Ajin 58-60.5 – 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. With Sato now poised to initiate his final campaign against the Japanese government, its up to Kei and Co. to put a stop to him once and for all.

Review:

Ajin’s manga barrels towards its ultimate conclusion. These chapters showcase Sato’s grand and final plan, while also bringing closure to a couple characters/plot lines and reintroducing some long underused elements.

Starting with Chapter 58 Masumi Okuyama makes his final appearance, choosing to abandon Sato just as things get a bit too dicey. Okuyama has always had a very laid back air to him, a go with the flow kind of guy, and his final appearance is no different. Reviving to find that neither Ko nor the Fireman has actually left his hideout, he easily hands over the information they’ll need to catch up to Sato, and bows out of the fight. He negotiates himself out of their grasp and then burns everything that might’ve tied him to Sato. What I love about this sequence is learning Okuyama’s mindset for even having joined up with Sato in the first place: Ease and cowardice. He knew he couldn’t stand up to such a madman, and took the path of least resistance. It’s the same here as Sato gradually initiates a confrontation that seems unwinnable, or at least, poised to destroy society, which goes just a bit too far for the meek and mild Okuyama.

With Chapter 59 Ko and the Fireman rush to reunite with the others. While rescuing Mr. Fireman was cathartic, his character remains thin, and it becomes a shame that we never got more focus on him early on in the story. If Mr. Fireman had been a character we followed for a chapter or two, his return here, and subsequent focus, would feel more compelling. As it stands the longer we focus on him the more it’s apparent that he’s quite thin. In fact the only thing really compelling is his ‘eye-contact’ with Tanaka, the man who first put him in the barrel under Sato’s orders, and whom he warned that things would go south. But Mr. Fireman only has that moment as his claim to fame, and without a greater understanding of who he is, his moment with Tanaka feels equally thin.

We don’t dwell on him however, and he essentially becomes a background character. We quickly instead turn attention to Sato’s plan. He’s taken over the Military Base, much as he did in the anime’s 2nd Season. But the manga diverges totally from there. This time around Sato doesn’t have missiles to play with. In fact the manga spends a number of pages detailing how seemingly screwed Sato is, with no major military weapons to exact damage with. It almost makes me wonder if the author used the anime’s ending as a check to see how audiences would react. While authors rarely have everything mapped out, they often have notes as to how the story would end. It makes me think that Ajin’s 2nd Season was loosely based on notes for the manga’s conclusion, with our Author then acknowledging the lukewarm reception for Sato turning to weapons of mass destruction. Manga Sato’s plan is much more inline with Ajin’s concept/world building, as if doubling down on what we know works.

Chapter 60 dives right into this, showing us that Sato’s plan consists of kamikaze piloting Fighter Jets into major government buildings across Japan, and reconstituting himself via a severed arm back at the base. It’s a pretty clever plan, but borrows heavily from the last arc, where Sato revived himself from a mere thumb in order to infiltrate Forge Security. It feels like a stronger final game plan than the anime, but a tad derivative of concepts we’ve already utilized. It’s part of why I think the author might’ve made revisions to the story after Ajin’s 2nd Season. Still, derivative or not, it does feel more in line with the type of story Ajin is, and a more natural way to conduct its final arc.

That said, the Ajin manga isn’t without its continuing flaws. Kaito remains a lose end. The manga does some quick shots of all its side characters reacting to Kei appearing on TV as a news chopper spots him. While quite a few of the supporting characters have had their time to shine, Kaito and Takeshi, the Ajin with the winged IBM, have yet to really come back into the story. Hopefully their return to the main narrative is just around the corner, otherwise any focus on those two will have been a waste.

Chapter 60 ends with Kei declaring that they won’t be able to stop Sato, although this feels more like a cliff-hanger ending: One of misdirection rather than Kei actually admitting failure. It’s likely Kei means he’ll have to stop Sato himself, or they’ll have to guide some government forces into stopping him, or perhaps this is how Kaito and Takeshi finally matter. We’ll have to wait and see.

It could also be the long-awaited Anti-Ajin Forces that deliver the finishing blow. Chapter 60.5 focuses on Colonel Kouma, who I believe we last saw when Kei was first captured and experimented on. Colonel Kouma is spurred on to call in the Anti-Ajin Forces when remembering a conversation he’d had with Tosaki ages ago. The chapter ends with Anti-Ajin Forces making their first ever (at least I’m pretty sure) manga appearance. They’re a long awaited component that up till now only the anime had showcased. They appeared during the penultimate confrontation and were defeated by Sato after he set off an EMP to disable all of their special weapons tech. I’m dying to see how they’ll be utilized here.

Despite my quibbles I think the manga has found a more unique path to its conclusion, one that easily exceeds the second season’s final battle. In fact I might even say the manga has really grown over the course of its run. Initially a tad messy, in part due to shifting of creative talents behind the scenes, the anime tightened up a lot of the story’s flaws. But the manga has been improving this whole time, learning over the course of these 60 chapters and now, I think, has officially exceeded the anime’s quality, potentially ending its run on the highest note possible.

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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