Saturday, June 25, 2016

Ajin, vol. 6 review

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Ajin, vol. 6 (Good Afternoon, 2014-15), by Gamon Sakurai. Grade: B+.
Satoh is slowly working his way up the assassination list, eliminating Takami, from Nakatomi Medical Sciences Manufacturing. People around Japan are talking about him now, but no one has any ideas for how to stop him. At what looks like a remote, abandoned school, Tosaki and his men put Kei and Kou through boot camp. Kei is unhappy at this mistreatment, but Kou is fine with it. Then they go to meet Ogura, who ignores Kou and asks Kei to bring out his ghost. Kei does this, and it immediately starts attacking Kou. Ogura and Kei talk for a few minutes, then the ghost goes for Ogura. Izumi enters the room and her ghost blocks Kei's, and both ghosts disappear. Ogura tells her to not interfere, because "IBM's" fade out after 5 minutes, anyway. Kei speaks up, saying that he's been able to manifest up to 5 ghosts for 30 minutes at a time. Ogura is shocked, and is now really interested in the boy.

("You what the what now?")

Tosaki lays out his plan. The idea is to use two remaining Ajin Research Association members, Keiichi Kai and Naomi Ri, as bait, while making the Forge skyscraper building the battle zone. Kei immediately starts sketching out attack and defense points and routes, stunning Tosaki. Initially, the training is bumpy. The guards don't trust Kei, Kou can't manifest a ghost on command, Kou becomes infatuated with Izumi, Kei learns how to uses weapons almost instantly while Kou just fumbles around with them, etc. Ogura provides his own form of teaching by explaining everything he knows about Ajin and ghosts from research in the U.S. IBM's (or, Invisible Black Matter, as he calls it) is a kind of particulate matter that comes from space somewhere. If a ghost is torn apart, the particles recognize each other and pull themselves back together right away. But, if two ghosts come into contact, the particles can't tell which ghost they came from and just dissipate. As for overcoming Kou's inability to manifest a ghost, the best way is for him to just keep killing himself over and over, until the ghost appears to make him stop. Kou is afraid that if he does die, he may not wake up again. Kei doesn't have this problem, and Kou envies him for it. Kou asks Kei for the easiest, most painless way to die, and the other boy suggests hanging by a rope from a tree limb, and wishes him good luck.

("You don't need to change. Just keep doing what you're doing.")

Kei is feeling like an outsider, and tries asking a question to one of the guards (Manabe), but the guy gets jittery and keeps his hand on the tranq gun, so Kei walks away. That night, as Kei pours over his notes next to a campfire in the middle of the woods, the lead guard, the bald one named Hirasawa, comes out to ask if the boy had a question. Kei says, "no, it was nothing I couldn't figure out on my own." Hirasawa looks at him, then asks, "You lonely?" Kei gets uppity, and claims that he doesn't need anyone, he likes being on his own with no one to get in his way. Hirasawa replies, "that's good," then adds that in the classroom, Kou needs to be a hero and gain all of the attention, while Kei is simply "the creepy one in the corner."

However, this isn't a school, and Kei is a fantastic learner and strategist. There's no reason for him to change that. Kei says that this is nothing he doesn't know, so Hirasawa prepares to leave. But, Kei starts talking about his father. He was a surgeon, and every year he'd get letters from patients he'd saved. Then, one time he got a patient who couldn't find an organ donor. To save the patient, his father located an organ on the black market, but this crime was exposed and he lost everything - family, job, all of it. Kei isn't going to let that happen to him because he's not stupid. Hirasawa walks off, saying, "Do what you have to. Me, I'm following the plan." The next day, though, Manabe looks over Kei's plans, and praises how solid they are. Kei feels a little better about himself.


Youko Tainaka is a high school girl who has it rough. Her father had been killed in an accident, and her mother married a good-for-nothing punk. Her step-father demands $200 to go out drinking. Youko refuses, but her mother gives him the money. Youko complains, and her mother tells her to butt out. Youko works part-time at a convenience store and is planning on moving out of the apartment as soon as she has $10,000 saved up. Additionally, one of her classmates, a presumed boyfriend, asks if she'd be willing to move in with him and his family and she happily says "yes." She works herself sick, putting all of her earnings into the bank. Unfortunately, when she comes home one night, she finds that her step-father had taken her bank book and cleared out her account to spend it on another woman. Stunned, she goes to her boyfriend's family's apartment and sees him in the arms of another girl. She goes back home and attempts to commit suicide by slitting her wrists, but her step-father finds her and attempts to assault her. She stabs him in the shoulder with the scissors, so he drowns her by holding her head under water.

When Youko recovers, her mother and step-father are in another room, arguing, with the guy saying that they can sell her for the money. She grabs her clothes and escapes out to the streets. She starts working as a hooker, saving up enough money to stay in a tiny room by herself. Her only companion is a faceless black ghost. But, over time, she gets sick and collapses in a street somewhere. She comes to in a hospital bed, with Tosaki waiting to interrogate her. He introduces himself as an Ajin finder, and asks if she wants to hear about her mother. Youko is dying, and wants to be left alone. However, it turns out that there was a phone call to the authorities that was recorded. While Youko had been unconscious in the bathroom, her scissors wound healed on its own, so her stepfather announced that he was going to hand her into the authorities for the reward money. When her mother tried to stop him, the guy punched her in the face, saying that he can do anything he wants with "his child." His wife saw red, remembering when her daughter had said that all she'd needed was to stay with her mother. The woman grabs a knife and buries it in the guy's back, replying that Youko is HER girl. But, the guy pulls the knife out and stabs her in the chest and they both die. Her mother's last words were "I'm sorry."

In the hospital, Youko says that this is nice, but a little too late. She dies, and Tosaki thinks that she wasn't an Ajin after all. Then she resets and is fully healed again (until an Ajin dies, they suffer through whatever is happening to their bodies. When they do die, they recover a few minutes later.) Tosaki gives her an offer - become a test subject like Tanaka, or become his personal bodyguard and do everything in her power to keep him alive. She takes the second option. Tosaki then tells her to pick a new name, because the old Youko Tainaka is gone now. She takes her real father's surname, and her mother's maiden name to become Izumi Shimomura. As they leave her mother's grave, Tosaki says that he's working on the "Nakamura Incident" and he has no idea where all those talon marks came from. She asks him if he believes in ghosts.

(Kai can't leave well enough alone, as Takeshi watches.)

We get another side story. Takeshi Kotobuki is a 17-year-old in prison. He'd broken out somehow, then came back a few days later, and has been in solitary confinement ever since. The warden and his advisers decide to let him return to the regular shared cells, but they can't figure out how he'd escaped. The shared cell includes some thugs led by a big guy in a bandana, plus Kai. Kai was arrested for aiding in Kei Nagai's escape, and has been in minimum confinement since then. Bandana threatens Takeshi to learn how to escape, himself. Takeshi refuses to answer, so Bandana starts bullying him, getting progressively more violent. Kai steps in to stop Bandana, so he and his two partners beat up Kei 3 on 1 (Takeshi telling Kai to butt out). That night, Bandana breaks Takeshi's arm and prepares to kill him, when Kai attacks again.

Takeshi flashes back to when he'd escaped. He'd gone to the Labor Ministry along with a number of other Ajin when Satoh sent out his rallying cry. But, he'd hadn't wanted to get involved, so he turned himself back in to the prison. (A few feet from him at the time was Kou.) Returning to the present, Takeshi uses his ghost to protect Kai, and to knock out the attackers. Bandana and friends are put in solitary, and Takeshi approaches Kai out in the yard, both of them in heavy bandages. He gives the other boy a cigarette, and asks how he feels about Kei having abandoned him. Kai answers that that doesn't bother him, but if his friend asked for his help, he'd do everything in his power to provide it. Takeshi shows his ghost, and promises to use it, once, to get Kai out of prison if it comes down to that. Kai says, "Understood." (Note that Takeshi's winged ghost is probably the same one shown in front of the Ministry building in volume 3.)

Summary: Lots of useful information on Ajin and ghosts (IBM) now, plus backstory on Izumi, and an update on Kai's status. Looks like Kei is starting to get more serious about fighting alongside Tosaki's men against Satoh, too. Too bad that Kou and Kei still don't like each other... Recommended.

Note: If you look at the back cover, you can see Izumi's ghost trying to make a cat's cradle. Part of Ogura's training was for Izumi to manifest two ghosts at the same time. This she can do, but they don't follow her orders when she ignores one to focus on the other. That is, she can make one ghost do a cat's cradle, but the other one just stands there, and vice versa. This is where Kei is special, because none of his ghosts listen to him.

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