Saturday, June 18, 2016

Ajin, vol. 4 Review

Edit: I originally wrote this entry up without having read volumes 1-3 first. Two years later, I've finally gotten around to starting from the beginning, and now I have to correct my mistakes

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Ajin, vol. 4, by Gamon Sakurai. Grade: B. (Good Afternoon, 2013-14)

(New cast list. Kou is the kid at the top extreme left, and the guy that warns him to not trust Satoh is at the top extreme right. The one with the cane is the computer whiz, while beard and spiky hair survive the shootings to become Satoh's main henchmen. Glasses and bowl cut get killed or otherwise disposed of by Tanaka.)

A group of newbies are gathered at a construction site to meet a mysterious older guy named Satoh. One of the guys (he identifies himself as simply "a firefighter") advises one of the kids in the group to duck out, but the kid, Kou Nakano, wants to stick around. Inside, Satoh tells the group that his plan is to create a homeland for the Ajin, while wiping out the humans in a major bloodbath. Nakano's partner wants out, and Nakano follows suit. Satoh seems to be willing to let them go, but Kou sees someone hiding in an air vent with a dart gun. He kicks his partner in the back of the leg, causing the dart to miss its target. Tanaka crawls out with a regular gun and starts blasting away, hitting several of the group, including Satoh. Kou and the firefighter run to the end of the hallway, and find themselves trapped several stories up with no fire escape. Satoh heals from the gunshot and hands two of the three remaining members spear guns, ordering them to capture the runaways. The third member is a guy with a bad leg, who becomes the group's computer whiz. Kou is pushed out the door, while the firefighter gets speared, roped and stuffed in a drum. Being an Ajin, he doesn't die.

(Kou and the other guy try to outrun Satoh's new assistants.)

Kou recovers from the fall and returns to his apartment, where his landlady sees the blood on his shirt and insists on calling an ambulance. In the apartment are agents being directed via radio by Tosaki. Tosaki's men come close to capturing Kou, but the ambulance shows up and takes him to a hospital that he can easily escape from. Kou hops a train. He watches as a kind of black blood floats down from the sky and helps his body heal.

(Kou tries to escape Tosaki's men.)

Outside the window, he sees a similar rain in the mountains in the distance. He tracks this second rain into the woods and encounters Kei. Unfortunately, Kei is with a black faceless one, referred to as a "black ghost," and the ghost attacks Kou immediately. Kou heals, and Kei decides that he doesn't need this interference. He'd stumbled onto an old couple that is senile enough to believe that he is a grandson that's come back from Tokyo. They don't watch TV news so they don't recognize him as a wanted man. It's a sweet gig that Kei doesn't want compromised. Kei attacks Kou and they battle until Kei finally succeeds in drowning Kou in a river. One of the things Kei has learned is that while an Ajin can't permanently die, it does take differing amounts of time to regenerate from various forms of "death." When Kou awakens, he finds himself trapped inside the back of a crashed truck. Kei locks the truck's doors and returns to the cabin for dinner. For some reason, black ghosts can't penetrate metal, so Kou isn't going to escape on his own.

(Kou's losing battle against the more experienced Kei.)

Back at Grant Pharma, Tosaki is under attack by other company members that want him ousted for his failures. It doesn't help that the news media is hounding the company and demanding answers regarding Kei's escape. Another guy enters the room, identified as Sokabe. Sokabe is Tosaki's junior, but in a position to replace Tosaki if necessary. Sokabe gives Tosaki an ultimatum to get information on Kei within 48 hours, so he goes to the basement of the building and confronts Ogura. He cuts off two of the researchers fingers, but the guy won't talk unless he's given a pack of Mild Seven FKs. While smoking a cigarette, Ogura says that what they'd found so far is that ghosts can be used as weapons, with their fangs and talons, but there's a limit to how often they can be summoned per day, and after about 5 minutes they dissipate again. But, the reason Satoh didn't use his ghost that much was that it was raining, which interferes with the link between the Ajin and his ghost. Additionally, ghosts don't always do what the Ajin orders - you can't treat them like remote-controlled toys. Tosaki returns to the room to give his report, but the others still want him fired. Satoh has streamed another video online from saying that the new world order will begin at 3 PM. Sokabe stands up for Tosaki in the room, but a few minutes later he visits the Diet Cabinet member, and says that Tosaki knows too much about their operations and can't be trusted anymore. The boss orders Tosaki silenced, while Izumi's black ghost eavesdrops nearby.

(Sokabe, top, with Izumi's black ghost. Tosaki and Izumi, bottom.)

The police and army cordon off the neighborhood around Grant Pharma to guard against Satoh's attack. Inside the corporate HQ, the company president complains about how much money they're losing because all the workers have gone home early. At an airport, probably Haneda, Satoh is going through security. A little girl notices a shopping bag moving across the ceiling, but her mother tells her to be quiet and to go through the security gate.

(Satoh and his ghost on their way through the airport to complete Satoh's first step in wiping out the humans.)

The shopping bag is carried by Satoh's invisible black ghost, who gives him the bag in the lounge area. Satoh boards the plane and it takes off. In the air, he goes into a lavatory and pulls out a cordless circular saw and nail gun. He cuts through the wall, gets to the cockpit, kills both the pilot and copilot with the nail gun, and nails the door back shut. Then, right at 3 PM, he crashes the plane into Grant Pharma's HQ building, killing the company president. When he crawls out of the wreckage, and as his body repairs itself, he comments on having had one major thrill ride.

Comments: The character designs are kind of rough, and the faces often change from panel to panel. The background art is good, though, as is the action sequences. Post 9-11, it's really not a great idea to have terrorists crashing planes into buildings, so I did cringe at that part. The story still feels a bit derivative, and I keep remembering similar scenes in Alive - The Final Evolution. But, still, it's recommended if you liked Alive.

Notes: At one point, Tanaka notices a ghost standing and talking to itself and asks what's going on. Satoh replies that Kei's ghost seemed to be autonomous and have a will of its own. He finds this fascinating, and has been experimenting with his own ghost to see what it can really do. And, Satoh uses Microsoft flight simulator to learn enough about flying jumbo jets to be dangerous.

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