Kei isn’t a smart kid despite his intensive studying (what a shocker).
Even with all of these problems, Ajin: Demi-Human is never boring thanks to its fast pace and conflict against the world. It’s much better than the CG gives it credit for.
Art – Low
Ajin’s mix of CG characters and 2D backgrounds looks much better than the likes of Berserk 2016, yet still has a long way to go.
Sound – Low
The villains’ dialogue needs an overhaul and different actors. Season 2 OP and ED are torture. The rest of the music is good however – intense.
Story – Low
Kei develops superpowers marked as one of the ‘Ajin’, which turns humanity against him. A strong start veers off course into a second season dominated by a rubbish villain that tries too hard.
Overall Quality – Low
Recommendation: Try it. Most viewers won’t give Ajin: Demi-Human a try due to the CG, but the intense man vs. world story is entertaining enough.
Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)