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Howdy girls and boys!  I do have a review post for you today, but it's not of any of the books I mentioned last week.  I started reading a manga earlier this week at work and I couldn't put it down, so here's my review of Ajin: Demi-Human.  I'll alert you for spoilers.

Right before finals Crunchyroll updated our subscription so we could read manga as well as watch anime through their site/app.  I was good and waited until this week :)  Their mobile app doesn't have the library available that their site does, but that's okay because it supports this series.
Premise is that a few years back, demi-humans were discovered.  They can't be killed; when they die, they come back to life in a matter of seconds, whole.  Demi-humans are rare and usually hunted down by the media and their friends and family because of a rumor that there's a large reward from the government associated with turning in a demi-human for "research purposes".  In actuality, the demi-humans are tortured and killed in as many awful ways as possible.  Demi-human's can't die, but they still go through all the pain associated with the death.  At one point, a demi-human in custody is crushed to juice on an industrial press.  The government also pimps out demi-humans as living crash test dummies and pharmaceutical test subjects to the company that's the highest bidder.  Despite the possible awesomeness of immortality, a demi-human is not something you really want to be.
They can also make "black ghosts" which kind of look like dark grey mummies that can only be seen by other demi-humans, unless they're about to kill regular humans.  Only a few researchers know about the black ghosts (they call them IBMs), and all the security officers that were killed by the ghosts.  They can follow orders, use weapons, and (best of all) fight each other.
The Manga Niche
We get the backstory of demi-humans in the most boring classroom info-dump I've ever read.  This method isn't always lazy storytelling, but in this series it is.  Background characters are chatting about demi-humans quite often, so we could have gotten this information that way. Or through context clues.  Or in the blurb, since, you know, it's all there too.
My other complaint about this story is that there are only two recurring female characters compared to almost twenty recurring male characters.  One girl is the MC's younger sister who gets captured, serves as bait, and gives us some awkward backstory on her older brother.  The other is a demi-human who's working undercover for a government official.  He's not outing her in exchange for her serving as his bodyguard against other demi humans.  She actually gets two issues dedicated to her backstory, so I'm hoping she'll become more of a major player, but thus far (29 issues) has really only been on the sidelines.
At one point, demi-humans have a clandestine meeting.  Two men organize it and five men show up.  Not a single female, and there has been nothing in the story thus far to suggest that the demi-human-ness has any genetic component.  Granted, the 2/20 percentages are more the norm for seinen manga,  which this is, but it'd be nicer to see the numbers closer to 50/50.  I know I'm not the target audience, but if you think I'm getting miffed over nothing, imagine this story with the gender percentages flipped.  Pretty ridiculous, yeah?  Same deal.
The main character Kei Nagai is a normal student who gets hit by a truck one day after class and doesn't die.  Surprise!  He's a demi-human.  (spoilers) He becomes the center of a manhunt, gets captured, escapes with lots of help from other demi-humans, turns against them, then secretly joins the government to fight against the demi-human terrorists.  The kid comes across as psychopathic in the way he uses people.  If his sister's story is to be believed, he was that way before he found out he was a demi-human: he only said he wanted to be a doctor and help people because he liked having his ego stroked.  Negai does have some breif moments of compassion, but they are so convoluted by his other actions that it's really unclear what exactly is going on with this guy.  I think it will be several more issues before we know for sure.  Long story short, not my favorite.  On to more awesome characters.
This dude.  Sato is a badass and (spoilers) leader of the demi-human terrorists.  He's exemplifying in this photo all the awesome thought that the author, Tsuina Miura (also credited for Tenkuu Shinpan), put into this series.  Tranquilizer darts are the only effective way to incapacitate a demi-human, since they can't be killed.  Get hit in the arm with a tranquilizer dart?  Cut off the arm.  Gonna get weak from blood loss?  Shoot yourself and regenerate in no time.  This is a method used repeatedly by demi-humans when they get wounded because it's faster and easier to die and come back to life in one piece than it is to try to heal or seek medical attention.  Demi-humans die and regenerate so often that, even though they're still feeling all the pain of death, it becomes so normal that the only thing they get upset about is getting blood on their clothes.
Sato takes on an entire SWAT team.  They aren't using tranquilizer darts because of unnecessary plot reasons, but I'm willing to let that slide because of what follows.  (spoilers) The SWAT guys just keep pumping bullets into Sato to keep him from ever fully coming back to life and shooting back.  This only works for a few minutes before Sato uses his black ghost to take the hits for him and start taking out the boys in blue.  Sato does a lot of awful stuff.  But you can't help but like him for the methodical determination and skill with which he carries out his plans, always with a smile on his face.
Ikuya Osura is a Japanese researcher and expert on demi-humnas that moved to America to do his work because people in Japan thought he was crazy and quit listening to him.  He's a butthole.  But one you'll like.  He's from the same school as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. House in that he's awful to work with and has a major ego, but he's always right.  And he is very, very devoted to his cigarettes.  At one point, the research facility he's in is under attack by the demi-human terrorists, but his cigarettes are outside in the car, so he tries to go outside and get them.  Another time he's being interrogated and losing fingers, but he doesn't care.  He's not answering any questions until he gets to smoke a smig.

I like where this series is going and the questions it asks about what happens when the social contract is rendered impotent by immortality.  If you like Parasyte or Tokyo Ghoul, I bet you'll like this, so check it out.


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