Ajin 49-51 – Manga Review
Ajin Synopsis: Seventeen years ago, an utterly immortal human was discovered on an African battlefield. Since then, more of these new and unknown life forms began to appear among mankind. These undying beings start to be known as “demi-humans.” One day, just before summer break, a Japanese boy leaving his high school is involved in a traffic accident that kills him on the spot. Then, he comes back to life. A huge bounty is placed on his capture. Now the boy’s attempt to evade all of mankind begins. (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
(Warning: Spoilers to Follow)
Since Kei discovered he was an Ajin he’s found himself in an increasing deadly situation. Sato, an Ajin bent on terrorism, continues to hound the Japanese government, seeking to rally the Ajin’s hidden across society and ultimately take over Japan. Kei, coerced into fighting back by Ko, another young Ajin, finds himself working alongside one of his former pursuers, Tosaki, a government agent tasked with finding and controlling the Ajin. Things come to a head as Sato sets his sights on Forge Security’s president, one of his many targets that he’s sworn to kill no matter who tries to get in his way. Unfortunately Kei, Ko and Tosaki are unable to stop Sato and now, in the aftermath of their greatest defeat, things seem darker than ever before.
While the last set of chapters built up several concepts crucial to Ajin’s ultimate conclusion, Chapters 49-51 attempt to lead the series to that final confrontation. Sadly this isn’t as effective, or as well written, as it could be. Chapter 49 for example feels haphazard in its struggle to tie everything up and send our heroes toward the final battle with Sato. Manabe, one of the Hirasawa Mercenaries, and the only one to survive the Forge Security encounter with Sato, shows up only to insist Kei give up. Within this same chapter Manabe undergoes the near exact same heel-turn as Kei did, flashback to Hirasawa and all. It’s so truncated, so flip-floppy and repetitive to how Kei turned back around, that instead of making the reader go “yeah, he’s back in the fight” you’re left feeling like none of what happened really meant anything.
Similarly the chapter offers up interesting facts, sort of thrown in just because. We learn Kei was an Ajin from his very birth, which is intensely interesting, but doesn’t immediately feel like information that has anything to do with anything at this point. Another example is learning that Ajin’s, in fact, can die, but only at the end of their natural lifespan. It’s thrown in there, very much randomly, and feels more like a world-building fact than required information for what’s to come. (Unless Sato’s about to pass away from a poor diet, or a heart, or someting.)
The chapter tries to build towards a gripping conclusion, noting that the final battle between Sato and Kei’s group will be in the very city where all of this started for Kei, where he first discovered he was an Ajin. But seeing as the story has expanded well past our main heroes’ involvement, it feels too big to try and tie everything back around to it all starting with Kei. He’s not the center of the chaos anymore, Sato is.
Chapter 50 is similarly sloppy. The flood concept (An Ajin generating multiple IBMs) is brought up again, telegraphing its involvement in the upcoming conclusion. It’s minor details like this, along with how things start to play out over the next few chapters, that make me wonder if the anime staff were working with a cliff-notes version of Ajin’s conclusion for the anime only ending. That they had the basic ideas, but not the exact follow through.
Nagai’s talk from the last set of chapters, about maximizing success, seems to have been forgotten about entirely here. Uncharacteristically he has no plan and simply thinks to go in guns blazing against Sato. Characterization missteps don’t stop there, as Sokabe, a seemingly conniving villain earlier, comes across much more sloppy here, a pale imitation of his earlier menacing nature.
The chapter rights things a little as Sato, ever the man with the plan, doesn’t show up for this supposed negotiation that Kei and Co. will be ambushing. But it’s undermined by Kei’s continual repetition of a really vague line “I believe Sato plans to do something to end things today using some method.” or variations of. It’s the most “well duh” line I’ve seen in the series yet and I don’t quite understand why “Sato always has a plan” or “Sato isn’t quite so straight forward with his actions” wouldn’t have been a far better and less round about fit. Maybe it’s just dialogue lost in translation.
To me 49 and 50 reek of the author trying his best to catapult us forward. To get past the set up and right to the action. Both chapters fail at this, offering up poor characterization and rushed, last minute details. They’re probably some of my least favorite chapters in the manga to date. That said, Chapter 51 pulls things back around. Sato attacks an Airbase Festival where the Prime Minister of Japan is visiting and while people get a little stupid in order for Sato’s plan to work (Military leaders underestimating him despite his overwhelming success up to this point) things still manage to kick off as everyone realizes Sato’s had them fooled and he’s on the cusp of enacting his grand and final plan. Even poor Tanaka gets a solid moment of realizing Sato’s final and great betrayal.
While Chapters 49 and 50 are very weak, Chapter 51 picks things back up. It’s clear the author wanted to get to Sato being Sato as fast as possible, and I can understand that. Sato, not Kei, is really the star of Ajin. He’s the most fascinating character by far, but it is such a shame that in the rush to put Sato back in the spotlight other characters and ideas had to suffer.
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