I have no choice but to pick the second season of the dark, supernatural thriller Ajin: Demi-Human my most anticipated anime for the Fall 2016 season.
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, it is a testbed for new (almost, “post-television”) distribution strategies, and secondly, it is a further experiment in whether or not Polygon Pictures and their full-3DCG character series can prove successful in Japan.
In other words, far beyond the entertaining content of the anime itself, I am mostly interested in seeing if it proves to be a stepping stone in terms of where the industry is heading in the near future.
Recent anime are no stranger to clever marketing campaigns–organizing special premiere screenings featuring fan-targeted talk events with the voice actors and staff. However, Ajin is an interesting example of a new type of content diffusion and promotion—episodes of the first season were rearranged into feature-length films before the TV broadcast had even started.
Ajin is not the first property to try such an approach–notable examples from recent times that come to mind include Space Battleship Yamato 2199. It was released in theatrical “chapters” and followed by an eventual syndicated (prime-time!) TV broadcast and finally a movie. In fact, a sequel is in the works–Space Battleship Yamato 2202–that is expected to follow the same distribution formula. But even now, for a full-blown series to be restructured into TV show format is still rather adventurous.
Ajin is somewhat even more daring because, unlike Gundam and Yamato, it does not have a generation-spanning, in-built user fanbase. Instead, it relies solely on the original manga work by Gamon Sakurai and the prior successes of production house Polygon Pictures.
While Polygon is a highly-versatile studio capable of a wide range of visual expression, the look and feel of Ajin is very reminiscent of their previous series, Knights of Sidonia. Their BD and DVD package features are very similar, too, featuring content which takes advantage of the CG production by including alternate angles from which to view certain scenes. This gives an unprecedented level of interactivity with the material.
Polygon Pictures, though it is based in Tokyo, is an anime studio unlike most. It is primarily a 3DCG creative environment. It also benefits greatly from the cultural diversity provided by half of its staff being Japanese and the other being foreigners. This is a valuable asset, as it greatly widens the sphere of what is possible in terms of expressiveness through the tools available.
For instance, the partnership of Japanese and foreign sensibilities helped mold the style and performance of the characters and settings in the series Polygon co-produced with overseas companies on, namely Tron: Uprising and Transformers Prime. Polygon animators recall that animating the character of Miko Nakadai in Transformers Prime was very much a collaborative effort because the Japanese animators were accustomed to handling the sombre, more melancholic expressions of the character, while the foreign animators were better at handling her crazy, wild gestures.
Normally, in situations where an overseas company is in charge of the planning and writing of a show and a Japanese company is hired to handle the animation according to the approved storyboards–essentially a case of outsourcing–the Japanese side does not have much creative input. However, the case of Polygon is much different and true collaborative brainstorming and cross-pitching of ideas are actively encouraged through constant communication between both parties.
Thus Polygon Pictures has established a truly wide-ranging, multi-skilled staff that are able to adapt material to suit any content, and any target market. And because of this I am excited to see if the studio’s success continues to grow with Ajin‘s new season.
There is currently no offical word on the second season of Ajin: Demi-Human’s Western release.