On Mondays, our resident anime nerd Roxy binges through Netflix UK’s anime selection to find the best for you to stream. We call it Anime Monday.
Kei Nagai stands in the middle of a crossing, frozen in place as a goods truck comes hurtling towards him. His friends and bystanders watch on in horror, as the two collide with an unnerving crash. The driver comes out blaming Kei for walking out on a red light, imploring the witnesses to accept his innocence. But, then, the unthinkable happens: the schoolboy crawls out from underneath the vehicle and stands back up with blood splattered across his face, and his broken body put back together again. In that moment it dawns on them: Kei is an Ajin.
An evolved species of human who can never die, Ajin are seen as a problem, prey that ‘normal’ humans have to capture and subjugate to experimentation and brutal torture to be understood. “I’m not; this is some kind of mistake. I’m a human!” Kei shouts, before freezing the onlookers in place with one of his newfound abilities and going on the run. With his name all over the news, it doesn’t take long before a government agency – dubbed the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare – goes after him, desperate to drag him into their top secret lab. What they don’t account for is that a group of radical Ajin are determined to catch him too, and their ruthless leader Sato will stop at nothing to get his way.
The series, which began as a manga created by Gamon Sakurai in 2012, has already spawned two seasons, three anime films, three OVAs and one live-action film starring Takeru Sato and Go Ayano — so if it wasn’t obvious that Ajin: Demi-Human was popular before, it should be now. Its grim, bloody and controversial storyline is so intense that it’s impossible to look away, even when the narrative goes down a much more horrific path. It illustrates the darker side of humanity, how greed and wrath drives people to do the worse things to each other, and yet you’re still absorbed by Kei’s plight.
He’s doomed because of his DNA, but, even so, Kei refuses to let himself be defined by the circumstances of his birth: all he wants is to live a peaceful life away from others expectations or fears. It’s a shame, then, that no one will let him do that and he is instead forced to fight for his life against not one, but two enemy groups. The strength of Netflix’s series lies in its large cast of characters, all of whom play an intriguing and difficult role in the battle between Ajin and humanity. Sato especially proves to be an excellent villain, whose irrationality and desire for power overrides any need for productive change; he just wants to watch the world burn and punish those for wronging him, so he is a great rival for Kei, who struggles to both define his morality and understand his place in the world.
With its clean-cut 3D animation, Ajin: Demi-Human takes on a different style to what would normally be expected from an anime, but it fits perfectly with the show’s dark atmosphere. The only criticism is that it can sometimes be taxing to watch a show that’s so relentless with its violence and gloomy depiction of life. Even when taking this into consideration, though, one can’t deny how powerful a show this is, with captivating characters, surprising betrayals, and intense action — here’s hoping the upcoming Japanese live-action movie can live up to the anime.
Season 1 and 2 of Ajin: Demi-Human is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription.