Battle of immortals in Ajin: Demi-Human full of twists and turns

Kei Nagai (Takeru Satoh, left) faces off with his fellow Ajin, Sato (Go Ayano), in Ajin: Demi-Human.
Kei Nagai (Takeru Satoh, left) faces off with his fellow Ajin, Sato (Go Ayano), in Ajin: Demi-Human.PHOTO: ENCORE FILMS

REVIEW / FANTASY ACTION

AJIN: DEMI-HUMAN (NC16)

109 minutes/Opens tomorrow/3.5/5 stars

The story: After a traffic accident, hospital intern Kei Nagai (Takeru Satoh) realises that he belongs to an immortal race called Ajin. He is then whisked away by the government and subjected to all manner of experiments. Coming to his rescue is another Ajin, Sato (Go Ayano), who is prepared to destroy humanity to win rights for their kind. But Kei recoils from his violent means. Based on the manga (2012 to present) of the same name by Gamon Sakurai.

Faced with immortals amid society, the Japanese government reacts with fear and suspicion and subjects those it captures to a brutal battery of ordeals.

As a living test subject, Kei has a hellish existence - he is wrapped from head to toe like a mummy, his limbs get hacked off and he gets killed again and again. It is as though he were less than human.

Immortality becomes a curse for Kei.

There are questions here about humanity and mor(t)ality, but in the hands of director Katsuyuki Motohiro (Bayside Shakedown: The Movie, 1998), the movie also works as an exciting thriller in which Ajin is pitted against Ajin.

Satoh, as he did in period actioner Rurouni Kenshin (2012), plays a man reluctant to turn to violence, but is forced to; and Ayano (Lupin The 3rd, 2014) revels in Sato's villainy.

The immortals are each able to project an entity outside of themselves - Kei calls his a "ghost" - which seems to have a mind of its own.

The special effects team does a good job of depicting these shadowy, not-quite-solid ghosts who are capable of inflicting very real damage.

Given that the Ajin can regenerate after death, how is one supposed to take another down? Kei comes up with a plan to trap Sato, but is blindsided by a detail he did not consider.

There are enough twists and turns to keep one engaged and the good news is that they feel organic to the fantasy world conjured up here.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2017, with the headline 'Immortals in a battle over morality'. Print Edition | Subscribe