Image source: 大ヒット公開中 ‼️映画『亜人』公式 on Twitter

Currently, Japan’s film industry appears to be attempting the Hollywood/Marvel route of making live-action adaptations of popular manga and anime properties. The results have been… “varied” at best. So I was understandably nervous about seeing the new live-action Ajin movie. Turns out, it was one of the more entertaining 109 minutes I’ve spent in a movie theater this year.

[This article contains spoilers for both the anime and live-action versions of Ajin: Demi-Human.]

Ajin: Demi-Human is an ongoing manga series about a new breed of immortal humans and their reception and treatment by society. The series has seen three anime films, a two season anime, and now a live-action movie.

The story of Ajin centers around Kei Nagai, a young boy who, after getting hit by a truck and dying, discovers that he is an Ajin—i.e., a human who resurrects immediately upon death. His identity outed, he is immediately hunted by a society that regards him as a different species altogether with no human rights. His adventures lead him to clash with Satō, another Ajin with a sadistic streak and bone to pick with the world.

So far in the series, there have been three major incidents involving Satō; the rescue of Kei from a research facility, the destruction of a building with an airplane (and subsequent showdown with the Japanese special police forces), and the assault on a large business building. The live-actioin Ajin movie takes these most memorable incidents and builds a movie around them for what ends up as segments of action spectacle divided by stretches of prep and dialogue.

As a result, many of the details are changed from the original story. 1) Kei is a medical intern instead of a high school student, 2) Satō is young instead of old, 3) the building destroyed is the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare building instead of the Grant Pharmaceutical Company building, and 4) the last building isn’t a security company building, but is instead the headquarters for a pharmaceutical company that used experiments conducted on Ajin to create a toxic gas weapon that Satō intends to release in Tokyo. However, despite any changes from the source material, the movie manage to maintain its own cohesion and wowing action that such differences become immaterial.

Image source: 大ヒット公開中 ‼️映画『亜人』公式 on Twitter

One of the most entertaining parts of Ajin is in its action and the creative use of a species that can literally reset itself by dying, and the movie makes full use of that. The armed combat engagements between Satō and the forces that seek to stop and apprehend him are absolutely fascinating. With the constant shooting and suicides/resets, Satō ends up being like a much less skillful, but equally lethal “John Wick.”

While the movie excels in its action sequences, plot and character-wise its weaknesses kind of show. None of the characters really grow or change all that much throughout the movie. In terms of plot, there are several questions that are never really addressed or mostly glossed over. I couldn’t help but feel a moments that the movie was trying to pull the shade over my eyes with its action sequences. But, even so, the action itself managed to be fun and entertaining enough that I almost felt like giving it a pass. Almost.

Image source: 大ヒット公開中 ‼️映画『亜人』公式 on Twitter

Aside from the changes in setting and plot, the live-action Ajin movie basically plays out like the original series. The movie begins with Kei already in custody and then rescued, and ends with a showdown between Kei and Satō. A lot of it feels shot for shot scenes from the manga, and yet, it’s all done so expertly that it pulls it off, becoming its own thing rather than pandering to or relying on the source material. The movie is shot by the same team that did the live-action Ruroni Kenshin movies, so they seem to have the live-action adaptation thing down.

At the end of the day, the live-action Ajin movie is like an off-season Hollywood action blockbuster. You know, one of the ones they slip in towards the end of the summer that ends up being more enjoyable than a lot of what came during the main summer lineup. I mentioned John Wick earlier and honestly, the best movie to compare it to would be John Wick 2—basically a somewhat forced plot laced with spectacular action. If you’re there for popcorn-munching fun, you’re in luck. Just don’t expect any big answers to life’s questions in there.

Image source: 大ヒット公開中 ‼️映画『亜人』公式 on Twitter

The live-action Ajin movie premiered in Japan on September 30, 2017. There has been no word on a Western release.

Comments (2)
  1. does the movie cover only S1 or S2 too?

    • It basically covers from about episode 5 of season one to episode 10 of season two, though events play out closer to the original manga.

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