In the world of supernatural comics, Ajin: Demi-Human fills a unique niche. Gamon Sakurai’s vision of a world where immortals called Ajin control strange and deadly mummy-like familiars is far from standard horror. The series’ confrontations of loneliness (both literal and metaphorical) are great, as is its focus on the oppressive tactics governments would implement if beings like Ajin existed. The latest entry in the series, Vol. 12, collects chapters 54-57, which detail the continued assault upon Iruma Base that Sato initiated in Vol. 11. Is this installment good?
Art-wise, this volume is a mixed bag. On the plus side, all of Sakurai’s fundamentals are solid. The characters’ proportions are consistent, the flow of action across panels is usually clear, and most of the facial expressions throughout are quite well-drawn. Many of this volume’s best visuals are in its final chapter, where we get to see Sato’s brutality on full display. There’s a particularly striking two-page spread where Sato is surrounded by the victims he’s taken down bloodily and without mercy, and it really conveys his deadly resolve. There’s also a neat sequence where Nagai utilizes his powers in a way that’s heavy on body horror. It involves climbing a tall wall while repeatedly cutting off then regenerating fingers. We end up seeing a pile of them clumped together on the grass below, and it’s disturbing to the point of being cool in a morbid way.
Unfortunately, Sakurai’s skill is counteracted a bit by his mundane page layouts. All of the panels are square or rectangular in shape, so their forms never change to match major events or shifts in tone. As a result the manga sometimes feels more boring than it necessarily should with its intriguing characters and subject matter. This is especially problematic in action scenes, where events that should feel dynamic end up blending together into extended periods of dull. Not all of the shoot-outs are like this, but it’s definitely a recurrent issue.
Writing-wise, this volume is decent. The characters’ dialogue and interactions are all well-done and true to the personas we’ve gotten to know across the series. There’s also a clear sense of just how dangerous Sato is — he may not be the only Ajin around, but he has a uniquely deadly and insurmountable presence. Unfortunately, the pacing isn’t fully satisfactory. There isn’t a sense that the story has progressed all that much by the volume’s end. This holds true both for the primary plot of Sato’s attack as well as the subplots revolving around other characters. Thankfully things pick up in the final chapter, which is quite exciting and generates momentum going into the series’ next installment.
Overall, Ajin: Demi-Human Vol. 12 is a solid read. Sakurai’s art is fundamentally solid, and there are a number of awesome visuals in the second half. The plot and sense of suspense also pick up later in the volume. Unfortunately, the book’s first half feels too slow and relatively uneventful. There’s also a sense of monotony to the page layouts that prevents the visuals from reaching their full potential. Nonetheless, this is a decent installment.