Ajin Season 2 – Review
Ajin was awarded as a Runner-Up for Best of Winter 2016 in our Anime Awards.
The below is a review for Ajin Season 2, our review for Ajin’s 1st season is here.
Ajin Season 2:
Original Release Date: December 27th, 2016
Synopsis: Satou’s begun Phase 2 of his plans to force the Japanese government to recognize the rights of Ajin. This involves a hit list, of top Japanese officials he’s accused of using and abusing Ajin. As the violence ramps up, Nakano and Kei rejoin the fight, this time siding with Tosaki in his efforts to hunt down and stop Satou. Can this new alliance really put an end to Satou’s increasingly violent acts of terror? Or are they merely enemies to the slaughter in his game?
Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Let’s get the CGI talk out of the way, since that seems to be something a lot of people harp on endlessly. Season 2 contains much the same level of CGI as before, offering Polygon Pictures minimalist approach to producing anime style visuals with 3D animation. It’s been exceedingly divisive for near every show they’ve produced and Season 2 of Ajin is no different. Perhaps making up for it is the excellent framing and use of angles and positioning to really sell the imagery. Frame rate itself still feels a bit low, and anyone sensitive to these shortcomings should probably just jump ship now, although I don’t know how you would’ve made it to season 2 anyway. However, if you’re more open to Polygon Pictures’ efforts then there’s a lot of little details to love as always.
Linny: Story wise, the action and tension has been amped all the way up as stakes are raised to a whole new level with the entire population of Japan coming into play as well as your anime classic of meddling Americans. As in Season 1, it remains a mental and visual pleasure to watch Sato constantly surprise and toy with all his enemies, trying to guess what his next action will be and always being surprised by how he seems to be completely undefeatable. There’s definitely a danger of some audiences feeling like Sato can feel too overpowered but for others it should be a delight to watch him rain havoc on all he touches. Polygon Pictures continues to insert a lot of anime only content which isn’t surprising considering the manga itself is still ongoing. The changes that are made are done rather well, enough to warrant that fans of the series might want to try the show even after the manga ends so they can enjoy Polygon’s take on the tale.
Tom: This second season ramps up wonderfully over its 13 episodes. We’re presented with many twists, turns and even a few distractions as Nagai and the rest work to try and bring an end to Satou’s reign of terror. The drama and thriller aspects are well serviced and Ajin feels near as smart as ever with its complex plot elements and plethora of moving components to try and sell its story as believable as possible. The series diverts fairly significantly from its source material this time around, I’ll talk about that more later, ultimately culminating in an anime only ending I have some mixed feelings about. On the one hand the ending adds weight to just how terrifyingly unstoppable Satou is, but on the other hand comes dangerously close to feeling like a “and the story goes on” ending that may not actually provide the conclusion fans want and need. It’d be one thing if word was already out about a Season 3, but there hasn’t even been a hint of a continuation. (Although there are two more OVAs to release in Japan.)
Linny: Then there’s the fact that something that happens during the finale comes out of the left field and is only briefly mentioned in Season 1 and thus, might have slipped the memories of viewers like me who then end up puzzled when the phenomenon occurs in the episode, wondering just what is going on and how it’s happening. It’s something addressed and is the focus of Ajin’s first OVA but for those of you who stick to legal sources like we do, there seems to be no hope or news of us being able to have access to that OVA any time soon. Hence, there’s a chance that anyone who isn’t streaming the seasons back to back, or is just plain forgetful like me, might be left feeling a bit cheated due to the lack of a proper set up for an important part of the grand finale
Tom: Ajin’s climatic conclusion does hinge on the attentiveness of its viewers and anyone who doesn’t recall the handful of mentions to a certain incident will find themselves scratching their heads. It pokes a hole in Netflix’s licensing options for Ajin, only acquiring the series offerings and not the additional material. It also pokes a hole in the OVA phenomenon, basically locking crucial story content behind a paywall and language barrier for the rest of us outside of Japan. It’s an unfortunate black mark on what is otherwise a solid series.
Linny: For those of you tired of Nagai’s emotionally cold and almost cruel attitude, this season has him have a proper breakdown. It should make him more likeable or relatable to audiences who prefer emotionally dynamic leads. And thankfully the show, and the voice actor for the character, do a good job of portraying his breakdown without making it look fake or melodramatic and make a convincing display of the despair he feels in the moment.
Tom: Nagai not only undergoes quite a bit of character development, but he also becomes a more active hero this time around, standing up to Satou and actively working against him. Nagai’s growth is solid, and never takes away from his calculating persona, although that veil does crack a few times when things get surprisingly tough. Satou himself is also as wonderfully evil as ever. He’s the same smart, deadly and dangerous villain fans have come to love, although certain revelations hammer home the idea that he’s really little more than Ajin’s version of the Joker; someone seeking to tear the world apart for little more than the sheer fun of it. If you’re hoping for a deeper understanding of his character, and more weighty revelations there really aren’t any. But with that said, his persona and portrayal, especially thanks to his Japanese VA, Houchu Ohtsuka, are still very much on point, securing Satou’s place as one of anime’s best villains.
Linny: Ko Nakano, our more ‘classic’ shonen protagonist, seems meant to be a parody of the trope. He’s always easily excitable, eager to do good, innocent and constantly making a fool of himself. It speaks to Ajin’s dark tones that our classic cheery young male character is used as a supporting character. His good intentions and whole heartedness make a nice contrast to Nagai’s cold front. On the other hand,while Ko’s clumsy antics break up the tension in serious combats and showdowns, there were moments when it felt like it could have been left out and was more of an unnecessary distraction and punchline that failed to land.
Tom: I actually disagree with Linny on this point, as Nakano’s rather amusingly sad antics helped to bring a line of humor through certain proceedings, giving audiences brief flirtations with humor before we dive back into the oppressively dark nature of the story. If I had to guess Nakano’s usage in this second season perhaps speaks to certain criticisms from season one, where the series lacked quite a bit of comedy outside of a handful of scenes. Other characters all tend to get a mix of character development. From Shimomura to Tanaka, to Tosaki, everyone seems to undergo at least some kind of journey and, generally speaking, most of those journeys feel satisfying.
Linny: I guess I get to be the grinch this review as Kaito was another character from Season 1 that felt like he was one note. Not only is he constantly drop kicking opponents every time he fights, he seems to have a thing for helping jerks and being super gullible. This season also ‘introduces’ a character that feels like they exist solely to be a deus ex machina of sorts and while that’s not the end of the world, it can be frustrating when characters seem to exist for only one particular plot point.
Tom: I actually sort of agree with Linny about Kai, as his presence, and an entirely new character, mostly exist to offer Nagai a way out should he feel like running away. Their story line ultimately leads nowhere and both characters seem to be abandoned by the season’s conclusion. Another disappointing point is Tanaka’s portrayal, Satou’s right hand man. He begins to question his allegiance to Satou throughout the season, but his re adherence to being a part of Satou’s plan is barely explored, making Tanaka’s flip flopping seem forced. It’s disappointing, as he feels like a causality of the series efforts to ensure the major plot wraps up in just thirteen episodes.
Linny: Tanaka’s moral dilemma and the ensuing drama, or rather lack of thereof, was definitely a casualty of the limited time the show runners had to wrap things up. The viewer is left to surmise what is going through Tanaka’s head throughout the later part of the season and self justify and explain why he ends up doing the things he does. We’re not asking to be spoon-fed every little piece of information but this is definitely a good example of the show’s struggle with balancing, developing and utilizing some of its characters.
Tom: Some of these problems crop up from the fact that Ajin’s 2nd Season contains a lot more original content this time around.The anime heavily reworks much of the content appearing in its 13 episodes, which is either loosely based on the manga or new material entirely in an effort to wrap the story up. Right now it’s unclear whether we’re seeing an Erased situation, where the anime production was given insight by the creator and this conclusion comes alongside his input, or if the ending was made without his feedback. The manga also seems a ways off from ending (it releases monthly for starters) so it’ll be a while before we know for sure. That said, not all the original content is bad, in fact there’s a U.S. subplot that’s quite strong and, outside of the few sour spots we’ve mentioned, the season is quite tight as a whole.
Linny: Overall, this season really elevated and delivered on the thriller and action components of its story though there are some flaws that viewers might have issues with such as the heavy reliance on OVA content towards the finale, the underdevelopment and lack of exploration of Tanaka’s emotional state and loyalty, plus an ending that might frustrate people who wanted a conclusive wrap up to the story. However, there’s still enough in the show to please most Ajin fans, and appreciate the effort Polygon Pictures puts into adapting ongoing manga and giving it anime original plot lines and endings. With no news or sign of a third season, season 2 may have not been a perfect ending but there’s no denying it manages to delivers what Ajin has come to be known and loved for.
Tom: Besides the music taking a step down from the first season, offering up a two new opening themes that never quite match the first’s bombastically memorable opening, I’m very happy with how this second season comes together. There’s a few missteps here and there, often arising from trying to wrap up the story in thirteen episodes when maybe fourteen or fifteen would’ve allowed it to breath. What’s here isn’t perfect, but what’s done right far outweighs the missteps and feels near equal to the first season. Compared to the manga, it also makes an effort to addresses flaws or holes in the story, adding in plot lines that flesh out otherwise forgotten components. Season 2 is a great follow up to season 1 and should leave most fans feeling satisfied.
Ajin is available for streaming via Netflix.