So I’m not the most learned person when it comes to anime. Shit, I’m really not even the second most learned person. I’m like the 65th. Maybe even the 300th. I got to the anime DMV late, okay?
Much of this is because, as I’ve conversed heavily with Sopé of the anime-centric Outlaw Barz Podcast, (Note: Sopé put me onto this show to begin with. All Hail Sopé.) anime is beyond genre. Rather, it’s its own world, and thus you can spend your entire life trying to stay up on it. Pero, I do enjoy select titles. And I’m gonna share one with ya.
Ajin: Demi-Human is a new(ish) anime that’s been floating around Netflix for a while. While this particular iteration is the TV show, the franchise also has 3 feature length films that I have yet to dive into. For now we’ll just focus on the 2 seasons on Netflix, because holy shit ya’ll, they’re good.
“But wait, WTF is it about, Dap?” Great question, homie.
Ajin follows Kei Nagai, a quiet pre-med student who’s just tryna go to school and whatnot. However, with the dexterity of Turkish meat man aka #SaltBae, the show sprinkles some surprises on his ass and he soon finds himself embroiled in an international scandal.
This is because, after getting run the fuck over by a food truck, Kei discovers he’s an “Ajin.” Ajin are a recently discovered species of humanoids who basically can’t die. In addition, they have a whole host of powers that humans can’t even see. Which makes them exciting for us viewers and exceedingly dangerous for humans in the show. They’re being “researched” (see: hunted) by various governments and are basically considered walking, talking WMD’s. You can only imagine that everything completely starts to spin out of control as Kei struggles to avoid capture or betrayal by basically everyone around him. The most interesting thing for someone diving into this series, however, is Kei himself.
In my experience, anime protagonists are shrill and boyish bleeding hearts who are either totally suave or so full of themselves that they don’t understand the world around them (I’m looking at you, Naruto). However, in Ajin’s case, Kei is a fucking sociopath — he (almost) can’t empathize at all, and becomes increasingly cold and calculating as the first season moves forward. Similar to Death Note and Tokyo Ghoul’s lead characters, Kei’s descent into his truest self is as frightening to the viewer as it is to the characters around him.
So if you want something off the beaten path, Kei’s character growth alone is reason enough to watch this show. But of course, he’s not the only reason.
Meet Mr. Sato. Mr. Sato is a wild boy. Mr. Sato is about that life. Mr. Sato is with the shits. Mr. Sato got them hands.
Initially, we’re supposed to like Mr. Sato. I mean, just look at him. He’s clearly dressed in the “kindly old man” outfit, with a kangol to boot. Sadly, everything ain’t what it seems! Sato is a mastermind of manipulation and a seriously interesting character who, well, you’ll just have to watch the show to really understand just how ridiculous he is.
But, know that he’s about as wily as a fox and just as dangerous. Oftentimes, antagonists in anime are often just Japanese interpretations of Bond Villains; verbose, elegant, high class and somewhat effeminate (because lol that’s a symbol of evil, amiright?) Sato, however, completely overshadows that legacy with a new addition to the pantheon that is radically complex and simple, at the same damn time. For that reason alone, this show is damn near a top 5 anime in my book. And it should be in yours too.
Okay, the last bit here is that Ajin is just visually pleasing. Instead of going for a 2D art style, the folks behind it built this 3D animation style that almost feels cel shaded. Truly, it’s unsettling in its pseudo-realistic presentation. And while it’s not as “acid trip” as A Scanner Darkly, it does distinguish itself in a unique way.
A broad example is that, because the art style isn’t super explicit in its 3D nature, you often forget that it’s 3D at all; your brain allowing itself to assume everything is 2D. This is a fun trick because, when large action scenes happen or the Ajin Ghosts start appearing, the rounded three dimensional nature of their forms are striking and almost frightening in their presentation. This speaks to the subtlety of the art style and the themes of the show itself. In either case, it looks damn cool and it’s fun to watch.
All that said, Ajin is a great series that combines political intrigue, psychology, politics and action into a couple seasons that you’re sure to burn through. So, if learning about people who die and come back only to practice interpretative dance doesn’t work for you, I suggest you switch things up with this anime. You honestly won’t be disappointed. And if you are, you can @ me on Twitter and we’ll talk it out.
Dap owns Timberland boots and is committed to loving black women, eating good food and diversifying media as he sees fit and while he can. He can be found yelling into the abyss and being snarky on the following: IG | Twitter