What They Say:
When you have an infinite number of lives ahead of you, death is only the beginning.
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.
On the run and unable to trust anyone except his closest friend, his only hope is to discover the terrifying secrets behind his new abilities before he’s forced to use them in battle!
Contains episodes 1 to 13 on Blu-Ray with both the English dub and the original Japanese track with English subtitles. Presented in Collectors packaging.
The audio has a 2.0 release in English, Japanese and also Spanish (where in Japanese you can watch in English or Spanish subtitles) – I watched the first two discs in English and the third disc in Japanese (as there is no English dub for the Compel movie) to compare – and with the Japanese release I did have to raise the volume a little from my default settings, however, there were no other issues regarding sound quality, echoing, synching with subtitles, etc – the quality is high overall, but you always wish for the 5.1 for what it could have been, though with this being a Netflix Japanese release unsure of the ins and outs of how it works audio wise.
Similar with the audio, the video is set in full screen format with the computer-generated animation feeling like a cross between RWBY and Knights of Sidonia. The animation is very different and does get a lot of used to because of the series style, especially when the Black Ghosts appear. The style does feel off-putting for a show like this and the setting it comes about, especially as the lip flaps don’t always match as not a traditional anime style. It isn’t distracting to an ungodly level, but it is very noticeable and makes it not that high octane when it comes to the action sequences, though considering the more emotional battles between the characters, this may have been the point.
There was no packing for this test release; however, there are collectors packing in the full release.
The menu is pretty standard, our leads showcase in all the discs with Kei, Kaito, Sato, Tanaka, Tosaki and Shimomura all on the first two discs in various emotions, with the movie having Kei and his Black Ghost as the main image, all of them have the selections below of Play All, Episodes, Set Up and Special Features (disc 2, disc 1 has no special features) whilst Disc 3 for the Compel Movie has Play Movie, Scene Select & Special Features. Pop-up menu is available in watching (though you can’t select extras, you have to go back to the main menu) – standard Blu-Ray menu release, very quick and selectable both from main and pop up with no delays in selection.
The only extras we have are on disc 2 – we have the clean opening and ending, the Animate Process Scenes extra which is basically a start to finish look at how the scenes came to be, from basic line animation into the finished product (though it is just showing the clips, there isn’t any explanation as such) and trailers for School Live, Knights Of Sidonia: Battle For Planet Nine, Is It Wrong To Try And Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon, and Chivalry Of A Failed Knight.
The Disc 3 Compel Movie has some trailers and the clean closing.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ajin is one of those horror esque series that I had heard about on the grapevine but not really paid much attention to. Based on the manga of the same name still continuing to this day (originally started in 2012), it has had a series of films done as well, whilst this series was aired prior to them between January and April 2016 by Polygon Pictures, whose animation style isn’t traditionally anime. It is also a Netflix exclusive series in Japan making it very unique as a review, but does it make it good? Because with the animation style a la something like Knights Of Sidonia (though western fans may also make a comparison to the popular series RWBY), it can get distracting…
Our first shot is of a flashback to a war in Africa where a soldier apparently cannot die until the US Army manages to tranquilise him and capture him…which takes us to our lead character Kei Nagai, a typical Japanese student who seems to be a top student but almost because he seems to not care about anything else and is rather bored or emotionless. However something definitely happens which he should care about…
…getting hit by a truck.
And then getting up from it.
Whilst not (yet) explained how this happened, all we know is that there are humans out there called Ajins who are apparently immortal, and Kei is now the third one discovered in Japan. Unfortunately for Kei, Ajins are seemingly needed to be taken to the government with rewards for their capture so his former schoolmates and others immediately designate a target on his head and he has to escape – whilst trying to learn about his new body. With his ill sister also not someone who seems to like him, the police and a special Ajin investigator named Tosaki on his tail, he manages to contact an old childhood friend named Kaito, the only one he feels he could trust (flashbacks show that his overbearing mother forced Kei to leave him as he would be a distraction to becoming a top person). True to his word, Kaito saves him and the two escape.
Now Kei has to deal with not just people after him, but trying to make sure his one friend isn’t fully caught up with it as his sociopathic nature is challenged throughout the series. We see him use a power known as a Black Ghost, a creature of IBM (Invisible Black Matter) that seems to manifest in durations of stress, he can stun people with screams, and fully heal himself when injured if he dies and gets reborn but isn’t initially able to control these powers well. Meanwhile, a man named Sato is investigating Kei as well, apparently was an Ajin hunter but left the force as Tosaki views him with suspicion…which is ironic because Tosaki’s aide, a woman named Izumi Shimomura is ALSO an Ajin, however Sato also has an Ajin partner named Tanaka and during an interview with Kei’s sister Eriko, she gets kidnapped and used to bring Kei to their cause.
The problem is Sato’s methods are…one part magnificent bastard and one part utter psychopath. This also ironically makes him easily the most well known and interesting/entertaining part of the show. He intentionally lets the police capture Kei to showcase that the government actually mistreat Ajin and thus wants him to turn against humans – however Kei does seem to hold back on killing people, much to Sato’s chagrin. This leads to Sato attacking him but Kei escapes, leaving Sato to fall on a backup plan, revealing to the media he’s an Ajin and about the humans experimentation – which at the same time bringing other Ajins to his cause. With problems ahead Tosaki also begins to reveal his own agenda…some good in his mind, some not so…
Whilst Sato gathers Ajin, Kei escapes and hides out in the country and pretends to be an old ladies’ grandchild whilst testing out his powers (specifically his Black Ghost) as Sato is building up his threats whilst one of the Ajin, Ko, escapes when he turns against Ajin that don’t follow his ideals which leads to the inevitable trying to find Kei – and Kei clearly doesn’t want to fight anymore and want a peaceful life, even trapping Ko in a truck but with Kosaki and Sato both on the prowl (Tosaki kidnapping an operative named Ogura who knows a lot about Ajin despite his weird quirks – specifically his cigarettes), the fellow civilians are going to be tempted by the reward of an Ajin and eventually Kei is betrayed…
Eventually, Kei realises he cannot run away and frees Ko, manage to escape an attack from Tosaki as Kei realises he has to fight Sato…if he ever wants a peaceful life. The first half ends with Sato threatening another terrorist action, ready to set up for the 2nd season as he clearly is planning to take over Japan…
This is a series that has huge potential in terms of the mental side of it – the fact that Kei now is pretty much hunted by both human and Ajin alike whilst trying to trust people is a mental picture he has to deal with – combined with how the main villain is a lot more emotional and entertaining and this picture of the middle of an officer with an Ajin as a bodyguard is a three-way war of who wants to win.
There are some major issues – the main one being that a lot of the cast are very unsympathetic or unlikeable, and it says something that the one you enjoy watching the most is Sato, who is a complete monster of a character, yet is very badass and charismatic which almost feels like you are rooting for him. Tactics, charisma, this guy is easily the best character despite being quite a psychopath, which in its own terms is quite worrying considering Kei himself is very dull in terms of his motive – even before he became an Ajin, and what convinces him to fight Sato?
The fact he disturbed a potential peaceful life. One does wonder how his new forced partnership with Ko is going to be considering Ko is a lot more outgoing, plus the fact his one true friend Kaito has been put on a bus for wanton terms – this also gives it the problem that most of the cast you don’t really care for because almost everyone is incredibly selfish (bar Kaito and the Ajin Shimomura) it brings out Sato’s charismatic personality far more out and make him more memorable if not exactly likeable.
It is one of those shows that seem to hold a deeper meaning regarding Japanese society as the show even says that the US treat Ajin better and almost feels like a pot shot at the government in terms of what is seen as right, and you could totally understand Ajin going to Sato’s side. And the potential is has is definitely high as a deep thinking show, the concept of Black Ghosts is pretty intense and interesting – the limited animation doesn’t really affect it as a show in that regard. The problem is that whilst the idea I care about, the characters I don’t.
The second season has a chance to change that though…
Ajin has the potential to be a fantastic show with deep intellect, intelligent story writing and the clash of Ajin vs. Ajin, Ajin vs. humans, and humans vs. other humans. The problem it is currently suffering from is that so much of the cast is either unlikeable and/or boring that it is very hard to get invested in anyone apart from ironically, the main villain – a video gaming, charismatic all smiling psychopath hidden within that hat-wearing persona with incredible smarts and badassery. There are definitely chances that could change with the character of Ko introduced and hopefully more can be made from this concept as I really want to like the series, but it needs to improve on the protagonists’ development because otherwise, I do feel I want to cheer on the utter monster…
Cleaning Opening/Ending, Trailers, Episode Commentaries
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: 11/12/2017
Running Time: 325 minutes
Video Encoding: PAL
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 – 1.78:1
PlayStation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.