Binge or Purge: Inuyashiki, Last Hero
Inuyashiki is a fantastic, emotional look at the superhero mythos. It’s a shame that some of the episodes are clunky and the ending doesn’t satisfy.
Inuyashiki is an anime based on a manga by Hiroya Oku of Gantz fame (or maybe infamy?). Gantz was an odd duck. While I watched every episode and even read the labyrinthine manga, I was intrigued; but I can’t say I LIKED it. It was ultra-violent, over-sexed, and uneven. It was the interpersonal bonds (most of which didn’t make it into the anime) that salvaged the affair. When I first read that Oku had a new stylish sci-fi series with a geriatric protagonist I was cautiously optimistic that the juvenile power fantasy that was Gantz was going to grow up.
Thankfully, I was right… mostly. While it still suffers from uneveness and some dark violence, Inuyashiki is a moving tale of what makes a superhero tick.
Inuyashiki: Last Hero (2017)
Ichirou Inuyashiki labors ignominiously towards “The Japanese Dream”. The 58 year old has toiled away at his office job, raised a family, and finally purchased a home where he can set down roots. None of it has gone appreciated by anyone other than Ichirou. His family are embarassed at Inuyashiki, who is meek and uncool. They openly mock his dream home for it’s modest size and lack of style. Everyone Ichirou meets looks down on him, assuming he’s a doddering old fool (physically he looks 80). But still he persists, eking out his modest achievements. Then the world provides Inuyashiki its final rebuff: terminal cancer.
Overcome with sadness, Ichirou walks to a secluded park to cry (even at the end he doesn’t want to burden his family). Only Hiro Shishigame, a teenage passerby, is there to bear witness to his despair.
Then an alien vessel crashes into the park, killing both Ichirou and Hiro. Under strict orders to erase the evidence of the crash, the aliens restore the park as well Ichirou and Hiro. Unfortunately, the only suitable vessels to remake them are combat-focused, so Inuyashiki and Shishigami come back… with upgrades. What these two make of their new, robotic lives forms the basis for the series.
Episode 1: Inuyashiki Ichirou
I was spellbound by this episode. In it we meet meek, hardworking, oft-derided Inuyashiki. I remember hating his family in the manga; that contempt came roaring back in the first episode. It’s through the indignities Ichirou endures, however, that we learn what forms the foundation of his beliefs. This is the Japanese Pa Kent, a salt of the earth man with simple goals and an unshakeable belief in the promise of a life lived respectfully. That the spaceship that crashes to earth doesn’t bring him Superman, but instead makes HIM Superman was an intriguing wrinkle in the classic superhero mythos.
This episode has such emotional weight that I can’t recommend it strongly enough. Inuyashiki is such a likeable character. Not only does the story play with the genesis of a SuperHero, it also flips the script on identity: Batman and Superman are outsiders affecting a human guise; Ichirou is achingly human, and must now learn to live with his otherness.
Episode 5: Shishigami Yuko
Hiro must come to grips with his mother’s terminal cancer; meanwhile Hiro’s childhood friend Ando recruits Inuyashiki to thwart his friend’s violent tendencies.
This series has ups and downs; luckily the episodes that have the lowest lows are also the episodes when the story starts building itself back up. Case in point: this episode is about as much as I could stand of this anime trying to get me to feel any sympathy for Hiro. He’s a sociopathic, disagreeable little shit. But just as that complaint reaches a crescendo we get a fantastic arc about Ando trying to train this old man to use the cutting edge technology that is his new body. It’s like that joke about teaching your Grandma to text, on steroids.
Episode 10: People of Tokyo
The clash between Ichirou Inuyashiki and Hiro Shishigami reaches its climax. Hiro’s war on Japan has caught Mari, Ichirou’s daughter, in the crossfire.
Do yourself a favor, and just consider this episode as the final one in Inuyashiki: Last Hero. It concludes the final fight between the two enhanced humans in a showy, heavy, and emotional way. The combination of traditional animation and cell-shading was mostly a hit in this series, and Inuyashiki finishes that trend off on a strong note. All you need to feel satisfied with the tale of Ichirou Inuyashiki lies in this episode; the (real) final episode feels like an epilogue tacked on just to ensure that this series never has a season two, which is unsatisfying and odd.
Binge or Purge?
Yes! I enjoyed this anime more than I’ve enjoyed anime in almost a decade. It has heart, deep characterization, and enough pizzazz to keep you clicking “next episode”. I watched the first three episodes nearly without blinking; I then blinked and finished the other eight episodes. If you like American Superhero shows like Batman: TAS or Young Justice (and can stand violence), you’ll love this. If you like anime, you’ll be equally satisfied. It’s even got a kickass opening and ending song, something I assumed was outlawed around 2007. Watch all ten episodes, then send a letter to Amazon Animation that #11 should be retconned out of existence. I don’t know, crash a spaceship into it or something.