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Ajin: Demi-Human - Analyzing the Form and Content of One of Your Favorite Manga or Other Graphic Narrative

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The story takes place in our modern world. Seventeen year prior to the events of this volume, a non-human human-like entity was found in Africa, the origin unknown. The scientists studied them and found that they're immortal and can't be killed, at least as far as it's known now

The regular citizens don't know much about them. Shady government organizations are hiding everything, as they do. The main character Japanese high school student Kei is hit by a car and dies. However, he resurrects, which is the clearest sign of his not-human self. Everyone begins a manhunt to capture him. There are secret government organizations, morally dubious scientific experiments, nothing as it seems and black ghosts.

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Ajin initially bears a superficial resemblence to Tokyo Ghoul, in that the protagonist goes from normal human being to a monster in the first episode. From there Kei Nagai undergoes a similar journey from lamenting his fate to accepting what he is, but Kei’s journey progresses faster and he takes a decidedly different tack when it comes to dealing with what he’s become. The past couple decades have seen the emergence of a few people called Ajin. They cannot be conventionally killed. Any lethal damage from starvation to disintegration will result in the body dropping for a few seconds to a minute before regenerating to full health

But the interesting thing is that partial damage stays until the body dies, so it’s possible to incapacitate an Ajin for capture. Ajin themselves can put their regeneration to creative combat uses and may intentionally try to kill themselves if they’re too hurt. Ajin are still incredibly rare though, with only 46 known to the world at the start of the series, and they’re considered to be no longer human. Any found are quickly rounded up by the government which is rumored to experiment on them. Since they can’t die, they’re excellent guinea pigs.

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Manga, not unlike other similar concepts,1 cannot really be defined in a satisfying manner (cf. Berndt 2008). The word itself is originally written as “漫画”, with the first kanji meaning whimsical, involuntarily, or unrestrained, and the second one denoting brush-stroke or picture.2 Today, however, it is also written in hiragana, katakana, or even romanized script for stylistic purposes and to express different emphases in relation to its meaning. Indeed, the meaning of the expression has not only undergone important shifts within Japan since it first started to be used in relation to various forms of illustration (the most well-known example being Hokusai manga from the nineteenth century), later political cartoons and daily strips (Stewart 2013), and finally long-form sequential art (Itō 2005; Odagiri 2010), but the question of continuity or its degree among these various forms is also an important point of contention. Some histories of manga highlight the tradition of drawn cartoonish figures within Japan dating back to as early as the twelfth–thirteenth centuries, with the most famous example, Chōjūgiga, depicting anthropomorphized animals reminiscent of modern satirical cartoons. The actual continuity between such picture scrolls, later ukiyo-e images, and modern manga, however, is strongly debated, and a more scholarly history of modern manga emphasizes the importance of the influence of political cartoons and comic strips from Europe and the US in the works and ideals of pioneers like Kitazawa Rakuten (Stewart 2013).

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Usually, I'm very impressed. Immortality is a gift, right? But realistically, if you were found to be immortal, you'd be immediately taken in by scientists or the government for experimentation - and not a nice friendly good kind, more like torture. High schooler Kei finds out he's immortal - called a Demi-Human - when he's hit by a truck and gruesomely killed... and gets back up. From that moment on he is on the run, fearful of the scientists who will surely subject him to torturous experiments to see what he can endure. People don't believe that demi-humans are people, so Kei must hid from everyone, even his family. This volume is a very strong beginning of the series! Dynamic, action-packed and thrilling. I love the illustrations, they are rather simple, but the details are gorgeous

The designs of those ghosts are so visually pleasing. Overall, I had so much fun reading this volume! Perfect balance of suspense, paranormal unknown magical elements and great artwork!

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Steinberg, Marc. 2012. Anime’s Media Mix: Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Stewart, Ronald. 2013. Manga as schism: Kitazawa Rakuten’s resistance to "Old-Fashioned" Japan. In Manga’s Cultural Crossroads. Edited by Jaqueline Berndt and Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer. London: Routledge, pp. 27–49.

Suan, Stevie. 2017. Anime’s Performativity: Diversity through Conventionality in a Global Media-Form. Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal 12: 62–79.

Suzuki, Shige (CJ). 2010. Manga/comics studies from the perspective of science fiction research: Genre, transmedia, and transnationalism. In Comics Worlds and the World of Comics: Towards Scholarship on a Global Scale. Edited by Jaqueline Berndt. 1 vol. Global Manga Studies.

Suzuki, Shige (CJ). 2013. Tatsumi Yoshihiro’s Gekiga and the global sixties: Aspiring for an Alternative. In Manga’s Cultural Crossroads. Edited by Jaqueline Berndt and Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer. London: Routledge, pp. 50–64.

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