Ajin 52-55 – 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 Chapters 49-51 were troubling, dropping the ball in multiple ways, Chapters 52-55 are incredibly gripping. Sato’s plan is going his way, with no one truly able to keep up with him and his scheming. The series does offer however a temporary obstacle in the way of a Military Lieutenant, the one man on the base that seems capable of understanding Sato’s mindset. This guy is great, and while short-lived, feels like a worthwhile opponent for Sato in understanding that to beat him, you have to be prepared to sacrifice your own teammates, even himself. And that mindset really proves troublesome for Sato. The lieutenant does end up biting the bullet, as he was likely to from the beginning, but he’s instilled this idea into his men and it makes for an incredible back and forth battle through Chapter 54. In fact, the only way Sato manages to keep himself ahead in the game is by calling back to his efforts many chapters ago, to generate his IBM’s own personality. much as Kei’s IBM has. As Sato is cornered by the military he talks to his IBM, who responds not by repeating his words, but with its own, unique reply. It’s an excellent call back to set up from way earlier in the manga.
Sato’s plan is also wonderfully realized here, as he had his IBM dressed up as him, using his severed head from a previous ‘life.’ It’s a wild twist, but completely works. That said, the Sato portion of these chapters isn’t without its flaws. Previously in the manga it’s seemed to take a second or two for Ajin to revive. But here Sato is reviving instantaneously. It feels like we retconned revival time to allow Sato to pull off his feats against the military. It’s dramatic license to keep the cool and over the top battle flowing, but it’s still inconsistent all the same.
Weaved between Sato’s efforts is a conclusion to the Tosaki vs Sokabe storyline. We’re offered some fun speculation/characterization for why Tosaki always wears his gloves, and Shimomura’s resolve to aid Tanaka similarly to how he’d helped her in the last arc. From there Tosaki and Sokabe square off in a final showdown that never really feels powerful or compelling. There’s no tension here, I think because Sokabe often came across as ineffectual. Rather than a cathartic moment for Tosaki, finally ridding himself of the troublesome Sokabe, it more feels like something that just happens and then we’re done and moving on. If Sokabe had felt like a more dangerous adversary, actually capable of ruining Tosaki (who always seemed two steps ahead of Sokabe anyway) then I think this moment could’ve meant a lot more. As is, Sokabe’s out of the picture and that is that. A ho-hum conclusion to an often ho-hum character. This also kind of explains why Sokabe never amounted to much in the anime either.
The last chapter we’ll be talking about today is Chapter 55, which showcases that Sato has called on the disgruntled and deadly masses of Japan, people fed up with the status quo, to aid him in his mess. It’s similar to the Ajin army Sato forms in the Anime’s conclusion, although here they appear to just be regular, if insane, humans. They cause enough chaos however to throw the military off and buy time for Sato’s compatriots to find and corner the Prime Minister. The chapter ends with us still no closer to understanding Sato’s true end game plan.
Despite the missteps here or there, and Ajin has never been a manga I felt wasn’t without a few glaring flaws, these latest chapters do an incredible job of ramping up the tension. I imagine it’ll be one or two more chapters of Sato’s plan coming together before Kei and Co. manage to swoop in and put a stop to things. There are a lot of elements here similar to the anime: A military base, a Sato ‘army’, along with some things entirely unrealized in the anime. I do also wonder how Kaito and Takeshi are ultimately going to tie into any of this. These two characters, despite featured heavily in several chapters earlier, still remain entirely unrelated to the main plot line, and were massively underutilized in the anime’s conclusion. I have to wonder how either will end up tying in, or if perhaps they’ve been abandoned as the author decided he didn’t want to make use of either character. But there’s no way to know until we see what future chapters hold in store.
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