What They Say:
When the truck slammed into Kei Nagai’s body, he should have died instantly. Instead, the high-school student finds himself resurrected, with all of his wounds somehow healed. However, Kei’s real problems are just starting. Now revealed to be an Ajin, one of a mysterious new breed of demi-human that have begun appearing around the world, he’s been marked with an international bounty, and in the eyes of the world’s governments, Kei is a specimen to be contained by any means possible.
Now he’s on the run, unable to trust anyone except his closest friend, and his only hope is to discover the terrifying secrets behind his new abilities before he’s forced to use them in battle! When you have an infinite number of lives ahead of you, death is only the beginning!
The audio presentation for this release is pretty good as we get the original Japanese language track in 5.1 form as well as the English and Spanish language tracks, all of which are encoded with the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that does focus more toward the dialogue and exposition side with meetings, one-on-one elements, and newscasts and the like, but it balances it with some pretty intense action along the way as well. This side of it is definitely very well done with some great moments of bass usage, such as the tower falling in the end arc, but just in the physical impact of the fights and placement and directionality of the guns and the like. The dialogue itself works with a clean approach as placement is key at times and some of the way the Variants come across is definitely interesting at the first. Dialogue overall is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Please note: The TV series is trilingual but the movie feature is in Japanese only with English subtitles.
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes for this series are spread across two discs with eight on the first and five on the second while the movie is on its own disc. Animated by Polygon Pictures, the show is one that works really well with its animation CG design with the fluidity in the action sequences and the surreal aspects of the Variants throughout it. I’ve enjoyed watching the progress of Polygon’s works over the years and the encoding here really brings it to life well with its distinctive colors and design work. It’s a clean and solid looking show that handles the darker aspects with so much of it at night and the etherealness of the other creatures. The encoding keeps things in very good form here throughout and it’s definitely one that captures the intent and look of the show in a great way.
The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that has a hinge inside to hold the two TV discs while the movie is against the back interior wall. The front cover works a familiar piece of key visual artwork with one of the Variants in action mode. It’s a good piece but it’s the kind that fits right with its color of the black and dark green that can make a harder sell at first glance as it’s kind of indistinct. The logo is kept simple with the fraying edges that fits in nicely and the front cover makes it clear that it has the thirteen episodes and a movie included over the space of three discs. The back cover uses the same color scheme but with a lot of white text it feels brighter and more engaging. We get a few shots along the top that focuses on the action while Nagai himself is the main character artwork piece along the right. The premise is well covered as are the extras. Production credits are straightforward and the technical grid breaks down everything cleanly and clearly with accurate listings. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu for this releases riffs off the overall packaging design as we get the muted blacks and greens as the background with a wispy feeling to it that works nicely. The static menus changes up the character artwork throughout it and it’s definitely bright and vibrant in contrast to the backgrounds, which makes it look appealing as it stands out. The navigation along the left works a standard black box with white framing that’s easy on the easy and easily readable on both large and small screens. Submenus are quick and easy to load and it works well as both a main menu design and as the pop-up menu during playback.
The extras for this release are kept simple with the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as the main piece. We also get a ten-minute bonus that shows us the various stages of the animatics from the early phase to the final piece, which is definitely fun to see how it’s all worked and reworked to the final product.
Based on the manga by Gamon Sakurai, Ajin: Demi-Human is a twenty-six episode anime series that aired in the winter and fall seasons of 2016. This set brings the first half of it out after the first movie came out a few months prior to the original broadcast, which was a much-condensed version of the show. Netflix picked up the series and brought it to their service later in the year in multilingual form to good reaction. Sentai’s release brings some good pieces of that here with the Japanese, English, and Spanish language tracks and it kept the Spanish subtitle track here in addition to the English subtitles, which I like as more options are a good thing and Netflix’s attempts to appeal to a range of markets helps that. Having not read the manga, which Vertical has been releasing in North America, I opted to watch the TV series first and then the movie – though I recommend going the other way instead.
The premise for the series is one that I definitely like as it introduces a fun element into the world with these immortal beings known as Ajin. Discovered as being a real thing some seventeen years prior through an event on the African continent involving child soldiers, the world has learned of forty-six known such beings at this point. They’re unable to be killed fully as they come back quickly from a range of attacks placed upon them. While it’s thought that there are far more than there are revealed, we know how some are being studied and worked over by various governments for experimentation, which we see performed in some grisly ways for various research tests into medicine and the like so the number of them is definitely shifty. In Japan, it’s known that there are two that are operating within the country that aren’t accounted for but are sought after to control as they’re such dangerous elements in general.
The focus of the show is along two tracks, the accessible one being that of high school student Kei Nagai. Nagai is a fairly solid student looking to explore medicine as he progresses in school but is the kind of person that’s just a bit off as he’s usually only thinking of himself, his studies, and his goals – which isn’t that out of the norm in some way. So when it’s revealed through an accident that Kei is actually an Ajin himself, something he didn’t know, it sends the country into a tailspin as he escapes and is sought after by a significant mobilization. Some of this becomes intriguing in watching his friend Kaito try and help him in dealing with both police and other Ajin that want him, as well as seeing how others reaction, such as friends and his sister that quickly denounce and dehumanize him so quickly in order to provide distance from him now that he’s something “other” than human.
Kei’s story across it is pretty solid as we see him understand what he’s capable of and that his Variant, the other matter creature that he can call upon from time to time, while also giving us a clue into the world itself. He’s a wanted man on the run for a lot of it but the back half largely takes him out of the picture, instead showing him hiding, reconnecting with Kaito, and getting a better handle on things. The flip side is his capture early on that showcases exactly how the government experiments on Ajin in order to understand them more as it’s essentially torture that can only be done if you don’t view the Ajin as being a functional being in some ways. It’s horrifying how it plays out but it reinforces so many different things and how it can make or break the Ajin themselves as it progresses.
The more interesting character in this half of the series for me is that of Sato, an older looking man who is an Ajin that was the first to be discovered in-country. He has that kindly old man look, especially with the hat he wears, but he’s playing a long game here to deal with how Ajin are being treated as he knows so many of the truths from the Ministry that oversees them, things that are hidden from the general public. With the help of another Ajin that he rescued some time ago named Koji, it’s Sato that rescues Kei after he was captured – something he allowed to happen to Kei in order for him to understand what the government and normal people will do to them. The intent is interested in that he believes that those that understand this will rally to his side for the larger cause, which Koji did. Kei, on the other hand, has that detached element to him in that he feels sadness over what’s happened but isn’t consumed by revenge.
Sato’s story largely plays alongside that of Tosaki, the current head of Ajin research at the Ministry that’s looking to capture Kei along with the other two. There’s a really fun cat and mouse element to this and through both of them we get exposed to the bigger picture things without Kei being directly involved in the reveals. Some of this is focused on Grant Pharmaceuticals where extensive Ajin testing is done and that becomes something that Sato narrows down on in his attempt to carve out a nation/protected space for himself and other Ajins. This gives it all a much grander view as a pot that’s been boiling for some time that’s now starting to brim over as those Ajin on the loose are looking to really establish themselves. It’s the kind of world building pieces that I adore getting in on at the early part of and Ajin is definitely engaging in it in really good way with what we’re exposed to through Tosaki and Sato.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Ajin but it proved to be a show that got me engaged with it pretty quickly with what it wanted to do and the overall world design of it. The CG animation is something that does bother some people more than others but I’m just enjoying the overall progress of the quality of it over the years as it’s something that has to be worked at and improved, which Polygon continues to do. The story here is the right kind of dark and serious thing that has a few threads going on without focusing solely on a plucky teenager set against the world. As much as I liked his story I would have enjoyed the series as a whole a lot more if he wasn’t in it and it was more about the cat and mouse game between Sato and Tosaki and all those caught up in it. Sentai’s release is spot on and fans of it from the streaming side will definitely like the end result here.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closings, Animatics
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: May 16th, 2017
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.