Director: Katsuyuki Motohiro
Cast: Takeru Satoh, Go Ayano, Tetsuji Tamayama, Yu Shirota, Yudai Chiba, Rina Kawaei, Minami Hamabe
Runtime: 1 hr 49 mins
Rating: NC16 (Violence)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures & Encore Films
Opening Day: 12 October 2017
Synopsis: The destiny of trainee doctor Kei Nagai (Takeru Satoh) changed one day after a fatal accident. Moments after he was killed on the road, Kei suddenly came back to life on the spot, leading to the shocking discovery that he is an Ajin, a race of demi-humans who cannot be killed. Because of that, Kei is pursued throughout the country and eventually captured by the government. He is then held captive at a mysterious research facility, where he is subjected to inhumane experiments. There he encounters another Ajin named Sato (Go Ayano), who helps him. Kei soon finds out that Sato is a vengeful terrorist feared amongst both humans and Ajins, and has been plotting to overthrow the government at any cost. Though he is an Ajin, Kei rejects Sato’s extremist ideals and vicious methods, and wishes to be no part of their conflict. However, as Sato begins his shocking bid for power, Kei realises he must join the fight to end his violent campaign. What will be the outcome of a battle between these two demi-humans who can never die?
Ajin is a real-life action movie of a manga series of the same name. The manga series was also adapted into anime, released in 2016. Ajin is a special race of humans who are immortal. They could also summon an invisible black matter, or ‘ghost’ as referred in the movie, which can go into combat mode along with the Ajin.
The movie is neatly structured into two story arcs. The first story arc sets up the narrative and introduces the key characters, Sato and Nagai. Both of them were kept captive at a government facility where extreme experiments were carried out on them. Sato escaped the facility before Nagai arrived, and came back along with his other Ajin comrades to rescue Nagai from the facility so he could join him on his mission against the government. However, Sato’s plan is one that is charged with vengeance and violence, which Nagai opposes to. Nonetheless, Sato took advantage of the hoo-ha they have created and expose the government’s dirty secret. He also set a challenge to the government which sent the nation to panic.
The crux of the narrative is provocative. While there’s practically no difference in the appearance of an Ajin and an average human being, Ajin is portrayed to be shunned away and feared when their identity is exposed. They’re a minority and kept away from the public. As they suffer from inhumane methods of experiment, it was readily accepted by the government in the name of progress and because they are immortal. However, what cannot be dismissed is that Ajins experience pain and trauma of such experiments. When it was exposed to the public by Sato, it also raises questions around ‘human rights’ – just because they are a special race, should they be ripped of the basic rights one should enjoy?
The movie scored high with its actions. For instance, within the first 30 minutes of the movie, once the context was set up, it launches into full action and effectively establish the difference in the combat style of an Ajin as opposed to a normal person. Since Ajins are immortal and regenerate once he/she dies, they can even employ self-harm methods to become whole again! That action-packed sequence was exhilarating. Even ex-AKB member Kawaei Rina deserves a special mention. Although she stands only at 1.52m, her agility and fearless delivery did not lose out to any of the male counterparts in the movie.
In its second story arc, the government sets up a special unit – ‘Tai-ai’ – a combat unit trained to deter the Ajin race. It brings the action to a whole new level and intensifies the atmosphere. If you’re curious, the action scenes were planned by the same team behind the Rurouni Kenshin trilogy, who have worked previously with Sato Takeru (acts as Nagai). His delivery in those intense action scenes is stellar. Ayano Go (acts as Sato) may not have been in the spotlight in past years, but he too has action experiences in Takashi Miike’s Crows Zero 2 and SF movie Gatchaman. Takeru and Go both aced their roles in this movie, not only in seamlessly delivering the action sequences, but also in the acting territory. Other than these lead characters, the supporting cast includes also recognizable actors like Chiba Yudai, Shirota Yu and Tamayama Tetsuji. They too added flavour and character to the movie.
Overall the movie is really high in entertainment value. Besides the narrative and action, the CGI of the black ghosts worked flawlessly with the real-life action. Coupled with the outstanding OST and sound effects, it enhances the entire cinematic experience. There hasn’t been such a gratifying watch in a while! With its plot twists and exciting sequences, it’ll keep you on the edge of your seat!
(Ajin is a highly entertaining and exhilarating action-packed movie. 109 minutes’ worth of gratifying watch!)
Review by Tho Shu Ling