AJIN: DEMI-HUMAN by Tsuina Miura and Gamon Sakurai
Horrifying circumstances and gut-wrenching scenes make the concept of immortality one less desired and AJIN: DEMI-HUMAN worth a read!
85 %

With the licensing of AJIN: DEMI-HUMAN by Sentai Filmworks, comes the American distribution of the property. Published by Vertical, Inc. we have the re-release of this epic seinen. Original story by Tsuina Miura and art by Gamon Sakurai.

Kei Negai is a hardworking high school student. His goal is to be a “fine human being,” in the form of top medical scores and success. While lost in thought, a truck suddenly strikes Kei, killing him. As the scene begins to crowd with onlookers, the mangled pieces that were Kei, begin to reform. Seconds later, Kei finds himself alive and unscathed as his world comes crashing down.

In the world of AJIN: DEMI-HUMAN, we have a modern time period with the slight inclusion of the Ajin. Ajin are immortal. Even when killed repeatedly, they come back to life in moments. Unlike most comics and manga, being immortal doesn’t make you a superhero in this world. Ajin cause fear and confusion for normal humans. Some are used as weapons of mass killing, while others are simply tortured for research. As Kei mentions with his first experience with death, being immortal doesn’t mean things are painless. The harsh reality is blatant. Patient 002, a captured Ajin, is shot in the head multiple times as they are strapped down. All while onlookers (suits and lab coats) stare with blank emotion. This very real scenario is the absolute fear of Kei Nagai.

KOKKOKU: A World Where Time Stands Still

What I Like and What I Don’t Like About this Plot

This premise immediately had me hooked. We naturally associate immortality with that of gods or superheroes/super-villains. But human lab rats? The goal is survival in AJIN: DEMI-HUMAN Vol. 1. With Kei’s newfound ability, he must escape, because everyone is after him for their own reasons. His would-be friends see him as a huge cash reward. Police and government are only concerned with capture and research. Students are taught that Ajin are not human, in which case, they should not be treated as such. Even Kei’s own family, sister, and mother, consider him a monster. With the help of his only real friend, Kaito, the two run away with law enforcement in pursuit.

image by: http://www.vertical-inc.com/books/ajin_demi-human.html
Patient 002 | Image: Vertical, Inc.

Considering the plot, this is probably my only issue. I find it quite hard to believe that the majority of people, especially his own family and friends, could suddenly disregard him as a being worth living. Not everyone’s fully aware of how Ajin are treated, but there’s no remorse for the possibility. Very similar to humankind’s history of misgivings in general. If we don’t understand it, it’s blasphemous or wrong.

Tosaki and More Ajin

Further into Vol. 1, we meet Tosaki. He’s introduced as a distinguished higher-up from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. With his distinct white suit, hair, and steel-rimmed glasses, Tosaki stands as the lead force in capturing Kei Nagai. His assistant Ajin, Izumi Shimomura, is submissive yet methodical. Having her own special abilities, she works with Tosaki in capturing Kei. Shrouded in mystery, we have yet to discover their true intentions, but Tosaki’s fear and contempt for Ajin is clear.

Other characters come into play with Mister Satou and Tanaka. Both are escaped Ajin, with murderous tendencies. They’re currently pursuing Kei in hopes of recruiting him. From what it seems, they’re the main opposing force to the governments that want to capture and conduct research on all Ajin.

image by: http://www.vertical-inc.com/books/ajin_demi-human.html
Mister Satou and Tanaka | Image: Vertical, Inc.


The Art and Action of AJIN: DEMI-HUMAN

As expected with such a plot, the art and illustrations come with impressive detail and gut-wrenching scenes: beautifully painted deaths and dismemberment; blood strewn across pavements; detailed muscles and bone of Ajin bodies as they begin to re-materialize; the looks of shock and depravity as onlookers stare at the confused animal that is Kei Nagai. It almost feels like a horror novel. Humans are these horrible monsters while Ajin are the victims.

There’s also well-crafted action. In the middle of the volume, we have motorcycle chases and a short scuff between Kaito, Kei, and greedy humans out for the reward on them. And then there’s the visceral fight scenes and gore. During Izumi’s investigation, we are introduced to the ominous shadow figures that are the Black Ghosts. Though not really explained yet, the Black Ghosts seem to come out of certain Ajin to fight for them. Somewhat like a familiar or pet.

image by: http://www.vertical-inc.com/books/ajin_demi-human.html
The Black Ghost | Image: Vertical, Inc.

Bottom Line

Besides being a bit lacking in character development thus far, AJIN: DEMI-HUMAN Vol. 1 is an action-packed thriller with a solid concept. I highly recommend it, in case you haven’t read it during its original release in 2012. The premise is perfect for any and all seinen fans. It’s a serious look into the depravity of humans, raising issues of discrimination, human rights, and human experimentation. There’s also the anime series released back in 2016. For the interested, be sure to check it out on Netflix.

AJIN: DEMI-HUMAN Vol. 1 is available online and in-stores now.

Featured image from [source].

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