EP. 57: AJIN: Demi-Human Vol. 1, by Gamon Sakurai and Tsuina Miura

Kei after the accident from Ajin vol. 1

Hello! And welcome BACK to Mangasplaining, as we begin Season 3! We’re starting off with a bang, as David brings the crew ‘violence comics’ in the form of AJIN: Demi-Human Volumes 1 & 2. Horror and violence woven into discussions of the nature of humanity? Everyone’s a bad guy? How will these dark ideas land with our innocent crew? Find out this episode!

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AJIN: Demi-Human Volume 1 & 2
By Gamon Sakurai, with Tsuina Miura
Translated by Ko Ransom 
Lettering and layouts by Risa Cho and Hiroko Mizuno
Published by Vertical Inc./Kodansha (Print/Digital)

Show notes by Christopher Woodrow-Butcher and Deb Aoki. Audio editing by David Brothers

Before We Get Started 

CW: Images and Discussion of Violence, Gore, Self-Harm.

It’s SEASON THREE! Welcome everyone! As David points out, the further we get into this thing, the less sense it makes as a “introduce Chip into the concept of manga,” now that he’s read 50+ titles of manga. Actually, by my count, he’s read…more than 70 volumes? Heh, sometimes we really did assign 5 or 6 volumes of reading in a single weekly installment.

Anyway, as I think you’ll see over the next couple episodes, the show is evolving to be more about you, the reader who “hasn’t read much manga before.” Although that’s not strictly true either, given the comments section. Still, we want to find the good stuff that’s good for someone who may not even be super into comics or manga, but will definitely dig our recommendations. Although we will continue to find new genres, new styles, and unique voices of manga to hopefully surprise, delight, confuse, and enrage Chip, because after all, he’s our primary audience. Also he’s a host. It’s confusing if you think about it too much, so don’t! 😀

01:15 “Violence Comics.” Man, can you imagine if a publisher had the balls to make that one of their title-genres?

02:25  You heard that right, the writer drops out one volume in. WE GET INTO IT.

Seriously though, we want to thank the listeners who heard we were going to do AJIN and made some noise about the fact that the series goes through a massive change right around the end of the first volume, and that we miiiight want to also read the second volume to give it a fair shot. While David didn’t end up assigning the first two volumes, we all did at least give volume 2 a shot as well, and we talk about the changes pretty extensively. Thanks again to our awesome listeners for having our (collective) backs.

02:45  Here’s how the publisher describes AJIN: Demi-Human

High school student Kei Nagai is struck dead in a grisly traffic accident, but immediately revives to learn that he may not be like every other human. Instead, he may be a mysterious almost-immortal being granted not only the powers of rejuvenation but the abilities to see supernatural beings. Scared, he runs away and is aided in his escape from society by his friend Kai. Unfortunately for Kei, the manhunt is on, and he will soon be caught within a conflict between mankind and others like him as they prepare to fight a new war based on terror.


What they don’t get into is that actually, Kei Nagai is a deeply weird young man and the book is much, much bigger than the first, or even second volume might suggest.

04:30  Here’s that apology from Volume 17, the last volume of AJIN: Demi-Human. Don’t worry, there’s not too much in the way of spoilers:

David actually sent us this before we read this book, with the following explanation that I thought was too good not to share, it was awesome to see how excited David was about this one.

“Before I forget, AJIN: Demi-Human volume 1 by Gamon Sakurai and Tsuina Miura is this week! In it, a young boy finds out that he’s functionally immortal, as if he’s ever killed, he instantly “respawns,” like an extra life in a video game more than Wolverine’s healing factor. It immediately ruins his life, as the horror/action and later just-action series goes on!

“Wait, “just-action?” That’s right, true believer! The writer leaves five chapters into the series and the artist takes over both artist and writer duties with the sixth chapter. As a result, the book shifts in tone and storytelling approach somewhat abruptly, but keeps the same cast and actually gets a lot more focused. Here’s the farewell letter from the final volume, the 17th, which doesn’t have any spoilers.

David Brothers

05:14  Coming next week! Birds of Shangri-La! – https://www.sublimemanga.com/birds-of-shangri-la 

07:10  This page is really effective at showing that sort of X-Files, They’re-Watching-You paranoia. It actually was maybe the most effective use I’d seen since the movie SE7EN.

08:40  Chapter 1 is trash. Normally, I’m like “Hey, go check out the preview of chapter 1 on the publishers website!” but in this case… don’t? Actually, don’t. It’s very bad. But by the end of the first book you can see what it’s actually going to become, and by the end of the second book, to quote ‘the kids,’ this sh*t slaps.

Here’s a shot at some of those awesome hospital room fight sequences.

10:45  So briefly, about Chris Claremont and Jim Lee on X-Men, basically Claremont quit working on X-Men during his run with Lee, and also editor Bob Harras had some play there too. It’s a really interesting situation, you can read about the behing-the-scenes in a few articles linked from this Reddit thread. It’s ironic because shortly after Claremont left, Lee would also leave to form Image Comics.

[Deb:] If you’re curious / new to the whole “here’s how Image Comics was founded by a bunch of comics creators” story, Sequart has a documentary that you can download/stream/buy from various sources. Here’s the trailer:

11:08  Chapter 6 does, IN FACT, turn on a dime. The best example is, as Chip says in a few minute. “We kidnapped your sister, things are going to happen!” and then…

Yeah, we’re not doing that subplot anymore.

12:00  This starts out as anime, and turns into a 1980s Cannon Film.

12:34  Here’s that comparison between how Kei is drawn in the first chapter and a much later chapter in volume 2. It’s… it’s basically not really the same manga anymore, frankly.

13:20  Another X-Men reference. Chris Bachalo’s evolution between Generation X #1 and Generation X #9 was really something. Basically, he drew a new X-Men book, a relaunch of New Mutants (which had become X-Force by that time) called Generation X. He drew in a style much closer to his work for Vertigo on Death: The High Cost of Living and Shade: The Changing Man. When a massive reality-altering event happened after issue #4 of that series, Bachalo drew the alt-reality story in a much looser, more graphic style. When the reality-altering event ended, he brought back that style to the main book, and fans were pretty divided but I loved it. Never seen an artist evolve like this, in as short a period of time, on a mainstream comic. Until AJIN maybe. Check this out:

Generation X #1, old-school Bachalo style.

13:35  Here’s a comparison between images from early and later chapters of Kosuke Fujishima’s Oh My Goddess! Again, this is over 27 volumes of manga, over 15 years.

14:15  Yeah, this hand is… bad.

17:20  Sakurai does draw some really weird and interesting angles, agreed. Chip calls out page 29, with Kei’s pal Kai running.

Also, the jump-kick with the hyper-detailed shoe.

18:00 Chip and I disagree about whether this train sequence works well or not. He thinks it does, but the right angle rendered it really flat and uninteresting for me. But maybe Chip likes it because it was ‘boring’… or as he put it, diagrammatic. I get it, just wasn’t for me. But the page before this, which I will not show you, is pretty dang great.

19:09  From page 173, the horror moment of the sister seeing the creature. So good.

21:00  Shinya Tsukamoto – Episode 0. We did some research and… there’s just no info on this one. How/where/when it was released, other than just weekly, in between chapters 9 and 10, as it appears in the printed volume. Let’s go with David’s thoughts on this one!

29:10  Alright, this is where sh*t gets crazy. If you needed to get out of a ‘jam’, and you were immortal, how would you move through the world…? Maybe something like this utterly awesome, incredibly disturbing fight?

Shot in the arm with a tranquilizer:

If thine eye offends thee…

Oh snap, just cuz he got tranq’d, he’s not gonna…

Dang. The arm-chopping scene! That’s a hell of an action sequence!

32:45  Speaking of amazing sequences, check out this sequence where our boy Kei is being hunted by the man above, a.k.a. “Hat”. It’s AMAZING…

33:11  …But this drawing is bad. It’s really interesting, a unique angle, and actually cool, it’s just that the perspective doesn’t quite work. Kei’s feet are at the same level as Hat’s hands, he’s not in the right place.

37:00  As David mentions, the cover art for the entire AJIN series is really good and creepy, and really effective. Especially when you put them all together!

38:07  So the original writer for the first chapters of AJIN, Tsuina Miura goes on to do High Rise Invasion. It is… not a good book. It did get nearly two-dozen volumes in Japan though, AND it got an anime adaptation! It was actually printed in English, by Seven Seas. It’s mostly out of print right now, according to various sources. I can’t imagine it will be reprinted.

Here’s the trailer for the anime.

41:20  David mentions Shibuya Goldfish by Aoi Hiroumi (available now from Yen Press). It’s… I had never heard of it before it was just mentioned on the podcast, and I kinda/sorta maybe need to read the first chapter now? Wow.

41:45  Bathtub Brothers is actually what it’s called. It’s only available in French (and Japanese, obvs). The French publisher Akata Editions, known for publishing edgier josei and seinen manga, put together a short trailer check it out, and then, I guess, write in to Seven Seas and demand it. Lol.

43:20  Christopher mentions Deb’s annual San Diego Comic Con panel, The Best and Worst Manga. Here’s a video from a few years ago that you can watch. Sadly I can’t seem to embed it here, otherwise I’d make it watchable, sorry!

44:07  More on Kakegurui in a moment. And that’s it for AJIN!

44:52: THE BREAK

45:45 We picked the next round of books we’re reading! So now, Season 3 will start thusly:

Next week: Birds of Shangri-La Vol 1, by Ranmaru Zariya, published by SuBLime Manga. Hosted by Deb.

April 26: Ping Pong Vol 1 & 2, by Taiyo Matsumoto. Published by VIZ Media. Hosted by Christopher.

May 3: Dick Fight Island Vol. 1, by Reibun Ike. Published by SuBLime. Hosted by Deb.

May 10: Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler Vol 1, by Homura Kawamoto and Toru Naomura , published by Yen Press. Hosted by David.

May 17: My Love Mix-Up Vol 1, by Aruko and Wataru Hinekure. Published by Shojo Beat / VIZ Media. Hosted by Deb.

May 24: All My Darling Daughters, by Fumi Yoshinaga. Published by VIZ Media. Hosted by Christopher.

So that’s the beginning of Season 3, with more announcements on the way! Thanks for listening to this episode of Mangasplaining! It’s good to be back!

You can find a comics and manga specialty retailer near you at Comicshoplocator.com. Also check your local library for print and digital lending options.

You can also check out our new publishing endeavour, Mangasplaining Extra, at  http://www.mangasplainingextra.com for more articles about manga, new chapters of manga to read weekly and much more. Subscribe today!

And check out D.A.D.S. on Spotify, they made our cool theme music for us. 🙂

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10 Responses

  1. Sato says:

    The action scenes are so well choregraphed from beginning to end. Sato is one of the best characters ever.

  2. BL Party says:

    I mentioned this on twitter, but since Chris Butcher is more likely to see it here, I wanted to say Massive IS available digitally, at least on Amazon (and yes Canadian Amazon as well). I do adore All My Darling Daughters so I am very excited for that, but I didn’t want Massive to fall by the wayside when it doesn’t need to.

    • Hiya! I figured that out while writing the Show Notes, so happy! Look forward to a future episode! 😉 😀

      • Eric Henwood-Greer says:

        Yeah, after being offline for a few weeks while working on a conference (and recovering from COVID) I’m just catching up with the last few episodes and was just going to say the same. Funny enough I also just got two copies of Massive (the print edition), which I had missed in its previous editions (Fantagraphics accidentally sent me two copies and then just told me to keep the extra volume free of charge which is great, though usually I keep a second volume of manga around that I think I’ll lend out, and I have no idea who I would lend Massive out to). But yeah it’s out digital too–I’m just glad the reprint came out as planned (when I last asked FG’s planned reprint of Heart of Thomas is now aimed for next year…)

        But All My Darling Daughters is an *excellent* choice and I was glad to see somehow Viz has kept it in print as well as digital. Though I got into Yoshinaga with her Yaoi work translated what seems like a lifetime ago, Daughters is maybe her best short work and definitely deserves the love.

  3. Kevin says:

    Man it was real mean of you guys to tease us with “My Love Story” and then pick something else.

  4. Miguel Corti says:

    So glad to have you all back regularly, even if I’m already woefully behind (Yikes!). Hope you had some good time off.

    Ajin has been on my “should check out” list for awhile, but I was never impressed by the first sample chapter a lot of bookstores have. Thank you everyone, especially Christopher, for letting me know it gets much better after that. Ajin could be one of those manga where the publication history is just as interesting as the series as well. For me, it’s pretty much a toss-up between Ajin and Chainsaw Man as the next series I sink my time and money into, but first I want to get caught up on Ping Pong. 🙂

    • My personal, biased vote is for Ping Pong first. Heh. You should be able to pick it up cheap, used. 🙂 But the first 3 volumes and their radical change in art, story, and tone, make AJIN a really INTERESTING read, but good or bad is up to you.

  5. Caroline says:

    this is the first time i’m commenting on an episode, but i’ve listened to almost all of them multiple times over including this ajin episode a lot!! i come back to this one pretty often bc it introduced me to ajin, and now i totally get why david loves ‘violence comics’ LOL. i think it’s a little sad how you guys didn’t get to vol 2 since i do love the part you talked about with how crazy absurd the action gets like sato’s moves when breaking into the testing facility, but it was super interesting how much y’all delved into the writer/artist conflict ajin had and how the artist then took on everything. personally, [though i’m pretty oblivious to most things] i didn’t really realize how drastic the change was in the first few chapters the switch was made, though in hindsight it’s pretty clear. and the art style change is incredibly drastic too [though definitely for the better in my opinion!].

    i mostly wanted to comment though to thank David for suggesting ajin, bc i love to reread it every now and then now haha. it’s seriously so exciting and thrilling while also having some heart, and though i wasn’t particularly invested in any one character i did love reading about them. the last arc especially was super insane and just full of jaw dropping moments that i screenshotted over and over again LOL!! plus, i really loved seeing how pragmatic kei as a protag was revealed to be, and SPOILERS!! [is it okay to talk about spoilers in the comments?? I’m so sorry if not!!] i LOVED the reveal on kei’s mom near the end and how similarly cutthroat/rational she is [kinda wish we saw more of her!]. before this i’m not really sure i liked violence in comics, especially topics as gory or grounding as dismemberment and suicide which are pillars that ajin relies on, but paced and presented in this way are now [as david would say?] totally my bag. thanks mangasplaining!!

  1. November 7, 2023

    […] We mention our episode on the manga AJIN Demi-Human how interesting it was that the creator Gamon Sakurai credited all of his assistants, right down to […]

  2. November 7, 2023

    […] We mention our episode on the manga AJIN Demi-Human how interesting it was that the creator Gamon Sakurai credited all of his assistants, right down to […]

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