Ajin 55.5-57 – 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.

Review:

Ajin Chapter 55.5 continues where Chapter 55 proper left off with a refocus on Sato’s fight with the JSDF. As the series draws to its conclusion, we’re treated to perhaps one last, balls to the wall, Sato killfest. This one manages to outdo the first couple Sato fight scenes that garnered a lot of attention thanks to the anime’s adaptation. Here we see Sato accomplish some feats previously unseen, continuing a fight while little more than a head, torso and arm, reviving from his lower half after his upper body is blown to bits and more. It’s an incredible fight and perfect continuation of the last couple chapters focused on Sato. It’s a reminder to me, as I tend to have to take large breaks from this series due to other commitments, just how amazing I think Sato is as a villain. The depiction here is perfect, crafting visuals and making use of Ajin’s core concepts to sell Sato as this practically undefeatable bad ass of slaughter. He sits as one of manga’s most stand out villains.

While the Sato content is on point, Ajin still suffers a few nagging issues due to less than ideal build up prior to its conclusion. Tanaka is captured by the government, hung out to dry by his mentor Sato, and Izumi cannot help but rush to save him. Izumi and Tanaka’s relationship has been thin at best, although has more meat to it than in the anime. Tanaka is the character most done dirty by the second season, dumbing down his character to primarily Sato’s chief lackey.  But what’s in the manga isn’t much better, especially when centered on his relationship with Izumi.

Sato getting in on the reaction face game.

While Tanaka’s growing disillusion with Sato is a great avenue for his character, Izumi’s desire to save him feels very thin. It rests upon Tanaka having saved her from police capture back during the Security Tower arc and the two’s IBMs smashing heads together, which we know transfer memories. While returning the favor is all well and good, I feel like something is missing, some development with Izumi’s character that would really hammer home her sudden drive to save Tanaka. Specifically if we’d gotten a better idea of how those memories of Tanaka’s affected her, exactly what she saw, and how they reshaped her image of him, it could’ve gone a long way to making this a powerful moment. Instead the manga sits somewhere between show don’t tell and not shown at all, making it feel weak and possibly even unearned.

The trouble doesn’t end there, as the depiction of her confrontation with Tanaka, as she attempts to convince him to rejoin the fight, amounts to little more than “You in?” “No.” “Okay then.” There isn’t a lot of tension here, and ultimately it’s Tanaka’s flashback to his time with Sato, and deep feelings of betrayal and frustration that finally sends him over the edge. That aspect of it works, but the scene otherwise feels so wishywashy, it becomes almost comical. It’s the same for when the minister tries to shoot Tanaka in the back, just after Tanaka decides to spare him, and Izumi instead turns back around to blow him away. It’s supposed to be cool, but twists and turns about so fast that it instead feels really silly.

Is it really so much to ask?

Chapter 57 returns our attention to Kei, although not a lot happens in this chapter. We get an elongated sequence explaining the sheer torture and abuse of Ajin revival abilities he’ll have to endure to scale the compound’s wall in order to make it inside the JSDF base. It’s a cool sequence, but is perhaps more detailed than we really need by this point in the story. It hampers the pacing considerably and really slows things down after two very fast moving chapters.

While Ko helped Izumi to save Tanaka, he quickly makes use of Tanaka’s information to run off rescue the Firefighter who saved him so many chapters back. This guy, along with other people who met Sato when he first released a call to action for Ajin, was betrayed has been trapped inside oil drums for a significant portion of the manga. They’ve been there this whole time. Ajin’s 2nd anime season briefly addressed this plot line, only so much as to say “yeah don’t worry about those guys, they’re fine.” So it’s some real catharsis for anyone eager to see those poor souls freed. Ko takes out Sato’s limping lackey and computer hacker, Masumi and goes to free the others. There’s a great call back here to when Kei imprisoned Ko previously, reminding us that the human mind cannot stand more than 72 hours without stimulus before you risk serious mental health repercussions. In fact the first two Ajin Ko frees are catatonic. Thankfully Ko screams the fight back into our firefighter friend and he’s ready to bring the pain down on Sato. It’s a really satisfying moment, and while the firefighter is an underdeveloped character, (unsurprising as he’s been absent near the entire story) it’s another way in which the series is able to wrap its story around with callbacks that feel satisfying and energizing.

With how much we all gotta fidget with our phones these days you’d think it’d be a lot less.

Chapter 57 ends on Sato having eliminated the entire JSDF force sent after him, now ready to take on anyone else who stands in his way.

Ultimately these chapters are a bit of a mixed bag. A lot of that though stems from problems earlier in the series, lacking elements, scenes, and character work to really sell certain pay offs as we go into the final stretch. There also continue to be some pacing issues. But what’s here holds ideas far and above more interesting that Ajin’s 2nd season finale, which was clearly working off a condensed synopsis of the manga’s final arc. While I love both seasons of Ajin, it’s a bit of a shame we won’t get to see Polygon’s true version of this arc, as with their tighter writing and stronger pacing, I could see a cleaner version of this arc being absolutely stellar.

Thanks for reading and please let me know your thoughts on Ajin in the comments section below!

Ajin is uploaded monthly on Crunchyroll. Volume 10 released on October 10th, 2017. Chapters discussed today will be available in Volume 11-12.

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