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Review: AJIN: DEMI-HUMAN (2017)

Ajin: Demi-Human originated in 2012 as a manga series that is still running. From there it became a trilogy of anime films and then a TV show. In 2017 the live-action version, directed by Katsuyuki Motohiro (Psycho-Pass, Bayside Shakedown) hit the screen. Live-action takes on anime have very mixed results. Recreating their outrageous action and bizarre images frequently fails to impress. Especially when they have a long track record and high expectations.

Kei Nagai (Takeru Satoh, Samurai Marathon 1855, Hard-Core) is an Ajin but doesn’t know it until he’s hit by a bus and comes back to life. Ajin look human but can regenerate limbs and can’t die. Well, they can, they just don’t stay dead long before “resetting” and coming back to life in perfect health.

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He’s the third to be found in Japan, and the government grabs him and subjects him to horrific experiments. He’s quickly freed by Sato (Gô Ayano, Lupin the 3rd) and Tanaka (Yu Shirota, Black Butler) the first two Ajin found in Japan. Years of suffering the same experiments have left them with a genocidal hatred of humanity. Nagai soon finds himself caught between a terrorist faction of his own people and government forces. All he wants to do is go back to being a doctor and cure his sister Eriko (Hamabe Minami, Let Me Eat Your Pancreas).

At its core, Ajin: Demi-Human is just under two hours of well-shot action scenes. It gets the exposition out of the way early, then cranks up the mayhem to 11. Of course, fighting an enemy that won’t die and can manifest a spirit made of “Invisible Black Matter” isn’t easy. This leads to some highly inventive fight sequences courtesy of Takahiro Ouchi, the stunt coordinator on the Rurouni Kenshin trilogy. It also leads to a scene that may raise a few eyebrows, wherein Sato basically recreates 9/11, targeting a Japanese government building. It’s amazing what you can do when you know you’ll live to walk away.

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Granted, Ajin: Demi-Human glosses over a lot of moral issues, such as the government’s use of experiments that are basically torture. Cutting limbs off while the person is still conscious, for example, and their role in making Sato and Tanaka into monsters. But I suppose that would be like expecting real-world politics in a James Bond film. They spoil the fun, and the target audience isn’t interested in them.

Taken for what it is, Ajin: Demi-Human is a fun action film with supernatural twists. It’s worth tracking down.

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