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Manga / Ajin

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Seventeen years ago, demi-humans, otherwise known as Ajin (亜人), appeared. These are people who suddenly rose from the dead after suffering otherwise fatal injuries, who seem to be utterly unkillable. Now there are only forty-seven known Ajin in the world, and they're an extremely valuable commodity to every nation in existence for research purposes.

Enter Kei Nagai, who one day is run over by a truck, but returns as an Ajin. All of his friends immediately betray him in the hopes of getting a reward for turning him in, save for his delinquent friend Kai. Now Kei and Kai are on the run, and have to track down a small resistance group of Ajin who themselves are not too kind to humans...

Ajin was created by artist Gamon Sakurai and originally written by Tsuina Miura, though Miura left shortly after the start of the series and Sakurai took over as the writer. The manga was serialized in good! Afternoon from 2012 to 2021, and compiled into 17 volumes. An anime adaptation in the form of a film trilogy and tv series was produced by Polygon Pictures, the 3DCG studio behind Transformers: Prime and Knights of Sidonia, the first film being released in October, 2015 with the series following in January, 2016. It also has a live-action film adaptation that released on September 30, 2017.

The series is also the third anime to be licenced by Netflix (Following Knights of Sidonia and The Seven Deadly Sins), who released the show globally on April 12, 2016. With the second season following on December 27, 2016.

This work contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Satou in the Manga looks like an old man. Here, he's a young man in his thirties.
  • Adaptation Deviation: The anime adaptation begins to go on a different path after Satou announces his second wave of attacks.
  • Adapted Out: Kaito and Kou are absent in the Live-Action Adaptation. Satou's backstory was cut out either due to its runtime, but it is also implied that he was experimented by the same people who tortured Kei.
  • A Friend in Need: As mentioned by Kei in a heartbreaking dialogue, Kai is willing to risk his one and only life to save Kei. Even after Kei is caught by the government, Kai still goes out in search of him.
  • Age Lift: Two examples in the live-action film:
    • Manga Kei is a high-school student. Here, he's a medical school student in his late twenties.
    • Manga Satou is an old man in his late fifties or early sixties. Here, he's on his thirties.
  • And I Must Scream: Captured Ajin are left completely restrained and blindfolded, and are executed in a myriad of ways in the hopes of discovering the source of their immortality.
  • Anticlimax: Eriko being captured by Sato and Tanaka at the end of the first volume is treated like a big cliffhanger, but it's immediately resolved one chapter later.
  • Astral Projection: IBM or Black Ghosts that Ajin manifest work like this for the Ajin, as IBM serve as an Ajin's second body. As a matter of fact, Ajin can see, hear, and even project their voices with their IBM. Kei's IBM, however, seems to have a mind of its own.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: An IBM's head can be crushed, which immediately destroys it because it severs the Psychic Link between an Ajin and the IBM.
  • Author Appeal: Gamon Sakurai is a big fan of video games, especially western first-person shooters, thus the work's theme is quite different to many other manga works with a focus on gun action and realism, and there are also loads of shout-outs to video games littered throughout the series. Satou, the main antagonist, is also a heavy gamer.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: Implied with Tanaka who is saved by Satou and joins his crusade. However, he hasn't completely lost all his morality as he tried to stop a group of girls from going near the Grant Pharmaceutical Company headquarters Satou would be ramming a plane into.
  • Beleaguered Childhood Friend: Roles are reversed in that Kei is the fallen friend and Kai is the one who has to save him from the evils of the world.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Kei, seemingly. While at first he's depicted as being an extremely nice person, later on in the story he becomes highly cynical with a bit of a moral compass. He only changes after having spent some time in government custody, so it's unclear as to whether he was always secretly this way, or whether its the result of a Trauma Conga Line. His sister seems to think it was the former, though.
  • Bookends: The story kicks off with Kei being run over by a truck, revealing him to everyone as an Ajin. The story ends right after Kei gets run over by another truck, though this time it's treated as comical as by this time he's revived from much worse.
  • Bowdlerize: A relative example. One of Sato's terroristic actions in the is flying a plane into a major government building. In the anime, he instead manages to bring down a skyscraper down on it. While both are horrible acts of terrorism that lead to many deaths, the latter is a bit more "fantastic" compared to the former which occurred in real life. One can imagine that it was changed to make it less uncomfortable for that reason.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: What the Ajin are subjected to when captured, done in order to figure out the origin of their immortality. Whether or not it is deliberate, the experiments in the story are eerily similar to that of Unit 731, the infamous biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War.
  • Complete Immortality: Or just near it. As long as there is something to regenerate from, an Ajin will reform completely. Even if that something is a deep fried hand; to get into a secure airport, Sato cut off his hand, deep fried it to hide it in a box of chicken, had said box delivered to the airport, then threw himself into a wood chipper. After that, his hand was the largest single piece of him remaining, so he completely grew back from that hand.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The President of Grant Pharmaceuticals refuses to close the building (which Satou openly planned to attack on a certain date) because it'd lose him money.
    Police Captain: Their lives are at stake, sir.
    Grant's President: Money and life are actually one-and-the-same.
  • Crapsack World: The government is performing horrible experiments on the Ajin they capture to test their immortality (as well as keeping tabs on people suspected of pro-Ajin sympathies), nearly all normal civilians are terrible people, and most of the Ajin we have seen aren't much better. The number of truly good people can probably be counted on one hand.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Ajin are immortal, but lose all human rights and wind up in a living hell if captured.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Played straight, then subverted: when Kei's IBM headbutts Satou's IBM, he sees a memory of Satou being physically abused by his father, then it is revealed that he hit him as punishment for killing animals for no reason.
  • Death-Activated Superpower: Death is the only way to trigger an Ajin's regenerative powers. Lost a limb? A bullet in the brain will heal that right up! (Although this does not affect "natural" body deformities).
  • Death Is Cheap: No matter how or how many times they are killed, Ajin always come back.
  • Decapitation Required: Averted. Decapitation means very little to an Ajin physically. Though mentally, that's another matter altogether as since Ajin regrow from the largest part of them available, that means generally the body will regrow a head rather than the head regrowing a body. This leads to a particular fear for Kei since that would theoretically mean the original consciousness dies from decapitation while a new identical one forms with the new head. He makes a point of never putting himself in a position to find out what exactly happens from a decapitation scenario, though Sato on the other hand makes it a minor mission for a while to decapitate Kei, hoping it'll "free" him into becoming like Sato. Sato himself destroys his head multiple times over the course of the story.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Tanaka after his time being experimented on by the government. He has lost his faith in humanity. What Satou was hoping to happen with Kei after his week in the government's hands but sadly (or thankfully) it didn't.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: The first ending song, "How Close You Are", is sung by Mamoru Miyano, Kei's seiyuu.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • A call to participate in a huge event meant to rally for change initially gets a lot of thunder but ultimately winds up not doing much brings the Kony 2012 movement to mind...
    • Satou's first major attack in the manga is to hijack a civilian aircraft and crash it into a building. The anime didn't try to be that blatant and went with toppling another building on the target building instead.
  • Eagleland: Mixed variety. The American government treats ajin far better than the Japanese government does, conscripting them into service rather than putting them through complete hell. On the other hand, it's indicated that in the past they didn't treat ajin any better than Japan does, as the US military has conducted torturous experiments on ajin on at least one occasion.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: An inevitable consequence of the story changing hands early on.
    • Kei in the first couple of chapters is characterized as a fairly moral person, being visibly bothered by his teacher talking about how demi-humans aren't human beings and even wondering to himself about how he wants to become a "fine human being." This is rather at odds with his later characterization as a huge dick who almost always acts in his own self-interest, even if he does have a heart underneath all of it.
      • While it's obviously understandable given the circumstances, Kei actively freaks out a number of times in the first chapters, such as when he has a panic attack in chapter 1 after finding out that he's a demi-human. Later on, however, it's highlighted how Kei almost always keeps a remarkably cool head even in the most insane of situations.
    • The first couple of chapters portray Kei and Eriko as having a fairly good relationship, with Eriko expressing what seems to be a sense of betrayal at having found out that Kei is a demi-human. As time goes on, however, it's eventually revealed that Eriko actively resents Kei for effectively cutting off Kai and putting on a front of being a good person.
    • Generally, Kai gets a lot more focus in the first volume than he does in the rest of the series. While he doesn't disappear entirely, as he gets a couple chapters spent on him in prison after helping Kei escape and later indirectly plays a major role in the final battle by causing Kei to trigger a flood, the first couple of chapters set him up as the Deuteragonist of the series, which doesn't really turn out to be the case.
    • Sato's first appearance in chapter 3 has him talking to himself about "needing to teach the humans," seemingly to set him up as a fanatical Well-Intentioned Extremist who seems to have some unspecified ideals that he's trying to put into practice. Of course, the series later goes out of its way multiple times to show that Sato does not care about anything outside of getting thrills.
      • It's subtle, but Sato seems to treat demi-humans with a sort of reverence in the first couple of chapters, talking about how he wants to "show a path" to Kei and describes Tanaka being a demi-human as a "blessing," making him come across as a sort of cult leader. This is pretty much dropped as early as chapter 6. When talking about how Kei failed his and Tanaka's Secret Test of Character, he does so in a completely objective and to-the-point manner without any of the flowery language he used before that.
    • Tanaka in the first couple of chapters comes across as completely unhinged. For example, when trying to kidnap Eriko in chapter 4, he laughs manically when using his IBM to kill people, seemingly to set him as the viler secondary villain to the Faux Affably Evil Sato. Even just a couple chapter later, though, Tanaka is characterized as rather stoic and, ironically enough, serves as a more moral counterpart to Sato.
  • Evil Versus Evil:
    • The Japanese government versus the Ajin terrorists. The Japanese government is in cahoots with corporations and private organizations to systematically oppress and abuse the Ajin population for endless human experimentation, violating just about every single human right in the process. Satou's Ajin terrorist cell however, practically follow The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized as a rule and regularly commit attacks that while technically targeting Asshole Victims, result in massive collateral damage to innocents, with often far more damage done than what's necessary (and indeed, some of their tactics seems to be actively maximizing destruction, something they clearly enjoy). The only good guys seem to be the Ajin who want to establish rights for their kind and also stop others like them from hurting the innocent.
    • It says a lot that Kei and Satou, the two opposing forces of the story, are scarily alike after a closer look. Both are very intelligent, show great Lack of Empathy, are capable of killing with little or no hesitation, have an unsettling lack of fear of dying (yes, they are immortal, but even other Ajin note that dying is far from a pleasant experience, not to mention the natural apprehension of not coming back to life), and care little for the actual causes they fight for: Kei doesn't seem that worried about the human lives Satou has or will take, but he aids Tosaki because it gives him a chance of having a normal life again. Satou talks a great deal about wanting to create a good world for the Ajin to live in, but everything he does shows he just wants to fight and destroy everything in his way. The main differences are that while Satou shows no signs of redemption and is firmly The Sociopath, Kei has his moments considering changing and has a few Pet the Dog moments going for him.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • A Deconstruction exploring What Measure Is a Non-Human?. From the start, it's established that people, especially in Japan, hate and dehumanize Ajin, even though Ajin are otherwise normal people. Compounding the issue is that the government has issued a huge bounty for captured Ajin, and people will go to great lengths to capture them for the reward. Captured Ajin are then subjected to monstrously cruel treatment to find the source of their immortality and as reusable fodder for medical experimentation. The reasoning appears to be that if you don't stay dead, then you don't need human rights.
    • Inversely, if the whole world wished you to suffer forever, how far would you go to make it leave you alone? Kei's asking that question every day. Satou's answer is basically to kill every human he possibly can as spectacularly as possible.
  • Government Conspiracy: The Japanese government is looking for Ajin to perform inhumane experiments on, since they make perfect guinea pigs.
  • Gratuitous Japanese: The English dub keeps the term Ajin which means "half-human". Averted in the official translation of the manga, which changes "Ajin" to "Demi-human."note 
  • Guardian Entity: Many Ajin can summon an IBM, an invisible humanoid which will protect their owner automatically. Not exactly the case for Kei, though. His IBMs have developed a mind on their own, and are shown to act out of instinct rather than follow Kei's orders. Kei can only control them to some extent.
  • Guilt-Ridden Accomplice: Izumi seems to be conscience-stricken about the treatment of Ajin considering she is one, especially after she was forced to run over over an Ajin kid.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The public and government of Japan. Strangers and even loved ones will betray someone they know is an Ajin. The government rents out captured Ajin to other entities to perform unethical research ranging from becoming lab mice for drug studies to live crash test dummies for car companies. The government themselves perform horrific experiments on the Ajin to figure out their biology and limitations.
  • Hypocrite: Applies to the humans who treat Ajin differently as well considering them inhuman or soulless monsters, along with countless inhuman experiments. Special note goes to one of the workers Sato killed. He has the gall to act outraged when his co-workers are killed when they themselves had just spent several hours torturing and dissecting a teenage boy.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Most of the anime's episode titles are a line one of the characters (mostly Kei) say regarding his or her inner thoughts. With jewels like "I'm Surrounded by Idiots" and "They Make Me Sick", you can guess they say quite a lot of Kei's manner of thinking.
  • Immortality Hurts: The Ajin may be immortal but they can still feel the pain of death. And pain in general, as exemplified by the experiments that captured Ajin undergo.
  • Immortal Life Is Cheap: Drug companies, the government, and other entities are eager to get their hands on an Ajin. Since Ajin can essentially not die, these groups can bypass pesky preclinical studies and perform directly on them. In their twisted minds the Ajin are animals to be used for business.
  • Invisible to Normals: Downplayed. Normally, an IBM is undetectable, but whoever is sufficiently emotionally involved with it (like fearing for their life) will see them.
  • Japanese Delinquents: Kai, which forced Kei to pretend that they didn't know each other for a while. Kai still drops everything to save Kei.
  • Killed Off for Real: Ajin can sort of experience this if they get decapitated. The rest of their body will regrow a new head with a copy of the conscience that the Ajin had before the decapitation. Meanwhile, the decapitated head dies. As Satou notes, Kei may be willing to kill himself to regenerate his body, but he always makes sure to avoid being decapitated to avoid that fate. Satou, who has no such fears, wants to decapitate Kei to make him the same way.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Discussed in Chapter 42, when Kei gives a huge "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Kou and accuses him of only really caring about the life losses of people he knew personally, since while he gets distraught and angry about Hirasawa's death, he barely reacted when the president of Forge security was murdered despite both men being killed by Satou.
    Kei: You'd help your own family if their lives were at risk. But all you'd do is feel a little sentimental if you saw on the news that a million people died in some random country! [...] All of us weigh other people's life on a balance, in the back of our minds. Don't go around criticizing me just because I do it consciously.
  • Mundane Utility: Satou came up with a great way to finance his terrorist activities; he has Tanaka remove his organs so he can sell them on the black market. Repeatedly. One slash across the throat, and he regenerates everything.
  • Nominal Hero: Kei is very clear on the fact that the only one he wants to help, first and foremost, is himself. Kei could almost be considered a (Anti-)Villain Protagonist if it wasn't for some select instances of morality and decency. It helps that many of the bad guys are so vile and sadistic in their bloodshed that he comes off like a knight in shining armor in comparison.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Kai is kicked off a speeding motorcycle and emerges from it with just a small scratch to the head. In contrast, Kei had both his legs broken. And he's the Ajin!
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Tosaki momentarily drops his cold demeanor when he spots Satou in a crowd, hinting at how dangerous he is.
  • Police Are Useless: Averted. The MPD's Special Assault Team manages to put up a seriously good fight against the Ajin resistance, even if they do ultimately lose in the end.
  • Psychic Link: When two IBM's heads collide, their owners can see each other's memories.
  • Race Lift: In the live-action film, Satou is Asian instead of an American in the manga.
  • Resurrection Teleportation: Satou cuts off his hand, mails it, then throws himself into a wood chipper so that he can revive himself at another location. He does this despite knowing that this will kill his current consciousness, which is why no one expected him to actually resort to it.
  • The Reveal:
    • Tosaki's protector Izumi is an Ajin as well. The series loves to do surprise reveals near the end of a chapter.
    • It's shown that research of Ajin in America is far more humane than that in Japan, at a flashback taking place 20 months prior to the series. We see a whopping three Ajin walking around a research facility unattended, one even being allowed to conduct research himself. While they're forced to wear a GPS around their ankle, it's far better than being shot and tortured to death, then being revived.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Satou assembles several Ajin to performs terrorist activities, so that Ajin can live in peace. Or at least, that's what he says he's doing; actually, he just wants to kill, and leading an Ajin terrorist group will enable him to multiply his kill count. Considering his true nature of a gambler, it's likely that he only provokes a human-Ajin war because he enjoys the risks and challenge it brings.
  • Rule of Empathy: The series is good at manipulating this:
    • Kei is often someone you can sympathize with, fleeing to avoid being vivisected. He hesitates to use his Voice because he might hurt the people pursuing him. Then he traps Kou in a crashed semi trailer for fear of him drawing Satou in his blundering attempts to fight him.
    • Satou seems like the good-natured mentor and leader of La Résistance. Unfortunately, he's actually an Affably Evil Blood Knight who loves killing humans, an Evil Mentor who deliberately lets Kei get captured and vivisected to make him hate humans as much as he does, and a distinctly uncivilized revolutionary.
    • Tosaki seems like a hardcore sociopathic Ajin-hunter, but he's concealing an Ajin — Izumi — for use as his bodyguard. Self-serving perhaps, but his superiors would execute him if they knew he was depriving them of an Ajin. In the end he sets her free, without the threat of hidden evidence that reveals her nature.
    • Humanity in general is easy to hate throughout the series, and after seeing humans jump to turn Kei over to the authorities for the reward, hunting him non-stop, assaulting him, killing him repeatedly and viscerally slicing him up on an operating table, seeing Saito butcher dozens of cold-as-ice SWAT commandos has an incredible Catharsis Factor. Of course, one has to remember humans like Kaito who are willing to risk their one life and non-regenerating limbs to help Kei and other Ajin.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: This is the ultimate fate of Satou. As he seemingly cannot be permanently killed and the world can't afford to simply let him age in a cell, knowing he'll come up with some way to escape, they cryogenically freeze him in an underground pod. It's noted that due to the technology, Satou won't age, which means he won't die of age within the pod, but the pod is self-sufficient enough to last for at least 200 years without shutting down.
  • Sequel Hook: The last chapter implies that Sato might make it out of cryostasis one day and the final scene of the series has has Kou suggesting to Kei that he and the others should get together one day.
  • Shout-Out: Satou is an avid gamer and is well-versed in pop culture in general, and compares his immortality to having infinite continues. Most other characters refer to pop culture at one time or another.
    • When his uncle asks him to help with his crime organization in Asia, he is unwilling to go until his uncle's associate informs him that the country in question is the birthplace of Pac-Man, Japan.
    • While preparing to make themselves known to the public via press, Sato and Tanaka get themselves dressed up, with the former in a suit and the latter in a medical gown. Sato compares himself to Hannibal, and when Tanaka asks if that makes him Clarice, Sato replies that he’s Murdock.
    • When assaulting the Iruma Air Base, Satou and his sentient Black Ghost call each other Sonny and Tubbs.
    • The T-shirts worn by the characters often contain pop culture references.
  • Shout-Out Theme Naming:
    • Some chapters are named after video games like Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Shadowrun.
    • An unusual amount of characters share their last names (sometimes first names as well) with characters from K-On!. Just focusing on the central band , Hirasawa is the bespectacled agent subordinate to Tosaki, Tainaka is the original family name of Izumi, Akiyama is the big Ajin who resented Satou and helped Kou escape, Kotobuki is the Ajin Kai met in jail, and Nakano is, well, Kou Nakano.
    • Just to drive the point home, some of the chapter titles are also named after K-On! songs, with matching gratuitous punctuations. Chapter 24 is "Come with Me!!", Chapter 26 is "Genius...?!", Chapter 29 is "Listen!!", and Chapter 31 is straight-up "Don't say 'lazy'".
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The first ending song, "How Close You Are", sounds so calm and sad... while showing the numerous deaths of the Ajin characters throughout the first season. Though on the other hand, it fits with the mourning of losing a normal life for an eternal life as a prized fugitive.
  • Species Title: One-Word Title named after the term for the undead beings of the story.
  • Stupid Evil: The Japanese government. Ultimately, Satou is able to gather so many followers on account of the government's cruel, callous and inhumane actions toward the Japanese Ajin, leaving many to feel that they have no choice but to align with Satou in order to avoid an eternity of suffering and torture. Had Ajin been treated in a similarly humane fashion as they are in the US, Satou's task would have been much harder.
  • Take That!: After Sato carries out his first terror attack on Grant Pharmaceutical, he casually badmouths the JSDF, dismissing them as a bunch of guys who've never seen actual combat before pointing to the MPD's Special Assault Team as the real military force in Japan. Though it's decidedly subverted in the end when Sato himself later admits that he underestimated the JSDF.
  • The Unfettered: Kei. His goal is to become a doctor who will find a cure for untreated illnesses which originated from his sister's illness. He studies endlessly, even during summer break. So much so that he got first place in the National Medical Facilities mock exam. He had no qualms ending his friendship with Kai once he realized that associating with the son of a criminal could ruin his future reputation. According to his mother, he chose to give up on Kai for the sake of someone closer, his sister. After escaping government custody his new goal is to stay hidden and live his life peacefully in a small country town. He will stop at nothing to protect his new-found freedom, even poisoning, drowning, and incarcerating a kid in an abandoned truck to prevent word of his location from getting out.
  • Villainous Rescue: Sato comes to save Kei from the inhumane experiments the government is performing on them, but only because he thought the period of torture was enough to invoke Being Tortured Makes You Evil.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Inverted. Kai still comes to Kei's aid even after Kei stopped being friends with him and would knowingly ignore and insult him when they happened to see each other around town.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Sato reeaally didn't like it when Kei turned on him and riddled him with bullets when they were trying to escape a government facility.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: Quite literally, given the nature of Black Ghosts. There are many times, most notably in the fight between Izumi's and Kei's Black Ghosts, when the IBM employ wrestling maneuvers in combat.
  • You Are Not Alone: Kei has been betrayed by his friends, classmates, fellow countrymen, and even his own family, but he still has Kai who dropped everything to help him escape the police. Kei is later able to live in an isolated village where an elderly woman named Yamanaka resides and takes him in while knowing he's an Ajin. When the other villagers realize who he is and his cover is blown, she gets a friend of hers to help him escape.