By Andrew Osmond.
If you know about Ajin: Demi-Human already, then rejoice for the wait is over! The second season of the series drops onto Collector’s Blu-ray and DVD, and there’s some pointers about what to expect from it if you scroll down this article.
If you’ve not encountered Ajin before, then the first series is already available on Collector’s Blu-ray and DVD, and you can find it here. The premise isn’t far from X-Men. Ajin is set in a world where a minority of people develop frightening powers, and are hunted, captured and tortured by the authorities. Understandably, some of the minority fight back.
The story centres on Kei, who’s seemingly a “normal” schoolboy till the day he’s hit by a truck and doesn’t die. It’s only then that he realises he’s an Ajin, meaning he can recover from practically any injury. It also means he can summon up a ghostly black “mummy” monster (dubbed an IBM, or Invisible Black Matter) to take out his foes.
The series was made in motion-captured CG by Polygon Pictures, and used many of the same staff as Polygon’s space adventure, Knights of Sidonia. (You can find comments on Ajin by the Japanese cast and crew here.) Ajin’s first season is largely a chase thriller, with Kei frantically trying to evade the whole world hunting him. Reviewing the season in Neo magazine, I described it as Tokyo Ghoul meets 24. “It’s about grabbing the viewer and propelling you through chases, story rug-pulls, fiendish masterplans… It’s normal for anime to have young protagonists, but here it really heightens the fear and squalling indignation (It’s not fair!), as Kei is hunted by pretty much everyone in a nationally-sanctioned sport.”
Incidentally, the anime version of Ajin started airing in Japan in January 2016. That was just a few months before the debut of the live-action Stranger Things, which also featured a young protagonist with lethal powers being hunted by the Establishment. The show’s creators, the Duffer Brothers, presumably didn’t know about Ajin, but they’ve been open about Eleven’s debt to anime characters such as Tetsuo in Akira and even Lucy in Elfen Lied.
Below there’s a description of Ajin Season 2. There are also SPOILERS for Season 1, so if you haven’t watched that yet, then read no further!
The second season carries on directly from the end of Season 1 – no big time-skip, and no game-changing new characters. Still, the story changes fundamentally in the very first episode. Kei is still on the run, now accompanied by Ko, a far more amiable Ajin boy. They have two big enemies. One is Yu, the anti-Ajin agent who’s been hunting Kei all though the series. The other is Sato, the ruthless Ajin freedom fighter who tried to use Kei, then dispose of him. But now Sato has started making war on society in earnest, and the pragmatic Kei realises how to capitalise on the situation. He confronts Yu… and offers to fight beside him, using his Ajin powers to help destroy Sato.
So, in the manner of many anime, two old enemies find themselves working together. This means Ajin becomes a completely different kind of series. Kei had spent the earlier episodes running and hiding Fugitive-style, or being captured and tortured 24-style. But now he’s put onto Team Yu, together with Ko, and they’re both trained up for the inevitable confrontation with Sato. But this is purely an alliance of convenience; Kei and Yu still hate each other. Indeed, Kei flatly insists that he’s still only out for number one, though his selfishness may be backfiring. His IBM is becoming increasingly unruly, like a part of his alienated self gone rogue. Meanwhile Ko is crushing on Yu’s assistant Shimamuro, and the selfless Kaito – who helped Kei escape in the first episodes – is languishing in prison, but he’s not out of the story yet. Out in the world, Sato’s gang is working through a kill list, knocking off political targets one by one. And so the story continues…