I’ve never been a fan of scary movies, but I’ve developed a new fondness for the horror genre through manga. Ryousuke Tomoe’s series Museum is one of my favorite comics ever, and other mangaka like Junji Ito and Masaaki Nakayama have also breathed fresh life into the genre. I didn’t know much about Gamon Sakurai’s Ajin: Demi-Human prior to reading the series’ latest volume, but the cool artwork and promise of supernatural beings was enough to pique my interest. Vol. 11 collects chapters 49-53 of the thriller manga, and features both human intrigue and inhuman powers. Is it good?
Unfortunately, this volume starts off very slowly. The first few scenes had my attention, but after a while I grew tired of reading nothing but dialogue. I’m generally a fan of comics where characters just sit around and talk, but in a supernatural manga I expect more frequent action or suspense to break up the conversations. There’s a sense in the manga’s first half that the protagonists are biding their time until Sato makes his next move, and he takes a while to show up. The first half of this volume isn’t downright bad, but it weaves in and out of being a bit boring plot-wise.
Thankfully, this volume’s art impresses from the get-go. Sakurai’s line-work is clean, and his inks help establish a foreboding tone. There’s a palpable sense of tension throughout the entire volume. As a result, the reader can tell that whenever the other shoe finally drops the pace will pick up considerably. The flow of motion between panels is excellent, as are the characters’ facial expressions. The actual content of some of the protagonists’ conversations is a bit bland, but Sakurai does a great job conveying their emotions.
Inanimate objects are also imbued with a sense of dread as Sakurai composes pages in a way that maximizes their potential creepy factor. My favorite two-panel sequence in the volume features a blurry object in the forefront of the first panel which is then revealed to be a gun in the zoomed out perspective of the second panel. Once the pacing picks up in the volume’s second half, Sakurai also delivers well-laid-out action sequences.
Fortunately, the writing also picks up in the second half. Sato finally makes his move, and it involves deceit and twists that are stunning to watch unfold. One of my biggest pet peeves in suspense stories is when the reader realizes a twist before the writer reveals it. Sakurai never lets that happen, and Sato’s actions are all the more horrifying because of this. While it takes a while for any blatantly supernatural phenomena to occur in this volume, they provide gag-worthy moments when they do show up.
Overall, Ajin: Demi-Human Vol. 11 is an enjoyable read. As my first exposure to the series, it leaves a good impression and I look forward to subsequent volumes. My main qualm is with the very slow first half, but the great artwork and thrilling second half make up for it. If you like suspense mixed with the supernatural, then this series is worth checking out.
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