Inuyashiki: Last Hero TV 

Orius

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5.00 star(s) Rating: 5.00/5 1 Vote
Title: Inuyashiki: Last Hero

Genre: Animation, Drama, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Action & Adventure, Crime

First aired: 2017-10-12

Cast: Fumiyo Kohinata, Nijirou Murakami, Kanata Hongo, Sumire Uesaka, Sumire Morohoshi

Overview: Inuyashiki Ichirou is down on his luck. While only 58 years old, his geriatric looks often have him written off as a pathetic old man by the world around him and he’s constantly ignored and disrespected by his family despite all that he’s done to support them. On top of everything else, his doctor has revealed that he has cancer and it appears that he has little time left in this world. But just when it seems things couldn’t get any worse, a blinding light in the night sky strikes the earth where Ichirou stands. He later wakes up to find himself unscathed, but he soon starts to notice that there’s something… different about himself. However, it turns out that these strange, new changes are just what Ichirou needs to take a new lease on life and now it seems like there’s nothing to stop him from being a hero worthy of the respect that he never had before… unless, that is, there was someone else out there with these same changes…

 

Orius

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Old man tired of life and its weariness becomes a superhero. 'Nuff said.

I love existential themes and superheroes, so it's the best of both worlds!
 
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Orius

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Inuyashiki: Last Hero
Ichiro Inuyashiki
Season: 1
Episode: 1
Air date: 2017-10-12

Salaryman Inuyashiki Ichirou feels trapped within his humdrum life and aging body, automatically going through his workday routines. When he takes his wife and children to their new modest home, the children are unimpressed. After a visit to the doctor, where he is diagnosed with stomach cancer and given 3 months to live, he tries to call his family, but they ignore him. One evening, while walking his dog in a park on a hill, he breaks down and cries. Suddenly, he and a young man standing nearby are struck by a mysterious explosion, apparently of extraterrestrial origin. His body is replaced by an incredibly powerful, but still outwardly human, mechanical body. He realizes some of his body's powers after saving a homeless man being beaten by a group of teenagers. The electronics within his body also manage to identify and expose the teenagers to the public. He then realizes that even though his body is now an electromechanical cyborg, he still thinks and feels like a human.

Wow. This is different, not just because it's an old man that's the protagonist. The first-half of the episode is absolutely heart-wrenching to watch, the weariness of a man who feels he's no longer wanted or needed by the world or his family. This anime is definitely very much on the anti-ageism side of the conversation in Japan.

The second-half sees Inuyashiki the protagonist finding new purpose in his life upon gaining his new powers and saving another homeless elderly who was almost beaten to death by a bunch of kids. I can tell already that I'll need my Kleenex watching this.
 
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Orius

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Inuyashiki: Last Hero
Hiro Shishigami
Season: 1
Episode: 2
Air date: 2017-10-19

A high school boy Hiro Shishigami also gets mechanical body as Inuyashiki. He doesn't value people except for his mother and his friend Ando, and he starts to commit murders using his new power.

This second episode explores the other side of the coin, Hiro Shishigami, a high school kid who also got superpowers, but he's actually a complete sociopathic monster unlike old man Inuyashiki in the first episode. The murder scenes in this episode is pretty hard to watch as the guy revels in slowly killing people, even children. The episode also explores some interesting themes of escapism in Japan, how kids have lost that connection with reality over time and would prefer fictional characters over real people. The author of the manga the anime is based on, Hiroya Oku, also pokes fun at his previous work, the famous "Gantz" and how it might have given its readers the impression that people are essentially "empty" and not worth caring about. In that sense, "Inuyashiki" almost feels like Hiroya's antithesis to Gantz and addressing the wrong ideas people have taken from his work.

After finding new purpose in his life last episode, Ichirou once again feels that sense of helplessness once more upon meeting Hiro and witnessing his actions. Hiro serves as a great parallel to Ichirou and it sets up a nice exploration of the generation gap in Japan. Can't wait to see where else this anime will go.
 
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Orius

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Inuyashiki: Last Hero
Naoyuki Ando
Season: 1
Episode: 3
Air date: 2017-10-26

Shishigami confesses to Ando that his secret and his crime, it's a terrible shock to Ando. Inuyashiki is reunited fatefully with Shishigami. Inuyashiki works hard to help people using his power from the day after that.

Another great episode that explores the generation gap between Hiro and Ichirou. Whereas Hiro resonates with more modern manga like One Piece, Ichirou here sings the Astro Boy theme song as he tries to fly. It kinda makes sense why Hiro the sociopath would value One Piece but is indifferent to other people; it's a story full of superficial friendship and courage that annoy me to no end, but Hiro here displays the same kind of loyalty towards his childhood friend, Chokko, the same way One Piece characters share an unbreakable bond. In his own twisted kind of way, Hiro values his friends and family, seeing himself as some kind of hero who protects people close to him like the characters of One Piece.

Whereas with Astro Boy, its historical value in its time of creation post-WWII reflects the character of Ichirou. In spite of being a form of escapism too like One Piece (with authors trying to give people a more heartwarming story in dark times), there's a more innocent side to Astro Boy and his desire to help people and find purpose in his life, much like Ichirou.
 
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Orius

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Inuyashiki: Last Hero

Whenever people think of anime, there's an ingrained impression even today that it's full of giant robots, ninjas, pirates or other crazy and fantastical elements that are, in an oversimplified manner, "cartoonish." Even nowadays, there's a communication barrier between those who got into anime and those who didn't. There are certainly many reasons for it, and I won't patronize anyone by assuming that I understand such reasons, but more often than not, anime has impressed me on just how broad a range it has in its thematic variety. Aside from the most common mainstream anime like "One Piece" and "Naruto", there have also been poignant anime about the neutrality of nature and its cyclical life and death like "Mushishi", anime that portray mental illness in a lighthearted fashion like "Kuuchuu Buranko", or even anime about the innocence of crossdressing like "Hourou Musuko". Furthermore, each anime I mentioned has a very distinct artstyle of its own, so the reasoning of "I don't like anime artstyle" never really convinced me either.

Then there's "Inuyashiki", an anime that's the equivalent of Pixar's "Up" but far more tragic and socially relevant in its tackling of ageism issues in Japan, an anime about a superhero old man.

Based on the manga "Inuyashiki" by Hiroya Oku (creator of the popular sci-fi manga, "Gantz"), the 11 episode seinen anime (anime targeted at adult males) tells the tale of Inuyashiki Ichiro, an old man dying of stomach cancer. He has lost connection with his family and even the world at large, and he feels left behind without any meaningful purpose in life. That is until an accident caused by extraterrestrials that changed his life (and body) forever, along with another teenage kid named Shishigami Hiro. Their body is replaced with a robotic one, and both of them take a different approach to their newfound life and body; Hiro chooses to kill while Ichiro chooses to save lives.


Beyond its ageism issues on the surface, Inuyashiki is also about the human capacity for both good and evil, and how people can sometimes take for granted the life and the time that they are given. There's a very clear duality to both Ichiro and Hiro with both of their viewpoints on life practically mirroring each other. While Ichiro is forgotten by the world at large, including his own wife and children, Hiro still has friends and a family that cares very much about him, not to mention a female classmate who has a crush on him. While Ichiro remains compassionate towards a society that's cold and indifferent towards the elderly like him, Hiro feels that it's logical for someone to only care about his own loved ones and friends while remaining apathetic towards the lives of others. What's similar between them, however, is that they have both lost touch with society long before they became machines; their attempts to heal and kill people are ways that they could feel alive again in their own nihilistic existence.

I haven't read any other work of Hiroya's except his most famous work, Gantz, but it was easy to tell from both Gantz and Inuyashiki that his works are very critical of the Japanese society, or perhaps even humans as a whole and how we are becoming more cold and indifferent towards one another in the digital age. While Gantz deals with this more explicitly by exposing people's hypocrisy and prejudice, Inuyashiki seems like an antithesis to Gantz, showing the humanity that still exists within what seems to be a cruel and uncaring society on the surface. It's almost as if Hiroya was calling out on misanthropic readers who have misinterpreted his works as advocating violence for violence's sake. In fact, other than a yakuza gang that committed heinous acts of violence and assault, most characters in Inuyashiki aren't portrayed as the kind of inhumane monster that Hiro definitely is. No matter how callous or selfish people act in Inuyashiki, Hiro's senseless violence feels far more sadistic every time.


There's an especially disturbing scene in episode 2 where Hiro gradually kills off members of a family while soaking up their emotions and trauma simply to feel alive again. Unlike most violent scenes in mature anime, this particular one feels harder to watch because it's more focused on the emotional pain of the family members that Hiro feeds off of like some junkie, not to mention how the entire murder is slowly drawn out as Hiro forces the father to talk about his feelings in the moment and how he feels about the death of his wife. Needless to say, Hiro is established as a complete monster from the very start, and yet he too is later shown to have people he cares about and protects, whether it's his mother, his childhood bestfriend, Naoyuki Ando, or the girl who has a crush on him, Shion Watanabe, and her grandmother. There's still love buried somewhere beneath this monster, and it's only after his loss of these few connections to the world that he goes off the deep end and goes on a rampage against the entire humanity.

In contrast, Ichiro uses his newfound powers for the betterment of humanity by going around hospitals healing terminal patients, saving people from burning buildings and helping the homeless. While it's easy to simply classify Hiro as the villain and Ichiro the hero, that's oversimplifying these characters, as they are two people trying to find significance in a life that has become meaningless for them, in a world that they feel they no longer belong to. More than just about something shallow like good and evil, Hiroya's works have often been about the contrasting subjects of nihilism and existentialism (though not necessarily existential nihilism). Even though Ichiro actively helps people, his actions are not necessarily altruistic. Rather, much like Hiro, Ichiro admits that he does what he does to feel human, to confirm to himself that he's not just a machine after the alien reconstruction, but someone who still retains empathy, kindness and that feeling of catharsis from seeing cancer patients become well again and reunite with their family happy and in peace.


Something that caught my attention was Hiro's love of manga and manga characters over people. He shows more interest in fictional characters than real people, something that's been prevalent among Japanese youths who value "virtual girlfriends" rather than going out and actually find a real partner, thereby partially contributing to the country's decline in population and birthrate. There's this pervasive feeling of disconnect between people in the anime where Hiro's mother was doxed by some kid on the Internet, or the reporters who preyed on the her after she's exposed as the mother to a serial killer, or the students who glorify Hiro as some kind of idol, discussing among themselves how sexy he is in spite of all the horrific acts he has done. Both the author Hiroya and the anime Inuyashiki tread this fine line between the apathy and compassion of people, with both Hiro and Ichirou embracing this duality of humanity. Inuyashiki doesn't paint humanity as entirely malicious or entirely loving. Instead, it tells us that there's an innate goodness in all of us, that there's potential for people to care about one another even if they sometimes need a little reminder from their elders.

Like many anime worth praising, Inuyashiki's opening and closing theme songs are noteworthy as well for their representation of the show's themes. "My Hero" by Man with a Mission is an intense battle cry signaling the two protagonists' fight for their place in life, with lyrics like "Are you losing your way, or are you lost? Where are you going? Tell me, my hero, where are you going? What do I need to end my war?" Meanwhile, "Ai Wo Oshiete Kureta Kimi E" ("To You, Who Taught Me Love") by Qaijff is a more somber and tranquil song lamenting the appreciation and love one might have wished to give their loved ones while there was still time, while they were still around, featuring lyrics like "Is there a special person in your life? They're closer to you than you think, but you probably don't see me." Both songs convey that burning need for connection people have towards the world and their loved ones, even if they're not always willing to admit.


At its core, Inuyashiki is a moving story full of heart and loneliness. There is rarely an episode that doesn't either disturb you with Hiro's violence or make you cry from seeing the people Ichiro has helped and how grateful they are for a new life, just as Ichiro has been given his. It's one of those rare spiritual journeys in anime that reflect on the more profound questions of life rather than simply entertain the viewers. Inuyashiki touches me deeply with its sincerity towards life, and while it could sometimes be heavy-handed in its preaching, it's nonetheless a unique reflection of our place in the world that I wish to see more of in the evergrowing medium of anime. If it's proven anything, it's that there can indeed be an anime out there for everyone, even the despondent elderly who have been neglected and forgotten.

Final Rating: 8.9/10
 
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TV show information provided by The Movie Database

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