After a solid second season of the Ajin: Demi-Human anime dropped on Netflix in December, Ajin became a franchise worth paying attention to, especially considering it’s easily one of the best anime available on Netflix. Based on Gamon Sakurai’s manga by the same name, Ajin is also getting the live-action treatment in an upcoming movie — but how does the movie’s cast stack up against the source material?
In Ajin, the world becomes a frightening place for protagonist Kei Nagai when, after “dying” from a traffic accident, he realizes he is an “Ajin,” an immortal demi-human feared by many.
On the run from a government keen on experimenting on him, Kei has to figure out what it means to be an Ajin and use his abilities. All Ajin can manifest “Invisible Black Matter” (IBM) from their souls to fuel their powers. With enough of it, IBM can even manifest a Black Ghost, a powerful, ghastly demon that cannot be seen by regular humans.
Here’s a rundown of how the core live-action cast compares to the manga roots:
Takeru Sato as Kei Nagai
Actor Takeru Sato had leading roles in the live-action Kamen Rider Den-O and Rurouni Kenshin franchises, so he knows how to carry a manga-based tale. As is the case with a number of adaptations, the character of Kei Nagai has been aged up closer to Sato’s natural 30 years, with Kei being a medical intern rather than high school student.
Kei Nagai, Ajin’s main character, is a serious academic with his head in the clouds — which might explain why he winds up getting hit by a bus at the start of the series. Though thin, he’s a bit lazy and comes from a privileged upbringing, which makes his newfound fugitive lifestyle a bit frustrating. His personality is very utilitarian, pragmatic, and disconnected from other people — these factors make him something of a blend between Death Note’s sociopathic Light Yagami and Tokyo Ghoul’s lonely Ken Kaneki, both of which seem to have influenced Ajin’s mythos.
Like all Ajin, Kei is immortal and revives shortly after any means of “death” due to IBM, and because he has an above average amount of the stuff, his Black Ghost is larger and less deformed than most. But unlike most Ajin, he can’t control his Black Ghost, and it has a will independent of his own.
Gou Ayano as Satō
Satō is the primary antagonist to Kei. A considerably older Ajin in the manga, he’s British-Chinese and from the U.S., which makes him being played by Gou Ayano something of an oddity, as he’s a 35-year-old Japanese actor. That being said, Kei and Satō being closer in age could do favors for the story overall.
Satō initially appears very friendly and helpful towards Kei, but eventually it’s revealed that a sinister persona hides underneath — the type that tortured and kill animals as a child. Satō’s main goal is to collect an army of Ajin to lord over Japan and get revenge against humanity.
He’s an ex-marine who’s seen quite a bit of combat action. As such, he’s able to integrate his combat skills with his Ajin powers to quite the formidable extent.
Tetsuji Tamayama as Yū Tosaki
In both manga and anime, Yū Tosaki is a pale blonde man and the head of Ajin Research under the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. Though actor Tetsuji Tamayama’s look isn’t all that close to the source material, his diverse acting background lends itself well to a serious, somewhat menacing antagonist.
Yū Tosaki stern and severe with very little patience; the stuck up kind of government official who has to have other people do his bidding. As he’s only human, he relies a great deal on his Ajin bodyguard Izumi Shimomura for safety.
Yū Tosaki leads the efforts on hunting down Ajin for the purposes of experimentation, and as such is an enemy to both Kei and Satō.
Rina Kawaei as Izumi Shimomura
Though stoic and quiet, Izumi Shimomura hides a tragic past. She tries — successfully for the most part — to live among humans and pretend to be “normal.” Intelligent and understanding, Izumi is an emotionally complex character trapped in her circumstances. Rina Kawaei brings a spot-on portrayal of the character to live action.
Izumi’s status as an Ajin is often manipulated by the likes of Yū Tosaki. She’s essentially forced into being his bodyguard for the duration of the series.
The live-action Ajin: Demi-Human film will be released in Japan September 30, 2017