This is probably a bumper year for popular shonen manga titles to hit the big screen in live action adaptations. The latest is Ajin, which is headlined by Takeru Satoh (as protagonist Kei Nagai) who is no stranger to manga-adapted movies. Joining him in this
pretty boy star-studded action caper are Tetsuji Tamayama (as Yu Tosaki), as well as Go Ayano and Yu Shirota, playing the antagonist roles of Sato and Koji respectively.
Here’s the plot: Medical student Kei is discovered to be an Ajin, a demi-human who regenerates every time he dies, and is subjected to cruel experiments conducted by the Japanese government in a department headed by Yu. Then in comes Sato and Koji – escaped Ajins – to rescue Kei. For Sato, it’s either kill or be killed, and as Kei refuses to kill his captors, he becomes a victim on the run from both sides. When Sato reveals his plans for genocide, Kei comes out of hiding to work with Yu to capture Sato.
Kei is just your typical Japanese hero who doesn’t talk a lot, is moody and angry but has the heart of gold. And he’s only helping Yu to trade for his own freedom.
It’s quite difficult to pin down which side is good or bad. Considered a danger to humans, the government captures and runs numerous experiments on Ajins for profit – simply because Ajins don’t die.
Sato may be painted as an evil terrorist out for revenge, but to viewers, it seems he has a very valid reason for that – he was imprisoned and tortured for 20 years. Still, he’s an intelligent baddie with a higher kill rate than Rambo, and rather annoyingly, he tends to ramble on and on during fights.
In terms of plots, Ajin provides suspense in a sense that you won’t know the outcome of a battle scene until the very end – things can change drastically in a second. Throw in the fact that Ajins have a unique ability to call upon their Black Ghosts (humanoid-shaped manifestations usually used for combat purposes), and it’s plot twist galore. The SFX for the Black Ghosts is decent, although at times it was hard to tell them apart in some fight scenes.
Choreographed by the team responsible for Rurouni Kenshin, the fight scenes often include over-the-top scenarios like the one where Sato single-handedly kills an entire contingent of highly-trained elite soldiers. For some reason, whenever it comes to portraying civil servants, Japan’s manga industry has a habit of painting them as hapless.
It’s interesting to note that when fighting Ajins – who cannot die – the only way to bring them down is to not kill them (or let them kill themselves to reset). It’s like playing a video game where the fighters have an infinite supply of life potions.
If anything, this movie seems like a showcase for the male cast. Koji seems to be forever smizing at us, and we actually get to see fan-service shots of Kei and Sato in their almost-naked (and beefed up) glory.
All in all, it provides enough suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat (even if some sequences are super over-the-top), and it definitely has an infinite supply of eye candy to keep you glued to the screen.