Ajin: Anime/Manga Comparison – Episode 1
Ajin – Anime to Manga Comparison:
Episode 1/Chapter 1
With just a couple months until Netflix releases Ajin’s 2nd season, now seems like as good a time as any to compare Ajin’s Anime and Manga forms. The series is one highly polarized by the Anime’s usage of CGI, rather than traditional 2D animation the medium is often known for. But let’s look beneath that, beneath the stylistic choice and at the actual content. How does Ajin’s anime live up to the original source material? What changes were made? Were any for the better, or is Ajin’s anime the inferior way to experience the story? Today we begin a thirteen part comparison of Ajin’s first season to the Manga’s content and see which comes out as the ‘truly better’ way to experience Nagai’s story.
Ajin Episode 1/Chapter 1:
Jumping right in we’ll be looking at Episode 1 of the Ajin anime and Chapter 1 of the Ajin Manga, as both line right up with each other. First thing of note is that both start in wildly different ways. The manga originally opens with an Ajin, specifically Kouji Tanaka, wrapped in bandages and shot by a scientist standing over him. This sequence is held for later in the anime, and in this episode appears as little more than youtube video clips via character’s smart phones.
Instead the anime opens with the epic initial Ajin encounter in Africa, only mentioned in the manga during the school sequence. Here we’re treated to a fully realized battle that acts as a perfect introduction to the very concept of Ajin, something the manga is lacking in its own introduction.
From there the anime continues with original content, introducing us to the mundane aspects of Nagai’s life. He wakes up in the morning, has breakfast with his mother, and heads off to school. It’s perhaps unnecessary, but allows for a slow build into the story, and is particularly useful after the Anime’s more explosive beginning. The walk to school is virtually the same, and while dialogue is different (possibly a result of differing translations) the general points are hammered home. However, the walk to school cuts off a little earlier in the anime, while the manga proceeds to introduce the concept of Ajins at this point.
Reaching the classroom, we’ll find one of the biggest visual changes between the anime and manga: The teacher. In the manga his design portrays him as approaching that of a mad scientist, with crazy eyes and a big forehead that sell him as more of a caricature than a person. The anime downplays this, replacing the art with a more typical teacher like figure, no nonsense and entirely sure in his beliefs.
This perhaps makes the discussion of Ajin all the more chilling as Nagai questions whether Ajin aren’t human, and the Teacher affirms the belief that they are indeed not. It adds more weight to the terror of this dehumanizing attitude towards Ajin by making the mouth piece of these ideals seem real and familiar. It sells the reality of this world. Also included during this sequence are kids glancing at their smartphones, watching youtube clips of Ajin being killed in labs again and again.
The manga and anime diverge quite significantly at this point, before rejoining again later on. Namely the Anime has Nagai head to his sister’s hospital via bus. It’s during this trip that he watches the same video the other kids were in class, and dialogue about keeping up with friends is included here, instead of earlier.
The manga includes a flashback to Nagai’s childhood, where their pet dog died and their mother denounced it as defective. Nagai and his sister then went to bury it. During the encounter he meets his Ajin ghost. The anime includes the flashback at this point, although offers up a more truncated version that diminishes the mother’s role.
Another new sequence is Nagai’s trip to the hospital, where he visits with his sister. We learn a little more about Nagai through her, and his relationship with her, which is almost untouched upon in the manga, and why he stopped being friends with Kai, a flashback reserved for later in the manga’s first chapter.
At this point the Anime rejoins with the manga, flashing forward to Nagai’s crosswalk and bus accident that reveals him to be an Ajin. It plays out slightly different, as Nagai’s friends aren’t with him, but rather waiting for him on the other side of the road. Other notable differences are that the Bus driver has an obsession with taking pictures of the accident, I guess for evidence when the police arrive. Also Nagai’s Ajin Scream that paralyzes people is more obvious in the anime, and the manga only dedicates one panel to hinting at that particular ability.
Also of note; the Driver has a comment in the manga that’s absent from the anime. As everyone is scrambling to recover from Nagai’s scream/adjusting to the events that just transpired, the Driver has some internal dialogue about wondering if this means he’s scot-free for running over Nagai in the first place. It’s a funny comment, and probably true to life, so perhaps it’s a shame it was cut from the anime.
Kai stumbling upon the crime scene and then running to help Nagai is mostly the same, save for an old woman who’s more ‘in your face’ in the manga as she blathers on excitedly about Nagai being an Ajin.
Nagai’s forest escape is somewhat different. The anime adds in a sequence where he stops as a local shrine and from there notes the police lights surrounding his house in the distance. When Nagai reaches the woods it’s here the manga places the flashback, explaining why he stopped being friends with Kai in the first place. Since the anime included this information earlier, instead we’re given a much shorter flashback to remind the viewer. Nagai’s call with Kai is then virtually the same.
But when a police officer stumbles upon Nagai things play out very different. In the manga the officer’s character is hammed up, with him verbally sharing his motivation with Nagai for why he’s so hellbent in his pursuit. It’s terribly forced and feels unrealistic, cut from the anime instead for a more minimalist and honest portrayal of a police officer in pursuit of a suspect. The chase sequence is slightly elongated and keeps the dialogue to a minimum. The officer also spouts lines in the manga, wondering if Ajin can grow up to be adults, etc. all content left out of the anime and, I think, for the better as it’s entirely unnecessary to the series’ mood.
Kai saves Nagai in virtually the same way, with the two getting on his bike and heading out away from town. There’s a brief hint at Nagai’s Ajin Ghost here that the anime cuts out. Finally the Anime and Manga have near the same ending for their first chapter/episode, although the anime inter cuts these sequences featuring Tosaki and Tanaka and even includes a brief glimpse of our primary antagonist: Satou.
The manga does include one brief bit of dialogue between Nagai and Kai, about Kai not caring whether Nagai is human or not, which the anime saves for Episode 2. All in all, however I actually think the anime does the opening better. It only cuts a handful of truly interesting dialogue and in its place ads in more atmosphere, rearranges flashbacks to fit in more naturally, improves the pacing, and all around increases the overall experience. It removes hammy characterization/dialogue that damages the poignancy of the story, and provides a more realistic take on Ajin’s world. Based on what’s here, I think the Anime is, so far, the better way to go.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on either Ajin’s anime or manga in the comments below and which adaptation you think does the story better justice. Next time we’ll take a look into Episode 2 and the corresponding chapters.