Manga: Ajin

With work, cosplay preparation, job-hunting and a half-assed effort at NaBloPoMo, November has been really busy so far and it’s just going to get busier. Haven’t had much time to watch anime nor read any new manga (still going through Black Jack), so I’m a little worried most of my posts will be outdated in that I’ve forgotten a lot of the series and my thoughts on them previously. I’ll just do my best anyway.

Manga: Ajin: Demi-Human 『亜人』

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Ajin vol 1 cover                                  Ajin vol 4 cover

Ajin is a Seinen, action, drama, horror, mystery, mature, supernatural manga series by Gamon Sakurai. It is currently serialising in good! Afternoon and 7 tankobon volumes have been published so far. It was nominated for the 7th annual Manga Taishou Award, the Readers Award in the 18th Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize, and for the Seinen category in the 38th Annual Kodansha Manga Awards in 2014.

I’ve only read until the 24th chapter of the manga (middle of volume 5) so these are just my thoughts until then.

Ajins are humans that cannot die. Ajin: Demi-human follows the story of Nagai Kei who, after dying in a traffic accident, immediately revives and learns that he is not human. As Ajins are considered criminals and taken in for experimentation, Kei becomes a wanted person on the run with his best friend Kaito, the only person to support him. He gets involved in a conflict between human and Ajin and must choose a side.

WARNING: Brutal violence. Lots of gore, physical hurt in potentially scarring ways, blood and death. Psychologically chilling with many dark themes and morals.

I remember the first time I came across Ajin was when I was browsing through manga in Kinokuniya and saw the cover for volume 4. Had to stop and take down its title because it looked way cool and seemed like something I’d be really interested in. It took a long time since, but I eventually got down to reading it about a year ago. Forgive me, I haven’t caught up with updated chapters since.

I’m pretty sure we’ve come across a number of stories with the power of immortality; to be able to heal from any injury, whether threatening or not, immediately. Ajin is a ‘negatively realistic’ look on that. It portrays the darkness surrounding such a power which leaves you thinking it’s not such a ‘gift’ after all.

Ajin doesn’t waste any time with much introduction, it gets interesting fast. There’s a good, steady pace with continuous stream of new developments in the story — lots of questions pop up and as a reader, you’re always learning something new, whether about the Ajin or characters — which makes it easy to get absorbed. The plot idea itself might not be very original, but the unpredictability of its story is definitely a strong point.

As with many Seinen-genre series, it’s very morally grey, where the lines between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are blurred. You’re considering the different point of views of characters, some of which are psychologically dark and chilling. Although many main and side characters are well fleshed-out, it feels a little bit like you can’t connect or feel for them. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just goes to show a bigger contrast between humans and Ajin.

Kei is a very different kind of protagonist character, one of whom is probably called an ‘Anti-hero’. As you follow him through his plight, you might hate his guts for being the cold, self-serving, ultimate realist-character ever, while admiring him for this intelligence and wits at the same time. He’s the kind of character you shouldn’t trust, but know that if you’re ever in a fix (and your goals coincide) will probably be able to get you out of it.

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Ajin chp 2 cover

To be honest, it took me awhile to get used to Ajin’s character art. The art is detailed and action scenes are beautifully and very clearly portrayed with crisp clean lines, but it irked a little me how jarringly round-faced and big-eyed a few characters were at first. I got used to it fast though (maybe it was just unexpected at the beginning), plus its a given that art gets more refined through the story.

Very contrasting toning sets the mood for dark and battle scenes while outside of that, the toning stays pretty even and light. I liked how this clear distinction shifts the atmosphere of a scene instantly.

Thinking about it now, Ajin feels a bit like Tokyo Ghoul, similar in that the main character is revealed/becomes more than human. I can’t compare them though. Ajin is immensely darker and they have their own strengths and weakness as a series. With how unpredictable Ajin’s story is, I’m actually really looking forward to what comes next. I’ll be waiting for it to be serialised further before continuing though.

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