Reviewby Theron Martin,
Episodes 14-26 Streaming
Sato is nothing if not a man of his word, so when the government and various industries continually deny involvement in secret, torturous Ajin research, his minions start carrying out Sato's bold declaration to assassinate 15 responsible individuals. This creates a dangerous and tenuous position for Tosaki, particularly when American agents with an interest in what really happened to Dr. Ogura get involved, but Izumi remains loyal. Ogura gets unexpected help when Kei decides that the best option for him and Ko to stop Sato is for them to join forces with Tosaki's group. The new alliance's problems aren't just limited to Sato and American agents though, as the government's new Anti-Ajin Force also comes into play. Sato's well-prepared to up the ante once more.
After taking the summer 2016 season off, Ajin returned in the fall for another 13 episodes, which are now available in subbed and dubbed form exclusively on Netflix, continuously numbered from 14 on rather than numbered as a separate season.
Topping the climactic battle scenes from the end of the first season would have been a tall task for any creators, so the production team largely doesn't try. Instead, they concentrate on developing other core strengths of the series: Sato's inventive terrorism, numerous dramatic death scenes, and a surprisingly heavy amount of character development. The result is a season that's every bit as intense as the first one, if not more so. Many of its episodes keep events smoothly hopping along at a great clip, making this series ideal for marathon viewing. Even knowing that many of its characters can't permanently die doesn't bite into the tension as much you might think, since the grim reality and world of suffering that captured Ajin face more than balances things out.
Though Kei is still nominally the protagonist, he's actually one of the least interesting major characters in these episodes, to the point that his struggles over people dying as a result of his plans going awry fall flat. Even the simple-minded Ko is more interesting (if also annoying) to watch, as is the unshakable good nature of Kaito in his limited appearances. Tosaki's struggles as he tries to navigate a path that will keep him and his comatose wife alive are far more compelling, and some serious development for Izumi makes her into a much more intriguing character. Flashbacks show that Izumi's loyalty to Tosaki has far deeper and more involved roots than just him being her lifeline, since he literally gave her a new life when hers had gone to hell as a teenager. (Unsurprisingly, there's a further implication that she may love him.) Tanaka also has his moments as the uncertain but still loyal second to Sato, as does Sokabe as the greasy government liaison.
However, the true star of this series' second half is Sato. This isn't surprising, as you could see signs of this coming in the final episodes of the first season, but his charisma and attitude fully take over in these episodes. He's compelling to watch whenever he's onscreen; his actions and scheming give the series energy, and he's utterly convincing as a villain. Late revelations about his true motives also make perfect sense in light of his characterization from the first season, though they do feel like an “out” to allow the heroes some chance of success at times.
Don't expect a favorable treatment of Americans in this season! Granted, it's not like the series doesn't have a cynical and exploitative view of Japan's own government either, but the story goes almost painfully over-the-top in the way that the male American agent derisively treats his female Ajin subordinate. That brings up another ugly point: the only two female Ajin we see in the whole series are practically being kept as pets by male government agents. It's hardly a positive message to send, but at least both characters eventually show a sense of free will.
On the technical front, those who have found Polygon Pictures' CG visuals intolerable before probably won't have their minds changed by these episodes. While I find the degree to which the show tries to model detailed body language commendable, it just isn't that smooth much of the time, and many scenes where characters are just standing around look particularly awkward. (This is especially true for the two female Ajin, who tend to stand like they're trying to jut out their chests.) Action scenes look vastly smoother, and the IBMs are always a treat to watch. At this point, I have to wonder if there isn't something inherently limited about Polygon's choice of color palette for these cel-shaded CG works, as bright colors were also rare in Knights of Sidonia.
The musical score remains largely unchanged from the first season. It's still heavy and occasionally overbearing, but it also uses orchestration and electronica to great effect in driving the tension of various scenes. The new opener and closer are both done in similar styles to the original but not otherwise remarkable.
As with the first season, Netflix offers Ajin with subtitles in French, English, Spanish, Traditional Chinese, and Japanese, and dubs in Spanish, English, German, French, and Japanese. The English dub retains the full cast from the first season, with the still-unidentified voice actor for Sato continuing to give the stand-out performance; Todd Haberkorn also has his moments as Tosaki. Other roles are cast well but performance quality can be uneven, with several moments of stiff or awkwardly-timed delivery.
Although the finale of Ajin wraps up its main plotlines, it also ends with some weird implications and a clear “this isn't finished yet, folks!” kind of message. I have a hard time imagining what the franchise could do further without being repetitive, however. Despite some flaws, this is the slightly stronger of these two seasons and should satisfy those with a penchant for very grim action tales.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Smooth pacing, impressive action sequences, Sato is a compelling villain
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