Wow, Being Immortal Would Suck

Wow, Being Immortal Would Suck

On its surface, being un-killable seems like something wonderful. But in the world of the new anime film Ajin: Shodo, all that awaits you for eternity is nothing but years of painful human experimentation.

Ajin is set in a world where fifteen years ago, immortals (known as “Ajin”) were discovered. While only 46 have been found (as you have to die to know if you are one), they are regarded as inhuman and thus have no rights. When a new one appears, governments race to capture the Ajin and subject it to everything from drug trials to car crash testing. It is a hellish existence that is literally without end.

Ajin is the story of Kei, an incredibly intelligent high schooler who is hit and killed by a truck one day after school — only upon death his body repairs itself revealing him to be the 47th Ajin. Dying in public leaves Kei’s secret revealed to the world. He has no possibility of returning to a normal life. He has only one chance: to run.

Kei’s escape is aided by his estranged childhood friend Kaito and the two are hunted by government agent Tosaki and his secretive assistant Izumi. As the newest Ajin, Kei is also sought by a pair of Ajin that who are living free — though their true goals and motivations remain a mystery.

A lot of Ajin: Shodo is spent setting up the world and characters (as this is the first in a planned film series) — and this is where the film is at its most enjoyable. Learning what the Ajin are and what exactly their power-set is ends up being a lot of fun.

When it comes down to it, the film is based on a single two-part gimmick: how to use immortality superpowers to fight in unexpected ways and how to most efficiently take down a person who can’t die. Unfortunately, this is also where the film fails most plainly.

In the story, mankind has had 15 years to figure out how to best capture an Ajin. In this time, the sum total of their tactics is tranquilliser guns. Don’t get me wrong, as Ajin don’t heal until they are killed, tranquillisers are a great weapon — but they are far from the end-all-be-all. In the film’s big action climax, which involves an Ajin breaking into a testing facility, the humans could have easily won with a single gas grenade — so of course, they don’t use one despite the fact that they are wearing gas masks. In fact, the film’s whole plot seems to revolve around the fact that both sides haven’t really thought through this whole immortality thing.

Moreover, I found it hard to take the world itself seriously — especially as it is supposed to be our own but with a twist. Perhaps I am overly optimistic, but I find it a bit of a stretch that random people are having their human rights taken away and are being subjected to human experimentation in modern Japan simply because they don’t die. I mean, just look at how animal testing is viewed these days and then imagine if the test subject were a living, breathing person and not a cute little bunny.

There is also an obvious problem in how the emergence of a new Ajin is handled. In the film, it is often repeated that any human who captures an Ajin gets 100,000,000 yen (around $1.1M). Sure, this plot device makes for a tense action-filled movie, but logically it is foolish in the extreme. It ensures every person on the street will be keeping an eye out, but it also means they will attempt the capture themselves — without informing the police or anyone else. As you can guess, more than a few people die trying. (This is why in the real world police reward information leading to an arrest instead of demanding people do it themselves.)

But while the world the movie portrays falls apart under scrutiny, the visuals are some of the best I have seen in any 3D-animated anime. Polygon Pictures, the studio behind the similarly animated Knights of Sidonia, has clearly focused its talents in one area in the creation of Ajin: faces. Because of this, characters in Ajin have a staggering range of emotion. Their faces are constantly moving with expressions and eye movements that only last milliseconds but tell volumes. Fans of 3D animation as an art form will likely enjoy this film for that reason alone.

Ajin: Shodo is a film with a great basic concept — immortals being hunted for use as lab rats — but it is rather shaky on the follow-through. While the implications of a society reacting this way to immortals are touched on, it is only the shallowest of explorations. Moreover, the tactics used to battle immortals seem laughably simplistic with even a few minutes thought. As a big dumb action movie it is entertaining enough, but it is certainly far from anything deeper.

But that 3D animation, though. Damn.

Ajin: Shodo was released in Japanese theatres on 27 November 2015. The Ajin TV series will begin airing in Japan on 16 January 2016, and has been licensed by Netflix for release in Australia in mid-2016.


  • I thought the fact that real immortality would be hellish was pretty much taken as a given. Immortality would only be bearable if you could actually choose to die.

    Otherwise, think what life would be like in one trillion years time, when all the stars have gone out, the Earth’s atmosphere (if Earth survived the red giant phase of the Sun’s main sequence) would be gone or solidified… living life on a barren rock with no light and no company, and perhaps frozen solid so you couldn’t even move… and your life only just begun.

    One reason why the lyrics for Amazing Grace are actually pretty scary – life may still be interesting after ten thousand years, but ten billion?

    • I remember somewhere reading that statistically speaking that kind of immortality will always result in being stuck somewhere unable to move, simply by the fact that over enough time it’s bound to happen once and unable to die or get yourself out you’d simply spent an eternity trapped.

      If I was immortal in that way I think I’d become absurdly claustrophobic 😛

      • I’m just thinking about that moment where you are on a barren rock(once earth), and the sun has become a red giant star that has engulfed earth. What then. You are pretty much burning for all eternity. You can’t fly and you just can’t die. So you are pretty much in lava for the next trillion years until the sun dies and becomes a dead star, then you are sucked into a black hole and are just stuck there forever and ever and EVAAAR, probably being constantly crushed to death if that is how blackholes work… im not sure. But yup. Who needs hell when you are pretty much living it.

        Just thinking about it sends chills through me.

        • Honestly? I think if you managed to stay unstuck until that point and you at least got a view of the end it would be better.

          Especially since being buried for a few millennia before that happened is the alternative…

          See if you’re immortal you need to invent time travel, just keep going back and reliving through the interesting stuff. Hell after a couple of times start stepping on butterflies to see what happens.

  • Being that kind of Immortal would mean your atoms would need to be denser than a singularity.. I mean let’s face it, being indestructible is ALLOT harder than you think.

    I don’t think that’s what this anime is trying portray, seems the chap is just rather hard to kill and somehow got himself surrounded by those who enjoy torturing people. Never a good combination.

    • It’s not truly immortality or invulnerability, but rather an extreme regeneration factor. In fact, for the regeneration to trigger, they actually have to die first.

  • Sounds interesting. I like stories with well-developed settings and the premise sounds like it has some potential.

    Minor grammatical complaint:
    It’s a minor thing really, but this has always irked me. The phrase is “be-all and end-all”, not the other way around. It means something that gets the job done and leaves no loose ends, it makes less contextual sense with “end-all” at the start. I know it’s taken on additional meanings over the years but could we at least try to keep Shakespeare’s original wording intact?

  • I read a few chapters of the manga & really enjoyed it but am sure that the CGI stle animation will shit me like it always does.

  • The manga is really cool. It has a few glaring plotholes but its a well told and well-paced (unless you are awaiting for each new chapter to come) edge-of-your-seat thriller where the protagonist pushes ahead by outsmarting friends and foes.

    The animation looks like s solid step up from Knights of Sidonia.

  • I haven’t read the manga, I haven’t watched the anime, but the central premise is ludicrous. Not the immortality, but the idea that immortals would be turned into lab rats. A 15 year old kid survives a fatal car accident and everyone’s plan a is “capture and vivisect”? Come on.

  • “I find it a bit of a stretch that random people are having their human rights taken away and are being subjected to human experimentation in modern Japan simply because they don’t die.”

    *I’ve only read the first few manga*
    Ajin are an insanely valuable (potential) resource for testing, military operation, hazard work, etc.. but all that potential is wrapped up in human rights. Unsurprisingly, the rich operators in these fields managed to successfully campaign them as “not-human” so human rights for them. And a scare campaign to make the public view them as alien and a possible threat to humanity.

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