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Manga

Ajin: Demi-human Manga Volume 1: Recap and Review

Ajin: Demi-human is a manga series created and illustrated by Gamon Sakurai. The Ajin is the immortal species that pass as humans. They don’t realize that they’re Ajin until they die. There isn’t a lot of information on the Ajin. A species discovered in the 90s only 45 Ajin has been discovered. There is still research to be done. The mechanism of their immortality is still unknown. The Ajin was first discovered on the battlefield. They were originally mistaken for “zombies.” However, after research, it was concluded that the Ajin is similar to humans, except for their immortality. Societies’ panic subsided, but the Ajin continued to be subjected to research. Furthermore, a black market formed. Ajin were captured and sold. This was known as “Ajin-hunting.” 

The main protagonist, Kei Nagai, is a teenage boy studying for medical school. Ajin: Demi-human uses the classroom to tells us more about the Ajin. The teacher notes the immortality but includes the fact that Ajin can use a “special voice ability.” The first Ajin was discovered by Americans in Africa. 2 Ajin is known to exist in Japan. This is all the public knows. Kei is uninterested. Later he recalls burying his dog and seeing an Ajin. Distract, Kei walks into traffic and is hit by a truck. Outed as an Ajin he flees. Alone in the woods, he calls his friend Kaito. However, he’s discovered by a cop. Rescued by Kaito the government is anxious to capture him before “another country gets him.” 

Ajin: Demi-human Volume 1. Kei gets up after being hit by a truck.
Kei after getting hit by the truck

Yu Tosaki and Izumi Shimomura arrive at outside Kai’s home. The police have gathered to begin a manhunt. Kei and Kai are attacked by criminals. Kei lets out his “Ajin voice” allowing him and Kai to escape. Tosaki compares officials to Ajin, by suggesting that officials “are not humans.” Kai and Kei are being chased by the two men. Kei sees a “black ghost.” They pass some train tracks. When the pursuers follow they’re stopped by black ghosts that paralyze the driver. They both are killed by the train. Throughout volume 1 the series is framed by what happens to a captured Ajin. Named Tanaka, he’s tortured by the researchers. First, he’s crushed, then he’s stabbed multiple times. 

Ajin: Demi-human is giving us a preview of what is instore for Kei if he’s captured. A mysterious figure is also introduced. A seemingly old man in a scally cap, this man is seen watching the video of Tanaka. Tosani spots him in the crowd. However, instead of chasing him he contacts special forces. Meanwhile, Kei and Kai are chased by a motorcyclist. He kicks their bike, sending them crashing. Kai ends up facedown in the river and Kei appears to have a broken bone. Kei asks for an ambulance for Kai. However, the motorcyclists say that “he got what he deserved for aiding an Ajin.” Surprisingly, Kai is still alive. He bashes the motorcyclist’s head with a rock. Kei is paralyzed. He uses the knife to kill himself and is healed. We finally meet the old man, Sato, and he has Tanaka with him. They hope to meet with Kei and show him the “right direction.” 

Izumi regenerating, revealing that she is also Ajin

Chapter 4 begins with the meeting between Tanaka and Sato. After killing all the researchers, Sato offers to “teach” Tanaka about being an Ajin. Elsewhere, Kei and Kai have escaped to an abandoned building. They plan on staying with Kaito’s grandparents in a small community inside Kyushu. At the hospital, Izumi questions Eriko (Kei’s sister). She claims to be disgusted at the thought of a “part of her family is Ajin.” Eriko recalls the dog burial and Kei acting “weird.” She realizes that Kai is the likely accomplice. However, before she can tell Izumi, a black ghost stabs Izumi through the chest. The ghost then attacks the police, decapitating one and piercing the other. Eriko faints. Izumi recovers. 

In another flashback, Sato explains immortality. Using a video game analogy he asks “what happens if you had 100 lives in a video game, and used two at the same time; what would happen to the second life.” Back in the present, Tanka’s Black Ghost says that ” when Ajin comes back to life their bodies are essentially put back together fusing into the right place, but if a body part is too far away it will simply create a new one.” Izumi summons her black ghost, “Blackie.” The two ghost battles. Izumi’s Blackie wins. However, Tanaka was just the decoy. Sato kidnaps Eriko. 

Tosaki is in a meeting with a group of people. They discuss Tanaka’s breakout and the powers of Ajin. Tosaki receives a text from Eriko. Kei has decided that Kai’s plan won’t work. He no longer trusts humans. He abandoned Kai and hoped to discover other Ajin. Sato finally makes contact with Kei. Finding the “community” he wanted he rushes to meet them. Kei determines that there are two kinds of Ajin community, meek and strong. While accepting that some humans need to be killed, Kei refuses to accept harming the innocent. 

I find Ajin: Demi-human to be a very engaging and entertaining manga. So far the lore surrounding the Ajin is interesting. While the dynamic between Sato, Tanaka, Kei is fairly predictable. Kei is more nuanced regarding humans. Sato and Tanaka are likely going to want to kill any and every human. Kei is probably going to end up with Izumi and Tosaki. That’s not a bad thing. With the government’s treatment of Ajin, Sato is likely to be more sympathetic. I expect the two amoral or “evil” forces will come into conflict often. However, Kei and the others will present a third option. As always with manga series, the art has to be great. Sakurai Gamon’s art style is detailed. His use of shadow is amazing and I love the designs of the Ajin so far. Each character feels distinct and realistic. Ajin: Demi-human volume 1 is an impressive start to a series I highly recommend. 

Lists · Top 5

The Final 5 Top Manga Artists (so far)

5. Kensuke Nishida

The writer and artist of the manga series, I Am a Hero in Nagasaki, Kensuke Nishida is an up and coming mangaka. One of the three spinoff series of the I Am a Hero series by Kengo Hanazawa, I Am a Hero in Nagasaki follows a photographer Yamada. Suffering from a form of Anthropophobia, Yamada and his former classmate Nirei Aya try to live on Hashima Island, under threat by zombie and humans. Nishida is currently the artist on the Jagaaaaaan manga series.

4. Sakurai Gamon

Gamon is the illustrator and writer of the Ajin manga series. The original writer Tsuina Miura quit early in the manga’s creation and Gamon continued without him. Gamon an avid gamer loves to incorporate gaming references into his manga. Ajin is a seinen manga series that focuses on those resistant to death, Demi-Humans. Kai Nagai is killed during a traffic accident, he survives to reveal that he’s a demi-human. Kei must navigate a world that hates what he is.

3. Atsushi Okubo

Okubo is the author and artist of Soul Eater and Fire Force. He was an assistant for Rando Ayamine on the GetBackers series. He also created work for the Lord of Vermilion video game and character designs for Bravely Default. He won a contest at Square Enix’s magazine Gangan with his first series B.Ichi. He began Soul Eater in 2004, ending in 2013. In 2015 he began his current series, Fire Force.

2. Shinichi Sakamoto

One look at Sakamoto’s artwork you instantly know why he’s one of the best mangakas. The realism in his artwork is unreal. One of the manga series that illustrates his best work is Innocent and Innocent Rouge. The story is a dark seinen series focusing on a family of executioners in France during the French Revolution.

1. Akira Toriyama

Akira Toriyama is the one of, if not the greatest mangaka of all time. The creator of Dr. Slump, Dragon Ball, and Dragon Ball Z manga series that collectively have sold over 300 million copies, Akira Toriyama is credited with popularizing Shonen. He’s also the inspiration for many of the manga artists I featured on these lists. Dragon Ball Super is his current series. His art style can be seen as simple and childlike. However, I think that’s what makes his art so impactful. Hirohiko Araki once said that Toriyama’s art style is best typified as “Realism and signification oppose each other like water and oil, but is possible to use both at the same time.”

Well, that’s all the mangaka artists that I considered among the best. I know that can’t possibly be ALL of them. Any suggestions of who can make a future top 5 mangaka list? Let me know.

5 More Top Mangaka Artists