Ajin: Demi-Human (Season Two)
As rogue Ajin Mr. Sato's plans move from Phase One (spectacular mayhem) to Phase Two (targeted assassination), a contentious resistance group forms comprising Yuu Tosaki (the disgraced former head of the Ajin Control Commission), and Tosaki's retainers, including "tame Ajin" right-hand woman Izumi Shimomura; Ikuya Ogura, the Ajin researcher who Tosaki kidnapped (and whose death he faked); and finally, our young main Ajin protagonist Kei Nagai, along with equally Ajin (but Black Ghost-less) Ko Nakano, who ended up caught in the web of Kei's troubles. Do they stand any chance of taking down genius megalomaniac Mr. Sato and his experienced, well-armed band of Ajin terrorists/"revolutionaries"? And exactly what is Sato REALLY after, anyway?
Well, I was sure doing some "shouting at the screen" on THIS one:
-Look, we've demonstrated that there are a couple of ways to deal with Ajins (who REFUSE to stay dead.) One is to tranquilize them and KEEP THEM SEDATED, the usual approach that the military here seems to be shooting for (so to speak), but keeps failing because they KEEP LETTING THESE GUYS WAKE UP!!! Another approach, that would probably be more reliable, and certainly would require less long-term effort, is the one you'll see Kei try here; it only fails because the place he tried it was not quite suitable. (On the other hand, this would be an infinitely more cruel way to handle these guys, though perhaps one that Sato, at least, deserved.)
-WHY does one character HAVE to physically travel to meet another one while under threat of imminent assassination by Sato? A phone call wouldn't be enough????
-If you need to "disappear" someone along with a team of bodyguards, why not let the subject and his/her bodyguards THEMSELVES decide where they're going, and NOT TELL ANYONE IN HQ? This way, you avoid problems with possible moles (AND hackers) finding out where the subject is. The "Disappeared" can call in periodically- while they're in the process of moving to another location (ALSO not to be disclosed)- to check on the status of things.
-Trivial thing here, but a USB doesn't KNOW what files it's supposed to copy unless you TELL it.
...And so on. It's really no wonder that it's so hard for our "heroes" (loosely defined) to prevent Sato's murders from happening- the fact that our heroes' little band is sort of illegal itself doesn't help.
But the show retains one strength, and finally builds another, compared to the first season. Its greatest strength all along remains its relentless, near-perfect thriller pacing- in fact, there seem to be even fewer slow spots this season than last time. It's an emotional roller coaster from start to finish, adrenaline rushes quickly alternating with black despair. Its chief NEW strength is that it finally finds a more or less self-consistent approach to its lead, Kei. Last time the show floundered over what kind of a person Kei was: we were told Kei was emotionally cold, even though he went out of his way to get an Ajin researcher- i.e., a mortal enemy- out of an Ajin fight alive; and he quite abruptly turned from being an "outstanding person" to one who quickly abandoned his friend Kaito, and who would have KILLED Ko Nakano if he COULD have (and was still about as cruel to him as one CAN be to an immortal.) This time we see Kei as a brilliant strategist, some times nearly as ruthless as Sato, but nevertheless one who CAN change to a more compassionate stance- IF that compassion can also be pragmatically justified somehow. Perhaps these changes have some of their roots in the positive emotional responses he's beginning to receive from some members of Tosaki's team, which may be encouraging actual attachment- and thus also a passion for revenge, when some of those perish at Sato's hands. He's also struggling to control his IBM ("Black Ghost") as well- it always WAS basically a Monster From His Id anyway, and it now grows more recalcitrant (the simple trick he used before loses its effectiveness), so he has to find new ways to keep it in line.
Shimomura has a much bigger role this time, though her compassion to protect one person may (arguably) cost another. Tosaki has never treated her well, but we meet another human-male-boss/Ajin-female-subordinate pair in which the treatment of the female by the male is SO much worse that it's apparently supposed to make Tosaki's treatment of Shimomura almost feminist by comparison. (That's not her REAL name by the way- we'll see some of her backstory, in a short (but incredibly tragic) flashback.) She's definitely a "survivor". Ko Nakano contributes- well, not much. He's clumsy (physically AND verbally), and can't produce a Black Ghost despite being an Ajin. He DOES have idealism and exuberance as positive character traits. He also has a (probably hopeless) crush on Shimomura.
There IS an ending this time- you could tell it was coming because characters from Season One that were effectively banished from Kei's life, like Kaito and Kei's sister Eriko, suddenly returned to the story- but it's a mixed bag. We also find out what Sato's motivations are- he gives us three, at one time or another, though the most important one, the "real" one, is what we will say is the most idiosyncratic one of all. I wasn't exactly completely thrilled with the ending, but maybe, just maybe, all that happened in the show was not completely in vain, after all.
Oh, and I STILL don't like the jerky, pallid computer animation here, but it SEEMED a bit smoother this time- or may I just found the story this time so interesting that I didn't NOTICE it so much. There's actually one brief scene, with Kei in a forest, where it yielded what I thought a terrific chiaroscuro effect.
I almost went four stars this time. For all its flaws, it's a pretty thrilling ride, if you're OK with the violence- and even THAT involves less of the mass-murder that made Season One so unpleasant for me. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Still plenty of bruisingly intense violence and graphic murder, though as noted above less MASS murder this time. Some torture scenes again, though the main recipient is NOT an Ajin this time. No fanservice. (It's never been THAT kind of show, anyway.) Still NOT FOR CHILDREN. Netflix rating: TV-MA.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on Netflix
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Ajin: Demi-Human (Season Two) © 2016 Polygon Pictures
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