Review: Ajin: Demi-Human Complete Season 2 (DVD)

Kei and Ko have managed to stay one step ahead of the Japanese Government and those who would capture them for being Ajin – an unkillable human who is sought after to be used in inhumane experiments as a valuable specimen. But as the Ajin terrorist Sato begins his second wave of attacks against those connected to Ajin research, Kei realises that he needs to defeat Sato if he has any chance of returning to a normal life. Lacking experience and weapons, Kei and Ko have no choice but to join forces with Tosaki, the head of Ajin Research, and his personal Ajin bodyguard Shimomura, if they are to stop Sato and his gang. But nothing is ever that straight forward, and as they prepare to take on Sato unforeseen complications arise and threaten to put a stop to their plans.

Ajin: Demi-Human Complete Season 2 is much more balanced than its previous season, with many of the issues I mentioned in my first review of the series being less apparent. Kei and Ko joining forces with Tosaki’s crew gives a large portion of the cast a clear purpose and moves the story along nicely, with some neat character interactions between Tosaki and the Ajin characters in particular as Tosaki laments how he got to working with the very people it was his job to capture. There is also less of a focus on the over-indulgent escapades of Sato in his mission to inflict as much chaos as possible on the Japanese Government and general population, which I wasn’t particularly fond of and am glad to see has been toned down.

Unfortunately, as Ajin: Demi-Human is an adaptation of a manga that has not yet been completed, the series has the thankless task of condensing a whole lot of content into a show with two seasons and trying to create a complete and worthwhile story from said content. Honestly, it does ok – it condenses the amount of time the characters spend planning and training to take on Sato and throws in some new twists that aren’t present in the manga. The best example of this is a short mini-arc with Tosaki and some American agents who come looking for biophysicist Ikuya, who Tosaki kidnapped in the first season. Unable to convince them that he wasn’t involved in the disappearance of Ikuya, the agents continue to go after Tosaki which leads to Kei, Ko and Shimomura having to halt their plans to deal with Sato to resolve this new problem. I really enjoyed this segment, as it gave more screen time to Shimomura and Tosaki, fleshing out their relationship and a little bit of Shimomura’s past, as well as giving us a brief glimpse into the situation of Ajins in a country other than Japan.

An area where the show is less adept is when it hints at something really interesting but ends up merely glancing over it. This may be due to time constraints and the sheer amount of content that was available that simply had to be trimmed down, but it leaves the second season of Ajin: Demi-Human feeling rushed in places. Shimomura has really good moments in this season, especially in the aforementioned mini-arc with the American agents, but the episode with snippets of her backstory is criminally short and lacks context. Her backstory alone could have easily taken up an entire episode. But it is Tanaka, one of Sato’s men and someone who has had experience being an Ajin specimen, who suffers the most from this adaptation. In the manga, Tanaka is an interesting character with a backstory that is explored enough that it is easy to empathise with him despite his actions. The manga also frames his actions as entirely in service of achieving rights for Ajin, and shows his concern when Sato is particularly violent to no particular end. His anime counterpart is nowhere near as nuanced. It’s something that can’t be entirely attributed to the showrunners of Ajin: Demi-Human, as Tanaka’s big character arc comes quite late into the manga series, but the show actually hints at this arc by having Tanaka voice his concerns regarding Sato’s approach to achieving rights for Ajin, only to have him shrug it off later. What’s worse is that this arc is actually given to other characters in the series rather than Tanaka, characters who were portrayed as aligning much more with Sato’s chaotic tendencies. Another aspect of the show that suffers from being an adaptation is the abrupt ending, a staple of shows adapting a manga series still in serialisation. The conflict resolution ending of the series is lower-case letters in italics fine. There is a bit of tension and a bit of pay-off, and although things resolve more quickly than they perhaps should, it’s fine. But the final minute or so of Ajin: Demi-Human feels completely unnecessary and kind of silly, basically forcing the remaining cast of characters together for ‘the next great adventure.’

I mentioned this in my first review of Ajin: Demi-Human, an it’s just as applicable here – I have a soft spot for this series. Although I don’t always enjoy the delivery, the concept is interesting and memorable, and I love most of the characters and the soft-horror-not-really-gory-but-kind-of aspect of the show (although it is admittedly much more present in the first season). It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and it’s only sometimes mine, but I still kind of enjoy it even when it skirts over interesting character developments or fails to stick the landing on its ending. Check it out on Netflix if you want a taste of what Ajin: Demi-Human is like before committing, who knows, you might find something that peaks your interest.

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A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.

© Gamon Sakurai, KODANSHA/AJIN Production Committee.