Anjin: Demi Human

Kei Nagai is an apparently normal teenager, indistinguishable from his peers. This “normality” hides the fact that he carries a distinct dislike for others which he manifests through his manipulative behaviour. The only exception is Kei’s larrakin friend Kaito, who is often in trouble with the authorities. One day, Kei is involved in a fatal traffic accident – only to recover from wounds that ought to have proved mortal. It is then that he discovers that he is an “anjin”, a sub-species of human who possess miraculous regenerative powers that effectively make them immortal. While coming to terms with his new-found identity, Kei encounters another “anjin”, Saito, who reveals a shocking truth: governments and militaries around the world hold hundreds of “anjin” in captivity, subjecting them to monstrous experiments as part of a race to develop “anjin”-based military and medical technologies. Saito claims to be a “freedom fighter” – but Kei quickly discovers he intends to create an immortal “anjin” army as the basis of his own bid for power and domination. Pursued by both security forces and Saito’s rebels, Kei must decide whether he wishes to participate in an “anjin” uprising, or work with the humans he otherwise loathes to try and somehow win justice for the world’s persecuted “anjin” minority.

Based on a best-selling manga by Gamon Sakurai, “Anjin: Demi Human” was produced by Polygon Films and premiered on Japanese television in January 2016. It riffs off well-worn conspiracy theories about captured aliens and secret government experiments to deliver a contemporary reflection on the nature of prejudice, the power relations between “majority” and “minority” cultures, and the question of human identity in the context of biological and evolutionary variance. Rendered in a starkly realistic animation style that helps build an atmosphere of oppression and danger, the fact that the main character is not an especially likable individual only adds weight to the questions which “Anjin: Demi Human” poses. Kei Nagai is someone for whom it is hard to feel any sympathy – but it is his very unattractiveness as a moral being that might make him the perfect “prophetic” figure who embodies Nietzsche’s warning that those who fight monsters must always beware, lest they become monsters themselves.

© Text Copyright Brendan E Byrne 2020. All rights reserved.