For high schooler Kei—and for at least forty-six others—immortality comes as the nastiest surprise ever.
Sadly for Kei, such a feat doesn't make him a superhero. In the eyes of both the general public and governments, he's a rare specimen who needs to be hunted down and handed over to scientists to be experimented on for life—a demi-human who must die a thousand deaths for the benefit of humanity.
Polygon Pictures is the name of the studio behind this film, and the anime series Sidonia no Kishi/Knights of Sidonia. I bring them up because despite only having seen one completed series from Polygon Pictures (at the time of this review being posted) it was enough for me to make them my most hated anime studio. This hatred is derived from Knights of Sidonia, or as I refer to it Sci-Fi: The Anime since it’s biggest piece of sci-fi trite I have ever seen in any form of media. Every single plot point was predictable, it didn’t put a new spin on any established sci-fi
formula nor strayed from any common modern anime writing conventions, and it’s also the only piece of science fiction, and animation to ever put me to sleep. So before even starting the film, and Ajin anime series there was already the hurdle of low expectations. The only way Ajin couldn’t meet those low expectation would be if it turned out worse than Knights of Sidonia. Ajin went so below the bar of low expectations I could make a top ten list of the worst Ajin episodes in great detail by how much incompetence there is in each individual episode.
This film is basically a recap splicing together the first six episodes of the anime series Ajin. You might be wondering what’s the purpose of this recap movie if there’s no noticeable alteration between the anime series, and film. Both use the same footage with the same dialogue rendering it rather pointless to seek out the other product depending on what you decide to check out. As negative as I was towards the recap movie, Sword Art Online: Extra Edition, A1 Pictures did the logical in creating new material exclusive to it. Ajin Part 1: Shoudou only major difference with the anime series are scenes not having Izumi Shimomura (Tosaki’s secretary) cheeks turning red when blushing in two episodes of the anime series. I would like to point out this film came out in late November of 2015, and between that time all the way to mid January of 2016 when the anime aired. Someone, or several individuals at Polygon Pictures felt it was important to slightly alter moments of embarrassment by having Izumi cheeks turn red when she’s blushing instead bumping up the framerate to not make the animation look like it is always lagging. Just like the anime series, this recap film purpose is to simply be dead air. The metaphorical coaster of anime so to say.
Ajin takes the classic premise of the “Human Parasite” (as I call it) trope where the focus is on a main character who becomes something he/she, or the world hates. If you read, or seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers (my go to association with this premise) you know for a fact this premise under right hands holds infinite possibilities. Especially horror since it could thrive on creating psychological fear of these creatures that easily blend into our world. However, Ajin doesn’t understand the basics of storytelling so when it tried to reach higher than possible never once does it bother to set up the building blocks for a stable story.
First issue for the film is simple; bad world building combine with bad context for exposition. In Ajin, it’s establish the entire world know the existence of Ajins, yet in a later scene in the movie a police officer is surprise there’s an Non Lethal Drug Gun specifically design to capture Ajins. Before you could be bother to ask what sense does it make that this weapon isn’t mandatory for all policemen to have in case of an emergency it throws another bad plot point at you. One being how high school students managed to find a leaked video of a Ajin being experimented on, and there being no mention of it in any news media outlet. The flimsy excuse of a student saying it could be fake cannot be assumed to apply to everyone else in the world which requires higher suspension of disbelief that does not come with the premise. In the anime series, the news media eventually discover this leaked video, but in the film the news media does not. Creating more plot holes that in sequel films Polygon Pictures will have to cover up instead of focusing on telling a story (not a good one at that).
We also have the Elephant in the room to address in that paranoia, hatred, disgust, or any feelings towards the public views on Ajin goes without setup. Aside from the first discover Ajin being a gun for hire in Africa, and if Ajin are turned in you’ll be rewarded there is nothing much to grasp from the Ajins presence in this world. The film even brings up the fact other Ajins were discovered, but mentions nothing if the other Ajins are commonly violent toward humans. If that was the case, than it would make sense for Kei Nagai (our teenage protagonist) not to trust anyone in his surroundings. However, if the story didn’t establish the public mindset on Ajins existence than the idea of them being turned in for a reward could still be a reasonable source of distrust for Kei Nagai. A simple, and not hard to shoe in solution for this issue is someone mentioning an Ajin who got betrayed by his friends for money. If this was done than you could have a less inferior reason for Kei Nagai not to trust his friends in the beginning of the film. It’s even brought up the reward could be just a rumor, but even if the reward is just a rumor than Kei Nagai fearing being betrayed by his friends from a story he heard would make a bit more sense. My solution sucks, but it could hold itself together much better compared to betrayal for rumored reward Kei Nagai just recently discovered imply by the film.
Reason number two this film is bad is because of main character Kei Nagai. I personally refer to him as Sam Blanderton since he has no personality, the writing pretends he’s a smart character, and has the plot armor of immortality. His younger sister describes Kei Nagai as a cold person so Vanilla Ice is also a suitable nickname for the protagonist. Jokes aside, you would also find Kei Nagai in that piles of jokes. Despite being told he’s a smart character, and studying to be a doctor he’s no smarter than the rest of the cast in Ajin that can’t phantom the idea of multiple people wearing hats (more on that later). Having never gone to medical school I can tell you it is possible to knock someone out unconsciously with your fists. I bring this up since Kei Nagai can summon a Black Ghost which are basically an invisible humanlike manifestation Ajins can use. For some reason, when Kei is being tortured about an hour into the film, Kei seems to have forgotten everything he learned. This is a character who the audience is told wants to be a doctor. In a scene where Kei is being tortured he is also pressured into killing scientists, which you would expect someone who has been studying to be a doctor to do the logical, and knock out whoever is torturing him in order to intimidate anyone who wants to torture him in the future. Not wanting to kill is one thing, but if you have the power to knock someone out unconsciously like Kei Nagai has with his Black Ghost where’s the conflict in the situation. Kei doesn’t have to kill anyone when he’s being tortured, yet he seems content that he could only kill despite the fact he’s been studying to become a doctor. Good to know that knowledge goes to waste.
Kei Nagai acts however the plot demands him to without a consistent personality trait. In the film, Kei meets face to face with an old man who kidnapped his sister, but is okay with it since she wasn’t harm. (Tear out hair in anger). Yet, he is more concern with the idea of this same old man wanting to kill scientists who have been torturing him (Kei) for days none of whom he knows. Showing concern for their very livelihood despite torturing him. Just, huh? What makes this infuriating for me is Kei Nagai brings up the idea to handicapped those scientists while begging for them not to be murdered. So the series (along with this film) is telling me Kei Nagai gives a rat ass his sister got kidnapped who he known for basically his entire life, and shows more concern for saving people who tortured him for several days to the point he’ll bargain to handicapped them to make sure they live. However, this completely goes against the established trait of Kei Nagai being a cold, but intelligent character which does not go well when you see this same intelligent character wear nothing to hide his face when out in public. This is never an issue since Polygon Pictures is too lazy to have background characters which is why there is hardly ever crowds of people in the film. What this means is that Kei Nagai is not a cold character since he bother saving random strangers who tortured him several days, and is not intelligent since he doesn’t use his medical knowledge in his situations to protect himself. There’s no moment of competency from this character since Kei Nagai either gets lucky by discovering a new ability to save himself when convenient, or needs to be save by another person.
Finally, the reason the film is terrible, and the anime series itself is also terrible is pretty much everything else. Characters are one dimensional in the film with the only character using his head is Satou who is presented as the villain. Satou is refer by others as The Man in the Hat (even in the English dub for who knows why) because he wears a hat. Apparently, in Ajin, Satou is the only person in the entire world who wears a hat. This is proven whenever Satou is brought up simply mentioning someone is wearing a hat. Characters will immediately bring up Satou. Details like this makes it impossible to take Ajin seriously. What it tells me is a race of immortal beings is easily accepted in this world, but multiple people wearing hats is an entirely alien to concept those same people. Satou character also suffers the same issue, in this film, of having little character development, but compare to every other character he’s written the best. Satou is the only character who has a goal, and a motivation for what he does to a certain character. As you can assume, one character who’s passable doesn’t excuse an entire cast that’s disposable. Kei Nagai does virtually nothing to advance the plot, Kaito/Porcupine (Kei’s best friend) disappears after the second act without explanation, Eriko Nagai (Kei’s sister) is practically pointless contributing nothing to the narrative, and a slew of other unimportant characters amount to either explaining things characters in the world should already know, or just disappear after a while.
Pacing is a mess rushing through everything. This issue applies to the anime series too, but in movie format it’s boils down to throwing set pieces at the audience face without substance. There’s nothing of value to gain from constantly seeing the main characters in danger if there is no reason to care for them. No tension, no stakes, and no investment in the characters will have you constantly looking at the time wondering how long this train wreck is going to last.
On a technical level Polygon Pictures 3D animation is dated, even by 1990s 3D television standards. It’s embarrassing that the Donkey Kong Country 3D animated series from the late 90s has more expressive facial animation, and a better framerate. Donkey Kong Country can make the simple action of Gorillas walking, and dancing for that matter move smoothly. In Ajin Part 1: Shoudou, in the beginning of the film, Polygon Picture can not make the simple action of walking move smoothly. Through the film (and the anime series) it seems like characters are moving in slow motion. Polygon Pictures is capable of fixing of this, but are too lazy to do anything about it. There are two sequences in the film where two Black Ghosts are fighting against each other using the technique of slowing things down briefly then speeding things up. This simple demonstration of being able to change the speed of motion freely should also apply to the frame rate. It’s done deliberately so Polygon Picture have the technology not make to their anime series, and films look like they’re lagging at all times. Polygon Picture is so lazy the film closing credits is the opening sequence to the anime series with just longer credits. Bravo Polygon Picture.
Ajin Part 1: Shoudou needed to be story boarded, and drafted at least once before ever entering production. If this was done than Polygon Pictures would have realize they have no motivation for people to hate Ajins which would have save them from a number of issues if it was addressed. However, even if Ajin did give a good reason for why Ajins are hated it wouldn’t do away with the idiotic plot filled with shallow characters, and a very lazy production. You could find better looking 3D animation from the late 90s than this film which came out in 2015 which is embarrassing. Whatever way you view Ajin in either film, or TV format it is an embarrassment display of Japanese animation, an embarrassment to 3D animation, and an embarrassment to storytelling.
Ajin: Shoudou demands us to contemplate the definition of "Human" and the extent to which one needs to use his/her abilities in a way that is morally just.
Despised by society, Ajin are humans who have regenerative properties and cannot die. Kei Nagai, a senior high schooler, learns upon surviving what would've been a fatal accident that he is an Ajin with the special ability to summon a "Black Ghost". These Black Ghosts are dark, mummy-like figures (similar to the one in the movie's cover art) which seem to be controlled by the Ajin's unconscious mind. Yet, they are able to exert deadly physical harm to
people and objects, but can only be seen by other Ajin.
The aspect that makes Ajin's plot interesting is that Kei, the MC, is hesitant to use his deadly ability for revenge and murder, and instead tries to use his ability to help humanity, unlike other Ajin. The story contains philosophical themes of morality as both good (remembering his childhood friends and family) and evil (Ajin with murderous intent) influences try to sway him in deciding how to use his powers. All the characters in Ajin other than Kei act more or less as foils which develop Kei's character by influencing his decisions.
One of the more surprising features of Ajin is the use of computer graphics (CGI) to animate the character movements. The frame rate of character movement is reduced to match the value normally seen in other anime. I personally think that while this is a novel and innovative approach to developing anime, its use of CGI strays too far from the conventional standard we saw in Ghost in the Shell or Paprika; however it still does a very good job of conveying expressions and emotions. Additionally, the background and scenery art were very well done as well.
In terms of sound, the BGM tracks were quite nice were helpful in setting the atmosphere of scenes. My personal favourite from the soundtrack is "Yoru wa Nemureru kai?" from the ED. The voices behind the characters are were well-known seiyu and I think each of the voices fit the characters nicely.
When we compare the anime to the manga version, we see that it is more or less similar to the origin, with the exception of a few scenes from the manga which were not adapted. One characteristic that was kept was the constant shifting of the scenes from one setting to another, which I thought was really unique in that it allows the viewer to better understand the timeline of the events in the plot and the scenes that are taking place simultaneously of each other.
Overall, the Ajin movie does not stray much from its Manga source and offers interesting themes of humanity and morality. I would recommend Ajin: Shoudou to anybody who has read the manga or if you are interested in anime with elements of supernatural horror, such as Tokyo Ghoul (which in many ways really is quite similar to Ajin).
Ajin: Shoudou is the first work in the Ajin film trilogy. Part two is set to premiere in theaters in May of 2016.
So...here it comes, the movie for the much awaited Ajin. Personally, I've been waiting for this for a very long time. I have not read the manga (yet) and have not watched the anime yet (airing now).
The movie introduces the concept/world of Ajin, where some random humans happen to develop a mysterious super power, causing them many troubles and raising the ultimate anime question: "Am I still human?". Doesn't sound very original, right? We have seen this in many other animes like Ergo proxy, Parasyte, Tokyo Ghoul, etc...
However, the storytelling of Ajin is what makes it very enjoyable. It is very dynamic, there is
no unnecessary information in it. Hopefully they will keep it filler-free for the upcoming anime too.
The characters are pretty much the standard arch-types for this movie. The "friend", the "Organisation", "the weak point" - the sister, in this case, the "veteran" and so on.
They seem to all have a background story that is not explained in detail due to the length of the movie. Hopefully, we will see their stories later on.
*heavy breathing* Well...when I first saw the teaser, I just had to do a facepalm. The CGI does not fit this show (or any show for that matter).
Despite all of that, I must say, I still really enjoyed the film overall, due to the amazing story and execution.
A very generic topic executed in a wonderful, very enjoyable way. Graphics could certainly be better but what can we do?
I definitely look forward to the anime series!
A story featuring a boy who gets special powers while losing his humanity is not exactly a new thing. The same concept exists in anime such as Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuristu and Tokyo Ghoul, but Ajin takes this concept and handles it in a great way. What makes this unique and different to other anime with the same concept, is that the Ajins are immortal, so rather than being killed, they are brought in as a specimen and get experimented on in what could be seen as torture. In this movie, both the humans and the Ajins are presented in a way with makes the
seem evil. I find this feature to be extremely intriguing.
The animation is what turned a lot of people off, but it's definitely not bad if you can just get used to it. The animation is 3D which helps in adding to the already serious and realistic mood of the movie. The 3D animation works great with the Ajins and the action scenes are also animated very well. Another thing that helps setting the mood is the soundtrack, it was powerful and suspenseful, just as it was supposed to be.
The characters were interesting, especially Nagai Kei, the main character. His view on other people and the way he acts are contradicting in a way that makes him a unique and interesting character. Some other notable characters are the other Ajins, you can see how they have been affected by the way they have been treated by society and experimented on. There are some characters that could have been developed a bit more, but it's hard to have character development for every character in 1 hour and 40 minutes. I hope that the side characters will be properly developed more in the future movies or in the anime.
This movie is not perfect, it has some flaws, some characters are not developed enough and the animation might seem weird if you don't get used to it. But the suspenseful and interesting story is what makes this a good movie. I would recommend this movie if you're looking for a movie with lots of good action and an unique story.
It was just announced that your favourite manga, be it Ajin or Berserk, is getting animated! There's one catch: it's going to be CG. But don't worry, we're here to help you feel better about this traumatic news and guide you through the steps to recovery and acceptance.