AJIN: Demi-Human vol. 3 – Gamon Sakurai

4 out of 5

I’m knocking off that star for almost literally the last page… which is admittedly unfair, since it’s a plot point that could totally turn around and bite me in the ass in a such a way that it’s, like, my new favorite ass-biting thing, but until that point, I will weep internally at this sudden inclusion of a generic story trope in what’s otherwise been a pretty insane journey.

AJIN: Demi-Human is all velocity. And sometimes, keeping things amped up like that works to cover up other flaws, such as poor character juggling in Attack on Titan, or a seeming lack of long-term planning, like in The Promised Neverland. In both of those cases (and in others not cited), the problems are generally apparent, it’s just that you can set them aside while rocketing through distracting events. Of course, when events stop rocketing, you’re in trouble. Gamon Sakurai, in AJIN, has kept the pedal to the metal for three volumes now – Kei is still on the run, even in the midst of his own “rescue” from a research facility – but… there’s no cover up. As characters pile up around Kei, Sakurai has hedged and poked at filling in background information, and I recognize he’s doing something very smart: he’s telling a story about these characters, and not framing a narrative around playing cagey with details on demi-humans. Like, sure, there are still things to understand about how they function, but it’s not the whole pursuit of this thing: instead, we’re enrolled in Kei’s own plight of self-evaluation (and survival) – learning along with him – and then also kept on edge by the machinations of “Hat” and government man Tosaki, both growing more complex and devious by the page.

…Which leads to those final pages, in which a flashback for a character pulls the whole “but they’re really doing this for a noble cause!” shtick, and… it’s just too easy. I may have literally rolled my eyes. Not everyone needs this kind of wrinkle in their backstory; sometimes people are just motivated by the old standby of power. But as Sakurai’s dialogue and storytelling have been solid throughout, and growingly layered, perhaps this aspect will go somewheres unexpected.

Even if it doesn’t, though, I’ll danged be there.