What They Say:
Kei’s stopped running, but his decision to stand and fight comes just as Sato launches his second wave of terror. Angered by the government’s’ refusal to admit the truth about the live experiments on captive Ajin, the Ajin terrorist has begun assassinating a list of the key individuals connected to Ajin research, and only someone as unkillable as he is has a chance of stopping the man in the hat.
With Sato being better trained, more experienced, and allied with other Ajins, Kei has only two chances at heading off the final apocalypse: to somehow learn how to better control the Invisible Black Matter being he generates or to recruit other Ajins into the battle. The shadow war explodes and the world burns as the ultimate warriors face off in immortal combat!
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 features are 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 two movies are on their 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 Sato’s Variant getting its time in the spotlight, which is definitely intense looking. 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 two movies included over the space of three discs. The back cover uses the same red 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 Sato 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 only pieces.
The first season of Ajin was something of a surprise for me in just how much I enjoyed it and how well it worked. Darker shows like this can be really hit or miss depending on the execution and how far they’ll go with raising the stakes in the right way but Ajin nailed it pretty well. The downside for many was the animation style, which I completely get, but it’s been less and less an issue for me over the years. The downside of the show for me was that while broadcast viewers had a six month gap between the two seasons, the home video release is a year apart. I’d almost wish that the first season was held back a few more months so that the two releases would be closer since there are a lot of things at play within it.
The first season is, however, largely all about the setup of what’s going on. That allows for the second season here to be more about the big set pieces and everything ramping up fully. Kei’s understanding of what it means to be an Ajin and his ending up with Sato along the way established a lot of what the sides are like, though it’s far more complicated than that as we have the experimentation that was going on through government research, complicity through various political officials, and the looming danger of what American interests represent. That last piece plays a significant but small role within this half that’s intriguing as the threat that Sato represents is something that’s far more of a regional destabilizing element, giving the Americans an opportunity to step in when it might otherwise cause serious political issues.
What we get here is a furthering of Sato’s plans about dealing with the rights of Ajin in Japan. His going public with what he wants with the demands and coming up with a slate of a dozen or so people that they’re going to execute for various reasons until it happens is definitely upping the pressure on people. Sato’s group is certainly into all of this since they see it as the way to being able to live without fear, though they’ll be paying a price for how they do it. But they’re in an ends justify the means mode and Sato’s in his own weird way very charismatic and confident. Over the course of this season, we see the various encounters as they play out and they’re largely straightforward, though it gets a bit more intense later on when Sato reveals the when and where of one of their targets in order to ramp up the tension and his plan overall.
With Kei out of Sato’s group and ending up in Tosaki’s group, with Tosaki out of the picture for a bit no less along the way, it’s interesting to see the fluid way that Kei shifts because he does see the larger picture. There are interesting smaller moments that arise from some of the interactions Kei has once he shifts away from Sato, and I really liked the background episode that we get on Izumi as it fleshed out her story more and why she was as bonded to Tosaki as she was, and all these little moments helped to propel the story along. But the crux of it all really comes down to reinforcing that the fight is against Sato and trying to get it settled before the whole country ends up unsettled because of both Sato’s plans and potential American interference. Seeing Kei taking on more of a leadership role, both when Tosaki is removed for a while and then again when Tosaki is back, shows the kind of good growth that Kei has gone through. And also because, quite frankly, hs is the one that understands Sato the most.
It’s this end part that reinforced my enjoyment of the show with Kei making it clear that what Sato is doing is essentially playing a game. While he comes across as confident, and he is, he’s not a really big strategist or tactician. He’s playing a game from Kei’s point of view and that’s true. But I also thing Kei is underestimating him because of how all of this plays out and the surprise at the end with Sato and Tanaka’s fate after being taken away by the Americans. Kei’s focused on stopping him, which he does, and Tosaki is intent on protecting his own and his country, which he does. But after all the strong and creepy action that we get with all of its attrition, it really looks like it went exactly as Sato intended and he’s closer to getting what he really wants. That’s a great way to end the season and leave you wanting more.
I was a bit hesitant about the Ajin series in general when it first came out because of how it was done with movies (that are condensed versions of the show) and the CG animation. This series is one that works well as a tight and dark thriller with supernatural elements that adds to everything but doesn’t dominate as it’s more about rights and how you get them. The question about it all in that you take them instead of having them given to you is interesting as presented by Sato and the way he’s operating but it all feels like a cover for something bigger and the season, while complete for a good cycle of storytelling, leaves me wanting more. Which makes me glad that the manga is out there while hoping that there’s more anime in our future. A solid release that’s definitely worth checking out. Sentai’s releases in regular edition form are well done and I imagine the limited editions are definitely a big plus for fans of the show to own.
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
Ajin: Demi-Human Season 2 contains episodes 1-13 and movies “Comfort” and “Collide”.
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: April 10th, 2018
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.