When I first reviewed volume one of anime“>Choujin X quite a while ago, it was hard to divorce the interesting premise from what I had seen in the creator’s previous work, anime“>Tokyo Ghoul. This story revolves around a rather meek adolescent who gets drawn into the dark supernatural underbelly of the town, where people can transform into creatures with a penchant for body horror. It’s this transformation our main character will finally be able to man up and discover some things about himself. That is still, by and large what goes on in the story, and it continues throughout these volumes. However, I would argue that volumes two and three of anime“>Choujin X are where the story begins to craft more of its own unique identity, visually and narratively.
The concept of Choujin is interesting, acting as berserk transformations or mutations that can occur within people, either naturally or artificially. Sometimes they can be based on an animal, and other times they can be based on some incredibly heightened desire. The desire can be very obvious, like an affinity for snakes, or as specific as a baseball player throwing a particular pitch. Yes, the idea of supernatural transformation has been done to death, but how these forms are creatively portrayed is interesting, and I think it highlights how strong Sui Ishida is as an artist. The heavy shading in many character silhouettes, combined with close-up shots that have sketchy pencil markings, create this sense of uneasiness. Volumes two and three even go the extra mile of introducing body horror elements that can turn your stomach, despite the character models still playing with exaggerated limbs and facial animations. Hands-down, the artwork is one of the strongest components of the series that helps elevate these creatures from generic to almost macabre machinations.
But it’s not just the creatures that get this level of detail; the human characters can also get away with being just as hauntingly expressive. Our main character, Tokio, is continuously put in stressful situations as we focus more on the story’s world-building. Seeing him react to different things alongside his inner monologue can also give the story a surprising amount of levity. Unfortunately, the books suffer a little bit by trying to balance this new emphasis on world-building with some more visceral character introspection that we got in the first volume. Everything about why the vulture was chosen as Tokio’s beast form and the idea that he doesn’t know how to make decisions for himself is still there. Still, it’s just not as strong as what was present in volume one because now that character development needs to be balanced with so many more elements.
This might have felt less noticeable if we got more introspection from Ely, our second protagonist, who feels more like comedic relief. I like that Tokio and Ely finally met, as they represent different sides of the same coin. While Tokio struggles to find a dream of his own and discover his individuality, Ely is almost too simple for her own good. There’s plenty of foreshadowing of these two characters’ arcs, and I enjoy their friendship. These two make up the heart of the story, with their cute interactions forming some of the more genuine moments of the story. I want to see their friendship develop and where it goes next.
So overall, while the narrative intrigue of the story has dipped a little bit since the first volume, Ishida’s striking artwork elevates things beyond the generic. The introduction of some real heart to the story with our two leads and some fascinating yet simple world-building are all still present there, keeping me coming back for more. Considering the cliffhanger that volume three ends on, I will be checking out volume four, and I would not be surprised if anyone who continues the series at this point feels the same.