Saturday, June 11, 2016

Ajin, vol. 2 review

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Ajin, vol. 2 (Good Afternoon, 2012-13), by Gamon Sakurai. Grade: B.
(Note, the credit for Tsunina Miura as the writer isn't given on the cover.)
Starting to get actual story now. Kei meets with Satoh and Tanaka at a now-empty (because Satoh killed the priest living there) shrine. Satoh says that he's released Eriko and she's going back to the hospital, and the two talk a bit before Satoh and Tanaka stage a fake police raid. Tanaka uses his ghost to shoot Kei in the chest with a tranq dart, and Satoh turns the boy over to the authorities, where Tosaki's people torture and kill him over the course of 10 days to determine the limits of this new Ajin. Izumi watches part of the "research" and she can see Kei's ghost, which is just trying to scratch its way through the protective glass. Tosaki asks why the boy isn't using the ghost to free himself, and Izumi speculates that he doesn't believe in it enough yet - he's got no direct control over it. Meanwhile, Tanaka establishes some kind of psychic connection through the ghosts to Kei, and tries convincing the boy that he should slaughter everyone and escape. Through the pain and confusion, Kei comes close to murdering one of the doctors, but the memory of Kai convinces him to stop. Kai is the one person he will never betray.

(Satoh demonstrates that he is an Ajin, too.)

The news reporters announce the approaching arrival of the eminent Ajin researcher, Ikuya Ogura, to the offices of Tosaki's employers. Satoh figures that he's got no choice but to break Kei back out of the labs, so he collects 10 livers, kidneys and hearts and uses them as payment to the yakuza in exchange for a large arsenal of weapons. Satoh is going to spring Kei, while Tanaka is to capture or kill Ogura. They initiate their offensive, and Satoh easily gets past the security guards. Some of them shoot him with tranq darts, but he just cuts his arm off, or shoots himself in the head, to regenerate before the sleeping drugs can take effect. He gets to a quasi-morgue where Kei is identified as being on slab #3 (Tanaka had been on slab #2). He's really hoping that all the pain and mistreatment will turn Kei into another ruthless killing machine like Tanaka, but when the slab is pulled out, Kei just cries and apologizes for the inconvenience he put Satoh through. Satoh figures that his plan has failed.

(Tanaka shoots Kei with a tranq dart as part of the fake police raid.)

Tanaka wades through bodies to get to Ogura's car, but it's empty. Inside the building, a scruffy, rude middle-aged guy smoking a cigarette insults the military chief guarding the building, and makes the first mention of IBMs (in volume 6, IBM is identified as "Invisible Black Matter"), which is the official research name for the black ghosts. Seems that none of the attackers have used their IBMs yet. The main reason is that when Satoh started his attack, he blew off a bomb, which caused the sprinkler system to turn on. Both he and Tanaka find it difficult to control their ghosts with the water raining down on them like that.

(Tanaka almost gets Kei to kill the doctor with his ghost, but the boy quits in the middle of the swing. The doctor just thinks there'd been a strong breeze in the room.)

As a side note, when the TV reports start coming out that Kei has been captured and is being "tested on", most of his former classmates take great glee in getting on TV and talking about "that weirdo." They have no respect for him as a friend at all, with the exception of one taller student named Keisuke Nakajima. Keisuke remembers seeing Kei studying in school one night after classes had ended, and was shocked at how extensive the other boy's notes were. Kei had told him that his sister was in the hospital with an incurable disease, and he wanted to be the one to find the cure. Keisuke starts spending time online trying to get more information on Ajin in the hopes of maybe being able to rescue Kei, but this results in his girlfriend breaking up with him (she only wants to focus on her own studies to get into university), and in his being flagged by Tosaki's internet spy software. When Keisuki is on the street at one point, someone gives him a flier reporting a kidnapped girl that the family is trying to locate. Keisuke feels nothing while looking at the girl's picture, but he himself wants to help Ajin that he doesn't even know. He starts thinking that he's the one in the wrong here.

(The researchers test how much pain Kei can withstand.)

Finally, Tosaki and his employers are afraid of a recurrence of the "Shinya Nakamura Incident." The book jumps to "File 00", in which Shinya is a young man who was involved in a really bad motorcycle accident. He gets better, but unlike with other Ajin, the arm that had been dismembered doesn't disappear. There are no witnesses, so he takes his time in getting back home, which takes a few days. He's pretty sure he can return to his original normal life, but he doesn't know what to do about the extra arm he's still carrying around. He's visited by a friend who had been worried about him, and the fear of being exposed causes him to send the friend away. He does some research on Ajin, and is convinced that if he's exposed, he's going to be tortured to death multiple times. Finally, he and his friend go off to a remote stretch of road, where he tries to tell his secret to his friend under a freeway overpass, but they're interrupted by some gang members that have been looking for Shinya. It seems that while he'd noticed the arm at the accident scene, he'd been too shaken up to check the helmet, which still holds his dead head. The gang leader is holding the helmet and uses it to identify Shinya. He wants the reward, and he orders his men to shoot the boy, and then bound the body before he can regenerate. But, Shinya's friend lunges in front of him and takes a few slugs to the chest. As the friend dies, he creates a couple small black ghost wisps that tell Shinya to escape. Shinya goes into a rage and creates upwards of 20 ghosts that proceed to slaughter the entire gang. The tiny wisps repeat "run away." Later, Shinya makes his way to a taxi, and asks the driver to take him to the nearest train station. And to drive carefully - they only have one life to live and there's no reason to risk losing it.

(First appearance of Shinya.)

(First appearance of Ogura.)

Summary: Satoh's initial plan seems to be to gather Japan's Ajin, and to make sure they're as murderous as can be. Satoh himself is a reckless fighter who knows exactly how to use his Ajin powers in a battle, but is still a bit weak regarding the use of his ghost. Tanaka is willing to work with Satoh as a follower, but he's actually a bit dense as a fighter. Kei wants to do the right thing, and while that exposes him to pain and torture, it does mean he's less likely to join up with Satoh. Kai disappears from this volume, and is replaced by Shinya. We learn now that Kei's sister, Eriko, is permanently hospitalized, and this may explain his mother's cold treatment of him when it looked like he was risking his chances of becoming a doctor by hanging around with Kai when they were younger. Still no real information on black ghosts, or "IBMs", but Ogura states that they are some form of physical matter. No one knows what caused the first Ajin ("zombie human") to show up, though, or what the conditions are for becoming one. In flashbacks, Kei is shown being able to see his black ghost as a child, but he didn't know what it is, and it disappeared again right away. So, ghosts can show themselves to people long before those individuals die in an accident and are demonstrated to be Ajin. That is, dying and being resurrected isn't a requirement for receiving your ghost, and people that do die can also create ghosts for a short period of time, although those dissipate fairly soon.

Anyway, the art is good, the character designs are ok, and the action scenes are convincing. The plot is thin - mostly this is just a combat manga - but things are still just getting started. Recommended if you liked "Alive."

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