I just finished watching Ajin and absolutely loved it. If I had watched that show last year, it would have headed my “Top Five Anime of 2016.” Ajin gets five stars from me and places sixteenth on my top fifty list–right in between Princess Tutu and Fullmetal Alchemist. (It was sad to see Solty Rei dropped from the list, but it had to be. Now, Pumpkin Scissors is hanging on precariously at #50.) One of the more interesting points about this series lies in how many grey areas can be found within it. The bad guys are easy to pick out: Mr. Sato and the Japanese government. (For all intents and purposes, the United States government is as evil as the Japanese government; though, the role of the U.S. is much smaller in this series.) Other person in this series align with either Sato or the Japanese governments depending on their interests. Kei Nagai wishes to live in peace, and sees Mr. Tosaki as his best ally in this regard–Miss Shimomura is no different. The Ajin allied with Sato want the same rights as other citizens and see Sato as their best bet in obtaining these rights.
Contrary to most fiction or melodrama, most people act with regard to their personal interest. Historians–honest historians, at any rate–then judge each side according to their relation to objective justice. One side is usually redeemed by this judgment, and the other side’s pursuit of their interests is shown to be more evil than good. To use a common example, French society in the latter 18th century had real problems, which caused revolution to break out in 1793. Yet, much doubt is cast on the validity of their cause by the mass executions, rape, and torture which came about through the proponents of “Liberté, égalité, fraternité.”
People compare the French Revolution to the American Revolution all the time. As an American, I find the comparison insulting: one can in nowise compare the barbarity of the French Revolutionaries to civil conduct of the American Patriots. Even while starving at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777, the patriots refused to obtain provisions by force! On the other hand, the French Revolutionaries had no qualms about killing civilians, women, and children in order to achieve their ideological aims.
Let’s return to the anime! The Japanese government in Ajin targets civilians who are Ajin and subjects them to inhuman experiments reminiscent of what happened in Unit 731. That makes them in many respects worse than Sato’s group, which at least targets guilty parties and soldiers. If Sato did not act for the sake of his entertainment, one would have to dub his group the good guys! (Though, they do not take enough account of civilian casualties–especially when they used a building’s collapse to attack the enemy.) Through no fault of their own, the government has essentially declared war on the Ajin and supported their enslavement. Kei Nagai and Tosaki essentially represent the government and try to keep the status quo. I could not help but root for the antagonists all the way up to the point when Sato betrays the cause.
So, there are no real good guys in Ajin who use legitimate means unto a good end. One must choose between two sets of villains and decide who is more in the right. The situation reminds one of Psycho-Pass: two ultimately evil sides, a homicidal maniac vs. an oppressive government, are supported by people who find themselves in the middle. History and everyday life offer many similar situations. We ought to try to live our lives such that we side with justice rather than support evil for the sake of our selfish interests. This is much harder to accomplish than you think!