Inuyashiki Last Hero
Episodes 1-2

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Inuyashiki Last Hero ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Inuyashiki Last Hero ?

Note: Because I shared my thoughts on episode one in the Preview Guide, this review will mostly focus on episode two.

Evil and villainy take many forms in anime and manga, but few are half as chilling as the pretty face in this screenshot. That's Hiro Shishigami, a high school student who could well become one of the most memorable anime villains of the year, much less this season. In every respect, he is a perfect counterpoint to the year's most unconventional hero.

Episode one focused on the elderly-looking Ichiro, a 58-year old man who's recently discovered he has terminal cancer on top of living a life of drudgery and distance from his family. When the arrival of an alien ship left him fatally injured, the aliens reconstructed him so that he looked the same on the outside but was a combat-capable android on the inside. He used his newfound abilities to stop a gang of teenage thugs from beating a man to death, then broadcast their identities across the news and Internet. But he wasn't alone when those aliens arrived. Another young man was also killed in the same incident and rebuilt as an android: Hiro. Since he was already more than a little distant from society and disaffected with life, he takes the opposite path from Ichiro by reaffirming his life through killing people instead of saving them.

This is hardly novel reasoning on his part, and Hiro even directly refutes the idea of becoming a hero when his friend proposes he use his powers for good. What sets Hiro apart from others of his ilk is how calmly and methodically he goes about his killing. There's no malice to his actions and no melodramatically sinister musical score. He just randomly chooses a house, goes in, and kills its family members off one by one. He even attempts to have a pleasant conversation with the teenage daughter about One Piece before killing her too. As graphic as these scenes are, their real brutality comes through in how utterly matter-of-factly Hiro goes about his killings. A flashback establishes that Hiro claims to have never cared about anyone other than his immediate friends and family, so he may simply be a true psychopath.

All of that makes him the antithesis to our titular protagonist. Ichiro has been beaten down by life but sees his abilities as a way to redefine himself by doing good, while Hiro is entering the prime of his life but sees his abilities as a way to redefine his self-interest—in other words, become evil. There are many themes that can be pulled from this premise: struggles of age vs. youth, commentary on the amoral nature of disaffected youths (a recurring theme in other works by this author) vs. the sterner spirits of older folks, and so forth. More immediately, this all means that something big will go down next episode, as Ichiro confronts Hiro after arriving too late to save the teenage daughter, whose distress he could hear from a great distance away with his powers.

As in the first episode, the technical merits of episode two are a standout. This is easily one of the best-looking series of the season, with a visual style that leans decidedly more realistic than most anime and few punches pulled on the graphic violence. There are frequent and prominent references to Gantz, Hiroya Oku's other most prominent work, and much of what the series has shown so far feels like what Gantz could have been if written from an older perspective. Gantz didn't have a director of Keiichi Sato's caliber though, and the greater skill level can be seen in Inuyashiki's emotional appeals and scenes of ambiguous intrigue between characters—but that's all merely a prelude to a killing spree. The minimal but also highly effective use of music is also especially sharp, as is the tense scene where Ichiro is stuck in traffic while trying to come to the girl's rescue, only to hear Hiro finish her off while he's stopped behind a truck on a peaceful street.

The series is also working quite well in adaptation, though the pacing is on the fast side; the first episode covers most of the first volume, and the second episode covers the rest plus a good chunk of volume 2. Despite that, very little content is being left out. The first episode of this series blew me away at least as much as any other anime debut in 2017, and the second episode has only reeled me further in. Since Hiro is apparently a classmate of Ichiro's daughter (the girl he calls a bitch at the beginning of the episode), that offers another interesting angle to the premise. Regardless of what turns this story may take, it's already working with something special.

Rating: A-

Inuyashiki Last Hero is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.

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