Inuyashiki Last Hero managed to adapt its entire source manga in just 11 episodes, but its twists and turns resulted in some divisive takes. This week in anime, Nick and Jake get into their own tumultuous feelings on the creator of Gantz's latest story.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
You can read our weekly coverage of Inuyashiki Last Hero here!
So Jake, tell me, do you like One Piece?
I mean, it seems pretty interesting, but it would take me years to catch up on it.
Well I think it's a series everyone should try out at least once. Do you have a favorite character? Mine's Zoro!
Hmm, I suppose I like Sanji best.
Jake I'm afraid this puts us at an impasse.
me @ u
Tho to be honest, that's more like me @ Inuyashiki because hoo boy, this show went some places I wasn't--okay, it went exactly the places I expected, which is more the problem.
Yeahhhhhhh, safe to say I was always gonna be a hard sell on this one, considering I loathed pretty much every part of GANTZ that I bothered to read. But it's still interesting how off the rails this thing went.
I wouldn't say I loathed Gantz so much as I rolled my eyes at it a lot. Try not to cut yourself on all that edge and whatnot. And I'm no enemy to teen edginess. Death Note? I'm down. Attack on Titan? Completely there. Gantz just took a bridge too far for me because all that shock value really felt like it was just being written as it went, with arbitrarily dark turns and no solid point in sight.
But when I saw the first episode of Inuyashiki, I thought "hey you know, this is a pretty strong start." I like cute puppies and the weaponized elderly!
That premiere also happened to be a tour de force of direction with a ton of great storyboarding and music choices. I still think it was pretty impeccable.
But then the rest of the episodes to follow uh...
Honestly, my arc with this show kinda goes in the opposite direction. I started off hating it, especially the blatant sorrow porn that was our introduction to our hero, The World's Saddest Old Man.
On top of him looking like somebody tried to pickle Hank Hill, his family demeans and insults him to the point where they give him shit for adopting the cutest stray dog ever, he lives in fear of confronting the teens who ride the subway and hog all the armrests, and to top it all off he finds out he has cancer.
It makes more sense when you take into account that this was Hiroya Oku's extremely direct take on the premise of Akira Kurosawa's Ikiru. (This shot is a direct homage to the film.)
Like straight-up he decided to write "what if Ikiru took place in the present day and the hero's stomach cancer was cured by ALIENS." Mind you, I hadn't seen Ikiru prior to this, but having just watched it last night, uh...not sure it was wise to haphazardly revise an outright masterpiece of cinema in this way.
I'll give the show this much, it's certainly got vision when it comes to visuals. Even with some very dodgy CG, it has a strong sense for evocative imagery. The OP especially.
GODDAMN, DAT OP. Even turnin' me around on Man with a Mission and everything. Golf claps for Yuzuru Tachikawa, it's an absolutely showstopping sequence.
It's really impressive! I just wish it was in service of a story with some actual thematic focus or y'know, characters I could feel at all connected to. Because while this series is purportedly about its titular character, a whoooooole lotta time gets spent focused on his psychopathic teenage counterpart.
We know he's a bad egg because he's introduced dunking on Gantz.
Okay listen Oku. I'm all for creators being self-indulgent but THERE ARE LIMITS MAN.
Like what do you even say to that? Come on Oku, you're better than this. The guy who draws manga meant to freak out the squares should not have that thin of skin. "You know who the real psychos are? They probably read totally normal manga like One Piece. My fans are the real goodhearted people." That seems like it would be unfair projection on the author in basically any other scenario, but I'm sorry, I just don't know any other way to read this characterization choice. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
In general, Oku's character writing is frankly as alien as his storylines. So I started off really negative toward this show, but as it went on I found myself intrigued as to where any of this was going. The setup's pretty solid: what if the best and worst possible people both got superpowers? Throw in ideas about what it means to be human, plots about everyday heroism, and even a discussion of social media trivializing tragedy, and there's a lot of interesting themes you could play with! But the series never really does, because it can't even decide who its own protagonist is supposed to be.
Right. We don't see Inuyashiki himself develop beyond "My life had no purpose, but now it does", which gets reiterated several dozen times to diminishing returns. At the same time, Shishigami should be a fascinating character, but he just makes no sense for the most part. Oku runs into the same problem here as he has before, trying to write a psychopathic teen when he clearly doesn't relate to or understand that generation. You have to love even the characters you "hate" when you write, if you want to make them sympathetic.
The intent to humanize Shishigami is there, but it just doesn't play out. He started his life mildly sociopathic and just goes full-blown serial murderer once he discovers that his meatsack has been replaced with a metalbag.
The effort (and immense amounts of screentime) is there, but it's just not enough, especially considering how much time is spent on the guy repeating his mistakes without seeming to register any of it.
Yeah, and the show just cannot figure out how it wants to frame him. His first several episodes feature him being an absolute coldblooded monster. But then he goes on the lam, his mom commits suicide after being berated by 2chan, and he goes on a rampage to get revenge. This is a seriously complicated issue that you could wring a lot of interesting material from, but the show just falls back on framing every 2channer as a miserable creep who deserves it, trying to find too-simple catharsis in Hiro's murder spree.
Not to mention his short-lived romance with Pube-Head as he endearingly calls her.
I CAN SHOW YOU THE WORLD~
SHINING, SHIMMERING, B U R N I N G~
You know it's true love when he promises to spare you after he kills all of Japan! But yeah, Hiro's whole attempted redemption arc is maybe the best microcosm of everything wrong with this show's characterization. His not-quite-girlfriend takes him in when he gets outed as a murderer (despite having barely spoken to him beforehand), then convinces him in the span of a quick conversation to give up killing and start healing the sick until he's saved as many people as he killed. Which is...not quite how that works.
Well, I at least think the show understands that angle. It seems to acknowledge that Shishigami's only doing this to make the girl happy, and it changes nothing about what a monster he is regardless. But since that's the case, why spend so much time on it? This is more my problem with the show. I can take head-scratching, flat-ass characterization if the show is really shocking and wild enough to keep me locked in. Again, Death Note is not exactly a bastion of complex character arcs, but the plotting is consistently *chef's kiss* for at least 2/3 of its run, and it ends especially strong. The bigger problem for me was that Inuyashiki felt "made up as it went along" even more than Gantz. They were rarely on one subject or event before a seemingly unrelated one popped up. The show builds up Inuyashiki for a while before seemingly getting bored and spending too much time with Shishigami, who repeats the same cycle of "sate his id without caution, almost get caught, lose someone important to him because of it", which has basically no impact on Inuyashiki who's just continuing his status quo hospital visits until the final set of climaxes.
Which uh...well this is technically
foreshadowed before the last possible second, but still, what?
I have to give it to Oku, not many people have the balls to literally end their series with "rocks fall, everyone (almost) dies". But yeah, that climax kinda puts a nice little bow on all of Inuyashiki's issues. There's lots of interesting ideas floating around that the series occasionally pokes at, but the final conflict is so totally divorced from any of that, it just screams "I didn't know how to end this."
We get the real message and all the info that matters in the second to last episode anyway, which comes back around to the problem of writing callous psychopathic youth as your central characters when you clearly don't sympathize with or understand them. Oku essentially seems to be saying that trials and transformations won't change who you are on the inside, some people are just evil for no reason, some people are likewise just good, and the best among us were Japan's first round of post-war Baby Boomers.
And what am I supposed to say to that? It's so divorced from my personal worldview, and this probably comes through in how baffling I find his characterization, especially of anyone under 30.
I mean, you're a young feller Nick, would this be your response to 100 people getting gunned down through their smartphones in one day by a guy who says he's gonna kill 1000 more that afternoon?
Certainly not. I'd only be clinging to my phone if there was something truly important on there. Like a new update for Fire Emblem Heroes.
I guess that really puts the "gotcha" in gacha.
Basically, Inuyashiki is a show centered around questions of humanity where nobody acts or behaves remotely human. They're either dead-eyed sociopaths like Hiro, angelic Good People like Inuyashiki, or random bystanders who need to behave however is most convenient to push the show's worldview at any given moment.
It's a shame, because I can tell Oku cares a lot about the story he's trying to convey. The plot feeling so slapped together isn't a result of carelessness. He just really overreached his grasp on this one, and by the end there's little else to do but ask "okay what was your point in all that?" It sure as heck wasn't "fun" to watch, so you better have something damn well worth saying.
I did at least come away with Inuyashiki more frustrated than angry like I was with Gantz. It's a mess, with a worldview I'm diametrically opposed to, but it still has more heart to it than I was expecting.
At least I can agree with him on one easy target. :'D
Gotta commend this show's dedication to realism in that regard.
And hey, maybe I'm too hard on Hiro's character. He has his relatable moments.