INUYASHIKI LAST HERO – Anime Review
Synopsis: Ichiro Inuyashiki was a boring office worker living a life shunned by his family and coworkers. One night, a UFO crashed into him, and his body was rebuilt into a powerful robot. A high school student named Hiro Shishigami was also involved in the same accident, and he begins to use his new powers to enable his darkest impulses. Is man’s true nature good or evil? (Official Anime Strike Synopsis)
Note: Linny is currently on vacation. Her verdict and thoughts will be added at a later date.
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Inuyashiki’s single greatest failing is its art. While the blending of 2D and 3D animation leaves much to be desired, the 2D animation never manages to look particularly impressive by itself. And there’s numerous places where detail is scant, models are off, and there’s a general sense that the schedule didn’t always allow for the best of refinements to the production. Inuyashiki never looks awful, but it rarely looks impressive.
That said, Inuyashiki’s greatest strength is its story and characters, though neither is without its flaws. Inuyashiki himself is dangerously close to becoming the author’s Gary stu power fantasy. Inuyashiki is an old, powerless man, who suddenly gains the ability to do far more good than he could’ve ever dreamed of. What prevents the series from tumbling down that avenue is how often Inuyashiki faces failure, in spite of his new found body. In fact, the series takes it far enough that rather than being a true, harrowing power fantasy as many super heroes films and stories tend to be, it’s more of a tragedy than anything else. This gives the series some real emotional weight and keeps audiences cheering the old man on. His character journey, will simplistic and devoid of development, is heartbreaking in the way Inuyashiki is so invested in his efforts to save those around him.
But since it’s such a thin journey, one without deep character development or change, the series can’t subsist on Inuyashiki alone. That’s where the villain Shishigami comes in. Hiro Shishigami’s character journey takes up a majority of the show’s screentime, offering insight and explanation into how a young, disconnected, high schooler could turn into a serial killer. There’s some back and forth, particularly as Shishigami is given a character arc that sees those around him try to draw him towards redemption, but ultimately he’s fairly set in his ways like Inuyashiki, with only the most last minute of heel turns that feels, perhaps, a tad unearned. There’s a lot interesting about Shishigami, but since his character journey never really changes him, certain developments ultimately end up feeling a tad hollow. While there’s more nuance than the author’s last work, Gantz, things sometimes boil down to just good vs evil.
The series is really only about Inuyashiki and Shishigami, and their journey into deciding what still makes them human in the end. But the series boasts a full family for Inuyashiki. He has a wife, two kids and a lovely dog that no one else in the family takes to. There’s a lot of room to explore how Inuyashiki’s new found body changes the dynamic with his family, how his actions of saving lives in his off-time changes things at home. But most of these characters do little to influence the story. Inuyashiki’s daughter, Maki, plays the greatest role of damsel and later the method through which audiences are given a melancholic ending. But Inuyashiki’s wife only has the most minor of roles in Maki’s plot line, and his son only becomes relevant in the final episode when the series attempts to do one last pass at theme and a greater message.
A lot of this wasted potential has to do with trying to balance one story over the other. Without time to allow Inuyashiki’s story to breath, and perhaps expand from simply his strive to do good, Inuyashiki’s family has no room to provide a more meaty character journey. Shishigami is the same way, with a troubled family life that is quickly jettisoned the minute his actions catch up with him. The dynamics between our central characters, and their families around them are entirely underdeveloped all to try and give Shishigami and Inuyashiki this equal screen time. It’s not without merit, as it does juxtapose the two entirely different ways either tries to maintain their humanity, but it’s not hard to imagine an even more moving version of this tale.
But these are all just flaws, cracks in the overall presentation. They don’t shatter the series, they’re not enough to. Between Inuyashiki’s constant escalation with things gradually ramping up in action, mayhem and emotional weight it still feels engaging episode to episode and remained the series I was most excited for week to week even up to the final episode.
Ultimately the last quibble I have is the show’s ending. After the big confrontation between Inuyashiki and Shishigami that the entire series has been building to, there’s one more event that brings everything to a close. It’s mentioned several episodes prior to the end, but the shift in focus to this event is done so rapidly, so suddenly, that it almost feels like Inuyashiki was cancelled and given one episode to bring its story to an end. But the ending, no matter how haphazardly attached it is, still managed to bring tears to my eyes and felt, while not perfect, perhaps a fitting ending to Inuyashiki’s strive to prove to himself he’s still human.
Overall Inuyashiki has a lot of flaws, little niggles that detract here or there. But ultimately it’s still an emotional journey, with plenty of action, thrills and twists as expected of the Gantz’ author. It has more heart than Gantz did and a far less exploitative nature. In a season with crumbling schedules, a few misfires and a couple series that just did not hold up from beginning to end, Inuyashiki weathers the chaos of the Fall season and comes out great if a bit battered.
INUYASHIKI LAST HERO is available for streaming via Amazon’s Anime Strike Channel