Hi and thanks for coming by! This is my brief review of Ajin, the 2016 horror/thriler Netflix anime. Visuals, story, audio, and characters will be considered, as well as my personal enjoyment. I also included some MBTI stuff at the end. Before we get started, here’s a starting synopsis.
Immortal people called Ajins have been discovered. When they die, they come back to life perfectly every time. It’s unknown why or how an Ajin comes into existence. They are not publicly considered humans, and once caught, they will be imprisoned and used for experiments by the government. On one fateful evening, a boy named Kei is hit by a truck and comes back to life. The police and government immediately begin hunting him. How will Kei fare in this hostile world, as a “demi-human”? Although this post is mostly more of a technical review, I will also include some notes on the theme of dehumanization.
Visuals: 4/10 Poor
The art and animation for Ajin is all 3D. I don’t think that’s a bad thing by itself, but the quality of this 3D is very low. If you compare it to something like Beastars, which uses a similar style of 3D animation, it’s just plain terrible. The frames per second rate is noticeably low. Movement looks extremely awkward. In addition, everything looks too referenced. Sometimes, the eyes on the characters appear blank and lifeless. As for color scheme, it’s bland and boring as hell. Character designs are lacking creativty and originality. The CG for the black ghosts looks alright to me, though. I also kind of like the face expressions on the characters in general. Even with one or two good points, however, the visuals are still subpar.
Story and Themes: 8/10 Excellent
I think Ajin manages to present a gripping and interesting story. The pacing is nice and fast. It’s usually high-action. The unfolding of the plot fits well and feels natural. It’s well-written and structured. I can’t quite put my finger on what makes the story so thrilling. One of the main strengths of Ajin is its proficiency in creating horror scenes and scenarios. There is also an abundance of violence, which can be important to stories of this genre.
This anime has a solid story concept and some good, original elements. It’s a reimagining of the myth of immortals. The rules for how these immortals work are explored commendably. For example, with regeneration of an ajin’s head, at what point does that individual ajin cease to be itself? When does it become another being? Are memories carried over perfectly through continuous deaths? The inclusion of the black ghosts and how they function is also fascinating. This is true for Kei’s ghost in particular, since it seems to have its own personality. But Ajin isn’t just about the “science” of the demi-humans. It is also psychological. The series asks what modern society would do with ajins. And with that in mind, what would life be like for those ajins?
The most prominent weakness of Ajin’s story category is the deficiency of meaningful or detailed themes. However, I think this is excusable for an anime in the horror genre. More of the focus is on action, violence, and disturbing elements compared to psychological and philosophical themes. That being said, there are three or four decent themes in Ajin. The one I wish to discuss briefly is the dehumanization of others, and in this case, the dehumanization of ajins.
People, by and large, treat each other horribly. There are atrocities like murder, torture, terrorism, and war that kills civilians. These things are not uncommon. One of the root causes is the way people so easily adopt an “us-and-them” mentality. Once we can stop thinking that others are just like us, we stop seeing them as people. Even in peaceful, advanced countries, people often treat one another thoughtlessly, with no true compassion.
As if human callousness was not bad enough with just humans, imagine that ajins existed. They have superhuman abilities, which makes them strange. Their powers can be dangerous, meaning they are feared. Well, humans love to direct their hate onto people who are strange and/or inspire fear. Ajins are treated horribly. Next to nobody recognizes they have human minds and feelings. Even Kei’s little sister says, “It’s disgusting that there was one in my family, pretending to be human.” Kei is also horribly tortured for the sake of experimentation. And he is not the only one to suffer. All ajins are targeted.
What happens when the dehumanized people reach their limit? They repeat the tragedy and contribute to the cycle of violence. There are serious repercussions to forgetting the humanity of others, as evidenced by the group of radical ajins that commit terrorism. Kei is an important and unusual character because he tries to stop the mass violence of this group. He even forgave the regular humans for experimenting on him. But most of the characters in Ajin are hostile or violent to each other. As you can see, dehumanization is an important theme in this anime.
Audio: 9/10 Magnificent
In direct contrast to visuals, the audio in Ajin is stunning. The opening song is “Yoru wa Nemureru kai” by Flumpool. It’s easy to remember and I love the style of song. The ending song is “How Close You Are” by Mamoru Miyano. It’s a gentle ballad with some of the lyrics in English. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it’s great. The amazing OST was composed by Yugo Kanno, whose other works include Psycho Pass and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. The main theme is so thrilling, and the other tracks are terrific too. The scores include dark, eerie music for creepy moments, fast and dramatic music for action scenes, and good scary music for horror scenes.
Ajin features excellent voice-acting with well-known and skilled “veteran” seiyuu. The cast includes Mamoru Miyano (Kei), Houchu Otsuka (Satou), Takahiro Sakurai (Tosaki), and Jun Fukuyama (Kou). These are talented voice actors who have been acting for a long time in a great variety of anime series. The performances are top-notch.
Characters: 7/10 Good
Ajin does alright but not great with its characters. Protagonist Kei Nagai is an unusual and interesting main character. He’s so logical and detached that it sometimes rubs me the wrong way. For one example, he concludes there is no point in killing the humans who tortured him; that would be emotional and serve no real purpose. If I were Kei, I would have killed everyone in the facility.
The main antagonist, Satou, is also a pretty good character. He’s highly intelligent and knows exactly how to manipulate others. I consider him a “classic” villain since he loves destruction and chaos for its own sake. Besides Kei and Satou, the other characters are pretty predictable and/or boring. Some are also quite aggravating, such as Tosaki and Eriko. Still, the character category gets a 7/10 thanks to the development and psychology of Kei and Satou.
Personal Enjoyment: 8/10 Excellent
I had a great experience watching Ajin. The gripping story and horror elements kept me on the edge of my seat and wanting more. Kei was an interesting main character so I enjoyed that, too. But most of all, what I enjoyed was the audio. I frequently listen to the main Ajin theme and a few other OST pieces. Same with the opening song. I love it!
Overall score: 7.2/10.0 Good
The overall score is calculated by taking the average of the five categories discussed above. Anything in the 7s range is “Good/Entertaining” but not “Great/Excellent,” which would be the 8s range. Ajin is a pretty good anime by my way of judging. (Even though the visuals are terrible.) That’s it for today, except the for MBTI list below. Thanks for reading and have an excellent day!
Ajin Characters MBTI Types
Eriko Nagai: ISFP “The Independent”
Ikuya Ogura: ENTP “The Debater”
Izumi Shimamura: ISFJ “The Provider”
Kaito: ENFJ “The Giver”
Kei Nagai: INTJ “The Strategist”
Kou Nakano: ESFP “The Entertainer”
Kouji Tanaka: ISTP “The Mechanic”
Satou: ENTP “The Debater”
Yuu Tosaki: ISTJ “The Duty-Fulfiller”